Delyan Balev: Volunteering teaches us to be tolerant and responsible

Delyan Balev is the sole gentleman among the four nominees for the second edition of the National Prize in support of young talent in contemporary arts and science, organised by the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund. Bulgarian citizens up to 35 years of age with a completed university degree in the arts and science, and innovative achievements in their chosen field, are eligible to apply for the prize. It is an obligatory condition for the applicants to have been admitted for postgraduate qualification to accredited institutions of higher education in Europe, excluding Bulgaria. The winner will become the second holder of the prize and will receive a diploma and the sum of BGN 5,000 provided by the Fund to support educational costs.


Among ‘The Magnificent Four’, Delyan stands out with his diverse and intense volunteer work and his dedication to foreign languages and the humanities. That is why the questions we ask are on this topic.


In your biography, your involvement in numerous projects as a volunteer makes the most vivid impression. What was the mainspring of your motivation?

Voluntary activities are particularly beneficial for young people growing up. After Bulgaria officially joined the European Union in 2007, new opportunities began to appear for all of us. International projects for pupils and students, under programmes such as ‘Youth in Action’ and ‘Erasmus+’, are being implemented, contributing significantly to the interconnectedness of youths from all European countries. Experience and knowledge are shared, new acquaintances are made, friendships are built, and thus the world acquires a new appearance through each of the participants involved in similar international, regional, or municipal projects.


Volunteering develops our communicativeness, teaches us to be enterprising, tolerant, and responsible; it establishes connections between people. And one of the greatest advantages is that it educates with a view to the good of the society in which we live. I am grateful to my family for having supported, for continuing to support me, and for always being at my side in all my endeavours.


Many Bulgarians choose to continue their education in the West. You are currently in Vienna, but you also studied in Russia. What is the educational system there notable for?

Discipline. In Russia, everything is essentially different: people’s way of thinking, their perception of the world around us, and even their personal and professional priorities. Education there taught me objectivity: to observe every situation in all its aspects and opportunities for development. Russia and Saint Petersburg have given me a lot. I appreciate it and I am grateful.


You are currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Cultural Differences and Transnational Processes. In what area will you apply in practice what you have learned?

The speciality, Cultural Differences and Transnational Processes, provided as an opportunity for study by the University of Vienna, in combination with what I learned at the Faculty of International Relations at the oldest university in Russia, could be effectively applied here in Bulgaria . Practice is sometimes out of line with theory, but theory is knowledge. Knowledge is information. And information is one of the most valuable resources of our time, without which any practice would be difficult to conduct.


During the Cold War, the world was split into two ideological camps that believed, worked and lived in a competitively constructive environment of opposition. The balance of forces is a fundamental ideology in contemporary international relations.


For this reason, back in 2001 (6 or 7 years prior to the global financial crisis), Jim O’Neill, a British analyst, coined the term ‘BRICs’, an acronym composed of the first letters of the five countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and—later—South Africa) that would play a major role on the international political scene following the beginning of the new millennium, that of being competitive against the West. In figures, this group of countries can be structured as follows: 42% of the world’s population, 26% of the world’s landmass, 27% of global GDP. All this speaks of the transition from a monocentric to a polycentric system, where relations between governments are becoming more complex.


On the other hand, the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom, joined by all the member states of the British Commonwealth, established the largest economic alliance that has ever existed in human history.


For over 1,300 years, Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people have found themselves at the crossroads—between East and West. The key role and location of our country, and their significance, have always been the subject of interests. From this point of view, I believe that domestic diplomacy needs to be able to maintain friendly and good neighbourly relations built on the foundations of mutual respect, tolerance, and transparency, as part of the principles of international law enshrined in the of the United Nations Charter.


You dream of Bulgaria becoming a positive model for both Europe and the world. How could this be achieved, in your opinion? And what would your contribution be?

This could be achieved purely and solely through concerted efforts and constructive decisions of the whole of society. Each of us is an element that contributes in one way or another to building Bulgaria’s image in the world. The way we treat ourselves and others, the dreams and goals we set, the decisions we take or do not take—all predetermine who we are. Imagine a country where everyone takes thought of the morrow and what they can bequeath to future generations as an example. A place where the desire for personal development goes hand in hand with the desire for the prosperity of society. A country where people are proud to live and advance, knowing that they leave behind a lasting mark in the history not only of their homeland but also of the world. Could such a nation serve as a positive example‽


Dreams become reality when we have the courage and will to make them come true!


Delyan’s video presentation can be viewed here:





  1. The official award ceremony of NATO Ambassadors by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria Ekaterina Zaharieva (2018)
  2. In front of the Faculty of International Relations, on the awarding of Balev’s Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations (2021)
  3. At the lecture, ‘Strategies for the Development of the Baltic Region’, 2019, Saint Petersburg State University; with the participation of the former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Jānis Jurkāns
  4. Collage from the International Forum, ‘Russia and Ibero-America in a Globalising World: History and Modernity’, 2017, Saint Petersburg; with the participation of (left) Ernesto Samper Pizano, President of Colombia from 1994 to 1998 (under whose presidency Pablo Emilio Escobar was captured) and the 36th President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff (right)
  5. On completion of the ‘Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles’ online course, nominated by the HarvardX platform, Harvard University, 2022
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