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Bulgaria - Acknowledgments

The authors are indebted to numerous individuals and organizations who gave their time, research materials, and expertise on Bulgarian affairs to provide data, perspective, and material support for this volume.

The work of Violeta D. Baluyut and William Giloane, coauthors of the previous edition of the Bulgaria area handbook, provided an important factual base from which to develop new chapters. Thanks also go to the Bulgarian National Tourist Office in New York, the United States Embassy in Sofia, the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Washington, and Scott Thompson of the United States Department of State for assistance in locating illustration material. The expert photography of Charles Sudetic and Sam and Sarah Stulberg provided vivid new images of Bulgaria for users of the handbook.

Thanks also go to Ralph K. Benesch, who oversees the Country Studies-Area Handbook Program for the Department of the Army. In addition, the authors appreciate the advice and guidance of Sandra W. Meditz, Federal Research Division coordinator of the handbook series. Special thanks go to Marilyn L. Majeska, who supervised editing and managed production, assisted by Andrea T. Merrill; to Wayne Horne, who designed the book cover and the illustrations on the title page of each chapter; to David P. Cabitto, who provided graphics support and, together with Harriett R. Blood and the firm of Greenhorne and O'Mara, prepared maps; and to Tim Merrill, who compiled geographic data and adapted maps. The following individuals are gratefully acknowledged as well: Sharon Costello, who edited the chapters; Barbara Edgerton and Izella Watson, who did the word processing; Cissie Coy, who performed the final prepublication editorial review; Joan C. Cook, who compiled the index; and of the Printing and Processing Section, Library of Congress, who prepared the camera-ready copy under the supervision of Peggy Pixley.

Bulgaria - Preface

Beginning in 1989, Bulgaria passed through a time of political, social, and economic transition that changed many of its basic institutions and subjected society to stresses unknown in the forty-five years of totalitarian communist rule. Events that occurred after the ouster of Todor Zhivkov in 1989 demanded a new and updated version of Bulgaria: A Country Study. Although Bulgaria was one of the most closed communist societies until 1989, subsequent relaxation of tensions and restrictions has made available an increasing amount of reliable information about both the communist and the post-Zhivkov eras. Scholarly articles and periodical reports have been especially helpful in compiling this new treatment of the country. The most useful of those sources, together with a smaller number of key monographs, are cited at the end of each chapter.

The authors of this edition have described the changes in Bulgaria occurring in the last twenty years, with special emphasis on the last three. They have used the historical, political, and social fabric of the country as the background for these descriptions to ensure understanding of the context of the important recent events that have shaped the Bulgaria we see today. The authors' goal was to provide a compact, accessible, and objective treatment of five main topics: historical setting, society and its environment, the economy, government and politics, and the military and national security.

In all cases, Bulgarian personal names have been transliterated from Cyrillic according to a standard table; place names are rendered in the form approved by the United States Board on Geographical Names; in the case of Sofia, the conventional international variant is used instead of the transliterated form (Sofiia). Unlike the previous edition of the Bulgaria study, this volume adds the diacritic ( ) to the letter "u" to distinguish the vowel ( ). On maps, English-language generic designations such as river, plain, and mountain are used. Organizations commonly known by their acronyms (such as BCP, the Bulgarian Communist Party) are introduced first by their full English names.

Bulgaria - Historical Setting

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.

Bulgaria - The Slavs and the Bulgars

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.

Bulgaria - The First Golden Age

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.

Bulgaria - The Second Golden Age

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.


Revolution in the Balkans

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.

Bulgaria - WORLD WAR I

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.

Bulgaria - Stamboliiski

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.

Bulgaria - The Tsankov and Liapchev Governments

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.

Bulgaria - The Crises of the 1930s

Political Disorder and Diplomatic Isolation

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.

Bulgaria - The Interwar Economy

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.

Bulgaria - Foreign Policy in the Late 1930s

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.

Bulgaria - WORLD WAR II

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.

Bulgaria - COMMUNISM

Initial Maneuvering

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.

Bulgaria - The Society and Environment

IN THE PAST 150 YEARS, vast changes have completely transformed the political and economic situation in Bulgaria, as well as the country's way of life. Poor peasants who served a foreign ruler first became land-owning peasants, then industrial workers who were mostly urbanized and disconnected from the land. Bulgarians who had traveled no farther than the next village began to migrate, often to gain a better education or to get a job in a growing industry. As villages and towns became less isolated, both internal migration and emigration became easier.

The decline in the agricultural way of life also made people susceptible to changes on a national level rather than on a village or regional level. People were less self-sufficient for their basic needs and therefore more vulnerable to fluctuations in the national economy. The traditional support systems of the extended family and cooperative work in the village were replaced by a vast network of national social welfare programs. Instead of receiving help from family and neighbors, the poor, elderly, and disabled grew dependent on governmental programs. The sick no longer relied solely on traditional village healers once villagers and city people alike fell under coverage of a national health system.

After 1944 much was written about the contrast between Bulgaria's traditional past and the modern way of life to which communism had accustomed Bulgarians. Indeed, during the postwar era, Bulgaria made great progress in establishing the structure of a modern, urbanized way of life. Mortality decreased markedly, life expectancy increased greatly, and the educational level of the population improved vastly. However, the modern way of life also generated much greater expectations for housing, education, health standards, work standards, and other aspects of life than the communist system could deliver. The centralization and bureaucracy of traditional communist social policy established a single, rather low standard for everyone, regardless of individual needs. Also, massive industrialization brought pollution and other environmental problems to a land that had been relatively unspoiled before World War II.

After democratization began in 1989, Bulgarians began looking westward and found that many aspects of their way of life were sadly lacking by the standards of Western Europe and the United States. The sense that Bulgaria needed to do fifty years' worth of catching up made the transition to democracy even harder.


The land area of Bulgaria is 110,550 square kilometers, slightly larger than that of the state of Tennessee. The country is situated on the west coast of the Black Sea, with Romania to the north, Greece and Turkey to the south, and Yugoslavia to the west. Considering its small size, Bulgaria has a great variety of topographical features. Even within small parts of the country, the land may be divided into plains, plateaus, hills, mountains, basins, gorges, and deep river valleys. Boundaries

Although external historical events often changed Bulgaria's national boundaries in its first century of existence, natural terrain features defined most boundaries after 1944, and no significant group of people suffered serious economic hardship because of border delineation. Postwar Bulgaria contained a large percentage of the ethnic Bulgarian people, although numerous migrations into and out of Bulgaria occurred at various times. None of the country's borders was officially disputed in 1991, although nationalist Bulgarians continued to claim that Bulgaria's share of Macedonia--which it shared with both Yugoslavia and Greece--was less than just because of the ethnic connection between Macedonians and Bulgarians.

In 1991 Bulgaria had a total border of about 2,264 kilometers. Rivers accounted for about 680 kilometers and the Black Sea coast for 400 kilometers; the southern and western borders were mainly defined by ridges in high terrain. The western and northern boundaries were shared with Yugoslavia and Romania, respectively, and the Black Sea coastline constituted the entire eastern border. The Romanian border followed the Danube River for 464 kilometers from the northwestern corner of the country to the city of Silistra and then cut to the east-southeast for 136 kilometers across the northeastern province of Varna. The Danube, with steep bluffs on the Bulgarian side and a wide area of swamps and marshes on the Romanian side, was one of the most effective river boundaries in Europe. The line through Dobruja was arbitrary and was redrawn several times according to international treaties. In that process, most inhabitants with strong national preferences resettled in the country of their choice. Borders to the south were with Greece and Turkey. The border with Greece was 491 kilometers long, and the Turkish border was 240 kilometers long.


The main characteristic of Bulgaria's topography is alternating bands of high and low terrain that extend east to west across the country. From north to south, those bands are the Danubian Plateau, the Balkan Mountains (called Stara Planina, meaning old mountains in Bulgarian), the central Thracian Plain, and the Rhodope Mountains. The easternmost sections near the Black Sea are hilly, but they gradually gain height to the west until the westernmost part of the country is entirely high ground.

More than two-thirds of the country is plains, plateaus, or hilly land at an altitude less than 600 meters. Plains (below 200 meters) make up 31 percent of the land, plateaus and hills (200 to 600 meters) 41 percent, low mountains (600 to 1,000 meters) 10 percent, medium-sized mountains (1,000 to 1,500 meters) 10 percent, and high mountains (over 1,500 meters) 3 percent. The average altitude in Bulgaria is 470 meters.

