Nikola Mihov

He Breaks, He Cuts, He Spills

He Breaks, He Cuts, He Spills

Publisher: Janet 45, 2021
Graphic design: Nikol Decheva
Language: Bulgarian/English

Print-run: 500 copies
Cover: Paperback
Size: 21 x 16.5 cm
ISBN: 978-619-186-250-4

He Breaks, He Cuts, He Spills is а compilation of photos of Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria’s Communist leader who ruled Bulgaria for 35 years. The photos are taken from the archives of BTA, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. Todor Zhivkov is seen performing three repetitive gestures during welcoming and opening ceremonies: breaking bread, cutting ribbons, pouring water.

This accumulation, where we see the leader flanked by officials and first-rank foreign heads of state such as Ceausescu, Gaddafi, Gorbachev and Indira Gandhi, is punctuated by quotes from Boyko Borissov. He is a former fireman and bodyguard of Zhivkov, before serving as Prime Minister of Bulgaria for almost 13 years between 2009 and the spring of 2021.

“The ribbon cutting ceremonies are the most common public functions of politicians and dignitaries. […] In fact, the more important the politician, the more often they “cut”. Thus He Breaks, He Cuts, He Spills is a narrative about the ritualization of political power, especially the type of political representation that revolves around the cult of personality. […] And while ribbon cutting has an international connotation, the breaking of bread and the spilling of water are cultural practices heavily integrated in Bulgarian tradition and everyday life. The spilling of water symbolises good luck. […] The breaking of bread is also symbolic for Balkan folk traditions, but, unlike water spilling, it is not limited to the region. […] In Bulgaria, it is customary to greet formal guests with a loaf of bread, honey and salt.”, says the cultural anthropologist Ralitsa Gerassimova about the book.

The book which was published on the 1st of April 2021, just before the parliamentary elections, concludes with the following quote by Borissov: “ …I could have tried a donkey for a member of the parliament – and they’d still elect it.”