San José State University
Department of Economics
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Economy and Economic
History of Bulgaria

The History of Bulgaria

Bulgaria is an interesting special case. Its location has given it a rather turbulent history but not so extreme as others in the Balkans.

The genetic and cultural origins of the Bulgarian people are largely but not exclusively Slavic. There is a small Turkish component of Bulgaria in several senses.

The Complex Origins of the Bulgarian State

First, the origin of the Bulgar State is in the steppe region of the Volga River basin. In the fourth century A.D. the nomadic Bulgars were associated with the Huns. The Huns attacked and conquered much of eastern Europe. When the Huns retreated from eastern Europe to central Asia the Bulgars went with them and settled around the Sea of Azov adjacent to the Black Sea. From there the Bulgars, along with Slavic allies, attacked Byzantine settlements around the Black Sea and up the Danube River.

In the sixth century the Avars attacked the Bulgars, destroying one tribe and forcing the others to seek the protection of Turkish tribes in the area. There Turkic tribes organized into a confederation in the seventh century A.D. The nature of the tribes is uncertain because the name Bulgar means, in the Turkish of the time, people of mixed race.

During the seventh century the five Bulgar tribes took different historical paths:

All of the Bulgar tribes except the one that migrated west to the Balkans disappeared from history. Hereafter Bulgar refers only to the Bulgars in the Balkans that ruled over a Slavic population. Later this Bulgar ruling class assimilated the Slavic language and culture of their subjects. Two periods of Bulgarian Empire occurred.

The Bulgars were able to gain political recognition from the Byzantine Empire in 681 A.D. From the east with their capital at Pliska the Bulgarians gained territory to the west as far the Adriatic Sea and as far north as Belgrade. They also established control of coastal territory on the Black Sea and on the Aegean Sea.

The high point of this first Bulgarian Empire was under Simeon who ruled from 893 to 927. Simeon expanded Bulgarian control at the expense of the Byzantine Empire until in 924 he led his army too far into Byzantine territory and was defeated.

The Byzantine Empire regained control of what is now Bulgaria by the year 1018. In 1185 two Bulgarian noblemen led a revolt against Byzantine power and established a Bulgarian state with capital at Tûrnovo. This state existed within the suzerainty of the Byzantine Empire. In 1202 the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloian gained full independence of the Bulgarian state, which amounted to a second Bulgarian Empire.

This empire flourished until the death of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen II in 1241. Thereafter internal dissension and external threats led to losses of territory to Tatar raiders, Magyars and the Byzantines. Two new Bulgarian tsars regained some territory but a new, more overwhelming threat appeared.

The centuries-long rise of the Ottoman Turks was beginning. From central Asia the Ottomans migrated into the Middle East and settled in Anatolia. They were able to wrest control of territories from the Byzantine Empire but Constantinople itself resisted their onslaught until 1453. Long before the capture of Constantinople the Ottomans were capturing territories north of the Bosporus in the Balkans. In 1385 the Ottomans captured Sofia. In 1389 they utterly destroyed Serbian forces in the Battle of Kosovo Polje. By 1395 the Ottomans had captured all Bulgarian strongholds.

After the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453 they reigned supreme in the region. They continued to expand their control in the Balkans.

When the expansion of the Ottoman Empire was eventually halted, its mode of operation shifted from conquest to the harvesting of the rewards of past conquests. It was then that the corruption and degeneracy of the Ottoman Empire began. It remained a formidable force for a couple of centuries more but its hold on the Balkans was lifted in the nineteenth century, thanks in part to the expansion of another empire, the Russian.

Serbia was the first Balkan state, in 1830, to achieve recognition as an autonomous state within the Ottoman Empire. Bulgarians participated in the Serbian uprisings. Greeks fought unsuccessfully to achieve autonomy. During this six-year uprising from 1821 to 1827 Bulgarians helped as soldiers and in raising funds for the rebels.

All of this contributed to the emergence of Bulgarian cultural nationalism in the early nineteenth century. Some of this cultural nationalism manifested itself in petitioning the Sultan in Istanbul for recognition of a Bulgarian Church organization separate from the Greek Orthodox Church. In this matter the Bulgarians were successful but the Greek Orthodox patriarchy excommunicated the Bulgarian Church organization.