The Danubian Plateau extends from the Yugoslav border to the Black Sea. It encompasses the area between the Danube River, which forms most of the country's northern border, and the Balkan Mountains to the south. The plateau slopes gently from cliffs along the river, then it abuts mountains of 750 to 950 meters. The plateau, a fertile area with undulating hills, is the granary of the country.

The southern edge of the Danubian Plateau blends into the foothills of the Balkan Mountains, the Bulgarian part of the Carpathian Mountains. The Carpathians resemble a reversed S as they run eastward from Czechoslovakia across the northern portion of Romania, swinging southward to the middle of Romania and then running westward, where they are known as the Transylvanian Alps. The mountains turn eastward again at the Iron Gate, a gorge of the Danube River at the Romanian-Yugoslav border. At that point, they become the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria.

The Balkan Mountains originate at the Timok Valley in Yugoslavia and run southward towards the Sofia Basin in west central Bulgaria. From there they run east to the Black Sea. The Balkans are about 600 kilometers long and 30 to 50 kilometers wide. They retain their height well into central Bulgaria, where Botev Peak, the highest point in the Balkan Mountains, rises to about 2,376 meters. The range then continues at lower altitude to the cliffs of the Black Sea. Through most of Bulgaria, the Balkans form the watershed from which rivers drain north to the Danube River or south to the Aegean Sea. Some smaller rivers in the east drain directly to the Black Sea. The Sredna Gora (central hills) is a narrow ridge about 160 kilometers long and 1,600 meters high, running east to west parallel to the Balkans. Just to the south is the Valley of Roses, famous for rose oil used in perfume and liqueurs.

The southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains and the Sredna Gora give way to the Thracian Plain. Roughly triangular in shape, the plain originates at a point east of the mountains near Sofia and broadens eastward to the Black Sea. It includes the Maritsa River valley and the lowlands that extend from the river to the Black Sea. Like the Danubian Plateau, much of the Thracian Plain is somewhat hilly and not a true plain. Most of its terrain is moderate enough to cultivate.

The Rhodope Mountains occupy the area between the Thracian Plain and the Greek border to the south. The western Rhodopes consist of two ranges: the Rila Mountains south of Sofia and the Pirin Mountains in the southwestern corner of the country. They are the most outstanding topographic feature of Bulgaria and of the entire Balkan Peninsula. The Rila range includes Mount Musala, whose 2,975-meter peak is the highest in any Balkan country. About a dozen other peaks in the Rilas are over 2,600 meters. The highest peaks are characterized by sparse bare rocks and remote lakes above the tree line. The lower peaks, however, are covered with alpine meadows that give the range an overall impression of green beauty. The Pirin range is characterized by rocky peaks and stony slopes. Its highest peak is Mount Vikhren, at 2,915 meters the secondhighest peak in Bulgaria.

The largest basin in Bulgaria is the Sofia Basin. About twentyfour kilometers wide and ninety-six kilometers long, the basin contains the capital city and the area immediately surrounding it. The route through basins and valleys from Belgrade to Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) via Sofia has been historically important since Roman times, determining the strategic significance of the Balkan Peninsula. Bulgaria's largest cities were founded on this route. Paradoxically, although the mountains made many Bulgarian villages and towns relatively inaccessible, Bulgaria has always been susceptible to invasion because no natural obstacle blocked the route through Sofia.

A significant part of Bulgaria's land is prone to earthquakes. Two especially sensitive areas are the borders of the North Bulgarian Swell (rounded elevation), the center of which is in the Gorna Oryakhovitsa area in north-central Bulgaria, and the West Rhodopes Vault, a wide area extending through the Rila and northern Pirin regions to Plovdiv in south-central Bulgaria. Especially strong tremors also occur along diagonal lines running between Skopje in the Republic of Macedonia and Razgrad in northeast Bulgaria, and from Albania eastward across the southern third of Bulgaria through Plovdiv. Sixteen major earthquakes struck Bulgaria between 1900 and 1986, the last two in Strazhitsa on the SkopjeRazgrad fault line. Together the two quakes damaged over 16,000 buildings, half of them severely. One village was almost completely leveled, others badly damaged. Many inhabitants were still living in temporary housing four years later.


The Balkan Mountains divide Bulgaria into two nearly equal drainage systems. The larger system drains northward to the Black Sea, mainly by way of the Danube River. This system includes the entire Danubian Plateau and a stretch of land running forty-eight to eighty kilometers inland from the coastline. The second system drains the Thracian Plain and most of the higher lands of the south and southwest to the Aegean Sea. Although only the Danube is navigable, many of the other rivers and streams in Bulgaria have a high potential for the production of hydroelectric power and are sources of irrigation water.

Of the Danube's Bulgarian tributaries, all but the Iskur rise in the Balkan Mountains. The Iskur flows northward to the Danube from its origin in the Rila Mountains, passing through Sofia's eastern suburbs and through a Balkan Mountain valley.

The Danube gets slightly more than 4 percent of its total volume from its Bulgarian tributaries. As it flows along the northern border, the Danube averages 1.6 to 2.4 kilometers in width. The river's highest water levels usually occur during June floods; it is frozen over an average of forty days per year.

Several major rivers flow directly to the Aegean Sea. Most of these streams fall swiftly from the mountains and have cut deep, scenic gorges. The Maritsa with its tributaries is by far the largest draining all of the western Thracian Plain, all of the Sredna Gora, the southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains, and the northern slopes of the eastern Rhodopes. After it leaves Bulgaria, the Maritsa forms most of the Greek-Turkish border. The Struma and the Mesta (which separate the Pirin Mountains from the main Rhodopes ranges) are the next largest Bulgarian rivers flowing to the Aegean. The Struma and Mesta reach the sea through Greece.


Considering its small area, Bulgaria has an unusually variable and complex climate. The country lies between the strongly contrasting continental and Mediterranean climatic zones. Bulgarian mountains and valleys act as barriers or channels for air masses, causing sharp contrasts in weather over relatively short distances. The continental zone is slightly larger, because continental air masses flow easily into the unobstructed Danubian Plain. The continental influence, stronger during the winter, produces abundant snowfall; the Mediterranean influence increases during the summer and produces hot, dry weather. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains is felt throughout the country: on the average, northern Bulgaria is about one degree cooler and receives about 192 more millimeters of rain than southern Bulgaria. Because the Black Sea is too small to be a primary influence over much of the country's weather, it only affects the immediate area along its coastline.

The Balkan Mountains are the southern boundary of the area in which continental air masses circulate freely. The Rhodope Mountains mark the northern limits of domination by Mediterranean weather systems. The area between, which includes the Thracian Plain, is influenced by a combination of the two systems, with the continental predominating. This combination produces a plains climate resembling that of the Corn Belt in the United States, with long summers and high humidity. The climate in this region is generally more severe than that of other parts of Europe in the same latitude. Because it is a transitional area, average temperatures and precipitation are erratic and may vary widely from year to year.

Average precipitation in Bulgaria is about 630 millimeters per year. Dobruja in the northeast, the Black Sea coastal area, and parts of the Thracian Plain usually receive less than 500 millimeters. The remainder of the Thracian Plain and the Danubian Plateau get less than the country average; the Thracian Plain is often subject to summer droughts. Higher elevations, which receive the most rainfall in the country, may average over 2,540 millimeters per year.

The many valley basins scattered through the uplands have temperature inversions resulting in stagnant air. Sofia is located in such a basin, but its elevation (about 530 meters) tends to moderate summer temperature and relieve oppressive high humidity. Sofia also is sheltered from the northern European winds by the mountains that surround its troughlike basin. Temperatures in Sofia average -2°C in January and about 21°C in August. The city's rainfall is near the country average, and the overall climate is pleasant.

The coastal climate is moderated by the Black Sea, but strong winds and violent local storms are frequent during the winter. Winters along the Danube River are bitterly cold, while sheltered valleys opening to the south along the Greek and Turkish borders may be as mild as areas along the Mediterranean or Aegean coasts.


