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Bulgaria - HISTORY
THE HISTORY OF THE LAND now known as Bulgaria has been determined by its location between Asia and Europe, by its proximity to powerful states competing for land and influence at the junction of trade routes and strategic military positions, and by the strong national territorial drive of various Bulgarian states. Before the Christian era, Greece and Rome conquered the region and left substantial imprints on the culture of the people they found there. The Bulgar tribes, who arrived in the seventh century from west of the Urals, have occupied the region continuously for thirteen centuries. Over time Bulgarian culture merged with that of the more numerous Slavs, who had preceded the Bulgars by one century. After converting to Christianity and adopting a Slavic language in the ninth century, the Bulgarians consolidated a distinct Slavic culture that subsequently passed through periods of both expansionist independence and subordination to outside political systems.
From the ninth until the fourteenth century, Bulgaria was a dominant force in the Balkans because of its aggressive military tradition and strong sense of national identity. The chief rival and neighbor, the Byzantine Empire, left a lasting political imprint on two Bulgarian empires as it competed with them for regional domination. Marking the deterioration of both the Byzantine and the Bulgarian political structures, the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 began four centuries of Turkish suppression of Bulgarian cultural and political institutions.
By the eighteenth century, however, weakening Ottoman control allowed a Bulgarian cultural revival. In the next century, Western political ideas gradually combined with the reborn Bulgarian national consciousness to form an independence movement. The movement was complicated by internal disagreement on aims and methods, the increasing weakness of the Ottoman foothold in Europe, and the conflicting attitudes of the major European powers toward Bulgaria. Russia gained distinction as Bulgaria's protector by driving out the Turks in 1877, but France and Britain curbed Russian power in the Balkans by forcing establishment of a limited autonomous Bulgarian state under Turkish rule. The instrument of that limitation, the Treaty of Berlin, revived longstanding Bulgarian territorial frustrations by placing the critical regions of Macedonia and Thrace beyond Bulgarian control. Both of those disputed regions had substantial Bulgarian populations. During the next sixty years, Bulgaria would fight unsuccessfully in four wars, in a variety of alliances, to redress the grievance. None of the four wars brought substantial new territory to Bulgaria.
Beginning in 1878, Bulgaria was nominally ruled by members of West European royal houses under a parliamentary form of government. Prime Minister Stefan Stambolov unified the country during its first decade, but extremist political parties exerted substantial influence from the beginning. Between 1878 and the declaration of full independence in 1908, Bulgaria passed through a period of peaceful modernization with expansion in industry, science, education, and the arts. Modernization and industrialization sowed the seeds of class conflict, however, nurturing strong socialist and agrarian opposition parties in the decades that followed independence.
The period between 1912 and 1944 was full of irredentist wars and internal political turmoil. By 1900 Serbia and Greece were the major territorial rivals, but a World War I alliance with Germany gained Bulgaria little advantage over them. After the war, the agrarian reform government of Aleksandur Stamboliiski had failed to unite the country by 1923. The series of unstable factions and forms of government that followed Stamboliiski was broken only by Bulgaria's participation as an Axis ally in World War II. Again no territory was gained, but World War II brought Soviet occupation, the end of the monarchy, and forty-one years of unbroken communist rule beginning in 1948. During that entire period, Bulgaria was the closest East European imitator of Soviet internal and foreign policy. The years 1948 through 1989 were a time of collectivization, heavy industrialization, drastic restriction of human rights, and close adherence to Soviet Cold-War policy.
The land now known as Bulgaria attracted human settlement as early as the Bronze Age. Almost from the first, however, existing civilizations were challenged by powerful neighbors. Pre-Bulgarian Civilizations
The first known civilization to dominate the territory of present-day Bulgaria was that of the Thracians, an Indo-European group. Although politically fragmented, Thracian society is considered to have been comparable to that of Greece in the arts and economics; these achievements reached a peak in the sixth century B.C. Because of political disunity, however, Thrace then was successively occupied and divided by the Greeks, the Persians, the Macedonians, and the Romans. After the decline of the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, a new Thracian kingdom emerged in the third century B.C. Occupied by the Romans, it remained a kingdom within the Roman Empire until the emperor Vespasian incorporated it as a district in the first century A.D. Roman domination brought orderly administration and the establishment of Serditsa (on the site of modern Sofia) as a major trading center in the Balkans. In the fourth century A.D., when the Roman Empire split between Rome and Constantinople, Thrace became part of the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire. Christianity was introduced to the region at this time. Both the Latin culture of Rome and the Greek culture of Constantinople remained strong influences on ensuing civilizations.
Waves of Huns, Goths, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths invaded and plundered the Balkans beginning in the third century A.D. None of these invaders permanently occupied territory. Small Slavic groups began settling outlying regions in the fifth century, and by the seventh century the Slavs had overcome Byzantine resistance and settled most of the Balkans. The Slavs brought a more stable culture, retained their own language, and substantially slavicized the existing Roman and Byzantine social system.
The immigration of the first Bulgars overlapped that of the Slavs in the seventh century. Of mixed Turkic stock (the word Bulgar derives from an Old Turkic word meaning "one of mixed nationality"), the Bulgars were warriors who had migrated from a region between the Urals and the Volga to the steppes north of the Caspian Sea, then across the Danube into the Balkans. Besides a formidable reputation as military horsemen, the Bulgars had a strong political organization based on their khan (prince). In A.D. 630 a federation of Bulgar tribes already existed; in the next years the Bulgars united with the Slavs to oppose Byzantine control. By 681 the khan Asparukh had forced Emperor Constantine V to recognize the first Bulgarian state. The state, whose capital was at Pliska, near modern Shumen, combined a Bulgarian political structure with Slavic linguistic and cultural institutions.
The First Bulgarian Empire was able to defeat the Byzantine Empire in 811 and expand its territory eastward to the Black Sea, south to include Macedonia, and northwest to present-day Belgrade. The kingdom reached its greatest size under Tsar Simeon (893-927), who presided over a golden age of artistic and commercial expansion. After moving deep into Byzantine territory, Simeon was defeated in 924.
Meanwhile, Rome and Byzantium competed for political and cultural influence in Bulgaria. The Eastern Empire won in 870 when Bulgaria accepted Eastern Rite (Orthodox) Christianity and an autocephalous Bulgarian Church was established. This decision opened Bulgaria to Byzantine culture (and territorial ambitions) through the literary language devised for the Slavs by the Orthodox monks Cyril and Methodius. Establishment of a common, official religion also permanently joined the Bulgarian and Slavic cultures.
After reaching its peak under Simeon, the First Bulgarian Empire declined in the middle of the tenth century. Byzantine opposition and internal weakness led to a loss of territory to the Magyars and the Russians. Bulgaria remained economically dependent on the Byzantine Empire, and the widespread Bogomil heresy opposed the secular Bulgarian state and its political ambitions as work of the devil. Seeking to restore a balance of power in the Balkans, the Byzantines allied with the Kievan Russians under Yaroslav and invaded Bulgaria several times in the late tenth century. Although the Bulgarians expanded their territory again briefly under Tsar Samuil at the end of the tenth century, in 1014 the Byzantines under Basil II inflicted a major military loss. By 1018 all of Bulgaria was under Byzantine control. For nearly two centuries, the Byzantines ruled harshly, using taxes and the political power of the church to crush opposition. The first and second Crusades passed through Bulgaria in this period, devastating the land.
By 1185 the power of the Byzantine Empire again waned because of external conflicts. The noble brothers Asen and Peter led a revolt that forced Byzantine recognition of an autonomous Bulgarian state. Centered at Turnovo (present-day Veliko Turnovo), this state became the Second Bulgarian Empire. Like the First Bulgarian Empire, the second expanded at the expense of a preoccupied Byzantine Empire. In 1202 Tsar Kaloian (1197-1207) concluded a final peace with Byzantium that gave Bulgaria full independence. Kaloian also drove the Magyars from Bulgarian territory and in 1204 concluded a treaty with Rome that consolidated Bulgaria's western border by recognizing the authority of the pope. By the middle of the thirteenth century, Bulgaria again ruled from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. Access to the sea greatly increased commerce, especially with the Italian Peninsula. Turnovo became the center of Bulgarian culture, which enjoyed a second golden age.
The final phase of Bulgaria's second Balkan dominance was the reign of Kaloian's successor, Ivan Asen II. In this period, culture continued to flourish, but political instability again threatened. After the death of Ivan Asen II, internal and external political strife intensified. Sensing weakness, the Tatars began sixty years of raids in 1241, the Byzantines retook parts of the Second Bulgarian Empire, and the Magyars again advanced. From 1257 until 1277, aristocratic factions fought for control of the Bulgarian throne. Heavy taxation by feudal landlords caused their peasants to revolt in 1277 and enthrone the "swineherd tsar" Ivailo. After 1300 Tatar control ended, and a new period of expansion followed under Mikhail Shishman (1323-1330) and Ivan Aleksandur (1331-1370). As before, however, military and commercial success paralleled internal disorder; the social chaos of the previous century continued to erode the power of Bulgarian leaders. Meanwhile, Serbia had risen as a formidable rival in the Balkans, and the Ottoman Turks had advanced to the Aegean coast. In the late fourteenth century, Bulgaria was weakened by the division of its military defenses between the two perceived threats.
The Ottoman Empire was founded in the early fourteenth century by Osman I, a prince of Asia Minor who began pushing the eastern border of the Byzantine Empire westward toward Constantinople. Present-day European Turkey and the Balkans, among the first territories conquered, were used as bases for expansion far to the West during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The capture of Constantinople in 1453 completed Ottoman subjugation of major Bulgarian political and cultural institutions. Nevertheless, certain Bulgarian groups prospered in the highly ordered Ottoman system, and Bulgarian national traditions continued in rural areas. When the decline of the Ottoman Empire began about 1600, the order of local institutions gave way to arbitrary repression, which eventually generated armed opposition. Western ideas that penetrated Bulgaria during the 1700s stimulated a renewed concept of Bulgarian nationalism that eventually combined with decay in the empire to loosen Ottoman control in the nineteenth century.Introduction of the Ottoman System
Ottoman forces captured the commercial center of Sofia in 1385. Serbia, then the strongest Christian power in the Balkans, was decisively defeated by the Ottomans at the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, leaving Bulgaria divided and exposed. Within ten years, the last independent Bulgarian outpost was captured. Bulgarian resistance continued until 1453, when the capture of Constantinople gave the Ottomans a base from which to crush local uprisings. In consolidating its Balkan territories, the new Ottoman political order eliminated the entire Bulgarian state apparatus. The Ottomans also crushed the nobility as a landholding class and potential center of resistance. The new rulers reorganized the Bulgarian church, which had existed as a separate patriarchate since 1235, making it a diocese under complete control of the Byzantine Patriarchate at Constantinople. The sultan, in turn, totally controlled the patriarchate.
The Ottomans ruled with a centralized system much different from the scattered local power centers of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The single goal of Ottoman policy in Bulgarian territory was to make all local resources available to extend the empire westward toward Vienna and across northern Africa. Landed estates were given in fiefdom to knights bound to serve the sultan. Peasants paid multiple taxes to both their masters and the government. Territorial control also meant cultural and religious assimilation of the populace into the empire. Ottoman authorities forcibly converted the most promising Christian youths to Islam and trained them for government service. Called pomaks, such converts often received special privileges and rose to high administrative and military positions. The Ottoman system also recognized the value of Bulgarian artisans, who were organized and given limited autonomy as a separate class. Some prosperous Bulgarian peasants and merchants became intermediaries between local Turkish authorities and the peasants. In this capacity, these chorbadzhi (squires) were able to moderate Ottoman policy. On the negative side, the Ottoman assimilation policy also included resettlement of Balkan Slavs in Asia Minor and immigration of Turkish peasants to farm Bulgarian land. Slavs also were the victims of mass enslavement and forcible mass conversion to Islam in certain areas.Bulgarian Society under the Turks
Traditional Bulgarian culture survived only in the smaller villages during the centuries of Ottoman rule. Because the administrative apparatus of the Ottoman Empire included officials of many nationalities, commerce in the polyglot empire introduced Jews, Armenians, Dalmatians, and Greeks into the chief population centers. Bulgarians in such centers were forcibly resettled as part of a policy to scatter the potentially troublesome educated classes. The villages, however, were often ignored by the centralized Ottoman authorities, whose control over the Turkish landholders often exerted a modifying influence that worked to the advantage of the indigenous population. Village church life also felt relatively little impact from the centralized authority of the Greek Orthodox Church. Therefore, between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, the villages became isolated repositories of Bulgarian folk culture, religion, social institutions, and language.Early Decay and Upheaval in the Empire
Notable Bulgarian uprisings against the Ottomans occurred in the 1590s, the 1680s and the 1730s; all sought to take advantage of external crises of the empire, and all were harshly suppressed. Beginning in the 1600s, local bandits, called hajduti (sing., hajdutin), led small uprisings. Some writers now describe these uprisings as precursors of a Bulgarian nationalist movement. Most scholars agree, however, that hajdutin activities responded only to local misrule and their raids victimized both Christians and Muslims. Whatever their motivation, hajdutin exploits became a central theme of national folk culture.