There were unsuccessful military uprisings in Bulgaria in 1835, 1841 and 1850-51. The brutality of the Ottoman suppression of these uprisings elicited sympathy in the Christian world. In particular, the Tsar of the Russian assumed the role of protector of the Christian populations in the Balkan portion of the Ottoman Empire. In the mid-nineteenth century the Russian Empire was more than a match militarily for the Ottoman Empire.

The French and the British welcomed the betterment of life for the Christian populations of the Ottoman Empire, but they feared an excessive expansion of the Russian Empire would upset the balance of power in eastern Europe. They therefore supported the Ottoman Empire against the Russian Empire in many matters. Because of this the British and French had a great deal of influence within the Ottoman leadership. After the brutal suppression of the Bulgarian uprising in 1851 the British and French prevailed upon the Ottoman leadership to make reforms, such as giving parliamentarian representation to the Bulgarians and the Serbians.

The more organized struggle for Bulgarian independence began in 1862 with the creation of armed units under the direction of Georgi Rakovski. Rakovski did not survive long enough to see Bulgarian independence. He died in 1873, but two other Bulgarians, Vasil Levski and Luiben Karavelov continued the struggle. Levski was captured and executed by the Ottoman authorities but Karavelov kept the organized resistance alive. Georgi Benkovski joined the leadership of the independence movement in 1875.

The state of Bosnia and Hercegovina achieved autonomous status in 1875 but the uprising in Bulgaria in 1876 failed. The brutality of the suppression of the Bulgarian independence and the loss of thirty thousand lives evoked international reaction. An international conference demanded Ottoman give self governing status to two Bulgarian states. The Sultan rejected this demand and the Russian Empire declared war upon the Ottoman Empire in 1877.

The Russian army routed the Ottoman forces in Bulgaria and marched to Istanbul. The Russian government forced the Ottoman sultan to accept the Treaty of San Stefano in March of 1878. This created an independent Bulgaria under Russian protection. The territory included in this Bulgarian state included Macedonia and Eastern Rumelia and gave Bulgaria coastal territory on the Aegean Sea. This was a quite reasonable delineation of Bulgaria. The Big Powers of Britain and France were more concerned with the sphere of influence this territory would give Russia and redrew the boundaries of Bulgaria in July of 1878 with the Treaty of Berlin. The Treaty of Berlin took away Macedonia from Bulgaria and thereby created a Macedonian problem that has lasted over a century. The Treaty of Berlin also left Eastern Rumelia under Ottoman control. This was later corrected in 1885 when Eastern Rumelia became part of Bulgaria.

The New Bulgarian State

Alexander of Battenbburg

The new state of Bulgaria began under Russian occupation. The Treaty of Berlin called for a constitutional monarchy, with the monarch to be chosen from a royal European family which was not governing another state. A German, Alexander of Battenburg, was selected to be the Bulgarian monarch. In 1879 a constitutional convention opted for a single chamber legislature, the subranie, with representatives chosen by universal male suffrage. Prince Alexander fought with the provisions of the constitution and the subranie. Russia sought Alexander's ouster and threatened to refuse the transfer of Eastern Rumelia until Alexander was removed as monarch of Bulgaria. The transfer of Eastern Rumelia, as noted above, was carried out in 1885. Ultimately, in 1886, Alexander was deposed.

With the departure of Alexander, the prime minister of the subranie, Stefan Stambolov, became the effective ruler of Bulgaria.

The Stambolov Government of 1887 to 1894

Stefan Stambolov was a strong leader, perhaps even dictatorial, who had a strong influence on the development of the Bulgarian state. He was educated in Russia and was a liberal. Liberal in this context means something entirely different from what liberal means in the context of twentieth and twentyfirst century American politics. In the American context liberal means basically the same as European social democratic. In Europe now and everywhere in the nineteenth century liberal meant in favor of democratic government and reliance on the markets to organize the economy.

Stambolov's focus was not political and economic ideology but the hard realities of international politics. Because the Bulgarians in Macedonia were left under the control of the Ottomans an independence movement developed that evolved into terrorism. Bombings and assassinations were carried out by the Macedonian rebels. Stambolov, while he might have had some sympathy for the Macedonians, was not willing to let Bulgarian independence be compromised by that independence movement. He quite willingly sacrificed the Macedonia independence movement for concessions from the Ottoman Empire.