Like the other European members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), Bulgaria saw unimpeded industrial growth as a vital sign of social welfare and progress toward the socialist ideal. Because this approach made environmental issues a taboo subject in socialist Bulgaria, the degree of damage by postwar industrial policy went unassessed until the government of Todor Zhivkov (1962-89) was overthrown in late 1989. The Zhivkov government's commitment to heavy industry and lack of money to spend on protective measures forced it to conceal major environmental hazards, especially when relations with other countries were at stake. Factories that did not meet environmental standards paid symbolic fines and had no incentive to institute real environmental protection measures. Even as late as 1990, socialist officials downplayed the effects on Bulgaria of radiation from the 1986 nuclear power plant accident at Chernobyl'. Citizens were informed that they need not take iodine tablets or use any other protective measures.

In 1991 Bulgarian environmentalists estimated that 60 percent of the country's agricultural land was damaged by excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers and by industrial fallout. In 1991 twothirds of Bulgarian rivers were polluted, and the Yantra River was classified as the dirtiest river in Europe. By that time, about two-thirds of the primary forests had been cut. However, despite its recognition of the need for greater environmental protection, Bulgaria budgeted only 10.4 billion leva to remedy ecological problems in 1991.

Perhaps the most serious environmental problem in Bulgaria was in the Danube port city of Ruse. From 1981 to 1989, the chemical pollution that spread from a chlorine and sodium plant across the Danube in Giurgiu, Romania, was a forbidden subject in Bulgaria because it posed a threat to good relations between two Warsaw Pact countries. Chemical plants in Ruse also contributed to the pollution. Citizen environmentalists opposing the situation in Ruse organized the first demonstrations and the first independent political group to oppose the Zhivkov regime. During the Giurgiu plant's first year of operation, chlorine levels in Ruse almost doubled, reaching two times the permissible maximum in the summer of 1990. Over 3,000 families left the city in the 1980s despite government restrictions aimed at covering up the problem. Besides chlorine and its byproducts , the plant produced chemical agents for the rubber industry, and in 1991 some sources reported that the plant was processing industrial waste from Western countries--both activities likely to further damage Ruse's environment. International experts claimed that half of Ruse's pollutants came from Giurgiu, and the others came from Bulgarian industries. In response to the formidable Bulgarian environmental movement, some Bulgarian plants have been closed or have added protective measures; the Giurgiu plant, however, was planning to expand in 1991.

Pollution of agricultural land from a copper plant near the town of Srednogorie provoked harsh public criticism. The plant emitted toxic clouds containing copper, lead, and arsenic. In 1988 it released toxic wastewater into nearby rivers used to irrigate land in the Plovdiv-Pazardzhik Plain, which includes some of Bulgaria's best agricultural land. The groundwater beneath the plain also was poisoned. Work has begun on a plan to drain toxic wastewater from the plant's reservoir into the Maritsa River. Environmental improvements for the copper plant and three other factories in the Plovdiv area (a lead and zinc factory, a chemical factory, and a uranium factory) also were planned, but they would take years to implement.

None of Bulgaria's large cities escaped serious environmental pollution. Statistics showed that 70 to 80 percent of Sofia's air pollution is caused by emissions from cars, trucks, and buses. Temperature inversions over the city aggravated the problem. Two other major polluters, the Kremikovtsi Metallurgy Works and the Bukhovo uranium mine (both in southwestern Bulgaria), contaminated the region with lead, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, ethanol, and mercury. The city of Kurdzhali became heavily polluted with lead from its lead and zinc complex. In 1973 the petroleum and chemical plant near the Black Sea port of Burgas released large amounts of chlorine in an incident similar to the one in Srednogorie. Environmentalists estimated that the area within a thirty-kilometer radius of the plant was rendered uninhabitable by that release. The air in Burgas was also heavily polluted with carbon and sulfur dioxide in 1990.

In 1990 environmental scientists claimed that two-thirds of Bulgaria's population suffered from the polluted environment to some degree. In 1991 Bulgaria began seeking international assistance in solving environmental problems. Besides joining Romania, Turkey, and the Soviet Union in joint scientific studies of the critically polluted Black Sea, Bulgaria actively sought environmental technology and expertise from Western Europe and the United States.

Bulgaria - Population

Since ancient times, Bulgaria has been a crossroads for population movement. Early settlement occurred mainly in the most fertile agricultural lands. After World War II, however, Bulgarian cities grew rapidly at the expense of rural population in concert with state industrialization policy. Administrative Subdivisions

In 1991 Bulgaria was divided into nine provinces (oblasti--sing. oblast). These administrative units included the city of Sofia (Grad Sofiya) and eight provincial districts: Burgas, Khaskovo, Lovech, Mikhaylovgrad, Plovdiv, Razgrad, Sofiya (the region outside the city), and Varna. Each province was named for the city that was its administrative center. Excluding the city of Sofia, the provinces encompassed territories ranging from 9.5 percent of the country to 17.2 percent, and their population ranged from 7.5 percent to 14 percent of the national total. The eight provinces were divided into a total of 273 communities (obshtini--sing. obshtina); the city of Sofia was divided into districts (raioni--sing. raion). Because this system was established in 1987, references to another type of district, the okrug (pl. okruzi), remained common in the early 1990s. The new government that took office in 1991 announced that yet another change was needed in Bulgaria's political subdivisions because the 1987 system reflected the discredited policies of the Zhivkov regime.

Settlement Patterns

The first settlements sprang up in Bulgaria very early in the area's history. The biggest and most numerous villages appeared on fertile lands such as the Danubian Plateau, the Dobruja region, and the Maritsa and Tundzha river valleys. Settlements also took hold at very high altitudes (up to 1,500 meters in the Rhodope Mountains and up to 1,200 meters in the Balkans), but only in areas where it was warm enough to grow grain or other crops. During the rule of the Ottoman Empire, many Bulgarians were forced to move into villages at higher altitudes. After Bulgaria became independent in 1878, many people returned to the lower altitudes, but most of the upland villages remained. The process of urbanization began at that point, but it progressed slowly because of wars, lack of employment in population centers, and the emigration of the ethnic Turks who had supported the economies of some cities during the Ottoman era. The massive industrialization of the communist era again stimulated temporary settlement at high altitudes for mining or forestry. Generally, only the highest areas in the Rila, Pirin, and Rhodope mountains remained comparatively unsettled. These regions became known for their national parks and seasonal resort areas.


Bulgaria's cities grew much more rapidly after 1944. In 1946 only Sofia and Plovdiv had populations numbering over 100,000. By 1990, there were ten cities having populations exceeding 250,000: Burgas, Dobrich (formerly Tolbukhin), Pleven, Plodiv, Ruse, Shumen, Sliven, Sofia, Stara Zagora, and Varna. In 1990 nearly one-third of Bulgaria's population lived in the ten largest cities; two-thirds of the population was urban. Although the urban birth rate declined after the mid-1970s, largescale migration from rural areas to cities continued through 1990. At the same time, migration from cities to rural areas more than doubled from the 1960s to the 1980s, mainly because more mechanical and service jobs became available in agriculture during that period. In cities such as Sofia and Plovdiv, where industrialization started earliest, the population stabilized and the repercussions of rapid population growth slowed down in the 1980s.

The population of the average Bulgarian city grew by three to four times between 1950 and 1990. The rapidity of this growth caused some negative trends. The cities often lacked the resources to serve the needs of their growing populations: in particular, housing and social services could not grow fast enough. The cities' great need for social resources in turn diverted resources from smaller, more scattered population centers. The overall rural-to- urban migration pattern caused shortages of agricultural labor, especially in the villages surrounding large cities. The government discouraged new industries from locating in outlying areas because of the lack of workers.

Sofia was founded by the Thracians and has remained an important population center for 2,000 years. Its location in a basin sheltered by the Vitosha Mountains was strategically and esthetically desirable. Long-established communication routes pass though Sofia, most notably the route from Belgrade to Istanbul. Sofia's climate and location caused the Roman Emperor Constantine to consider the city when he selected an eastern capital for his empire in the early fourth century. Hot springs, which still exist today, were an added attraction. After it became the Bulgarian capital in 1879, Sofia became the administrative, educational, and cultural center of the country. Because of Sofia's rapid postwar growth (it grew by 36 percent between 1965 and 1986), in 1986 its city government closed the city to all internal immigrants except scholars and technical experts.

Plovdiv, the country's second most important city, was founded in the fourth century B.C. by Philip of Macedonia. Its exposed location on the route from Belgrade to Istanbul gave the city a violent history that included several instances of capture and devastation--both by non-Christian invaders and by Christian armies during the Crusades. At the end of the twentieth century, Plovdiv remained an important commercial city. More rail lines radiated from Plovdiv than from Sofia, and the city had a university, important museums and art treasures, and an old town center with a unique mid-nineteenth century architectural style. Part of old Plovdiv was declared a national monument.

