A right-wing Bulgarian leader brands his own derogatory nickname
SOFIA — Bulgarian far-right politician Kostadin Kostadinov is tired of everyone using his nickname.
Widely known as Kostya Kopeikin, which translates to Kostya Kopeks, the nickname is used to mock Kostadinov, implying that he is willing to serve Russian interests for a pittance.
But now Kostadinov, the leader of the far-right Revival party, is fighting back, apparently trying to stop people using the epithet in register it as a trademark — and even claiming that Kostya Kopeikin is a character in 19th-century Russian author Nikolai Gogol’s novel Dead Souls.
In parliament and on the streets, people have been calling the right-wing brand Kostya Kopeikin for years. In favor of leaving the EU and NATO and strongly pro-Russia, the Bulgarian Revival party is on the rise, coming in fourth place in the October 2 elections and entering parliament with 10.2% of the vote.
On October 8, a lawyer, Diana Popova-Ganeva from the Sofia Bar Association, wrote in a Facebook post that MPs from the Revival party had registered Kostya Kopeikin as a trademark, information that was later confirmed by other Bulgarian publications.
The application was submitted to the Patent Office weeks after a fight scene in parliament on June 1, when a lawmaker from the pro-reform We Keep Change party, Iskren Mitev, addressed Kostadinov in the calling “Mr. Kopeikin”. Kostadinov demanded an apology and criticized Mitev for using offensive terms and “spreading slander”.
In her Facebook post, lawyer Popova-Ganeva said Kostadinov probably thought that by owning the mark he could ban people from using it and then sue them if they continued to do so. However, trademark registrations, according to the lawyer, do not actually confer such rights.
No stranger to controversy
The exact origins are unclear, but Kostya Kopeikin’s nickname dates back to the start of Kostadinov’s political career in Varna, a Bulgarian resort town on the Black Sea coast, where he was a member and then deputy chairman of the right-wing party IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement. .
The outspoken politician is no stranger to controversy. In November 2021, he promised labor camps and prison for anyone “who is not with us”. He said that “one day all the Russophobic bastards” will answer in court for their crimes against Bulgaria and accused many politicians of being in the pay of foreign powers.
He doesn’t seem to like journalists very much either. Although he received the most airtime of any politician in recent elections, he is often scathing to members of the press and his party has announced an “annual award for pimp journalism”.
Three days after the last election, the Revival leader tried to expel some journalists from a press conference because he said they made him feel uncomfortable.
Although a relatively small party, Revival’s views are a toxic mix of populism, Russophilia and anti-Western conspiracies, which have proven to be an attractive combination after the coronavirus pandemic and now. in the middle of the war in Ukraine.
The revival has gained traction in recent years, bolstered by Kostadinov’s vocal media presence and bolstered his parliamentary presence in recent elections.
After news broke that the name Kostya Kopeikin had been registered as a trademark, representatives of the Revival party rushed to take control of the narrative.
Kostadinov accused the “illiterate fringes of the psychotic right” of misinterpreting the decision to register the trademark. Party Secretary Deyan Nikolov said they were establishing the Kostya Kopeikin Foundation. “Our aim will be to support gifted children in literature and the arts. Funding for the foundation will come from both donations,” Nikolov told the BBC, and money earned in defamation cases. , the implication being that such cases are common and winnable.
Then Kostadinov expanded on an earlier claim that the nickname was based on a character from Gogol’s incisive social satire Dead Souls. In the first part of the novel, the main narrative takes a detour into a seemingly unrelated story, with the length approaching the short story The Tale of Captain Kopeikin.
‘Russian Robin Hood’
In the novel, Kopeikin was a captain in the Imperial Russian Army. After suffering serious injuries during the war against Napoleon in 1812, he became disabled and without means of support. After appealing to various Russian officials for help – and being flatly rejected and told to wait in the village for a final answer – Kopeikin had had enough. He got on and left and went to live in the forest. While there he came across a band of thieves, a group that Gogol hinted at in the text he later led.
There was no such ambiguity in Kostadinov’s telling of the story. It was not, as it is often interpreted, the tragic story of a handicapped man appealing in vain to the grace of the corrupt administration. Instead, in Kostadinov’s version, Kopeikin was a Russian Robin Hood, a brave captain who joined a gang to “steal the rich’s money” to give to the poor.
To his detractors, the Bulgarian politician said he suspected they hadn’t read the novel, or even heard of Gogol’s name. He said this part of society is “notorious for severe and multi-layered functional illiteracy”.
There was also another problem with Kostadinov’s literary comparison. There is in fact no Kostya Kopeikin in Gogol’s novel, as Kostadinov claimed. There is only Captain Kopeikin, a character without a first name.
Gogol aside, others were puzzled as to what Kostadinov might want to do with the brand name. “Registration of a trademark involves some form of commercial activity, most often related to the production or supply of certain types of goods or services,” said Georgi Kalinov, lawyer and trademark representative working with the Bulgarian Patent Office, at the Bulgarian service of RFE/RL.
According to the law, the Kostya Kopeikin trademark would allow its owners to produce and sell swimsuits, wigs, ostrich feathers, plastic wrap, as well as circus performances.