But before anything else he had to confront the choice of a Bulgarian monarch.

Ferdinand of SaxeCoburgGotha

Ferdinand of SaxeCoburgGotha was made Bulgarian monarch in 1887. Because Stambolov rose to power before Ferdinand became monarch, he had a long period where he was dominant. This is in contrast with Alexander who began monarch and consolidated his power before the legislature had the opportunity assert its authority.

Bulgaria was and continued to be for a long time primarily an agricultural economy. Under Stambolov the land tenure system was adjusted. Industrial development was encouraged.

What Stambolov refused to do was to intercede with the Ottoman Empire on the part of the Macedonians. He instead traded suppression of the Macedonians for concessions on the part of the Ottoman Empire on the part of Bulgaria.

Stambolov founded the People's Liberal Party in 1886 and led it to electoral victory in the elections of 1890. Stambolov concentrated on making Bulgaria a favorable climate for foreign investment. He promoted the construction of railroads to link Bulgaria to international markets. The completion of the Vienna-Istanbul railroad was particularly important for Bulgaria.

Ferdinand over the years was working to enhance his monarchial authority. Until 1896 Ferdinand was not recognized as the legitimate Bulgarian monarch. When Russia finally recognized the legitimacy of Ferdinand he began to assert his authority. One of these assertions of authority was Ferdinand's dismissal of Stambolov as prime minister in 1894.

The Macedonian independence organizations never forgave Stambolov his a lack of support for their cause and in 1895 they assassinated Stambolov.

The Governance of Ferdinand

Ferdinand's wife had bore him an heir, Boris, in 1894. In 1896 Russia demanded as a price for its recognition of Ferdinand as the legitimate monarch of Bulgaria that he have his son, Boris, converted from Catholicism to Easter Orthodoxy. This was done.

Ferdinand continued most of the policies of Stambolov, including maintaining a favorable climate for foreign investment. Programs for increasing agricultural productivity in Bulgarian agriculture were promoted.

Despite the burgeoning of industry in Bulgaria the country remained predominantly agricultural. In 1899 the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU) was formed to represent the interests of Bulgarian farmers. Since many of the families in the cities came in recent times from a farming background the BANU could garner support beyond the rural areas. BANU soon became the most powerful political party.

The government's role in trying to promote Bulgarian economic development led to a national debt and the necessity of devoting a share of tax revenues to paying the interest on that national debt. By the early part of the twentieth century the interest on the national debt was amounting to 20 percent of the national budget.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire annexed territories in Bosnia and Herzogovina that were nominally part of the Ottoman Empire. While the Ottoman authorities were pre-occupied with that political crisis, Ferdinand declared the full independence of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. The Bulgarian legislature approved the notion of independence but were annoyed at Ferdinand's unilateral declaration without consultation with the subranie. Nevertheless the subranie ratified Ferdinand's action.

Alexander Stamboliiski, as head of BANU, became the most prominant political leader.

The Two Balkan Wars and
the Origin of the First World War

When the Treaty of Berlin took away the consolidation of Bulgarian people which the Treaty of San Stefano achieved, secret societies were organized in Macedonia to promote the union of Macedonia with Bulgaria. The most prominent of these secret organizations was the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). IMRO carried out terrorism to publicize its cause and created political instability not only in Macedonia but also in Bulgaria. Initially the leaders of IMRO sought annexation to Bulgaria, but soon they sought their own state to rule.

The First Balkan War was fought to wrest control of the Balkans from the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks who came to power in the Ottoman Empire in 1908 had revived the Empire to some extent. Britain and France were propping up the Ottoman Empire as a counterbalance to Russian imperial interests. Italy and Austria were trying to exert influence in Balkan affairs. Russia promoted an alliance of Bulgaria and Serbia to free the Balkans of the Ottoman Empire and its Big Power supporters.

