Leader of the Bulgarian National Minority in Serbia Ivan Nikolov was awarded the Order of Stara Planina

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev awarded the Order of Stara Planina First Degree to Ivan Nikolov, a prominent figure of the Bulgarian national minority in Serbia and chairman of the Cultural and Information Center "Bosilegrad", at an official ceremony in the Coat of Arms Hall of the Dondukov 2, BGNES reported.

The Head of State emphasized that he was honoured to award Ivan Nikolov with the highest state decoration for his significant services to Bulgaria and for defending the rights and freedoms of bulgarians in Serbia.

"With his tireless work from 1990 until today and his undeniable high moral and human qualities, Mr Nikolov has become a moral leader of the Bulgarian minority in Serbia," he said.

Radev noted Ivan Nikolov's enormous role in preserving the Bulgarian national identity, as well as his contribution to Serbia's and the EU's engagement in overcoming the challenges faced by bulgarians there.

In the President's words, in this complex and difficult environment, Ivan Nikolov has established himself as a true moral pillar by defending the rights and freedoms of the Bulgarian population in Serbia.

"I will continue to be personally committed, like Vice President Iotova, to ensuring that Bulgarian institutions actively work for a consolidated and clear national policy for Bulgarians abroad," the Head of State assured.

For his part, the leader of the Bulgarian national minority in Serbia, Ivan Nikolov, said that it was an exceptional honour and responsibility for him to be the recipient of the highest state award of Bulgaria.

"As a person who is not seeking fame and benefits, I would like to take this moment to stress that I accept this award as a recognition of our joint efforts over the past 30 years, which we have made together to defend human rights and preserve Bulgarian education and culture in the Western suburbs." he said, adding that he also takes the award as a message to all our compatriots abroad, and to all our enemies, that Bulgaria, regardless of the pettiness of daily politics, still stands behind each of them in the end.

Nikolov stressed that he shares this high state award with all his comrades and friends for the perseverance with which they have worked together for Bulgarian education and culture over the past three decades, together built the monument to Levski in Bosilegrad, together followed his testaments and together commemorated his memory despite bans and police cordons.

"Unfortunately, the efforts made do not always correspond to the results achieved. Bulgarians in Serbia, and not only in Serbia, are today experiencing the most severe trials, on which depends whether we will resist the dark ideology that has separated us from our homeland and pushed the border through churches, cemeteries, houses, courtyards - and the most frightening, in front of people's eyes. An ideology that takes away Bulgarian books, that conducts lawsuits, that subjects to persecution, that turns back from the border our compatriots who left for us. An ideology that incites hatred and once again tempts peace and security in the Balkans," he said.

According to him, there are things that depend on complex inter-state and geopolitical relations, but also things that depend on us.

"Thank you and long live Bulgaria," Nikolov concluded.

Ivan Nikolov played a leading role in founding the Democratic Union of Bulgarians in Yugoslavia. Since 1998 he has been the founder and chairman of the CIC "Bosilegrad". He has written several hundred articles on the problems of the Bulgarians in Serbia. He was awarded the European Citizen Award in 2016.

The award is given for his outstanding services for the consistent and unwavering defense of the rights, national identity and dignity of the Bulgarians in the Republic of Serbia.

BGNES reminds that Ivan Nikolov is a prominent representative and leader of the Bulgarian national minority in Serbia. As a public figure, publicist, writer, researcher and human rights activist over the past 30 years, he has played a significant role in preserving the national identity, Bulgarian language, culture, historical heritage and memory of the Bulgarian population in Serbia. His contribution to the revival and formation of active involvement and commitment of the Bulgarian state to the fate of the Bulgarians in the former Yugoslavia and today in the Republic of Serbia, as well as to the efforts to engage the Serbian side and the EU in overcoming the challenges facing our compatriots today in our western neighbour, is also significant.

Ivan Nikolov is also a frequent contributor to the Bulgarian News Agency. | BGNES