By 1600 the Ottoman Empire had reached the peak of its power and territorial control. In the seventeenth century, the empire began to collapse; the wealth of conquest had spread corruption through the political system, vitiating the ability of the central government to impose order throughout the farflung empire. For the majority of people in agricultural Bulgaria, centralized Ottoman control had been far from intolerable while the empire was orderly and strong. But the growing despotism of local authorities as the central government declined created a new class of victims. Increasingly, Bulgarians welcomed the progressive Western political ideas that reached them through the Danube trade and travel routes. Already in the 1600s, Catholic missionaries in western Bulgaria had stimulated creation of literature about Bulgaria's national past. Although the Turks suppressed this Western influence after the Chiprovets uprising of 1688, the next century brought an outpouring of historical writings reminding Bulgarian readers of a glorious national heritage.
For Bulgaria the eighteenth century brought transition from static subservience within a great Asian empire toward intellectual and political modernization and reestablishment of cultural ties with Western Europe. The monasteries of an increasingly independent Bulgarian church fostered national thought and writing; Western influences altered the nature of commerce and landholding in the Balkans; and the forcible assimilation of Bulgarian culture into a cosmopolitan Asian society ended, allowing Bulgarian national consciousness to reawaken. At the same time, social anarchy inhibited the liberation process. These developments set the stage for a full national revival.The Written Word
In the eighteenth century, all Slavic cultures moved away from the formal Old Church Slavonic language that had dominated their literatures for centuries. The literary language that emerged was much closer to the common vernacular, eventually making books accessible to a much wider readership. In 1741 Hristofor Zhefarovich published his Stematografia, a discussion of the cultural history of the Serbs and the Bulgarians. The book displayed the Bulgarian coat of arms and praised the glorious past of the Bulgarian people. In 1762 Father Paisi of Hilendar wrote a history of the Bulgarian peoples in a mixture of Old Church Slavonic and vernacular language. Circulated in manuscript form for nearly one hundred years, the book was a lively, readable celebration of the Bulgarian past and a call for all Bulgarians to remember their heritage and cultivate their native language. Paisi's history inspired generations of writings on Bulgarian patriotic themes. In part, its influence was strong because Paisi wrote at the monastery of Mt. Athos, the largest spiritual center in the Balkans and an early receptacle of ideas of the European Enlightenment. Paisi's follower Sofronii Vrachanski further developed the literature by using a much more vernacular language to advance secular ideas of the Enlightenment in translations of Greek myths and his original Life and Tribulations of the Sinner Sofronii. Sofronii also published the first printed book in Bulgaria in 1806.Commerce and Western Influences
Under the Ottoman Empire, the Mediterranean and Asian trade routes met in Bulgaria. Fairs and regional markets eventually brought tradesmen into contact with their foreign counterparts. After centuries of exclusion from population centers by Turkish policy, Bulgarians began migrating back to the towns, establishing an urban ethnic presence. By the eighteenth century, trade guilds included many workers in cloth, metal, wood, and decorative braid. The estate holders of Macedonia also profited from growing European cotton markets. Some Bulgarian merchants assumed positions as intermediaries between Turkish and European markets, grew rich from such connections, and established offices in the major European capitals. As the Bulgarian cultural revival spread from the monasteries into secular society, these newly wealthy groups promoted secular art, architecture, literature, and Western ideals of individual freedom and national consciousness. Of particular impact were the ideals of the French Revolution, introduced through commercial connections at the start of the nineteenth century.
The end of centralized Ottoman power over Bulgarian territory brought several decades of anarchy, called the kurdzhaliistvo, at the end of the eighteenth century. As at the end of the Second Bulgarian Empire four hundred years before, local freebooters controlled small areas, tyrannized the population, and fought among themselves. Political order was not reestablished in Bulgaria until 1820. Meanwhile, large population shifts occurred as Bulgarians fled the taxation and violence inflicted by this anarchic condition; the new communities they founded in Romania and southern Russia were important sources of cultural and political ideas in the nineteenth century.
The Bulgarian national revival took place in the larger context of Christian resistance to Turkish occupation of Eastern and Central Europe--a cause whose momentum increased as the Ottoman Empire crumbled from within. Russia fought a series of wars with the Turks between 1676 and 1878, and was given the right to protect Christians living under Ottoman rule in treaties signed in 1774 and 1791. Those treaties granted semiautonomy to the Romanian regions of Wallachia and Moldavia, which gave hope that Russia might provide similar help to Bulgaria during the kurdzhaliistvo. Intellectual ties between Bulgaria and Russia promoted the adoption of Russian revolutionary thought along with Western influences. In 1804 Sofronii offered the help of the entire Bulgarian people to Russian armies fighting the Turks and moving toward Bulgarian territory. By 1811 a special volunteer army of several thousand Bulgarians had been formed, in the hope that Russian success against the Turks would liberate Bulgaria. Although the Russians did not aid the Bulgarians directly at that time, Russia remained crucial to Bulgarian foreign relations from that time to the late twentieth century.European and Russian Policies, 1800
By 1800 the Ottoman Empire was universally labeled "The Sick Man of Europe." The empire was precariously near total collapse and ready to be dismantled by a powerful neighbor, just as the Byzantine Empire had been dismantled by the Ottomans. In this case the logical successor was Russia, an expanding empire with strong religious and cultural ties to the captive Slavic groups. Russia also had a continuing desire to achieve access to the Mediterranean Sea. Russian military power reached its peak with the defeat of Napoleon's invading army in 1812, but throughout the nineteenth century France and Britain used diplomatic and military means to counterbalance Russian influence in the Balkans and the Bosporus. This implicit defense of the Ottoman Empire delayed Bulgarian independence, but the intellectual basis of revolution grew rapidly in the nineteenth century.
In 1804 Serbia began a series of uprisings that won it autonomy within the Ottoman Empire by 1830. Especially in the campaigns of 1804 and 1815, many Bulgarians in areas adjacent to Serbia fought beside the Serbs. When the Greeks revolted against Turkish rule in 1821, Bulgarian towns provided money and soldiers. Several hundred Bulgarians fought in the six-year Greek uprising, some of them as commanders, and some became part of the government of independent Greece. Bulgarians also fought the Turks in Crete, with the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi, and in other nationalist uprisings against the Habsburgs in 1848-49. In spite of Bulgarian sympathy for national liberation movements nearby, and although the ideals of those movements permeated the Balkans from 1804 on, the anarchy of the early 1800s confined expression of Bulgarian national feeling primarily to the cultural realm until the 1860s.Cultural Expressions of Nationalism
In 1824 Dr. Petur Beron, a member of the Bulgarian emigrant community in Romania, published the first primer in colloquial Bulgarian. His book also explained a new system of secular education to replace the outdated precepts of monastery pedagogy, and Beron's suggestions strongly influenced the development of Bulgarian education in the nineteenth century. In 1835 a school was opened in Gabrovo according to Beron's design. Under direction of the monk Neofit Rilski, it was the first school to teach in Bulgarian. Similar schools opened in the ensuing years, and in 1840 the first school for girls opened in Pleven. Education grew especially fast in trading towns such as Koprivshtitsa and Kalofer in the foothills of the Balkans, where textiles and other trades created a wealthy merchant class. In the 1840s, the first generation of Western-educated Bulgarians returned home. Forming a cosmopolitan intelligentsia, they diversified and expanded Bulgarian schools in the following decades.
In the first half of the 1800s, special educational and cultural ties developed with Russia and France. In 1840 the Russian government began awarding grants for Bulgarian students to study in Russia. The total number of students in the Russian program was never high, but several graduates were leaders in the independence drive of the 1870s. Several notable Bulgarians of that generation also were educated in France and at Robert College, founded as a missionary institution in Constantinople.
Parallel with educational advancement, Bulgarian book printing advanced substantially after 1830. Before that date only seventeen original Bulgarian titles had been printed; but by mid-century, printing had replaced manuscript copying as the predominant means of distributing the written word. The first periodical was printed in Bulgarian in 1844, beginning an outpouring of mostly ephemeral journals through the nineteenth century. Censorship before 1878 meant that the majority of such journals were printed in the Romanian emigrant centers, outside the Ottoman Empire. Most Bulgarian-language periodicals printed within the empire came from Constantinople, showing the cultural importance of that city to the Bulgarian National Revival. After 1850 Bulgarian émigré periodicals, supporting a wide variety of political views toward the national independence movement, played a vital role in stimulating Bulgarian political consciousness.
In the mid-1800s, a number of cultural and charitable organizations founded in Constantinople supported and directed Bulgarian national institutions that resisted Ottoman and Greek influence. The social institution of the chitalishte (literally "reading room") played an important cultural role beginning in 1856. Established in population centers by adult education societies, the chitalishte was a center for social gatherings, lectures, performances, and debates. Because it was available to the entire public, this institution spread national cultural and political ideals beyond the intelligentsia to the larger society. By 1878 there were 131 such centers.
The Bulgarian National Revival also stimulated the arts in the nineteenth century. Dobri Chintulov wrote the first poetry in modern Bulgarian in the 1840s, pioneering a national literary revival that peaked in the 1870s. Translation of Western European and Russian literature accelerated, providing new influences that broke centuries of rigid formalism. Painting and architecture now also broke from the prescribed forms of Byzantine church art to express secular and folk themes. Bulgarian wood-carving and church singing assumed the forms that survive today.Religious Independence
The Bulgarian church achieved new independence in the nineteenth century. The Ottoman Empire had left the Bulgarian church hierarchy under the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople for four centuries, disregarding the differences between the two Orthodox churches. (The last separate Bulgarian church jurisdiction, the archbishopric of Ohrid, was absorbed in 1767.) Early in the 1800s, few of the Bulgarian church leaders most closely connected with Enlightenment ideas sought separation from the Greek Orthodox Church. But in 1839, a movement began against the Greek Metropolitan of Turnovo, head of the largest Bulgarian diocese, in favor of local control. In 1849 the active Bulgarian community of Constantinople began pressing Turkish officials for church sovereignty. Other large Bulgarian dioceses both inside and outside Bulgaria sought a return to liturgy in the vernacular and appointment of Bulgarian bishops. The first concession came in 1848, when the Greek patriarch of Constantinople allowed one Bulgarian church in that city.
Because a decade of petitions, demonstrations, and Ottoman reform suggestions had brought no major change, in 1860 Bishop Ilarion Makariopolski of Constantinople declared his diocese independent of the Greek patriarchate. This action began a movement for ecclesiastical independence that united rural and urban Bulgarians and began a bitter Greek-Bulgarian dispute. The Turks and the Russians began to mediate in 1866, seeking a compromise that would ensure the security of each in the face of increasing regional unrest. In 1870 the Ottoman sultan officially declared the Bulgarian church a separate exarchate. The Greek patriarchate, which never recognized the separation, excommunicated the entire Bulgarian church; but the symbolism of the Ottoman decree had powerful political effect. The new exarchate became the leading force in Bulgarian cultural life; it officially represented the Bulgarians in dealing with the Turks, and it sponsored Bulgarian schools. The novel administrative system of the exarchate called for lay representation in governing bodies, thus introducing a note of self-government into this most visible institution.Early Insurrections
The social and cultural events of the National Revival moved parallel to important political changes. Bulgarian aid to the Russians in the Russo-Turkish wars of 1806-12 and 1828-29 did nothing to loosen Ottoman control. Then the Ottoman Empire ruthlessly quelled major Bulgarian uprisings in 1835 (in Turnovo), 1841 (in Nis), and in 1850-51 (in Vidin). Those uprisings still bore the disorganized qualities of the hajduti, but, together with smaller movements in intervening years, they established a tradition of insurrection for the next generation. Meanwhile, beset by European enemies and internal revolutions, the Turks entered a reform period in 1826. They replaced the elite but increasingly untrustworthy Janissary forces with a regular army and officially abolished the feudal land system. These changes reduced oppression by the local Turkish rulers in Bulgaria. In the 1830s, Sultan Mahmud II recentralized and reorganized his government to gain control over his corrupt officials and follow European administrative models. Although these changes had little direct effect on Bulgaria, they clearly signaled to the Slavic subjects of the empire that reform was now possible.Balkan Politics of the Mid-Nineteenth Century
By 1850 the emerging Bulgarian nationalist movement had split into two distinct branches. The moderates, concentrated in Constantinople, favored gradual improvement of conditions in Bulgaria through negotiations with the Turkish government. This was the approach that created a separate Bulgarian exarchate in 1870. This group believed that the protection of the Ottoman Empire was necessary because a free Bulgaria would be subject to Balkan politics and great-power manipulation. The radical faction, however, saw no hope of gradual reform. Following their understanding of European liberal tradition and Russian revolutionary thought, the leaders of this faction aimed first for liberation from all outside controls. Liberation, they believed, would automatically lead to complete modernization of Bulgarian society.