In 1912 Bulgaria drove Ottoman forces out of Thrace (the region on the Aegean sea which includes the city of Salonika) and thus freed Macedonia as well from Ottoman control. Bulgaria, confident from its victories, even attacked Istanbul. This latter campaign was unsuccessful but the Treaty of London which ended this war gave Thrace and Macedonia to Bulgaria. This war, later known as the First Balkan War, did not settle the situation because Serbia and Greece harbored claims to Macedonia. Greece of course also felt that Thrace should be part of Greece.

In 1913 a new war broke out. Bulgaria attacked its former ally of Serbia to enforce its claim to Macedonia. While Bulgarian forces were occupied at the Bulgarian-Serbian border Turkish and Romanian forces invaded Bulgaria. Bulgaria was defeated. The Treaty of Bucharest (1913) allowed Bulgaria to retain only a small portion of Macedonia. The rest was divided between Greece and Serbia. Bulgaria also lost in the Treaty of Bucharest the control of southern Dobruja to Romania.

The leaders of the Russian Empire were perturbed with Bulgaria's defiance of its advice and the destruction of the possibility of a Balkan alliance. Russia thereafter shifted the focus of its support in the Balkans from Bulgaria to Serbia. The enhanced status of Serbia after the two Balkan wars led Serbian terrorists to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Austro-Hungarian anger at the assassination prompted an attempt to punish Serbia. The attempt of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to assert dominance over Serbia triggered the alliances supporting each party to the dispute thus launching the Europe-wide war known as the Great War and later as the First World War. The First World War thus can be traced back to the Macedonian problem created by the Treaty of Berlin.

Bulgaria and the First World War

Bulgaria had reasons to align itself either with the Central Power coalition of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Entente of the Empires of Britain, France and Russia. There was less concern among Bulgarian leaders as to whom was right and more concern with who would win. Bulgaria was offered territorial gains by both sides. By the middle of 1915 the German armies were defeating those of the Russian Empire, so Bulgaria decided in October 1919 to join the Central Powers. Bulgaria immediately mobilized its forces and pushed Serbian forces out of Macedonia by the middle of 1916. But the Entente was not willing to accept the Bulgarian victories. British, French and Serbian troops were landed in Salonika to counter the Bulgarian advance. The Entente forces were able to hold the Bulgarian forces in check but not to defeat them. In 1916 a new front was opened for Bulgarian forces when Romania entered the war. Bulgarian troops along with German troops captured the Romanian capital of Bucharest.

Despite being on the winning side of this phase of the war Bulgaria did not get the territorial settlements it expected. The government of Vasil Radoslavov resigned in June of 1916 and was replaced with one under the prime ministership of Alexander Malinov. Malinov tried to include Alexander Stamboliiski of the BANU in his cabinet. Stamboliiski refused to join that government as long as Bulgaria was at war.

The fortunes of war changed abruptly. British and French forces defeated the Bulgarian forces at the battle of Dobro Pole. Bulgarian forces retreated back into Bulgaria but the Entente forces followed and Bulgaria surrendered in September of 1918.

King Ferdinand was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Boris. The terms of the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine were harsh for Bulgaria. Those terms included:

Bulgaria After the War: In the 1920's

In 1919 there was considerable popular discontent with the policies of the Bulgarian government which had involved Bulgaria in disasterous war and brought the imposition of reparation payments. This discontent manifested itself in political movements. The Social Democratic Party which been formed in 1891 had split into two radical factions: the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) and the Bulgarian Workers' Socialist-Democratic Party (BWSDP). The strongest party was the agrarian party BANU.

BANU was a populist movement with elements of socialism and pacifism and was strongly anti-market in other respects. In the 1919 election for the subranie BANU received the largest portion of the vote but the Bulgarian Communist Party came in second. Alexander Stamboliiski was asked to form a government. He initially sought to form a coalition with the Communist Party and the BWSD Party but was not willing to grant them the power they demanded. Consequently his government relied upon less radical conservative elements and the communists were outside his coalition and sought to made trouble for him.

The Communists and Social Democrats organized a strike of the transportation workers that lasted two to three months and finally had to be suppressed with military forces. Stamboliiski created a militia called the Orange Guard to deal with urban unrest. His actions gained him enough popularity with the electorate that his BANU won enough of the vote not to need to form a coalition with other political parties.