The three main port cities were Varna and Burgas on the Black Sea and Ruse on the Danube River. A relatively young city, Burgas gained most of its size in the late 1800s. Until the 1950s, it was the most active Bulgarian port. Varna, which was founded by Greeks in the sixth century B.C., eclipsed Burgas by attracting the naval academy and the chief naval base and acquiring most of Bulgaria's shipbuilding industry. Ruse, founded by the Romans in the first century B.C., grew into a major industrial center and transportation hub after World War II. The first bridge across the Danube between Bulgaria and Romania was built just north of Ruse.

Internal Migration

The urbanization of Bulgaria began with independence from the Ottoman Turks, but the process did not become widespread until the massive industrialization of the communist era. In 1900 city dwellers composed barely 20 percent of Bulgaria's population, and in 1945 they made up only 24 percent. By the end of 1990, however, more than 6 million people lived in the cities while fewer than 3 million lived in the villages. Bulgarian demographers predicted that 75 percent of the population would live in cities by the year 2000.

During the 1950s and 1960s, when the industrialization process was most intense, most Bulgarians who moved were of working age, had a basic education or less, and wished to obtain new jobs in industry. Fully 85 percent of internal migrants in the early 1960s went to work in an industry. The trend of moving to locations with industrial jobs continued at a reduced rate in the next decades, and migrants in the 1980s tended to be younger and better educated than those of earlier years. The migrant population generally included more women than men. This reflected women who moved to join the work force as well as women who married and moved to join their husbands.

About two-thirds of migrant Bulgarians relocated within the same province, so no region showed a marked population decline. The decline in village population, however, concerned demographers, who feared that villages would be completely vacated and the country's population distribution severely skewed. By 1990 this had occurred most noticeably in the southeastern and southern regions, but a similar trend was evident in the northwest.

As workers continued to leave, village populations aged demographically. The share of villages with an average population age above fifty increased from 23 percent in 1956 to 41 percent in 1985. Natural growth in villages, negative after 1975, fell to negative 6 percent in 1985. Some villages recorded no births for an entire year. As the younger population decreased, schools and health facilities closed. This in turn drove more people to leave their villages.

Meanwhile, demographers and sociologists encouraged younger Bulgarians to return to the villages. Generally, those who followed this advice because of housing shortages, transportation problems, or pollution in the cities found hard, uncongenial work, a lower standard of living, and scant public services and recreation. Many village workers were forced to raise animals to supplement their regular income. The beginning of democratization in 1990 sparked much debate about whether the rural standard of living would rise if the government's agricultural privatization program could stimulate agricultural activity.

Foreign Citizens in Bulgaria

During the Zhivkov era, Bulgaria signed several friendship treaties with other Comecon nations to ease the exchange of workers. In the 1980s, for example, a large number of Bulgarians worked in the construction and timber industries of the Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Komi ASSR) under an exchange agreement with the Soviet Union. Workers were expected to return to their own countries when their contracts ended, but they did not always do so. For example, some Vietnamese construction workers sent to Bulgaria under Comecon agreement in the 1980s remained, and in 1991 the Vietnamese population of Bulgaria was 11,000. Because they arrived completely unprepared for life in Bulgaria and began working after only one month of training and language courses, the Vietnamese who remained in Bulgaria generally received the hardest and lowest-paying jobs and often became involved in criminal activity. In 1991 several violent incidents involving Vietnamese provoked calls for their repatriation. In response, the government made plans to expel all resident Vietnamese from Bulgaria in 1992.

Population Trends

The 1985 census recorded Bulgaria's population at 8,948,649, an increase of 220,878 over the 1975 census figure. At the end of 1990, the Central Statistical Bureau had estimated an updated figure of 8,989,172, including about 100,000 more women than men. However, the estimates for 1989 and 1990 did not account for major emigrations in those years: first the massive emigration of Turks in 1989, then the emigration of ethnic Bulgarians in 1990. Adjusting for emigration figures, the population figure actually decreased between 1985 and 1990. Bulgaria's 1989 population density figure of eighty-one people per square kilometer made it one of the least densely populated countries in Europe.

Bulgaria's rate of population growth began a steady decrease in the mid-1920s, and the trend accelerated thereafter. Before World War II, a man's status in his community was determined by how many children (especially sons) he had. Women who did not marry, or who married but had no children, were seen as failures. As the country became more urbanized, however, such traditional views gradually disappeared. Large families were no longer the economic necessity they had been in agricultural society, and extra children became a burden rather than a boon. As women became more educated and less accepting of the traditional patriarchal family norms, their attitude toward childbearing changed. In 1990 the majority of Bulgarian women believed two children ideal for a family, but because of economic and social conditions, their personal preference was to raise only one. By the 1980s, this change in attitude had begun to prevail even in villages and with less-educated women. In 1985, 75 percent of Bulgarian women indicated that they would not like to have any more children. Families with three or more children became a rarity, and women who opted for more than two children had a lower standard of living and were generally less respected in society.

Although few social planners advocated a return to the large families of the past, Bulgarian policy makers were dismayed that the population did not increase. During the Zhivkov era, the mass media and scholarly journals expressed concern that the nine millionth Bulgarian had not yet been born, and that families were unwilling to have two children instead of one. By 1985 population experts were urging that 30 to 40 percent of families have three children to make up for those which had none or only one. Meanwhile, although the 1973 Politburo had affirmed a family's right to decide how many children to have and when they should be born, in the 1970s and 1980s contraceptives were not available in sufficient quantity for family planning. Strict restrictions on abortions established by the Zhivkov regime were repealed in 1990. Partly because contraceptives were in short supply, abortions had surpassed births by 1985 despite the restrictions. Until 1990 bachelors and unmarried women had to pay a 5 to 15 percent "bachelors' tax" depending on their age. In a more positive step, laws provided family allowances for children under sixteen. The age limit for the family allowance was raised to eighteen in 1990 for children still in school.

In 1990 Bulgarian demographers recorded a negative growth rate (negative 35 births per 1,000 population) for the first time. At that point, the number of live births per woman was 1.81. Demographers reported that the figure must increase to 2.1 to maintain the country's natural rate of population replacement. Mortality figures in Bulgaria were also much higher than those of the developed European countries.

The most alarming demographic trend of the late 1980s, however, was substantially greater emigration totals. The 1989 Turkish exodus caused by the Zhivkov assimilation campaigns had a severe impact on the Bulgarian labor force. Then, in 1990, economic reform brought harsh living conditions that stimulated a wave of emigration by ethnic Bulgarians. As of March 1991, some 460,000 Bulgarians had emigrated, bringing the total number of Bulgarians living abroad to about 3 million. The majority of the émigré population remained in nearby countries (1.2 million in Yugoslavia, 800,000 in other Balkan countries, and 500,000 in the Soviet Union). Smaller numbers went as far as the United States (100,000 to 120,000), Canada (100,000), Argentina (18,000), and Australia (15,000).

Updated population figures for Bulgaria.


Throughout its history, the Balkan Peninsula was a homeland for many diverse ethnic groups that were able to preserve their national identities despite being shifted among the jurisdictions of powerful empires. In modern Bulgaria, the opposite has been true: the largest minority ethnic group, the Turks, remained in territory that their Ottoman ancestors had occupied. After the fall of the Zhivkov government, Bulgaria moderated its minority policy substantially to improve delicate relationships with neighboring countries such as Turkey and Yugoslavia. Government Minority Policy

The 1893 census listed the following nationalities and religious groups in order of prevalence: Eastern Rite Orthodox Bulgarians, Turks, Romanians, Greeks, Gypsies, Jews, Muslim Bulgarians, Catholic Bulgarians, Tatars, Gagauzi (a Turkishspeaking people of the Eastern Orthodox faith), Armenians, Protestant Bulgarians, Vlachs (a Romanian-speaking people in southwest Bulgaria), and foreigners of various nationalities, mainly Russians and Germans.

Migrations and boundary changes after the two world wars reduced the list somewhat; few Greeks and Romanians remained in Bulgaria by 1990. However, Bulgaria's communist leaders often tried to deny the existence of minority groups by manipulating or suppressing census data or by forcibly assimilating "undesirable" groups. In 1985, at the height of the last anti-Turkish assimilation campaign, a leading Bulgarian Communist Party official declared Bulgaria "a one-nation state" and affirmed that "the Bulgarian nation has no parts of other peoples and nations."