The crushing of the large-scale Vidin peasant revolt in 1851 brought intervention by Britain and France, who bolstered and protected the Ottoman Empire throughout the nineteenth century as a counterweight to Russian expansion. To prevent destabilizing unrest, Britain and France forced the Turks to introduce land reform in western Bulgaria in the early 1850s and a series of major social reforms in 1856 and 1876. Nominally, those measures included equal treatment for non-Muslims in the empire and parliamentary representation for Bulgarians and Serbs. These changes, however, were the cosmetic product of Turkey's need for Western support in major wars with Russia. They did nothing to blunt the nationalist drive of the Bulgarian radicals.The First Independence Organizations
In 1862 Georgi Rakovski assembled the first armed group of Bulgarians having the avowed goal of achieving independence from the Ottoman Empire. Rakovski, well-educated and experienced in the 1841 uprising and the drive for ecclesiastical independence, envisioned a federal republic including all Balkan nations except Greece. His fighters were to stir a full-scale national uprising after crossing into Bulgaria from assembly points in Romania and Serbia. But the Serbs, who had supported the Bulgarians while they were useful in opposing the Turks, disbanded the Bulgarian legions in Serbia when they no longer served that purpose. Although Rakovski died in 1867 without achieving Bulgarian independence, he united the émigré intelligentsia, and the presence of his army influenced Turkish recognition of the Bulgarian church in 1870.
The Bulgarian Secret Central Committee, founded by émigré Bulgarians in Bucharest in 1866, continued Rakovski's mission under the leadership of Vasil Levski and Liuben Karavelov. These ideologues refined Rakovski's idea of armed revolutionary groups, creating a cadre of intellectuals who would prepare the people to rise for independence. Beginning in 1868, Levski founded the first revolutionary committees in Bulgaria. Captured by the Turks, he became a national hero when he was hanged in 1873. In 1870 Karavelov founded the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC) in Bucharest. The death of Levski temporarily shattered the group, but the committee resumed its activities when Georgi Benkovski joined its leadership in 1875. By this time, the political atmosphere of the Balkans was charged with revolution, and the Ottoman Empire looked increasingly vulnerable. Britain, Russia, and Austria-Hungary were growing concerned about the implications of those trends for the European balance of power. In 1875 Bosnia and Hercegovina revolted successfully against the Turks, and the next year Serbia and Montenegro attacked the Ottoman Empire.The Final Move to Independence
In the early 1870s, the BRCC had built an intricate revolutionary organization, recruiting thousands of ardent patriots for the liberation struggle. Finally, in 1875 the committee believed that external distractions had weakened the Ottoman Empire enough to activate that struggle. Local revolutionary committees in Bulgaria attempted to coordinate the timing and strategy of a general revolt. Armed groups were to enter Bulgaria from abroad to support local uprisings, and diversionary attacks on Ottoman military installations were planned. Despite these efforts at coordination, the BRCC strategy failed. Although planned as a general revolt, the September Uprising of 1875 occurred piecemeal in isolated locations, and several local revolutionary leaders failed to mobilize any forces. The Turks easily suppressed the uprising, but the harshness of their response attracted the attention of Western Europe; from that time, the fate of Bulgaria became an international issue.
Following the failure of the September Uprising, Benkovski reorganized the BRCC and made plans for a new revolt. The April Uprising of 1876 was more widespread, but it also suffered from poor coordination. Poor security allowed the Turks to locate and destroy many local groups before unified action was possible. Massacres at Batak and other towns further outraged international opinion by showing the insincerity of recent Turkish reform proposals. The deaths of an estimated 30,000 Bulgarians in these massacres spurred the Bulgarian national movement. An international conference in Constantinople produced proposals to curb the Muslim fanaticism responsible for the Bulgarian massacres and give local self-government to the Christians on European territory in the empire. Two autonomous Bulgarian regions were proposed, one centered at Sofia and the other at Turnovo. When the sultan rejected the reforms, Russia declared war unilaterally in early 1877. This was Russia's golden opportunity to gain control of Western trade routes to its southwest and finally destroy the empire that had blocked this ambition for centuries. Shocked by the Turkish massacres, Britain did not oppose Russian advances.San Stefano, Berlin, and Independence
In eight months, Russian troops occupied all of Bulgaria and reached Constantinople. At this high point of its influence on Balkan affairs, Russia dictated the Treaty of San Stefano in March 1878. This treaty provided for an autonomous Bulgarian state (under Russian protection) almost as extensive as the First Bulgarian Empire, bordering the Black and Aegean seas. But Britain and Austria-Hungary, believing that the new state would extend Russian influence too far into the Balkans, exerted strong diplomatic pressure that reshaped the Treaty of San Stefano four months later into the Treaty of Berlin. The new Bulgaria would be about onethird the size of that prescribed by the Treaty of San Stefano; Macedonia and Thrace, south of the Balkans, would revert to complete Ottoman control. The province of Eastern Rumelia would remain under Turkish rule, but with a Christian governor.
Whereas the Treaty of San Stefano called for two years of Russian occupation of Bulgaria, the Treaty of Berlin reduced the time to nine months. Both treaties provided for an assembly of Bulgarian notables to write a constitution for their new country. The assembly would also elect a prince who was not a member of a major European ruling house and who would recognize the authority of the Ottoman sultan. In cases of civil disruption, the sultan retained the right to intervene with armed force.
The final provisions for Bulgarian liberation fell far short of the goals of the national liberation movement. Large populations of Bulgarians remained outside the new nation in Macedonia, Eastern Rumelia, and Thrace, causing resentment that endured well into the next century. (Bulgarians still celebrate the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano rather than the Treaty of Berlin as their national independence day.) In late 1878, a provisional Bulgarian government and armed uprisings had already surfaced in the Kresna and Razlog regions of Macedonia. These uprisings were quelled swiftly by the Turks with British support. During the next twenty-five years, large numbers of Bulgarians fled Macedonia into the new Bulgaria, and secret liberation societies appeared in Macedonia and Thrace. One such group, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), continued terrorist activities in the Balkans into the 1930s.
Despite strong dissatisfaction with the frontiers imposed by the European powers, a new Bulgarian state was born in 1878. And despite early political uncertainty, the first thirty-four years of modern Bulgaria were in many ways its most prosperous and productive. Forming the New State
In 1879 a constituent assembly was duly convened in Turnovo. Partly elected and partly appointed, the assembly of 230 split into conservative and liberal factions similar to those that had existed before independence. The liberals advocated continuing the alliance of peasants and intelligentsia that had formed the independence movement, to be symbolized in a single parliamentary chamber; the conservatives argued that the Bulgarian peasant class was not ready for political responsibility, and therefore it should be represented in a second chamber with limited powers. The framework for the Turnovo constitution was a draft submitted by the Russian occupation authorities, based on the constitutions of Serbia and Romania. As the assembly revised that document, the liberal view prevailed; a one-chamber parliament or subranie would be elected by universal male suffrage. Between the annual fall sessions of the subranie, the country would be run jointly by the monarch and a council of ministers responsible to parliament. The liberals who dominated the assembly incorporated many of their revolutionary ideals into what became one of the most liberal constitutions of its time. The final act of the Turnovo assembly was the election of Alexander of Battenburg, a young German nobleman who had joined the Russians in the war of 1877, to be the first prince of modern Bulgaria.
From the beginning of his reign, Alexander opposed the liberal wing in Bulgaria and the Turnovo constitution. After two years of conflict with the liberal council of ministers headed by Dragan Tsankov, Alexander received Russian backing to replace Tsankov. When the Russian Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, Russian policy changed to allow a grand national assembly to consider the constitutional changes desired by Prince Alexander. The assassination had spurred conservatism in Russia, and the Bulgarian liberals had alarmed the Russians by refusing foreign economic aid in the early 1880s. To the dismay of the liberals, Russia intervened in the election of the constitutional subranie, frightening voters into electing a group that passed the entire package of amendments. Liberal influence was sharply reduced by amendments limiting the power of the subranie. But, because the conservative approach to governing Bulgaria had little popular support, Alexander made a series of compromises with liberal positions between 1881 and 1885. The Turnovo constitution was essentially restored by agreement between Tsankov and the conservatives in 1883, and the constitutional issue was resolved. In only the first two years of Bulgaria's existence, two parliaments and seven cabinets had been dissolved, but more stable times lay ahead.
By 1884 the conservative faction had left the government, but the liberals split over the high price of purchasing the Ruse-Varna Railway from the British, as required by the Treaty of Berlin. As on earlier issues, the more radical faction sought to reduce the influence of the European powers who had imposed the Treaty of Berlin. This group was led by Petko Karavelov, brother of revolutionary leader Liuben Karavelov and prime minister in the mid-1880s.
The most important issue of that period was Bulgaria's changing relationship with Russia. Bulgarian hostility towards the Russian army, refusal to build a strategic railway for the Russians through Bulgaria, and poor relations between Prince Alexander and Tsar Alexander III of Russia all contributed to increasing alienation. Because conservative Russia now feared unrest in the Balkans, Karavelov tried to appease the tsar by quelling the uprisings that continued in Macedonia. Radical factions in Bulgaria were persuaded to lower their goals from annexation of Macedonia and Thrace to a union between Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. When a bloodless coup achieved this union in 1885, however, Russia demanded the ouster of Prince Alexander and withdrew all Russian officers from the Bulgarian army. Greece and Serbia saw their interests threatened, and the latter declared war on Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian army won a brilliant victory over Serbia, with no Russian aid, at the Battle of Slivnitsa. Although the victory was a source of great national pride for Bulgaria, Russia continued to withhold recognition of the union with Eastern Rumelia until Prince Alexander abdicated. Finally, Russian-trained Bulgarian army officers deposed the prince in August 1886.The Stambolov Years
When Alexander left behind a three-man regency headed by Stefan Stambolov, the Bulgarian government was as unstable as it was in its first year. A Russian-educated liberal, Stambolov became prime minister in 1887 and ceased tailoring Bulgarian policy to Russian requirements. The tsar's special representative in Bulgaria returned to Russia after failing to block a subranie called to nominate a new prince. Russo-Bulgarian relations remained chilly for the next ten years, and this break further destabilized Bulgarian politics and society. Stambolov brutally suppressed an army uprising in 1887 and began seven years of iron control that often bypassed the country's democratic institutions but brought unprecedented stability to Bulgaria. Meanwhile, Ferdinand of SaxeCoburg -Gotha, a Catholic German prince, accepted the Bulgarian throne in August 1887.
Independence from the Ottoman Empire brought drastic economic and social changes to Bulgaria at the end of the nineteenth century. Industrialization proceeded rapidly (thirty-six major factories opened between 1878 and 1887), and a new class of industrial labor formed from displaced artisans and agricultural workers. Harsh working conditions led the urban poor to the cause of socialism, and in 1891 the Social Democratic Party was formed. (Later transformation of one of its factions into the Bulgarian Communist Party made that organization the oldest communist party in the world.) Town-centered trade and the guild structure were swept away by an influx of West European commerce to which Bulgaria had been opened by the terms of the Treaty of Berlin.