Stamboliiski had the legislature pass anti-usury laws. His program involved suppression of merchants and lawyers because these people were looked upon as the enemies of the farmers. Generally BANU was trying to redistribute wealth and capital in favor of the peasants of Bulgaria.

Stamboliiski wanted to keep taxes down so was against a standing army. He sought to achieve national defense through diplomatic negotiations with the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Yugoslavia. To achieve a rapprochement with these two countries he had to suppress the Macedonian extremists like IMRO. This brought opposition within Bulgaria.

Stamboliiski's program of suppression of Macedonian extremists began in 1921. By 1923 the opposition to Stamboliiski within Bulgaria was reaching serious levels. In addition to the Macedonian extremists and the radical leftists like the Communists there was growing opposition of the conservatives. The Old Guard of social conservatives tried to organize in an umbrella organization called the National Alliance. Stamboliiski used his Orange Guard militia to jail the leaders of the National Alliance. When Macedonian extremist took control of a border town Stamboliiski responded with a national crackdown on his political opposition. Against all political logic, Stamboliiski's opponents of the right and the left united into one coalition under the leadership of Alexander Tsankov. This coalition included the social democrats but not the Communists.

In June of 1923 IMRO assassinated Stamboliiski. After Stamboliiski's death the government fell by default to Tsankov's coalition. Communists staged an uprising against the Tsankov government which Tsankov had difficulty in suppressing. Tsankov outlawed the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1924. The Communist then carried out terrorist bombings, including that of the Sveta Nedelia Cathedral in Sofia which killed over one hundred people.

In 1926 Tsankov was replaced by Andrei Liapchev as prime minister. Liapchev was himself a Macedonian and was more tolerant of IMRO's activities. Although IMRO's activities continued and destroyed the rapprochement with Yugoslavia in other ways other ways Liapchev's governance was commendable. Production grew and foreign investment flourished. There was a reasonably free press.

The onset of the worldwide Great Depression produced social and economic turmoil and Liapchev was defeated in the election of 1931.

Bulgaria During the 1930's

The Great Depression of the early 1930's was as traumatic economically and politically to Bulgaria as any other country. Market demands collapsed and prices fell. Wages fell too and if the decline in wages and prices had been the only effect then there would been no real effect on the economy. But with the decline in prices some businesses failed leaving their workers unemployed. The subsequent decrease in demand then led to further declines in demand and financial turmoil.

The Liapchev government lost the 1931 election. A new coalition incorporating the BANU took power. It was called The People's Bloc.

Outside of government there were new political movements forming and growing. The collectivist communists and fascists saw the Depression as evidence of the weakness, instability and downfall of markets; i.e., capitalism. These modern day feudalists were in agreement with the old school feudalists that societies had to be planned and managed. A political organization called Zveno organized and worked to promote the idea that a society needed to be managed by an elite. Zveno had some ties to Mussolini's Italy and the philosophy of Corporatism.

In 1932 Alexander Tsankov organized a National Socialists Movement modeled the National Socialist Workers' Party of Adolph Hitler.

In 1934 the other countries of the Balkans besides Bulgaria organized an Entente pledged to maintain the existing international borders. This meant there was to be no resolution of the Macedonia problem for Bulgaria.

In 1934 Zveno organized a military coup d'etat. The Zveno-sponsored government that was put in place tried to the international relations of Bulgaria with all other powers. Internally it was carrying out a draconian program of suppressing all dissident elements. This included the communists and the Macedonian extremists. by the end of 1934 the Zveno-sponsored government had achieved an enforced tranquillity.

The Zveno-sponsored government tried to implement a corporatist structure for Bulgaria. This included changing the representation in the subranie from political party representation to a socio-economic class representation.

The Tsar of Bulgaria, Boris III, feared Zveno was usurping the power of the monarchy and he used his power of dismssing and appointing government to oust the Zveno-sponsored government. In 1936 Boris chose a coalition of centrist and leftist parties, called the People's Constitutional Bloc, to organized the government. In 1938 elections were held and the People's Constitutional Bloc continued in power.

Bulgaria and the Commencement of World War II

From the end of World War I Bulgaria's major trading partner was Germany. This economic tie was augmented by political ties.