After the fall of Todor Zhivkov in 1989, all the minorities in Bulgaria progressed somewhat toward self-determination and freedom of expression. New minority organizations and political parties sprang up, and minority groups began publishing their own newspapers and magazines. Non-Bulgarian nationalities regained the right--curtailed in the Zhivkov era--to use their original names, speak their language in public, and wear their national dress. In 1991 significant controversy remained, however, as to how far the rights of minorities should extend. Legislators making policy on such issues as approval of non-Bulgarian names and Turkish-language schools faced mass protests by nationalist Bulgarians, who successfully delayed liberalization of government policy on those issues.


Bulgarians have been recognized as a separate ethnic group on the Balkan Peninsula since the time of Tsar Boris I (852-89), under whom the Bulgars were converted to Christianity. Early historians began mentioning them as a group then; however, it is not clear whether such references were to the earliest Bulgarians, who were Asiatic and migrated to the Balkan Peninsula from the Ural Mountains of present-day Russia, or to the Slavs that preceded them in what is now Bulgaria. By the end of the ninth century, the Slavs and the Bulgarians shared a common language and a common religion, and the two cultures essentially merged under the name "Bulgarian".

Acceptance of the Eastern Orthodox church as the state religion of the First Bulgarian Empire in A.D. 864 shaped the Bulgarian national identity for many centuries thereafter. The Bulgarian language, which was the first written Slavic language, replaced Greek as the official language of both church and state once the Cyrillic alphabet came into existence in the ninth century. National literature flourished under the First Bulgarian Empire, and the church remained the repository of language and national feeling during subsequent centuries of occupation by the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

Ottoman rule was the most formidable test of Bulgarian ethnic identity. The Ottoman Turks forced many of their Christian subjects to convert to Islam, and the Turks differentiated their subjects only by religion, not by nationality. The latter policy meant that the empire usually considered the Bulgarians as Greeks because of their common Orthodox religion. Turkish recognition of the Greek Orthodox Church gave the Greeks the power to replace Bulgarian clergy and liturgy with Greek, further threatening Bulgarian national identity. Under the Ottomans, some Bulgarians who had converted to Islam lost their national consciousness and language entirely. Others (the Pomaks) converted but managed to retain their old language and customs.

During the Ottoman occupation, the monasteries played an important role in preserving national consciousness among educated Bulgarians. Later, during the National Revival period of the nineteenth century, primary schools and reading rooms (chitalishta) were established to foster Bulgarian culture and literacy in cities throughout Bulgaria. The vast majority of uneducated peasants, however, preserved their customs in the less accessible regions in the mountains. Traditional folk songs and legends flourished there and became richer and more widely known than the literature created by educated Bulgarians.

Bulgarian is classified as a South Slavic language, together with Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, and Macedonian. One of the oldest written languages in Europe, Bulgarian influenced all the other Slavic languages, especially Russian, in early medieval times. In turn the Bulgarian language was enriched by borrowings from other civilizations with which it came into contact. Besides 2,000 words from the pre-Cyrillic Old Slavonic language, Bulgarians borrowed religious terms and words used in daily life from the Greeks; vocabulary relating to political, economic, and day-to-day life from Turkish; and many Russian words to replace their Turkish equivalents as Ottoman influence waned during the National Revival period. In the postwar era, many West European words began to appear in Bulgarian, especially in technological fields.


Because of their status as former occupiers, the Turks have had a stormy relationship with Bulgaria since the beginning of its independence. In 1878 Turks outnumbered Bulgarians in Bulgaria, but they began emigrating to Turkey immediately after independence was established. The movement continued, with some interruptions, through the late 1980s. Between 1923 and 1949, 219,700 Turks left Bulgaria. Then a wave of 155,000 emigrants either were "expelled" (according to Turkish sources) or were "allowed to leave" (according to Bulgarian sources) between 1949 and 1951. The number would have been far greater had Turkey not closed its borders twice during those years. In 1968 an agreement reopened the BulgarianTurkish border to close relatives of persons who had left from 1944 to 1951. The agreement remained in effect from 1968 to 1978.

The biggest wave of Turkish emigration occurred in 1989, however, when 310,000 Turks left Bulgaria as a result of the Zhivkov regime's assimilation campaign. That program, which began in 1984, forced all Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria to adopt Bulgarian (Christian or traditional Slavic) names and renounce all Muslim customs. Bulgaria no longer recognized the Turks as a national minority, explaining that all the Muslims in Bulgaria were descended from Bulgarians who had been forced into the Islamic faith by the Ottoman Turks. The Muslims would therefore "voluntarily" take new names as part of the "rebirth process" by which they would reclaim their Bulgarian identities. During the height of the assimilation campaign, the Turkish government claimed that 1.5 million Turks resided in Bulgaria, while the Bulgarians claimed there were none. (In 1986 Amnesty International estimated that 900,000 ethnic Turks were living in Bulgaria.)

The motivation of the 1984 assimilation campaign was unclear; however, many experts believed that the disproportion between the birth rates of the Turks and the Bulgarians was a major factor. The birth rate for Turks was about 2 percent at the time of the campaign, while the Bulgarian rate was barely above zero. The upcoming 1985 census would have revealed this disparity, which could have been construed as a failure of Zhivkov government policy. On the other hand, although most Turks worked in lowprestige jobs such as agriculture and construction, they provided critical labor to many segments of the Bulgarian economy. The emigration affected the harvest season of 1989, when Bulgarians from all walks of life were recruited as agricultural laborers to replace the missing Turks. The shortage was especially acute in tobacco, one of Bulgaria's most profitable exports, and wheat.

During the name-changing phase of the campaign, Turkish towns and villages were surrounded by army units. Citizens were issued new identity cards with Bulgarian names. Failure to present a new card meant forfeiture of salary, pension payments, and bank withdrawals. Birth or marriage certificates would be issued only in Bulgarian names. Traditional Turkish costumes were banned; homes were searched and all signs of Turkish identity removed. Mosques were closed. According to estimates, 500 to 1,500 people were killed when they resisted assimilation measures, and thousands of others went to labor camps or were forcibly resettled.

Before Zhivkov's assimilation campaign, official policy toward use of the Turkish language had varied. Before 1958, instruction in Turkish was available at all educational levels, and university students were trained to teach courses in Turkish in the Turkish schools. After 1958, Turkish-language majors were taught in Bulgarian only, and the Turkish schools were merged with Bulgarian ones. By 1972, all Turkish-language courses were prohibited, even at the elementary level. Assimilation meant that Turks could no longer teach at all, and the Turkish language was forbidden, even at home. Fines were levied for speaking Turkish in public.

After the fall of Zhivkov in 1989, the National Assembly attempted to restore cultural rights to the Turkish population. In 1991 a new law gave anyone affected by the name-changing campaign three years to officially restore original names and the names of children born after the name change. The Slavic endings -ov, -ova, -ev, or -eva could now be removed if they did not go with one's original name, reversing the effect of a 1950s campaign to add Slavic endings to all non-Slavic names. The law was important not only for Turks, but also for the minority Gypsies and Pomaks who had been forced to change their names in 1965 and 1972 respectively. In January 1991, Turkish-language lessons were reintroduced for four hours per week in parts of the country with a substantial Turkish population, such as the former Kurdzhali and Razgrad districts.


Beginning with the withdrawal of the Ottoman occupation, the region known as Macedonia was divided among two or more European states. The entire region was never included in a single political unit. In 1990 Macedonia included all of the Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, the Pirin region of southwest Bulgaria, the part of northern Greece bordering the Aegean Sea and including Thessaloniki, and a very small part of eastern Albania. The Macedonian language, in which no written documents are known to have existed before 1790, had three main dialects. One dialect was closest to Serbian, one most resembled Bulgarian, and a third, more distinctive group became the basis for the official language.

The region's location in the middle of the Balkans and its lack of defined ethnic character made the dispute over the existence and location of a separate Macedonian nationality and control over its territory one of the most intractable Balkan issues of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In general Bulgaria and Greece asserted that the Macedonians within their jurisdiction were ethnically indistinguishable from the majority population. Yugoslavia saw the Macedonians of all jurisdictions as a distinct ethnic group. But, beginning with independence in 1878, Bulgarians also claimed various segments of non-Bulgarian territory based on the ethnic Slavic commonality of the Bulgarians and the Macedonians. Residual claims on Macedonian territory were a primary reason for Bulgaria's decision to side with Germany during both world wars. In the division of territory after World War I, most of Macedonia became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), and was renamed "South Serbia." After World War II, Yugoslavia strengthened its hold by making Macedonia a separate republic and recognizing the Macedonians as a distinct nationality.