Despite industrialization, Bulgaria remained primarily an agricultural country. Liberation eliminated the Ottoman feudal landholding system. Bulgarian peasants were able to buy land cheaply or simply occupy it after Turkish landlords left, and a system of village-based small landholding began. Agricultural production rose in spite of heavy government land taxes. Many peasants were forced into the urban work force by taxes or high interest on borrowings for land purchase. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the vast majority of the Bulgarian population were small landholders or independent small tradesmen.
Russia and the other great powers did not recognize Ferdinand as rightful prince of Bulgaria until 1896. Supporters of Prince Alexander who remained in power used this failure as a weapon against the policies of Ferdinand and Stambolov. In 1890 a widespread plot against the government was discovered. As before, the basis of the plot was dissatisfaction with Stambolov's refusal to intercede with the Turks on behalf of Macedonian independence. In a masterful diplomatic stroke, Stambolov represented the insurrection to the Turks as an example of potential chaos that could be avoided by minor concessions. Fearing the Balkan instability that would follow an overthrow of Ferdinand, the Turks then ceded three major Macedonian dioceses to the Bulgarian exarchate. Stambolov thus gained solid church support and an overwhelming victory in the 1890 election, which legitimized his government among all Bulgarian factions and reduced the threat of radical plots.
In the next years, Stambolov and the People's Liberal Party he had founded in 1886 exerted virtually dictatorial power to suppress extreme nationalism and opposing parties and create conditions for economic growth. After the 1886 coup, the army was strictly controlled. Voters were intimidated to ensure the reelection of incumbent officials, and political patronage grew rampant. Using his own and Ferdinand's ties with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Stambolov built a capitalist Bulgarian economic system on foreign loans, protectionism, an expanded industrial and transport infrastructure, and a strict tax system for capital accumulation. Especially important to the Bulgarian economy were completion of the Vienna-to-Constantinople Railway through Bulgaria in 1888 and the Burgas-Yambol Railway in the early 1890s. Stambolov derived strong political support from the entrepreneurs who benefited from his industrial policy. The Stambolov era marked the victory of executive over legislative power in the Bulgarian political system.
Legitimacy of the Bulgarian throne remained an important symbolic issue in the early 1890s, and the threat of assassination or overthrow of the prince remained after Stambolov consolidated his power. Therefore, Stambolov found a Catholic wife for Ferdinand and maneuvered past Orthodox Church objections in 1893 to ensure Ferdinand an heir that would stabilize the throne. That heir, Boris, was born the next year. Meanwhile, Stambolov's autocratic maneuvering and tough policies won him many enemies, especially after the stabilization of the early 1890s appeared to make such tactics unnecessary. In 1894 Ferdinand dismissed his prime minister because the prince sought more power for himself and believed that Stambolov had become a political liability. The next year, Macedonian radicals assassinated Stambolov.The Rule of Ferdinand
The new administration was mainly conservative, and Ferdinand became the dominant force in Bulgarian policy making. His position grew stronger when Russia finally recognized him in 1896. The price for recognition was the conversion of Prince Boris to Orthodoxy from Catholicism. The Russian attitude had changed for two reasons: Alexander III had died in 1894, and new Turkish massacres had signaled a collapse of the Ottoman Empire that would threaten Russian and Bulgarian interests alike. In the next twenty years, no strong politician like Stambolov emerged, and Ferdinand was able to accumulate power by manipulating factions. Several liberal and conservative parties, the descendants of the two preliberation groups, held power through 1912 in a parliamentary system that seldom functioned according to the constitution. The Bulgarian Social Democratic Party took its place in the new political order, advocating class struggle, recruiting members from the working class, and organizing strikes.
After relations with Russia had been repaired, Bulgaria's international position stabilized, allowing the economy to continue growing undisturbed until 1912. In this period, the government continued active intervention in agriculture and industry; it promoted new agricultural methods that improved the yield from fertile lands still being reclaimed from the Turks in 1900. Bulgarian economic growth continued growing because of a combination of factors: borrowing from West European industrial countries, a strong banking system, and a generally sound investment policy. Between 1887 and 1911, the number of industrial plants grew from 36 to 345. But the government's financial policy greatly increased the national debt, which by 1911 was three times the national budget and required 20 percent of the budget for interest payment. New land taxes and grain tithes were levied in the 1890s, leading to peasant revolts. In 1899 the Bulgarian Agrarian Union was founded, the result of a decade of growing rural discontent and resentment against the intellectual and governing class. Within two years, the union had evolved into an official party, the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), which was accepted by most Bulgarian peasants as truly representing their interests. Soon, Bulgarian politicians viewed BANU as the most potent political group in the country.The Macedonian Issue
Macedonian unrest continued into the twentieth century. Between 1894 and 1896, the government of Konstantin Stoilov reversed Stambolov's policy of controlling Macedonian extremists. When he sought to negotiate with the Turks for territorial concessions in Macedonia at the end of the century, Stoilov found that he could not control IMRO. By 1900 that group, which advocated Macedonian autonomy over the standard Bulgarian policy goal of annexation, had gained control of the Macedonian liberation movement inside Bulgaria. Russia and the Western powers now held Ferdinand responsible for all disruptions in Macedonia, causing suspicion of all Bulgarian activity in the Balkans. Greece and Serbia also laid claim to parts of Macedonia, giving them vital interests in the activities of IMRO as well. In 1902 Russia and Austria-Hungary forced Serbia and Bulgaria to cut all ties with IMRO.
In 1903 Macedonian liberation forces staged a widespread revolt, the Ilinden-Preobrazhensko Uprising. Despite strong public support for the Macedonian cause, Bulgaria sent no help, and the Turks again suppressed opposition with great violence. Large numbers of refugees now entered Bulgaria from Macedonia.
In the next four years, Austria-Hungary and Russia sought a formula by which to administer Macedonia in a way satisfactory to Bulgarian, Serbian, and Greek interests and approved by Constantinople. Although nominal agreement was reached in 1905, Serbian, Greek, and Bulgarian sympathizers clashed in Macedonia in 1906 and 1907. After the death of its leader Gotse Delchev in the 1903 uprising, IMRO's influence decreased. Bulgarian public sympathy for the Macedonian cause also diminished, and by 1905 the government's attention turned to internal matters.
Inspired by the 1905 uprisings in Russia, a series of riots and demonstrations between 1905 and 1908 were a reaction by workers, the poor, and some of the intelligentsia to several issues: domestic repression, government corruption, and the handling of the Macedonian issue. In 1906 anti-Greek riots and destruction of Greek property were ignited in some parts of Bulgaria by Greek claims to Macedonia. In spite of heavy fines and prohibitions against striking, a rail strike occurred in 1906, and in 1907 Prime Minister Nikola Petkov was assassinated.Full Independence
The strikes and demonstrations remained isolated and had little practical effect, so Ferdinand remained in firm control. In 1908 the Young Turks, an energetic new generation of reformers, gained power in the Ottoman Empire. Their ascendancy temporarily restored the international self-confidence of the empire and threatened a renewed Turkish influence in the Balkans. To protect the territory it occupied in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Austria-Hungary annexed those regions. While the Turks were preoccupied with that situation, Ferdinand nationalized the Bulgarian section of his main international rail line and declared himself tsar of a fully independent Bulgaria. The Western powers, again seeing the threat of Ottoman collapse, were appeased by Russian-arranged financial compromises that saved face for the Turks. But tension between Bulgaria and Turkey increased dramatically after Ferdinand's declaration.
The arbitrary nature of Ferdinand's declaration also brought loud criticism from democratic-minded Bulgarian factions. Nonetheless, the grand national assembly held at Turnovo in 1911 to incorporate the terms of independence into the constitution, ratified Ferdinand's title and expanded his power in conducting foreign affairs.
By 1911 the BANU, led by Aleksandur Stamboliiski, had become the largest and most vocal opposition faction. Although the BANU never gained more than 15 percent of a national vote before World War I, the party had a large, unified following in the peasant class victimized by poor harvests, usurious interest rates, and high taxes. Stamboliiski's political philosophy put the peasant and rural life ahead of all other classes and lifestyles. Hating bureaucrats and urban institutions, he proposed a government that would provide representation by profession rather than party, to ensure a permanent peasant majority. His goal was to establish a peasant republic that would replace the conventional parliamentary apparatus established at Turnovo. The BANU was a controversial and powerful force in Bulgarian politics for the next two decades.
Full independence made Bulgaria a more aggressive party in the complex of Balkan politics. The end of Ottoman occupation heightened territorial ambitions that involved Bulgaria and its neighbors in three wars within four years. The First Balkan War
The period from 1908 to 1912 was one of colliding interests in the Balkans and collapse of the system created by the Treaty of Berlin. Beginning in 1908, the Young Turks attempted to consolidate Turkish influence in the Balkans while ensuring equality for all nationalities in their empire. Rivals Italy and Austria threatened to intervene on behalf of an Albanian revolt against the Turks in 1909. Russia then urged a Bulgarian-Serbian alliance to keep such foreign powers at bay and ensure continued Slavic control in the region. In 1912, after long negotiations, Serbia and Bulgaria reached temporary agreement on the disposition of Macedonia, the chief issue dividing them. Subsequent agreements by Greece with Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro completed the Balkan League--an uneasy alliance designed by Russia to finally push the Turks out of Europe and curtail great-power meddling in the Balkans. The First Balkan War, which began in October 1912, coincided with Italy's campaign to liberate Tripoli from the Turks. Bulgarian forces moved quickly across Ottoman Europe, driving the Turks out of Thrace. However, the Bulgarians then overextended their position by a fruitless attack toward Constantinople. In the peace negotiations that followed, Bulgaria regained Thrace, but the fragile alliance against the Turks collapsed over the unresolved issue of Macedonia.The Second Balkan War
The final removal of the Turks from Europe posed the problem of dividing Ottoman territory and heightened the worries of the European great powers about balancing influence in that strategic region. Disagreement about the disposition of Macedonia quickly rearranged the alliances of the First Balkan War and ignited a Second Balkan War in 1913. The Treaty of London that had ended the first war stipulated only that the Balkan powers resolve existing claims among themselves. The Bulgarians, having had the greatest military success, demanded compensation on that basis; the Serbs and Greeks demanded adjustment of the 1912 treaty of alliance to ensure a balance of Balkan powers; and the Romanians demanded territorial reward for their neutral position in the first war. Even before the First Balkan War ended, a strong faction in Bulgaria had demanded war against Serbia to preserve Bulgaria's claim to Macedonia. Ferdinand sided with that faction in 1913, and Bulgaria attacked Serbia. Turkey, Greece, and Romania then declared war on Bulgaria because they all feared Bulgarian domination of the Balkans if Macedonia were not partitioned. Because most Bulgarian forces were on the Serbian frontier, Turkish and Romanian troops easily occupied Bulgarian territory by mid-1913, and Bulgaria was defeated. The Treaty of Bucharest (1913) allowed Bulgaria to retain only very small parts of Macedonia and Thrace; Greece and Serbia divided the rest, humiliating Bulgarian territorial claims and canceling the gains of the First Balkan War. This loss further inflamed Bulgarian nationalism, especially when Bulgarians in Serbian and Greek Macedonia were subjected to extreme hardship after the new partition. At this point Russia, whose warnings Bulgaria had defied by attacking Serbia, shifted its support to the Serbs as its Balkan counterbalance against Austro-Hungarian claims.