Despite Bulgaria's historical relationship to Russia during the 1920's and 1930's the links of Bulgaria to the Soviet Union were minimal. In fact, Bulgarian and Soviet ties were not formalized with a commercial treaty until 1940 when Germany signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union; i.e., German ally Bulgaria moved closer to the Soviet Union only when the Soviet Union became a nominal ally of Germany.

Boris tried unsuccessfully to avoid military entanglements for Bulgaria. Germany used territorial acquisition as an inducement for Bulgaria to join its alliance. Germany pressured Romania to cede the southern portion of Dobruja, the territory between the Danube Rive and the Black Sea, to Bulgaria. When German forces were mobilized and massed in Romania for an invasion of Greece, Boris saw that there was no choice. Either Bulgaria joined the German alliance or it faced invasion and occupation. Boris signed the alliance pact in March of 1941.

Bulgaria in World War II

Bulgaria participated in the German invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia only to the extent of occupying Thrace and Macedonia, territories to which Bulgaria had some historical claim. However, by this time the Macedonians wanted independence rather than annexation to Bulgaria.

Because of its historic relationship to Russia, Bulgaria did not declare war on the Soviet Union and did participate in the German invasion of it.

Boris died in 1943 leaving the prime minister, Bogdan Filov, as the effective ruler of Bulgaria.

Bogdan Filov
Filov was a pro-fascist who had deposed the pro-Western prime minister in 1940.

Despite the relatively minimal role of Bulgaria in the war, the Allies were bombing Sofia. German troops were stationed in Bulgaria and constituted an effective check on independent actions by the Bulgarian government.

By early 1944 the Bulgarian government under Bogdan Filov was trying desperately to end Bulgarian participation in the war. The impediment to surrender was the German troops occupying the country. The Soviet Union threatened war if Bulgaria did not declare itself neutral.

The Bulgarian communists organized a wartime resistance called The Fatherland Front. This was a popular front in which the communists were nominally only a minority.

While the Bulgarian government was trying to comply with the Soviet demand that it declare itself neutral the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria and invaded the country.

The End of the War for Bulgaria

With the Soviet occupation of Bulgaria, the communist-dominated Fatherland Front took control of the government. In the treaty ending the state of war which the Soviet Union declared against Bulgaria, Bulgaria gave up its claim to Thrace and Macedonia. Bulgaria was however allowed to keep southern Dobruja which had been granted to it by Romania. Under Soviet domination Bulgaria tried and executed three thousand Bulgarians as war criminals.

Although The Fatherland Front was ostensibly a broad front organization with only a minority communist membership, the communists within the organization soon started eliminating the noncommunist elements. In effect, The Fatherland Front was simply a communist front organization.

The foreign ministers of the Allied Powers specified that the BANU was to have two seats on the Council of MInisters of Bulgaria. The BANU under the leadership of Nikola Petkov however wanted to have a national election to select the representation. The BANU leaders were confident that they would get more votes of Bulgarians than would the Communist Party. BANU might have had more votes but the Communist Party had more absolutely ruthless people and, in the end, that was what counted more.

In 1946 Bulgarians in a referendum voted overwhelmingly to abolish the monarchy and make Bulgaria a republic. Nikola Petkov of the BANU was still holding out for elections to apportion the representation in the Council of Ministers. In 1947 a peace treaty ending the state of war existing between the Allied Powers and Bulgaria was drawn up in Paris. When the U.S. Senate approved that peace treaty the communist-dominated government of Bulgaria simply arrested Nikola Petkov on floor of national legislature and then executed him. Thus began a dark era of 42 years in Bulgaria in which no political opposition was allowed.

The Post-World War II Era of Communist Government
Under Georgi Dimitrov

Georgi Dimitrov

Under Georgi Dimitrov Bulgaria maintained a nominal two-party government with token participation by the BANU. But the head of the BANU, Georgi Traikov, mindful of what happened to his predecessor, Nikola Petkov, disavowed the traditional agrarian programs and principles.

Dimitrov pushed through the adoption in 1947 of a constitution modeled on the one created by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. The economic program consisted of national central planning, irrational emphasis on heavy industry and collectivization of agriculture.