The Bulgarian position maintained that leading patriots such as Gotse Delchev and Iane Sandanski (who had fought for Macedonian independence from the Turks) and cultural figures such as the Miladinov brothers (who promoted education and the Slavic vernacular during the National Revival period) were products of Bulgarian culture and considered themselves Bulgarians, not Macedonians. In 1990 many people in the Pirin region identified themselves as Bulgarian, but some opposition Macedonian organizations such as Ilinden (named after the 1903 IlindenPreobrazhensko uprising for Macedonian independence on St. Elijah's Day) sought recognition by the Bulgarian government as a minority separate from the Bulgarians. This position was based on the assertion that Macedonians were a separate nationality with a distinct language and history.

No reliable data showed how many people in Bulgaria, or in all of Macedonia, considered themselves Macedonian or spoke a Macedonian dialect in 1990. Those who considered the Slavs in Macedonia as Bulgarians cited statistics for the whole region at the time it was first divided after World War I. At that time, 1,239,903 Bulgarians, or 59 percent of the population, were listed. The Bulgarians were a majority in both Yugoslav (Vardar) Macedonia (759,468 people) and in Bulgarian (Pirin) Macedonia (226,700 people). Later Bulgarian censuses, however, showed sharply varying numbers of Macedonians according to what political agenda was to be supported by a given census. The 1946 census, for example, identified over 250,000 Macedonians, reportedly to back President Georgi Dimitrov's short-lived plan for federation with Yugoslavia. Then, between the censuses of 1956 and 1965, the number of Macedonians dropped from 187,789 to 9,632. After that time, the Bulgarian census ceased identifying citizens by nationality.


Although Gypsies are known to have lived in Bulgaria since the fourteenth century, most of the Gypsy population arrived in the past few centuries. The last known group was forced to settle in 1958, having remained nomadic until that time. The Gypsy population was divided into three groups. According to the 1965 census, the last that enumerated Bulgarians by nationality, 42.5 percent were Orthodox and spoke Bulgarian; 34.2 percent were Orthodox and spoke Romanian or Romany, the Gypsy language; and 22.8 percent were Muslim, spoke Turkish, and considered themselves ethnic Turks. Estimates in 1990 put the Gypsy population at about 450,000, some 10 percent of whom lived in the southeastern city of Sliven.

The Gypsies had a long history as one of Bulgaria's most disadvantaged and maligned nationalities. They were the focus of official name-changing campaigns in every postwar decade between 1950 and 1990. Despite their numbers, Gypsies did not contribute much to Bulgarian society because only about 40 percent of them attained the educational and cultural level of the average Bulgarian. The other 60 percent lived in extremely disadvantaged conditions, isolated from the mainstream of society by the Gypsy tradition of preserving ethnic customs and by Bulgarian government policy. Government programs to improve the lot of the Gypsies usually meant construction of new, separate Gypsy neighborhoods rather than integration into Bulgarian society. Housing in Gypsy neighborhoods was always poor and overcrowded. In 1959 when a new neighborhood was built in Sofia, 800 people moved into 252 apartments. Each apartment had one and one-half rooms and no kitchen or inside plumbing. By 1990 about 3,000 people lived in these same apartments.

The education of Gypsies who spoke Romany was inhibited because the language has no alphabet or written literature. Gypsy children were exposed to Bulgarian only in school, hampering completion of studies for many. The illiteracy rate among Gypsies was believed to be still quite high in 1990, although no statistics were available. According to the only known literacy figures for nationalities, given in the 1926 census, 8.2 percent of Gypsies were literate compared with 54.4 percent of Bulgarians overall. The Gypsy community exerted little pressure on students to finish school; many dropped out before reaching legal working age, increasing the tendency to marry and begin having children early.

In 1990 about 70 percent of Gypsy workers were unskilled and worked as general laborers, custodians, street cleaners, dishwashers, or in other minimum-wage occupations. About 20 percent of Gypsies worked at skilled jobs. The small Gypsy intelligentsia, which included musicians, scholars, professionals in various fields, and political figures, tried to influence their countrymen to gain more education and job skills. Pressure also was exerted for elimination of separate Gypsy neighborhoods and official replacement of the derogatory Bulgarian word tsiganin with rom, the Romany word for Gypsy.

Other Minorities

Because of official suppression of nationality statistics, little information was available on less numerous minorities in Bulgaria between 1965 and 1990. Most of the Tatar population (6,430 in 1965) had migrated from the Crimea to the cities of the Dobruja area in the nineteenth century. The Greek minority (8,241 in 1965) comprised political émigrés from Greece and the remainder of a population in southern Bulgaria that had been largely forced out of Bulgaria by government oppression and violence between the world wars. The Armenian population (20,282 in 1965) was mostly added between 1896 and 1924 during the massive emigration of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians were concentrated in the cities, especially Sofia and Plovdiv. In 1946 some 44,209 Jews remained in Bulgaria, which had conducted no large-scale persecution despite its wartime alliance with Nazi Germany. But the 1950s saw massive emigration of Jews to Israel, leaving only 5,108 in Bulgaria by the time of the 1965 census.

Bulgaria - RELIGION

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which played a crucial role in preserving Bulgarian culture during the Ottoman occupation, remained central to the sense of Bulgarian nationhood even under the postwar communist regimes. In spite of the official status of Orthodoxy, Bulgaria also had a tradition of tolerance toward other Christian religions. Tolerance of Islam, however, remained problematic under all forms of government because of that religion's historical identification with the occupation and subjugation of Bulgaria. Eastern Orthodoxy

In 1991 most Bulgarians were at least nominally members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, an independent national church like the Russian Orthodox Church and the other national branches of Eastern Orthodoxy. Because of its national character and its status as the national church in every independent Bulgarian state until the advent of communism, the church was considered an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. Baptism, before 1944 an indispensable rite establishing individual identity, retained this vital role for many even after the communists took power. The power of this tradition caused the communist state to introduce a naming ritual called "civil baptism" (grazhdansko krushtvane).

Although communist regimes could not eliminate all influence, they did undermine church authority significantly. First, the communists ruled that the church only had authority on church matters and could not take part in political life. Second, although the constitution made the church separate from the state, the clergy's salaries and the fees needed to maintain the churches were paid by the state. This meant that the clergy had to prove its loyalty to the state. From 1949 until 1989, religion in Bulgaria was mainly controlled by the Law on Religious Organizations, which enumerated the limitations on the constitution's basic separation of church and state.

The number of Orthodox priests declined from 3,312 in 1947 to 1,700 in 1985. Priests associated with the prewar regime were accused of engaging in illegal or antisocialist activities, supporting the opposition, and propagandizing against the state. Upon taking control of all church property, the state had the choice of maintaining churches or closing them down. Thus, for example, Rila Monastery, the largest monastery in Bulgaria, became a national museum in 1961.

In 1987 the Orthodox Church had 3,720 churches and chapels, 120 monasteries, 981 regular and 738 retired priests, 135 monks, and 170 nuns. The church was administered by a Holy Synod. Under communist rule, the synod had the authority to publish limited quantities of religious material such as magazines, newspapers, and church calendars. A new translation of the Bible was published in 1982, but in such small quantities that the size of the printing could not be determined. By 1988 the 1982 edition was being resold at ten times the original price.

After the fall of Zhivkov, the Orthodox Church and other churches in Bulgaria experienced a revival. Church rituals such as baptisms and church weddings attracted renewed interest, and traditional church holidays were observed more widely. Christmas 1990, the first Christmas under the new regime, was widely celebrated and greatly promoted in the mass media. By contrast, Christmas had received little public attention during the postwar years. The government returned some church property, including the Rila Monastery, and religious education and Bible study increased in the early post-Zhivkov years. The Orthodox seminary in Sofia returned to its original home in 1990 and attracted over 100 male and female students in its first year of operation. The Konstantin Preslavski Higher Pedagogical Institute added a new theology department to train theology, art, and music teachers as well as priests. The Holy Synod planned to publish 300,000 Orthodox Bibles in 1992.