The settlement of the Second Balkan War had also inflamed Bosnian nationalism. In 1914 that movement ignited an AustrianSerbian conflict that escalated into world war when the European alliances of those countries went into effect. Prewar Bulgarian Politics
Supported by Ferdinand, the government of Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov declared neutrality to assess the possible outcome of the alliances and Bulgaria's position relative to the Entente (Russia, France, and Britain) and the Central Powers (AustriaHungary and Germany). From the beginning, both sides exerted strong pressure and made territorial offers to lure Bulgaria into an alliance. Ferdinand and his diplomats hedged, waiting for a decisive military shift in one direction or the other. The Radoslavov government favored the German side, the major opposition parties favored the Entente, and the agrarians and socialists opposed all involvement. By mid-1915 the Central Powers gained control on the Russian and Turkish fronts and were thus able to improve their territorial offer to Bulgaria. Now victory would yield part of Turkish Thrace, substantial territory in Macedonia, and monetary compensation for war expenses. In October 1915, Bulgaria made a secret treaty with the Central Powers and invaded Serbia and Macedonia.Early Successes
Catching the Entente by surprise, Bulgarian forces pushed the Serbs out of Macedonia and into Albania and occupied part of Greek Macedonia by mid-1916. British, French, and Serbian troops landed at Salonika and stopped the Bulgarian advance, but the Entente's holding operation in Greece turned into a war of attrition lasting from late 1916 well into 1917. This stalemate diverted 500,000 Entente troops from other fronts. Meanwhile, Romania had entered the war on the Entente side in 1916. Bulgarian and German forces pushed the poorly prepared Romanians northward and took Bucharest in December 1916. The Bulgarians then faced Russia on a new front in Moldavia (the part of Romania bordering Russia), but little action took place there.Stalemate and Demoralization
Once the Bulgarian advance into Romania and Greece halted, conditions at the front deteriorated rapidly and political support for the war eroded. By 1916 poor allocation of supplies created shortages for both civilians and soldiers, and a series of government reorganizations provided no relief. By 1917 the military stalemate and poor living conditions combined with news of revolution in Russia to stir large-scale unrest in Bulgarian society. The agrarians and socialist workers intensified their antiwar campaigns, and soldiers' committees formed in army units. Bolshevik antiwar propaganda was widely distributed in Bulgaria, and Russian and Bulgarian soldiers began fraternizing along the Moldavian front. In December 1917, Dimitur Blagoev, founder and head of the Social Democratic Party, led a meeting of 10,000 in Sofia, demanding an end to the war and overthrow of the Bulgarian government. A wave of unrest and riots, including a "women's revolt" against food and clothing shortages, swept through the country in 1918.
The government position weakened further when the Treaty of Bucharest, which divided the territory of defeated Romania among the central powers, left part of the disputed Romanian territory of Dobruja outside Bulgarian control. Having failed to secure even the least important territory promised by its war policy, the Radoslavov government resigned in June 1918. The new prime minister, Aleksandur Malinov, tried to unite the country by appointing the agrarian Aleksandur Stamboliiski to his cabinet. But Malinov had vowed to fight, and the BANU leader refused the post as long as Bulgaria remained in the war. By September the Bulgarian army was thoroughly demoralized by antiwar propaganda and harsh conditions. A battle with the British and French at Dobro Pole brought total retreat, and in ten days Entente forces entered Bulgaria. On September 29, the Bulgarians signed an armistice and left the war.Capitulation and Settlement
The retreat from Dobro Pole brought a soldier revolt that was crushed by German troops near Sofia. But the parties in power forced Ferdinand to abdicate at the end of September because they feared full-scale revolution and blamed the tsar for the country's chaotic state. Ferdinand's son Boris was named tsar, becoming Boris III. The immediate cause of social upheaval ended with the armistice, but shortages and discontent with the Bulgarian government continued. An ineffective coalition government ruled for the next year, then a general election was called. Meanwhile, Bulgaria was again left far short of the territorial goals for which it had declared war. In the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine (November 1919), Thrace was awarded to Greece, depriving Bulgaria of access to the Aegean Sea. The newly formed Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes took Macedonian territory adjoining its eastern border, and Southern Dobruja went to Romania.
The treaty limited the postwar Bulgarian Army to a small volunteer force; Yugoslavia, Romania, and Greece were to receive reparations in industrial and agricultural goods; and the victorious Allies were to receive monetary reparations for the next thirty-seven years. On the other hand, the payment schedule was significantly improved in 1923, and Bulgaria's loss of 14,100 square kilometers was much less than the territorial losses of its wartime allies. Nationalist resentment and frustration grew even stronger because of this outcome, however, and Bulgaria remained close to Germany throughout the interwar period.
The period after World War I was one of uneasy political coalitions, slow economic growth, and continued appearance of the Macedonia problem. Although social unrest remained at a high level, Boris kept firm control of his government as World War II approached. Stamboliiski and Agrarian Reform
The 1919 election reflected massive public dissatisfaction with the war reparations, inflation, and rising taxes that prolonged the chaotic living conditions of the war. The socialist and agrarian parties tightened their organizations and increased membership. The left wing of the Bulgarian Workers' Socialist-Democratic Party (BWSDP) numbered only 25,000 in 1919, and the BANU emerged as the largest party in the country. The BANU received 28 percent of the 1919 vote, giving it a plurality but not a majority in the new subranie. Stamboliiski sought to include the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP)--which had finished second in the election-- and the BWSDP in a coalition government. (The BCP and the BWSDP were the two factions of the Bulgarian communist movement that had sprung from the Social Democratic Party founded in 1891; they would remain separate until the former was disbanded after World War II.) Stamboliiski could not permit the two factions the control they desired, however, so they refused participation.
The postwar governing coalition thus included only factions to Stamboliiski's right. The first major test for the Stamboliiski government was a transport strike that lasted from December 1919 until February 1920. Fomented by the communists and the social democrats and joined by urban workers and middle-class Bulgarians, the striker protests were quelled harshly by the army and the Orange Guard, a quasi-military force that Stamboliiski formed to counter mass demonstrations by the parties of the left.
Suppression of the strike, mobilization of the peasant vote, and intimidation at the polls gave the BANU enough support to win the parliamentary election of 1920 over the communists and form a non-coalition government. Tsar Boris and much of the Bulgarian middle class preferred the agrarians to the communists and social democrats, whom they feared much more. Stamboliiski immediately began drastic economic reforms. He abolished the merchants' trade monopoly on grain, replacing it with a government consortium; broke up large urban and rural landholdings and sold the surplus to the poor; enacted an obligatory labor law to ease the postwar labor shortage; introduced a progressive income tax; and made secondary schooling compulsory. All aspects of the radical reform policy aimed at ridding society of "harmful" classes of society such as lawyers, usurers, and merchants, distributing capital and obligations more evenly through society, and raising the living standards of the landless and poor peasants.
In foreign policy, Stamboliiski officially abandoned Bulgaria's territorial claims, which he associated with a standing army, monarchy, large government expenditures, and other prewar phenomena that the agrarians deemed anachronistic. After the war, no major power was available to protect Bulgarian interests in the Balkans. For this reason, the traditional approach to foreign policy was discarded in favor of rapprochement with all European powers and the new government of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, membership in the League of Nations, and friendship with the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). Relations with Turkey were greatly improved by Bulgarian support of Atatürk's revolutionary Turkish Republic in 1920.
Reconciliation with Yugoslavia was a necessary step toward Stamboliiski's ultimate goal of a multiethnic Balkan peasant federation. Improved Yugoslav relations required a crackdown on the powerful Macedonian extremist movement. Accordingly, Stamboliiski began a two-year program of harsh suppression of IMRO in 1921; in 1923 Yugoslavia and Bulgaria agreed at the Nis Convention to cooperate in controlling extremists.The Fall of Stamboliiski
Led by a large Macedonian group in Sofia, the strong nationalist elements remaining in Bulgaria found the new pacifist policy alarming. The urban working class, unaided by agrarian reforms, gravitated to the communists or the socialist workers. Inflation and industrial exploitation continued. Many of Stamboliiski's subordinates inflamed social tensions by taking very dogmatic positions in favor of peasant rights. The Bulgarian right, silent since the war, reorganized into a confederation called the National Alliance. Stamboliiski's Orange Guard jailed the leaders of that group in 1922, temporarily stopping its momentum. Meanwhile, in late 1922 and early 1923, Macedonian nationalists occupied Kiustendil along the Yugoslav border and attacked government figures to protest rapprochement with Yugoslavia and Greece. Stamboliiski responded with mass arrests, an accelerated campaign against IMRO terrorism, a purge of his own fragmented and notoriously corrupt party, and a new parliamentary election. These dictatorial measures united the agrarians' various opponents (IMRO, the National Alliance, army factions, and the social democrats) into a coalition led by Aleksandur Tsankov. The communists remained outside the group. Bulgaria's Western creditors would not protect a government that had rejected their reparations policy. In June 1923, Stamboliiski was brutally assassinated by IMRO agents, and the conspirators shortly took control of the entire country with only scattered and ineffectual agrarian resistance.
Tsankov formed a new government, which Boris III quickly approved. An uprising by the communists, who had hoped the two major coalition factions would destroy each other, was easily suppressed in September 1923. Nonetheless, dominated by the Macedonian freedom factions and the National Alliance, Tsankov's government failed to restore order. When Tsankov outlawed the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1924, the militant communists led by exiles Georgi Dimitrov and Vasil Kolarov became dominant in that organization. The first response to this change was the bombing of Sveta Nedelia Cathedral in Sofia while the tsar was present in 1925, killing over 100. This attack brought a new government reign of terror against the communists and the agrarians. Disunited Macedonian factions also continued terrorist attacks from their virtually separate state at Petrich, causing alarm in Western Europe. In 1926 Tsankov was replaced by Andrei Liapchev, a Macedonian who remained prime minister for five years.
Liapchev generally was more lenient toward political opposition than Tsankov; the communists resurfaced in 1927 under cover of the labor-based Bulgarian Workers' Party, and an Independent Workers' Trade Union became the center of political activity by labor. IMRO also had much more latitude under the Macedonian prime minister; this meant that political assassinations and terrorism continued unabated. IMRO raids into Yugoslavia ended Bulgarian rapprochement with that country, and the Macedonians demanded preferential economic treatment under Liapchev. But compared with the years preceding, the late 1920s brought relative political stability to Bulgaria. Liapchev led a conservative majority in the subranie and had the confidence of Boris. The press was relatively free, and educational and judicial institutions functioned independently of the government. Industrial and agricultural output finally exceeded prewar levels, and foreign investment increased. But even after substantial reduction, Bulgaria's reparations payments were 20 percent of her budget in 1928, and the return to the gold standard that year weakened the economy one year before the onset of world depression.
In foreign policy, Liapchev tried unsuccessfully to improve British and French World War I reparation terms and bring Bulgaria out of its postwar diplomatic isolation. The country had already improved its international image by participating enthusiastically in the League of Nations, which reciprocated by forcing Greek invasion troops to leave southern Bulgaria in 1926. Boris made two European tours in the late 1920s to strengthen diplomatic ties.
In the late 1920s, the Macedonian independence movement split over the ultimate goal of its activity. The supremacist faction sought incorporation of all Macedonian territory into Bulgaria, while the federalist faction (including the IMRO terrorists) sought an autonomous Macedonia that could join Bulgaria or Yugoslavia in a protective alliance if necessary. Violence between the two groups reinforced a growing public impression that the Liapchev government was unstable.
The world economic crisis that began in 1929 devastated the Bulgarian economy: The social tensions of the 1920s were exacerbated when 200,000 workers lost their jobs, prices fell by 50 percent, dozens of companies went bankrupt, and per capita income among peasants was halved between 1929 and 1933. A wave of strikes hit Bulgaria in 1930-31, and in 1931 the Liapchev government was defeated in what would be the last open election with proportional representation of parliamentary seats.
Liapchev's coalition fell apart, his defeat hastened by the rise of a supra-party organization, Zveno--a small coalition with connections to most of the major Bulgarian parties and to fascist Italy. The main goal of Zveno was to consolidate and reform existing political institutions so that state power could be exerted directly to promote economic growth. After 1931 Zveno used the economic crisis to instill this idea in the Bulgarian political system. In 1931 the new government coalition, the People's Bloc, readmitted the BANU in an attempt to reunite Bulgarian factions. But the BANU had become factionalized and isolated; its representatives in the coalition largely pursued political spoils rather than the interests of their peasant constituency.
Meanwhile, the Macedonian situation in the early 1930s blocked further attempts to heal Balkan disputes. Four Balkan conferences were held to address the Macedonian problem; but Bulgaria, fearing IMRO reprisals, steadfastly refused to drop territorial demands in Macedonia or quell Macedonian terrorist activities in the region. Such activities had continued under all Bulgaria's postwar governments, but the People's Bloc was especially inept in controlling them. The situation eventually led to the Balkan Entente of 1934, by which Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Romania pledged to honor existing borders in the Balkans. For Bulgaria the isolation inflicted by this pact was a serious diplomatic setback in southeastern Europe.
In 1932 Aleksandur Tsankov founded Bulgaria's first serious fascist party, the National Socialist Movement, which imitated the methods of Hitler's Nazi party. Although Tsankov's party never attracted a large following, its activities added to the chaotic fragmentation that forced the People's Bloc from power in May 1934.