When Joseph Broz Tito of Yugoslavia proved to be less than totally subservient, Stalin broke ties with Yugoslavia in 1948 and ordered the purging of the Communist parties of the other nations in the Soviet Empire. The top leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) at that time consisted of Georgi Dimitrov, Traicho Kostov and Vasil Kolarov. In 1949 Dimitrov charged Kostov with being, illogically, a collaborator of both Tito and fascism and ordered his execution. Kostov was not shot until 1949 and by that time both Dimitrov and Kolarov had died. The entire triumphirate was thus dead.

Stalin picked Vulko Chervenko to head the Bulgarian Communist Party and thus run the country.

The Rule of Vulko Chervenko

Chervenko took all the positions of power for himself and created a personality cult for himself similar to the one that Stalin had created. Chervenko purged from the BCP any elements that might deviate from the party line.

Chervenko himself assiduously, even slavishly, followed the party line from Moscow. But when Stalin died the party line abruptly changed and Chervenko was caught having linked himself to the wrong party line. When Nikita Khrushchev rose to power and denounced Stalin in 1956, all Stalinists, including Chervenko, were in disfavor. In 1956, a young (42) communist, Todor Zhivkov, was chosen to replace Chervenko as head of the BCP.

The Era of Todor Zhivkov

In the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 the Bulgarian Communist Party carried out a purge of its membership to eliminate any unreliable elements. This purge was mandated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was carried out under the direction of Todor Zhivkov. The purge judiciously eliminated some of the rivals of Zhivkov for party control.

Zhivkov was a key architect of the Bulgarian Third Five-Year Plan (1958-1962). It was strongly influenced by the rhetoric of the Great Leap Forward program in China. This involved, at least rhetorically, the mobilization of Bulgarian society for accelerated economic growth and development.

Todor Zhivkov articulated some grandiose goals for growth which were called Zhivkov's Theses. When party rivals expressed doubt as to the practicality of these theses they were branded as obstructionists and purged. This pattern as well paralleled China's Great Leap Forward experience.

Two years into the plan Zhivkov had to revise the Theses targets. Later poor agricultural harvests brought an end to Zhivkov's experiment with planning strategies.

Zhivkov retained power despite the failure of his Theses. In 1962 Nikita Khushchev visited Bulgaria and gave his blessing to Zhivkov's regime. Later when Khrushchev was deposed in 1964 Zhivkov still remained in power. He even survived an attempted coup by the army in 1965.

Todor Zhivkov

Zhivkov secured his position by replacing the old communists with younger ones.

Liudmila Zhivkova

One of these new, young leaders he put into power was his daughter Liudmila Zhivkova. She was given authority over programs having to do with Bulgarian culture and history. In particular, she presided over the program to celebrate 1300 years of Bulgarian history. Despite all the Soviet efforts to curb non-Russian nationalism in its client states such nationalism grew.

Zhivkov generally pursued an opening up of relations with other countries. Under Chervenko during Stalin's dispute with Tito, the border between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria was closed. Zhivkov normalized relations with Yugoslavia and Greece. Bulgaria participated in the Soviet campaign to strengthen relations with the Third World. But the Bulgarian overtures toward improving relations with the West were countered by Bulgarian secret police involvement in international intrigue as a surrogate for the Soviet KGB. These intrigues included assassinations and military coups.

The Prague Spring and the subsequent Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia led to another Soviet-mandated purge of questionable elements in the Bulgarian Communist Party. The irony is that while Zhivkov was carrying out these mandated purges he was, in addition to eliminating his political rivals, he was moving toward a more nationalistic stance within his own regime.

Zhivkov tried to improve the efficiency of Bulgarian agriculture by creating agricultural-industrial complexes. These involved consolidation of state and collective farms but with some provision for decentralization of decision-making, so-called planning from below.

Zhivkov experimented with structural changes to try to improve efficiency. In 1981 he formulated what was called the New Economic Model (NEM). Largely the NEM had to do with increasing the supply of consumer goods. It had only marginal effects.

In the 1980's Zhivkov tried to develop a rapprochement with organized religion in Bulgaria. There was also a liberalization in art, literature and cultural affairs. This liberalization suffered a severe setback when Liudmila Zhivkova died in 1981, due to a concussion she had suffered years earlier,1 and Communist Party reactionaries reasserted control. By 1984 the Writers' Union was calling for more Soviet-style social realism in Bulgarian literature.