The Muslim population of Bulgaria, including Turks, Pomaks, Gypsies, and Tatars, lived mainly in northeastern Bulgaria and in the Rhodope Mountains. Most were Sunni Muslims because Sunni Islam had been more widely promoted by the Ottoman Turks when they ruled Bulgaria. Shia sects such as the Kuzulbashi and the Bektashi also were present, however. About 80,000 Shia Muslims lived mainly in the Razgrad, Sliven and Tutrakan (northeast of Ruse) regions. They were mainly descendants of Bulgarians who converted to Islam to avoid Ottoman persecution but chose a Shia sect because of its greater tolerance toward different national and religious customs. For example, Kuzulbashi Bulgarians could maintain the Orthodox customs of communion, confession, and honoring saints. This integration of Orthodox customs into Islam gave rise to a type of syncretism found only in Bulgaria.

As of 1987, Muslims in Bulgaria had 1,267 mosques served by 533 khodzhai, or religious community leaders. The Muslim hierarchy was headed by one chief mufti and eight regional muftis, interpreters of Muslim law, all of whom served five-year terms. The largest mosque in Bulgaria was the Tumbul Mosque in Shumen, built in 1744.

Bulgarian Muslims were subject to particular persecution in the later years of the Zhivkov regime. This was partly because the Orthodox Church traditionally considered them foreigners, even if they were ethnically Bulgarian. The Bulgarian communist regimes declared traditional Muslim beliefs to be diametrically opposed to communist and Bulgarian beliefs. This justified repression of Muslim beliefs and consolidation of Muslim into the larger society as part of the class and ideological struggle.

Like the practitioners of the other faiths, Muslims in Bulgaria enjoyed greater religious freedom after the fall of the Zhivkov regime. New mosques were built in many cities and villages; one village built a new church and a new mosque side by side. Some villages organized Quran (also seen as Koran) study courses for young people (study of the Quran had been completely forbidden under Zhivkov). Muslims also began publishing their own newspaper, Miusiulmani, in both Bulgarian and Turkish.

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholic missionaries first tried to convert the Bulgarians during the reign of Boris I. They were unsuccessful, and Boris I led the Bulgarians in their conversion to Orthodoxy. In 1204 the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloian (1197-1207) formed a short-lived union between the Roman Catholic Church and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as a political tactic to balance the religious power of the Byzantine Empire. The union ended when Rome declared war on Bulgaria and the Bulgarian patriarchate was reestablished in 1235. The Catholic Church had no influence in the Bulgarian Empire after that date.

Nonetheless, Catholic missionaries renewed their interest in Bulgaria during the sixteenth century, when they were aided by merchants from Dubrovnik on the Adriatic. In the next century, Vatican missionaries converted most of the Paulicians, the remainder of a once-numerous heretical Christian sect, to Catholicism. Many believed that conversion would bring aid from Western Europe in liberating Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. By 1700, however, the Ottomans began persecuting Catholics and preventing their Orthodox subjects from converting.

After Bulgaria became independent, the Catholic Church again tried to increase its influence by opening schools, colleges, and hospitals throughout the country, and by offering scholarships to students who wished to study abroad. Prince Ferdinand of SaxeCoburg -Gotha, first ruler of independent Bulgaria, was himself Catholic and supported the Vatican in these efforts. The papal nuncio Angelo Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII, played a leading role in establishing Catholic institutions in Bulgaria and in establishing diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and the Vatican in 1925.

The communist era was a time of great persecution for Catholics, nominally because Catholicism was considered the religion of fascism. Bulgarian communists also deemed Catholicism a foreign influence because, unlike Orthodoxy, it had no ties to Russia. The logic was that anything anti-Russian must also be antiBulgarian . Under the communist regimes, Catholic priests were charged with following Vatican orders to conduct antisocialist activities and help opposition parties. In 1949 foreign priests were forbidden to preach in Bulgaria, and the papal nuncio was forbidden to return to Bulgaria. Relations between the Vatican and Bulgaria were severed at that time. During the "Catholic trials" of 1951-52, sixty priests were convicted of working for Western intelligence agencies and collecting political, economic, and military intelligence for the West. Four priests were executed on the basis of these charges. In the early 1950s, the property of Catholic parishes was confiscated, all Catholic schools, colleges, and clubs were closed, and the Catholic Church was deprived of its legal status. Only nominal official toleration of Catholic worship remained.

In 1991 about 44,000 Roman Catholics remained in Bulgaria, mostly in Ruse, Sofia, and Plovdiv. Another 18,000 Uniate Catholics were concentrated in Sofia. (Uniate Catholics recognize the pope as their spiritual leader, but practice the Eastern Orthodox rite.) Bulgaria reestablished relations with the Vatican in 1990, and the Bulgarian government invited the pope to visit Bulgaria. Uniate Catholics began assisting Western-rite Catholics in conducting masses in Bulgarian, making the liturgy more accessible, and prompting predictions that the two branches would unite. Relations had not been established between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in 1991, however, and Catholics blamed official Orthodox intolerance for the continued rift.


Protestantism was introduced in Bulgaria by missionaries from the United States in 1857-58, amid the National Revival period. The two main denominations, the Methodists and Congregationalists, divided their areas of influence. The former predominated in northern Bulgaria and the latter in the south. In 1875 the Protestant denominations united in the Bulgarian Evangelical Philanthropic Society, which later became the Union of Evangelical Churches in Bulgaria. Besides setting up churches, the Protestants established schools, clinics, and youth clubs, and they distributed copies of the Bible and their own religious publications in Bulgarian. The Union of Evangelical Churches produced the first translation of the entire Bible into Bulgarian in 1871 and founded the nondenominational Robert College in Constantinople, where many Bulgarian leaders of the post-independence era were educated. After independence in 1878, the Protestants gained influence because they used the vernacular in services and in religious literature.

The communist regimes subjected Protestants to even greater persecution than the Catholics. In 1946 church funding was cut off by a law curbing foreign currency transactions. Because many ministers had been educated in the West before World War II, they were suspected automatically of supporting the opposition parties. In 1949 thirty-one Protestant clergymen were charged with working for American intelligence and running a spy ring in Bulgaria. All church property was confiscated, and the churches' legal status was revoked. Most of the mainstream Protestant denominations maintained the right to worship nominally guaranteed by the constitution of 1947.

According to estimates in 1991, the 5,000 to 6,000 Bulgarian Pentecostals made that sect the largest Protestant group. The Pentecostal movement was brought to Bulgaria in 1921 by Russian émigrés. The movement later spread to Varna, Sliven, Sofia, and Pleven. It gained popularity in Bulgaria after freedom of religion was declared in 1944, and the fall of Zhivkov brought another surge of interest. In 1991 the Pentecostal Church had thirty-six clergy in forty-three parishes, with sufficient concentration in Ruse to petition the government to establish a Bible institute there.

In 1991 the Adventist Church had 3,500 Bulgarian members, twothirds of them young people. The Adventist movement began in the Dobruja region of Bulgaria at the turn of the century and then spread to Tutrakan, Ruse, Sofia, and Plovdiv. It gained momentum in Bulgaria after 1944. Under the communist regimes, mainstream Adventists maintained the right to worship. Some twenty parishes with forty pastors remained active through that era, although a breakaway reformed group was banned because of its pacifist beliefs. Some Adventists were imprisoned for refusal of military service.


The Bulgarian communist regimes officially considered Jews a nationality rather than a religious group. For that reason, and because nearly 90 percent of the country's Jewish population emigrated to Israel after World War II, the Jewish society that remained in Bulgaria was mainly secular. Under the Zhivkov regime, synagogues rarely were open in Sofia, Samokov, and Vidin. In 1990 the Jewish population was estimated at about 71,000. At that time, only two rabbis were active, although several synagogues reportedly were reopened under the new regime. Most of the Jews in Bulgaria were Sephardic, descended from Spanish Jews who spoke Hebrew or Ladino (a Judeo-Spanish dialect). A much smaller number were Ashkenazi, with Yiddish-speaking ancestors. However, very few Jews in postcommunist Bulgaria remembered their ancestral languages, and frequent mixed marriages further diluted feelings of Jewish identity. The Jews of Bulgaria assimilated easily into Bulgarian society, partly because they traditionally lived in cities and worked as tradesmen or financiers.