Fragmentation of the People's Bloc coalition and the threat posed by the Balkan Entente led Zveno and various military factions to stage a right-wing coup. Under the leadership of Colonel Damian Velchev and Kimon Georgiev, the new prime minister, the new government began taking dictatorial measures. The government also took immediate steps to improve relations with Yugoslavia and made overtures to Britain and France. Diplomatic relations resumed with the Soviet Union in 1934, despite a marked increase in internal repression of communists and suspected communists. A concerted drive by the Bulgarian military against IMRO permanently reduced the power of that organization, which by 1934 had exhausted most of its support in Bulgarian society. The fact that sponsorship of Balkan terrorism finally ceased to hinder Bulgarian foreign policy was the single lasting contribution of the Velchev-Georgiev government.
The Zveno group abolished all political parties, citing the failure of such institutions to provide national leadership. The press was muzzled. Henceforeward the state would be authoritarian and centralized; the subranie would represent not political parties but the classes of society: peasants, workers, artisans, merchants, the intelligentsia, bureaucrats, and professionals. Velchev also proposed a wide-ranging program of social and technical modernization. In 1935, however, Tsar Boris III became an active political force in Bulgaria for the first time. Disillusioned by the results of the 1934 coup, Boris took action to regain his power, which the new regime had also curtailed. Boris used military and civilian factions alarmed by the new authoritarianism to maneuver the Zveno group out of power and declare a royal dictatorship.The Royal Dictatorship
In the years following 1935, Boris relied on a series of uncharismatic politicians to run Bulgaria, weaken the political power of Zveno and the military, and keep other factions such as the BANU, the communists, and the national socialists from forming alliances against him. Boris chose not to restore the traditional political supremacy of the subranie and ignored demands by many public figures to write a new Bulgarian constitution. In 1936 a broad coalition, the People's Constitutional Bloc, brought together nearly all leftist and centrist factions in a nominal opposition that had the blessing of the tsar. Boris delayed holding a national election until 1938. At that time, only individual candidates were allowed in a carefully controlled election procedure that excluded party candidate lists. Boris claimed that domination of the new subranie by pro-government representatives justified his nonparty system, although the People's Constitutional Bloc seated over sixty delegates. Elections in the next two years were strictly limited in order to maintain Boris's control over his parliament.
In the years between the world wars, Bulgarian efforts to raise agricultural and industrial standards closer to those of Western Europe yielded uneven results. Until the mid-1930s, political unrest, steep reparations payments, and the world financial crisis stymied growth. Reparations payments were finally canceled in 1932, however, and the stability of the royal dictatorship brought economic improvement in the late 1930s. Half the European average in 1930, per-capita agricultural production improved markedly when government control forced diversification, new methods, and new markets into the system. In the 1930s, a 75 percent increase in membership of agricultural cooperatives bolstered the financial stability of the agricultural sector, particularly benefiting small landholders. The most notable agricultural trend between the wars was the switch to industrial crops, especially tobacco, which replaced wheat as Bulgaria's top agricultural export. The predominance of small agricultural plots increased, however; in 1944 only 1 percent of holdings were over twenty hectares, while the number of landless families had decreased.
In the 1930s, Germany bought a huge percentage of Bulgaria's agricultural exports (67.8 percent in 1939), reinforcing economic dependency by selling finished industrial products for nonconvertible currency--a distinct advantage for the Bulgarian economy and a boon to the Bulgarian standard of living. Boris tried to balance German trade by expanding British and French markets, but he found little interest in either country. Although industry remained distinctly secondary to agriculture, contributing only 5.6 percent of the Bulgarian gross national product in 1938, between 1929 and 1939 Bulgarian industry grew at an average rate of 4.8 percent, well ahead of the European average for the period. The role of state-owned enterprises dwindled steadily in the 1930s; by 1944, only coal mines, electrical power, railroads, and banks remained predominantly in that category. While large state-sponsored enterprise diminished, small private industries flourished in the 1930s. At the same time, Bulgarian commerce became largely state-controlled and centralized in Sofia, and the social and political dichotomy between rural and urban Bulgaria was even sharper as World War II began.
By 1939 Bulgaria had moved inexorably into the fascist sphere of Germany and Italy. The country was tied to the former for economic reasons and because Germany promised territorial revision for Bulgaria, and to the latter because Boris was married to the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. In the late 1930s, Bulgaria continued to seek rapprochement with Yugoslavia; a friendship treaty was signed in 1937, and a renunciation of armed intervention in 1938. When Germany took the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in 1938, it ended the anti-German Little Entente alliance of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Romania and pushed Yugoslavia closer to Bulgaria. When World War II began in September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, Bulgaria declared neutrality, but this position was inevitably altered by big-power relationships.
The Nazi-Soviet alliance of 1939 improved Bulgaria's relations with the Soviet Union, which had remained cool, and yielded a Bulgarian-Soviet commercial treaty in 1940. The pro-Western Bulgarian Prime Minister Georgi Kioseivanov was deposed that year in favor of pro-German Bogdan Filov, who reduced cultural ties with the West and instituted a Nazi-type youth league. Meanwhile, Boris strove to maintain neutrality, rejecting Soviet treaty offers in 1939 and 1940. Boris also rejected membership in the Balkan Entente and in a proposed Turkish-Yugoslav-Bulgarian defense pact, because such moves would anger Italy, Germany, the Soviet Union, or all three. Under pressure from Hitler, Romania ceded southern Dobruja to Bulgaria by the Treaty of Craiova in 1940. Needing Bulgaria to anchor its Balkan flank, Germany increased diplomatic and military pressure that year. The massing of German troops in Romania prior to invading Greece removed all remaining flexibility; aware that German troops would have to pass through Bulgaria to reach Greece, Bulgaria signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy in March 1941.
As in the case of World War I, Bulgaria fought on the losing German side of World War II but avoided open conflict with the Russian/Soviet state. Again the strains of war eroded public support and forced the wartime Bulgarian government out of office. But World War II heralded a drastic political change and a long era of totalitarian governance. The Passive Alliance
Having failed to remain neutral, Boris entered a passive alliance with the Axis powers. The immediate result was Bulgarian occupation (but not accession) of Thrace and Macedonia, which Bulgarian troops took from Greece and Yugoslavia respectively in April 1941. Although the territorial gains were initially very popular in Bulgaria, complications soon arose in the occupied territories. Autocratic Bulgarian administration of Thrace and Macedonia was no improvement over the Greeks and the Serbs; expressions of Macedonian national feeling grew, and uprisings occurred in Thrace. Meanwhile, the Germans pressured Bulgaria to support the eastern front they had opened by invading the Soviet Union in June 1941. Boris resisted the pressure because he believed that Bulgarian society was still sufficiently Russophile to overthrow him if he declared war. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended United States neutrality, Bulgaria declared war on Britain and the United States, but continued diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union throughout World War II. Acceleration of domestic war protests by the BCP in 1941 led to an internal crackdown on dissident activities of both the right and left. In the next three years, thousands of Bulgarians went to concentration and labor camps.
The German eastern front received virtually no aid from Bulgaria, a policy justified by the argument that Bulgarian troops had to remain at home to defend the Balkans against Turkish or Allied attack. Hitler reluctantly accepted this logic. Boris's stubborn resistance to committing troops was very popular at home, where little war enthusiasm developed. Nazi pressure to enforce anti-Jewish policies also had little support in Bulgarian society. Early in the war, laws were passed for restriction and deportation of the 50,000 Bulgarian Jews, but enforcement was postponed using various rationales. No program of mass deportation or extermination was conducted in Bulgaria.Wartime Crisis
In the summer of 1943, Boris died suddenly at age 49, leaving a three-man regency ruling for his six-year-old son, Simeon. Because two of the three regents were figureheads, Prime Minister Bogdan Filov, the third regent, became de facto head of state in this makeshift structure.
The events of 1943 also reversed the military fortunes of the Axis, causing the Bulgarian government to reassess its international position. Late in 1943, the Allies delivered the first of many disastrous air raids on Sofia. The heavy damage sent a clear message that Germany could not protect Bulgaria from Allied punishment. Once the war had finally intruded into Bulgarian territory, the winter of 1943-44 brought severe social and economic dislocation, hunger, and political instability. The antiwar factions, especially the communists, used urban guerrilla tactics and mass demonstrations to rebuild the organizational support lost during the government crackdown of 1941. Partisan activity, never as widespread as elsewhere in the Balkans during the war, increased in 1944 as the Red Army moved westward against the retreating Germans. To support antigovernment partisan groups, in 1942 the communists had established an umbrella Fatherland Front coalition backing complete neutrality, withdrawal from occupied territory, and full civil liberties.
Early in 1944, Bulgarian officials tried to achieve peace with the Allies and the Greek and Yugoslav governments-in-exile. Fearing the German forces that remained in Bulgaria, Filov could not simply surrender unconditionally; meanwhile, the Soviets threatened war if Bulgaria did not declare itself neutral and remove all German armaments from Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. Unable to gain the protection of the Allies, who had now bypassed Bulgaria in their strategic planning, Bulgaria was caught between onrushing Soviet forces and the last gambits of the retreating Nazis. At this point, the top priority of Bulgarian leaders was clearing the country of German occupiers while arranging a peace with the Allies that would deprive Soviet forces of an excuse to occupy Bulgaria. But in September 1944, the Soviet Union unexpectedly declared war on Bulgaria, just as the latter was about to withdraw from the Axis and declare war on Germany.The Soviet Occupation
When Soviet troops arrived in Bulgaria, they were welcomed by the populace as liberators from German occupation. On September 9, 1944, five days after the Soviet declaration of war, a Fatherland Front coalition deposed the temporary government in a bloodless coup. Headed by Kimon Georgiev of Zveno, the new administration included four communists, five members of Zveno, two social democrats, and four agrarians. Although in the minority, the communists had been the driving force in forming the coalition as an underground resistance organization in 1942. The presence of the Red Army, which remained in Bulgaria until 1947, strengthened immeasurably the communist position in dealing with the Allies and rival factions in the coalition. At this point, many noncommunist Bulgarians placed their hopes on renewed relations with the Soviet Union; in their view, both Germany and the Allies had been discredited by the events of the previous fifteen years. In 1945 the Allies themselves expected that a benign Soviet Union would continue the wartime alliance through the period of postwar East European realignment.
The armistice signed by Bulgaria with the Soviet Union in October 1944 surrendered all wartime territorial gains except Southern Dobruja; this meant that Macedonia returned to Yugoslavia and Thrace to Greece. The peace agreement also established a Soviet-dominated Allied Control Commission to run Bulgaria until conclusion of a peace treaty. Overall war damage to Bulgaria was moderate compared to that in other European countries, and the Soviet Union demanded no reparations. On the other hand, Bulgaria held the earliest and most widespread war crimes trial in postwar Europe; almost 3,000 were executed as war criminals. Bulgaria emerged from the war with no identifiable political structure; the party system had dissolved in 1934, replaced by the pragmatic balancing of political factions in Boris's royal dictatorship. This condition and the duration of the war in Europe eight months after Bulgaria's surrender gave the communists ample opportunity to exploit their favorable strategic position in Bulgarian politics.
In the months after the surrender, the communist element of the Fatherland Front gradually purged opposition figures, exiled Tsar Simeon II, and rigged elections to confirm its power. In December 1945, a conference of foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union theoretically allocated two seats to the newly consolidated opposition BANU in the Bulgarian Council of Ministers, but BANU leaders demanded an immediate national election and removal of communist ministers. Because the BANU was now a unified party with substantial political backing, these demands created a governmental stalemate with the Fatherland Front for one year. In a national referendum in September 1946, however, an overwhelming majority voted to abolish the monarchy and proclaim Bulgaria a people's republic.
The next month, a national election chose a subranie to draft a new constitution. In a widely questioned process, Fatherland Front candidates won 70 percent of the votes. At this point, however, opposition to the front remained strong, as communist power grew steadily. In early 1947, opposition to aggressive communist tactics of confiscation and collectivization generated a loose anticommunist coalition within and outside the Fatherland Front, under BANU leader Nikola Petkov. The power struggle, which centered on the nature of the new constitution, reached its peak when the Paris peace treaty of February 1947 required that Soviet forces and the Allied Control Commission leave Bulgaria immediately. Once the United States ratified its peace treaty with Bulgaria in June 1947, the communist-dominated Fatherland Front arrested and executed Petkov and declared Bulgaria a communist state. Petkov's coalition was the last organized domestic opposition to communist rule in Bulgaria until 1989.