In the mid-1980's Bulgaria was suffering an energy shortage. Bulgaria had been receiving petroleum and natural gas from the Soviet Union at prices far below the international market prices. This promoted in the past excessive use of energy in production processes. A drought resulted in a shortfall in electricity of from hydroelectric dams. Because of internal problems in the Soviet Union increased supplies of energy from petroleum and gas were not available. The Soviets built a nuclear power reactor but it too was undependable. To further complicate the situation Bulgaria was finding it hard to service the international debts in had incurred. The only marketable goods in international export were the limited amount of high quality consumer goods which Bulgaria was producing.

Internationally Bulgaria was in disrepute because of Bulgarian security forces serving as surrogates for Soviet espinage and assassinations.

On the positive side, Zhivkov had promoted Bulgarian nationalism and cultural pride. But there was a negative element to this with respect to the significant ethnic Turkish minority who numbered approximately one million. Zhivkov feared that the higher birth rate of the Turkish minority would eventually make them a majority. Initially the Zhivkov regime encourged the migration of this group. Later, when appartently Bulgaria was experiencing a labor shortage, Zhivkov cut off this migration and implemented a program of Bulgarianization of the Turkish minority. This included forcing ethnic Turks in Bulgaria to adopt Slavic Bulgarian family names. This added to the reputation of repressiveness of the Zhivkov regime.

The Fall of the Zhivkov Regime

Like all of the other rulers of the feudalistic communist states, Todor Zhivkov could not believe he was vulnerable. He was in his late seventies in the latter part of the 1980's.

In 1989 the Bulgarian Communist Party deposed Zhivkov.

The other leaders of the Bulgarian Communist Party were more conscious of their vulnerability than Zhivkov was. They changed the name of the party after Zhivkov' fall to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

An opposition to the regime had developed around environmental issues. Bulgarian heavy industries were damaging air and water quality. Opposition to such pollution seemed unrelated to ideology so it was not perceived as political opposition to the regime. At the time of Zhivkov deposing there was formed a Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), a coalition of 16 groups opposing the regime. The UDF refused to cooperate with the Bulgarian Socialist Party. During 1990 the refusal of the UDF to participate in a government of the Bulgarian Socialist Party resulted in a political crisis which turned into an economic crisis. Production in Bulgaria fell about ten percent in 1990. In January the Communist government decided to open negotiation with the UDF and had Zhivkov arrested for crimes against the people.

In June of 1990 an election was held for the legislature and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (the former Communists, won a majority.

In 1991 there were attempts at economic and political reform. In the October election to the national legislature the UDF won the largest share but it needed coalition partners to form a government. The UDF always refused to form a coalition with the BSP but willing cooperated with the Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF) which represented the interests of the Turkish minority of Bulgaria. The MRF was usually the third largest bloc in the National Assembly.

Filip Dimitrov headed the new government which met in November of 1991. A little over a year later the Dimitrov government had to resign as a consequence of the failure of economic policies. The new government under Lyuben Berov was not able to improve economic conditions over the next two years and had to resign in September of 1994. The September elections for the national legislature gave the BSP, the former Communists, a majority. A new government under the leadership of Zhan Videnov of the BSP took power in September of 1994.

The BSP government under Videnov was no more able to cope with the economic problems of Bulgaria than its predecessors and Videnov resigned in December of 1996. In January and February of 1997 there were massive demonstrations against the government of the Bulgarian Socialist Party which forced the BSP government to resign and schedule new elections for April. A caretaker government managed the country until April when the new elections were held.

In the April elections the UDP won a plurality and was able to form a new coalition government under the leadership of Ivan Kostov, a trained economist. The UDP government implemented a program of monetary stabilization and privatization of state banks. Tudor Zhivkov lived to see this program implemented. He died at age 86 in August of 1998.

In 2007 the commercial economies of Sofia, Plovdiv, Turnovo and Ruse seem vibrant. The obvious problems in downtown Sofia are the inadequate trash collections and the failure to repair damaged streets; i.e., failures of government services.

(To be continued.)

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