Bulgaria on the Brink

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Bulgaria, fueled by the one thing sure to unite an angry nation: poverty. In the industrial town of Pernik, 2,000 miners gathered at dawn at the regional mining directors' office, demanding higher wages as well as the ouster of the director. Evtim Evtimov, strike committee leader at the St. Anna coal mine, reminded workers that late wages were paid immediately when miners threatened to strike last month. "That means there is money," he said. "We won't back off these demands." Until this week, protesters in Bulgaria were mostly white-collar workers and students. But now the Socialists are finally losing the support of the industrial and farm workers on which their rule depends. On Thursday, the Socialists offered to double pensions and wages in the public sector. But even that promise is fast becoming worthless; the lev currency falls hourly, and wages are now worth half what they were only a month ago. Standing in a long line outside the State Savings Bank, a tearful Anastasia Yaneva, 70, whose pension is now worth $4, was desperate to withdraw her savings and exchange it for foreign currency. "People are in a very aggressive mood," she said. "I'm afraid civil war may burst out."