After 1946 Fatherland Front governments maintained nominal representation of noncommunist parties. But those parties increasingly bowed to the leadership of communist Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov, who had been appointed in 1946. After two years of postwar turmoil, Bulgarian political and economic life settled into the patterns set out by the new communist constitution (referred to as the Dimitrov Constitution) ratified in December 1947. Dimitrov argued that previous Bulgarian attempts at parliamentary democracy were disastrous and that only massive social and economic restructuring could ensure stability. By the end of 1947, Bulgaria had followed the other East European states in refusing reconstruction aid from the Marshall Plan and joining the Communist Information Bureau. In 1948 the Fatherland Front was reorganized into an official worker-peasant alliance in accordance with Cominform policy. In December 1947, BANU leader Georgi Traikov had repudiated traditional agrarian programs; after a thorough purge that year, his party retained only nominal independence to preserve the illusion of a two-party system. All other opposition parties disbanded.The Dimitrov Constitution
Dimitrov guided the framing of the 1947 constitution on the model of the 1936 constitution of the Soviet Union. The Bulgarian document guaranteed citizens equality before the law; freedom from discrimination; a universal welfare system; freedom of speech, the press, and assembly; and inviolability of person, domicile, and correspondence. But those rights were qualified by a clause prohibiting activity that would jeopardize the attainments of the national revolution of September 9, 1944. Citizens were guaranteed employment but required to work in a socially useful capacity. The constitution also prescribed a planned national economy. Private property was allowed, if its possession was not "to the detriment of the public good." By the end of 1947, all private industry had been confiscated and financial enterprises nationalized in the culmination of a gradual government takeover that began in 1944. The first two-year plan for economic rehabilitation began in 1947.Chervenkov and Stalinism in Bulgaria
In 1948 the newly formed Soviet empire in Eastern Europe was threatened by a split between Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito and Soviet leader Joseph V. Stalin. After expelling Yugoslavia from the Cominform, Stalin began exerting greater pressure on the other East European states, including Bulgaria, to adhere rigidly to Soviet foreign and domestic policy. He demanded that the communist parties of those countries become virtual extensions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) by purging all opposition figures. The Bulgarian government curtailed religious freedom by forcing Orthodox clergy into a Union of Bulgarian Priests in 1948, taking control of Muslim religious institutions, and dissolving Bulgarian branches of Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in 1949. The most visible political victim of the new policy was Traicho Kostov, who with Georgi Dimitrov and Vasil Kolarov had led the BCP to power in 1944. Accused by Dimitrov of treason, Kostov was shot in December 1949. Dimitrov died before Kostov's execution, Kolarov soon afterward. To fill the power vacuum left by those events, Stalin chose Vulko Chervenkov, a trusted protégé. Chervenkov would complete the conversion of the BCP into the type of one-man dictatorship that Stalin had created in the Soviet Union. Chervenkov assumed all top government and party positions and quickly developed a cult of personality like that of his Soviet mentor. At Stalin's command, Chervenkov continued purging party members from 1950 until 1953, to forestall in Bulgaria the sort of Titoist separatism that Stalin greatly feared. Rigid party hierarchy replaced the traditional informal structures of Bulgarian governance, and the purges eliminated the faction of the BCP that advocated putting Bulgarian national concerns ahead of blind subservience to the CPSU.
The Chervenkov period (1950-56) featured harsh repression of all deviation from the party line, arbitrary suppression of culture and the arts along the lines of Soviet-prescribed socialist realism, and an isolationist foreign policy. By early 1951, Chervenkov had expelled one in five party members, including many high officials, in his campaign for complete party discipline. In 1950 a new agricultural collectivization drive began. In spite of intense peasant resistance, the collectivization drive continued intermittently until the process was virtually complete in 1958.Foreign and Economic Policies
The independent course taken by Tito's Yugoslavia in 1948 caused Bulgaria to seal the Yugoslav border; a 1953 Balkan Pact among Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey further isolated Bulgaria, which by that time had cut all relations with Western countries. The Soviet Union now was Bulgaria's only ally. It supplied military and economic advisers and provided the model for Bulgarian social services, economic planning, and education in the early 1950s. Over 90 percent of Bulgarian exports and imports involved Soviet partnership, although the Soviets often paid less than world prices for Bulgarian goods. Because the primitive, mainly agricultural Bulgarian economy closely resembled that of the Soviet Union, Soviet-style centralized planning in five-year blocks had more immediate benefits there than in the other European states where it was first applied in the early 1950s.After Stalin
The death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953 had strong repercussions in Bulgaria. By that time, Chervenkov had already moved slightly away from hard-line Stalinist domestic repression and international isolation, but the lack of clear ideological guidance from post-Stalin Moscow left him in an insecure position. Official approval in 1951 of Dimitur Dimov's mildly heretical novel Tiutiun (Tobacco) had loosened somewhat the official constraints on literature and other cultural activities. In 1953 Bulgaria resumed relations with Greece and Yugoslavia, some political amnesties were granted, and planners discussed increasing production of consumer goods and reducing the prices of necessities. At the Sixth Party Congress in 1954, Chervenkov gave up his party leadership but retained his position as prime minister. Todor Zhivkov, leader of the postwar generation of Bulgarian communist leaders, assumed the newly created position of first secretary of the party Central Committee. Several purged party leaders were released from labor camps, and some resumed visible roles in the party hierarchy.
In spite of the 1954 party shifts, Chervenkov remained the unchallenged leader of Bulgaria for two more years. The economic shift away from heavy industry toward consumer goods continued in the mid-1950s, and direct Soviet intervention in Bulgarian economic and political life diminished. By 1955, some 10,000 political prisoners had been released. In an attempt to win political support from the peasants, Chervenkov eased the pace of collectivization and increased national investment in agriculture. However, events in the Soviet Union ended this brief period of calm.The Fall of Chervenkov
In 1955 the Belgrade Declaration restored Soviet-Yugoslav friendship and reinstated Tito to the fraternity of world communist leaders. Because Chervenkov had branded Tito and the Yugoslavs as arch-villains during his rise to power, this agreement eroded his position. Then, in February 1956, Nikita S. Khrushchev denounced Chervenkov's patron Stalin and Stalin's cult of personality at the twentieth congress of the CPSU. Unwilling to stray from the Soviet party line, the BCP also condemned the cult of personality (and, implicitly, Chervenkov's authoritarianism), advocating instead collective leadership and inner-party democracy. In his 1956 report to party leaders, Zhivkov expressed this condemnation and promised that the party would make amends for past injustices--a clear reference to the fate of Kostov and Chervenkov's other purge victims in the party. Having had his entire regime repudiated by the party leader, Chervenkov resigned. Zhivkov, who had thus far remained below Chervenkov in actual party power, now assumed the full powers of his party first secretary position. The 1956 April Plenum became the official date of Bulgarian de-Stalinization in party mythology; after that event, the atmosphere of BCP politics changed significantly.Intellectual Life
The thaw in Bulgarian intellectual life had continued from 1951 until the middle of the decade. Chervenkov's resignation and the literary and cultural flowering in the Soviet Union encouraged the view that the process would continue, but the Hungarian revolution of fall 1956 frightened the Bulgarian leadership away from encouragement of dissident intellectual activity. In response to events in Hungary, Chervenkov was appointed minister of education and culture; in 1957 and 1958, he purged the leadership of the Bulgarian Writers' Union and dismissed liberal journalists and editors from their positions. His crackdowns effectively ended the "Bulgarian thaw" of independent writers and artists inspired by Khrushchev's 1956 speech against Stalinism. Again mimicking the Soviet party, which purged a group of high officials in 1957, the BCP dismissed three party leaders on vague charges the same year. Among those removed was deputy prime minister Georgi Chankov, an important rival of Zhivkov. The main motivation for this purge was to assure the Soviet Union that Bulgarian communists would not fall into the same heretical behavior as had the Hungarian party in 1956. Through the political maneuvers of the mid-1950s, Todor Zhivkov enhanced his position by identifying with the "Bulgarian" rather than "Soviet" branch of the BCP at the same time as he aligned himself with the new anti-Stalinist faction in the Soviet Union. He established especially close ties with Khrushchev at this time.Domestic Policy and Its Results
Most aspects of life in Bulgaria continued to conform strongly to the Soviet model in the mid-1950s. In 1949 the Bulgarian educational system had begun a restructuring process to resemble the Soviet system, and the social welfare system followed suit. In the mid-1950s, Soviet-style centralized planning produced economic indicators showing that Bulgarians were returning to their prewar lifestyle in some respects: real wages increased 75 percent, consumption of meat, fruit, and vegetables increased markedly, medical facilities and doctors became available to more of the population, and in 1957 collective farm workers benefited from the first agricultural pension and welfare system in Eastern Europe.
In 1959 the BCP borrowed from the Chinese the phrase "Great Leap Forward" to symbolize a sudden burst of economic activity to be injected into the Third Five-Year Plan (1958-1962), whose original scope was quite conservative. According to the revised plan, industrial production would double and agricultural production would triple by 1962; a new agricultural collectivization and consolidation drive would achieve great economies of scale in that branch; investment in light industry would double, and foreign trade would expand. Following the Chinese model, all of Bulgarian society was to be propagandized and mobilized to meet the planning goals. Two purposes of the grandiose revised plan were to keep Bulgaria in step with the Soviet bloc, all of whose members were embarking on plans for accelerated growth, and to quell internal party conflicts. Zhivkov, whose "theses" had defined the goals of the plan, purged Politburo members and party rivals Boris Taskov (in 1959) and Anton Yugov (in 1962), citing their criticism of his policy as economically obstructionist. Already by 1960, however, Zhivkov had been forced to redefine the impossible goals of his theses. Lack of skilled labor and materials made completion of projects at the prescribed pace impossible. Harvests were disastrously poor in the early 1960s; peasant unrest forced the government to raise food prices; and the urban dissatisfaction that resulted from higher prices compounded a crisis that broke in the summer of 1962. Blame fell on Zhivkov's experiments with decentralized planning, which was totally abandoned by 1963.
Beginning in 1961, Todor Zhivkov skillfully retained control of the Bulgarian government and the BCP. His regime was a period of unprecedented stability, slavish imitation of Soviet policies, and modest economic experimentation. Zhivkov Takes Control
Zhivkov was able to weather the social unrest of 1962 by finding scapegoats, juggling indicators of economic progress, and receiving help from abroad. In 1961 Khrushchev had once again denounced Stalin, requiring similar action in the loyal Soviet satellites. In October Chervenkov, who had retained considerable party power, was ousted from the Politburo as an unrepentant Stalinist and obstructor of Bulgarian economic progress. When Khrushchev visited Bulgaria in 1962, the Soviet leader made clear his preference for Zhivkov over other Bulgarian party leaders. Within months Yugov had lost his party position and Chervenkov was expelled from the party. Thus, in spite of disastrously unrealistic economic experimentation of the sort that contributed to Khrushchev's ouster in 1964, Zhivkov had greatly strengthened his position as party first secretary by the time his Soviet patron had fallen.
In the early 1960s, Zhivkov improved ties with the Bulgarian intelligentsia by liberalizing censorship and curbing the state security forces. He also mended relations with the agrarians by granting amnesties to BANU members and appointing the leader of the party as head of state. These measures gave Zhivkov a political base broad enough to survive the fall of Khrushchev, but they did not prevent an army plot against him in 1965. Zhivkov used the plot as a reason to tighten control over the army and move security functions from the Ministry of the Interior to a new Committee of State Security, under his personal control. Several other plots were reported unofficially in the late 1960s, but after 1962 Zhivkov's position as sole leader of Bulgaria went without serious challenge.Zhivkov's Political Methodology
In the 1960s, Zhivkov moved slowly and carefully to replace the deeply entrenched Old Guard in party positions. He believed that only an energetic, professional party cadre could lead Bulgaria effectively. Therefore, he gradually moved a younger group, including his daughter Liudmila Zhivkova and future party leader Aleksandur Lilov, into positions of power. At the same time, he juggled party positions enough to prevent any individual from becoming a serious rival. Unlike Chervenkov, with his Stalinist personality cult, Zhivkov cultivated an egalitarian persona that kept him in contact with the Bulgarian people. Unlike contemporaneous communist leaders in other countries, Zhivkov displayed a sense of humor even in formal state speeches. Because of the strong tradition of egalitarianism in Bulgarian political culture, the contrast of his approach with that of Chervenkov served Zhivkov very well.The Constitution of 1971
In 1968 the Prague Spring outbreak of heretical socialism in Czechoslovakia caused the BCP to tighten control over all social organizations, calling for democratic centrism and elimination of unreliable elements from the party. This policy kept the BCP on a unified path in complete support of Soviet interests; it also led to a new Bulgarian constitution and BCP program in 1971. Approved by the Tenth Party Congress and a national referendum, the 1971 constitution detailed for the first time the structure of the BCP (highly centralized, in keeping with policy after 1968) and its role in leading society and the state. BANU was specified as the partner of the BCP in the cooperative governing of the country. A new State Council was created to oversee the Council of Ministers and exercise supreme executive authority. In 1971 Zhivkov resigned as prime minister to become chairman of the State Council, a position equivalent to Bulgarian head of state. The new constitution also defined four forms of property: state, cooperative, public organization, and private. Private property was limited to that needed for individual and family upkeep.Foreign Affairs in the 1960s and 1970s
In the first decade of the Zhivkov regime, Balkan affairs remained central to Bulgarian foreign policy, and relations with the Soviet Union remained without significant conflict. Because the Soviet Union showed relatively little interest in the Balkans in the 1950s and 1960s, Bulgaria was able to improve significantly its relations with its neighbors. In 1964 an agreement with Greece ended the long postwar freeze caused by Greek membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Bulgaria paid partial wartime reparations to Greece, and relations were normalized in culture, trade, and communications after the initial agreement. Turkish-Bulgarian relations were hindered by irritation over the Turkish minority issue: throughout the postwar period, wavering Bulgarian policy on internal treatment and emigration of Bulgarian Turks was the chief obstacle to rapprochement, although bilateral agreements on emigration and other issues were reached in the 1960s and 1970s.
Relations with Yugoslavia also were strained in the postwar years. The age-old Macedonian dispute was the principal reason that Yugoslavia remained untouched by Zhivkov's Balkan détente policy. In the mid-1960s, Tito and Zhivkov exchanged visits, but by 1967 official Bulgarian spokesmen were again stressing the Bulgarian majority in Yugoslav-ruled Macedonia, and a new decade of mutually harsh propaganda began. Although the polemic over Macedonia continued through the 1980s, it served both countries mainly as a rallying point for domestic political support, and Bulgaria avoided taking advantage of Yugoslav vulnerabilities such as the unrest in the province of Kosovo. In the early 1980s, much of Bulgaria's anti-Yugoslav propaganda aimed at discrediting heretical economic policy applications (feared by every orthodox communist neighbor of Yugoslavia) in Yugoslav Macedonia. In 1981 Zhivkov called for establishment of a Balkan nuclear-free zone that would include Romania, Greece, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. The concept was notable not because of its practical implications (Bulgaria was generally unsupportive of regional cooperation, and the potential participants had strongly differing international positions), but as a Soviet device to remove NATO nuclear weapons from Greece and Turkey at a time of superpower tension over European weapons installations.
In the 1970s, Zhivkov actively pursued better relations with the West, overcoming conservative opposition and the tentative, tourism-based approach to the West taken in the 1960s. Emulating Soviet détente policy of the 1970s, Bulgaria gained Western technology, expanded cultural contacts, and attracted Western investments with the most liberal foreign investment policy in Eastern Europe. Between 1966 and 1975, Zhivkov visited Charles de Gaulle and the pope and established full diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). As in 1956 and 1968, however, Soviet actions altered Bulgaria's position. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979, which Bulgaria supported vigorously, renewed tension between Bulgaria and the West. Bulgarian implication in the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981 exacerbated the problem and kept relations cool through the early 1980s.
Bulgaria also followed the Soviet example in relations with Third World countries, maintaining the image of brotherly willingness to aid struggling victims of Western imperialism. Student exchanges already were common in the 1960s, and many Bulgarian technicians and medical personnel went to African, Asian, and Latin American countries in the 1970s and 1980s. Cultural exchange programs targeted mainly the young in those countries. Between 1978 and 1983, Zhivkov visited seventeen Third-World countries and hosted leaders from at least that many.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Bulgaria gave official military support to many national liberation causes, most notably in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, (North Vietnam), Indonesia, Libya, Angola, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East. In 1984 the 9,000 Bulgarian advisers stationed in Libya for military and nonmilitary aid put that country in first place among Bulgaria's Third-World clients. Through its Kintex arms export enterprise, Bulgaria also engaged in covert military support activities, many of which were subsequently disclosed. In the 1970s, diplomatic crises with Sudan and Egypt were triggered by Bulgarian involvement in coup plots. Repeated discoveries of smuggled arms shipments from Bulgaria to Third-World countries gave Bulgaria a reputation as a major player in international arms supply to terrorists and revolutionaries. Arms smuggling into Turkey periodically caused diplomatic problems with that country in the 1970s.Domestic Policy in the 1960s and 1970s
Zhivkov's domestic policy in the late 1960s and 1970s emphasized increased production by Bulgaria's newly completed base of heavy industry, plus increased consumer production. The industrial base and collectivization of Bulgarian agriculture had been achieved largely by emulating Khrushchev's approaches in the early 1960s; but after Khrushchev fell, Zhivkov experimented rather freely in industrial and agricultural policy. A 1965 economic reform decentralized decision making and introduced the profit motive in some economic areas. The approach, a minor commitment to "planning from below" in imitation of Yugoslavia's self-management program, was abandoned in 1969. Taking its place, a recentralization program gave government ministries full planning responsibility at the expense of individual enterprises.
Meanwhile, a new program for integration and centralization of agriculture was born in 1969. The agricultural-industrial complex (agropromishlen kompleks--APK) merged cooperative and state farms and introduced industrial technology to Bulgarian agriculture. In the 1970s the APK became the main supporting structure of Bulgarian agriculture. The social and political goal of this program was to homogenize Bulgarian society, ending the sharp dichotomy that had always existed between rural and town populations and weakening the ideological force of the BANU. If the traditional gulf between Bulgarian agricultural and industrial workers were eliminated, the BCP could represent both groups. Despite this large-scale reorganization effort, the Bulgarian tradition of small peasant farming remained strong into the 1980s.
In keeping with the détente of the 1970s, Bulgaria sought independent trade agreements with the West throughout that decade, to furnish technology and credit not available within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Economic cooperation and license agreements were signed with several West European countries, most notably West Germany. Although the Western demand for Bulgarian goods remained generally low and Western commodities proved unexpectedly expensive in the late 1970s, Bulgaria's expansion of Western trade in that decade was unusually high for a Comecon member nation.The Political Atmosphere in the 1970s
Through the mid-1970s, Zhivkov continued balancing the older and younger generations and the reformist and conservative factions in his party, with only occasional purges of key officials. But in 1977, the purge of liberal Politburo member Boris Velchev introduced a massive reorganization of provincial party organizations that ousted 38,500 party members. This move was designed to limit the atmosphere of liberalization that had followed the 1975 Helsinki Accords. That mood and an economic crisis caused by oil shortages in the 1970s aroused discontent and demonstrations in Bulgaria in the late 1970s.
At the end of the decade, two more crises confronted Zhivkov: in 1978 the murder of exiled writer Georgi Markov was widely attributed to Bulgarian State Security, damaging the country's international image; and in 1980 the Polish Solidarity movement alarmed the entire Soviet Bloc by attracting an active anticommunist following in a key Warsaw Pact country. Although the magnitude of Bulgarian social discontent was much less than that in Poland, the BCP ordered production of more consumer goods, a reduction of party privileges, and limited media coverage of Poland in the early 1980s as an antidote to the "Polish infection."
Meanwhile, in 1980 Zhivkov had improved his domestic position by appointing his daughter Liudmila Zhivkova as chair of the commission on science, culture, and art. In this powerful position, Zhivkova became extremely popular by promoting Bulgaria's separate national cultural heritage. She spent large sums of money in a highly visible campaign to support scholars, collect Bulgarian art, and sponsor cultural institutions. Among her policies was closer cultural contact with the West; her most visible project was the spectacular national celebration of Bulgaria's 1,300th anniversary in 1981. When Zhivkova died in 1981, relations with the West had already been chilled by the Afghanistan issue, but her brief administration of Bulgaria's official cultural life was a successful phase of her father's appeal to Bulgarian national tradition to bind the country together.Bulgaria in the 1980s
Despite the resumption of the Cold War, by 1980 several longstanding problems had eased in Bulgaria. Zhivkova had bolstered national pride and improved Bulgaria's international cultural image; Zhivkov had eased oppression of Roman Catholics and propaganda against the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the 1970s, and used the 1,300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state for formal reconciliation with Orthodox church officials; the Bulgarian media covered an expanded range of permissible subject matter; Bulgaria contributed equipment to a Soviet space probe launched in 1981, heralding a new era of technological advancement; and the New Economic Model (NEM), instituted in 1981 as the latest economic reform program, seemingly improved the supply of consumer goods and generally upgraded the economy.
However, Zhivkova's death and East-West tensions dealt serious blows to cultural liberalization; by 1984 the Bulgarian Writers' Conference was calling for greater ideological content and optimism in literature. Once fully implemented in 1982, NEM was unable to improve the quality or quantity of Bulgarian goods and produce. In 1983 Zhivkov harshly criticized all of Bulgarian industry and agriculture in a major speech, but the reforms generated by his speech did nothing to improve the situation. A large percentage of high-quality domestic goods were shipped abroad in the early 1980s to shrink Bulgaria's hard-currency debt, and the purchase of Western technology was sacrificed for the same reason, crippling technical advancement and disillusioning consumers. By 1984 Bulgaria was suffering a serious energy shortage because its Soviet-made nuclear power plant was undependable and droughts reduced the productivity of hydroelectric plants. Like the cutback in technology imports, this shortage affected all of Bulgarian industry. Finally, Bulgarian implication in the plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981 and in international drugs and weapons trading impaired the country's international image and complicated economic relations with the West.
The problem of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria continued into the 1980s. Because birth rates among the Turks remained relatively high while Bulgarians approached a zero-growth birth rate in 1980, Bulgarian authorities sought to mitigate the impact of growing Turkish enclaves in certain regions. While Bulgaria discontinued its liberal 1969 emigration agreement with Turkey (presumably to prevent a shortage of unskilled labor resulting from free movement of Turkish workers back to their homeland), in 1984 Bulgaria began a massive campaign to erase the national identity of Turkish citizens by forcing them to take Bulgarian names. Official propaganda justified forced assimilation with the assertion that the only "Turks" in Bulgaria were descended from the Bulgarians who had adopted Islam after the Ottoman occupation in the fourteenth century. This campaign brought several negative results. Bulgaria's international image, already damaged by events in the early 1980s, now included official discrimination against the country's largest ethnic minority. The resumption of terrorist attacks on civilians, absent for many years, coincided with the new policy. And Bulgaria's relations with Turkey, which had improved somewhat after a visit by Turkish President Kenan Evren to Bulgaria in 1982, suffered another setback.
Bulgaria's close reliance on the Soviet Union continued into the 1980s, but differences began to appear. Much of Zhivkov's success had come from the secure support of Nikita Khrushchev's successor, Leonid Brezhnev, with whom Zhivkov had a close personal relationship. By contrast, relations between Zhivkov and Brezhnev's successor, Iurii V. Andropov, were tense because Zhivkov had supported Andropov's rival Konstantin Chernenko as successor to Brezhnev. The advent of Mikhail S. Gorbachev as Soviet party leader in 1985 defined a new generational difference between Soviet and Bulgarian leadership. Gorbachev immediately declared that Bulgaria must follow his example in party reform if traditional relations were to continue.
By this time, the image of the BCP had suffered for several years from well-publicized careerism and corruption, and from the remoteness and advancing age of the party leadership (Zhivkov was seventy-four in 1985). The state bureaucracy, inordinately large in Bulgaria since the first post-liberation government of 1878, constituted 13.5 percent of the total national work force in 1977. Periodic anticorruption campaigns had only temporary effects. The ideological credibility of the party also suffered from the apparent failure of the NEM, whose goals were being restated by 1984. Although the BCP faced no serious political opposition or internal division in the early 1980s, the party launched campaigns to involve Bulgarian youth more fully in party activities. But these efforts had little impact on what party leaders perceived as serious and widespread political apathy. Thus, by 1985 many domestic and international signs indicated that the underpinning of the long, stable Zhivkov era was in precarious condition.
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