The fate of the Bulgarian Jews during World War II was a source of Bulgarian pride. The approximately 50,000 Jews then living in Bulgaria had long been well integrated into the fabric of Bulgarian city life. Because of this integration, neither society in general nor Tsar Boris III was inclined to follow the anti-Jewish policies of Bulgaria's Nazi ally. Boris tried to appease the Nazis by passing comparatively benign anti-Jewish laws, which nevertheless were protested widely, especially by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Twice in 1943, Boris personally blocked orders to deport Bulgarian Jews, sending them instead to so-called labor camps inside Bulgaria. Many Jews also received transit visas to Palestine at this time.

Bulgaria - SOCIETY

Most manifestations of traditional Bulgarian familial and societal relations disappeared in the initial postwar wave of modernization, but some traditions proved surprisingly persistent and survived into the 1990s, especially in parts of western and southwestern Bulgaria. Although postwar communist regimes nominally emphasized emancipation of women, strong elements of paternalism and emphasis on traditional female roles remained in Bulgarian society. By 1990 economic forces had eliminated traditional extended families and limited the number of children, especially in urban areas. Some evidence of resurging traditional relationships was seen in the immediate post-Zhivkov years.

Traditional Society

Traditional Bulgarian society had three classes: the peasants (almost everyone in the villages), the chorbadzhii (a small wealthy class that owned large tracts of land and hired peasants to work them), and the esnafi (skilled tradespeople in towns, who later became the bourgeoisie). Most references to traditional Bulgarian society described village or peasant society, because until the communist era the great majority of Bulgarians were peasants.

The most important institution of traditional Bulgarian society was the zadruga, an extended family composed of ten to twenty small families, related by blood, who lived and worked together, owned property jointly, and recognized the authority of a single patriarch. The extended family most often included four generations of men, the wives whom those men brought into the household through marriage, and the children produced through those marriages. Once a girl married, she would leave the zadruga of her parents for that of her husband. No member of the zadruga had any personal property other than clothes or the women's dowries.

Traditional Bulgarian society was strongly patriarchal. The zadruga leader, called the "old man" or the "lord of the house," had absolute power over his family and was treated with the utmost respect. He was considered the wisest because he had lived the longest. His duties included managing the purchase and sale of all household property; division of labor among zadruga members; and settling personal disputes. Older men within the household could offer advice, but the "old man" had the final word. Obligatory signs of familial respect included rising whenever he appeared and eating only after he had begun and before he had finished his meal. The "old man's" wife (or the senior woman if he were widowed) had similar authority over traditional women's activities such as tending the garden, observing holiday rituals, and sewing. The senior woman commanded similar respect from zadruga members, but she was never allowed to interfere in functions designated for men.

When a zadruga broke up (normally because it became too large for easy management), property was divided equally among its members. Before the twentieth century, many villages were formed as outgrowths of an enlarged zadruga. The largest of the extended family organizations in Bulgaria began breaking up in the 1840s. At that time, the Ottoman Empire instituted new inheritance laws that did not take zadruga property patterns into account. A second stage of fragmentation occurred as the expectation of automatic integration into the extended family gradually weakened in younger generations: sons began leaving the zadruga at the death of the "old man," and newly arrived wives failed to adjust to the traditional system. As a result of such pressures, smaller households began to proliferate in the nineteenth century.

The zadruga breakup accelerated after Bulgaria gained its independence and began instituting Western-style laws that gave women equal inheritance rights, although in many parts of Bulgaria women did not begin demanding their legal inheritance until well into the twentieth century. The disintegration of large family holdings gradually led to the impoverishment of the peasants as land ownership became more fragmented and scattered with each generation. The durability of the extended family was reflected in the 1934 census, however, which still listed a category of household size as "thirty-one and over." Furthermore, even after extended families broke up, many peasants continued to work cooperatively.

The familial system sometimes extended to include godparents and adopted brothers and sisters--unrelated individuals enjoying the same status as close relatives. Godparenthood included another set of traditional relationships that knit village society together. Godparents kept close ties with their godchildren throughout their lives, and the godparent/godchild relationship could be transferred from generation to generation. Godparents were treated with the utmost respect and had an important role in all important events in a godchild's life, beginning with baptism. The familial relationship was so strong that a taboo developed against the marriage of children related to the same family only through godparenthood.

After the decline of the zadruga, the patriarchal system continued to flourish in the smaller families, where husbands gained ownership of family property and all the patriarchal status the old men once had. The status of wives remained distinctly secondary. Upon marriage a woman still severed all ties with her family if her husband's family lived in another village. Thus, couples always looked forward to the birth of sons rather than daughters because sons always would remain family members. Men traditionally married between the ages of twenty and twenty-two; women, between eighteen and twenty. In areas where daughters were needed as laborers at home, marriage might be postponed until age twenty-five. Arranged marriages, common until the communist era, persisted in the most traditional villages until the 1960s.

Only in the twentieth century did men begin to consult their wives in family decisions. Until that time, wives were expected to give blind obedience to their husbands. A woman who dared question or interfere in a man's work was universally condemned. Women waited for a man to pass rather than crossing his path, and wives often walked with heavy loads while their husbands rode on horseback. The wife was responsible for all work inside the house and for helping her husband in the field as well.

Children typically began to share in household work at the age of five or six. At that age, girls began to do household work, and by age twelve they had usually mastered most of the traditional household skills. By age twelve or thirteen, boys were expected to do the same field work as adults. Alternatively, boys might begin learning a trade such as tailoring or blacksmithing at six or seven. As the size of farmland parcels diminished and field labor became less critical, more families sent children away from home to learn trades. Village boys apprenticed in cities sometimes became accustomed to city life and did not return to the village.

Family Life and Modern Society

Throughout the era of postwar communist modernization, family life remained one of the most important values in Bulgarian society. In a 1977 sociological survey, 95 percent of women responded that "one can live a full life only if one has a family." From the beginning of the twentieth century until the 1970s, the marriage rate in Bulgaria was stable at close to 10 percent per year. The rate was slightly higher just after the two world wars. The rate fell beginning in 1980, however, reaching 7 percent in 1989. Slightly more couples married in the cities than in the villages, a natural development considering the ageing of the village population. Most women married between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, most men between twenty and twenty-five. Village men and less educated city men typically married before they were twenty. The first men to marry often were those who had completed their military service, did not plan further education, and could support themselves financially. Those who continued their education often delayed marriage until their late twenties. In choosing their spouses, the less educated and those from more traditional regions of Bulgaria sought qualities most highly valued in traditional society: love of hard work, modesty, and good character. Among the educated classes, values such as personal respect, commonality of interests, and education were more often predominant in the choice of a spouse.

Until 1944 divorce was quite rare in Bulgaria, and great stigma was attached to all individuals who had divorced. After 1944 the divorce rate rose steadily until 1983, when it reached 16.3 percent. Between 1983 and 1986, however, the rate fell to 11.2 percent. In the 1980s, the divorce rate in the cities was more than twice that in the villages, in part because the village population was older. The divorce rate was especially high for couples married five years or less; that group accounted for 44 percent of all divorces. In 1991 the rate was increasing, however, for those married longer than five years.

Concerned about Bulgaria's low birth rate, the government issued new restrictions on divorce in its 1985 Family Code. The fee to apply for a divorce was more than three months' average salary, and every application for a divorce required an investigation. The grounds most often listed in a divorce application were infidelity, habitual drunkenness, and incompatibility.

In 1991 the average Bulgarian family included four people. Families of two to five people were common, whereas families of six or more were rare. In the larger families, moreover, the additional members usually included one or two of the couple's parents. In 1980 extended families spanning three or even four generations made up 17 percent of all households, indicating the persistence of the extended family tradition. Although the tradition was more prevalent in the villages of western and southern Bulgaria than in the cities, many urban newlyweds lived with their parents because they could not afford or obtain separate apartments.

Socialist Bulgaria greatly emphasized the emancipation of women. The 1971 constitution expressly stated that "all citizens of the People's Republic of Bulgaria are equal before the law, and no privileges or limitations of rights based on national, religious, sex, race, or educational differences are permitted" and that "women and men in the People's Republic of Bulgaria have the same rights." Bulgaria's Family Code also affirmed equal rights for men and women.

In 1988 Bulgaria's work force included an almost equal number of men (50.1 percent) and women (49.9 percent). By 1984 nearly 70 percent of working women surveyed said that they could not imagine life without their professional work, even if they did not need the pay. Only 9 percent of the women preferred being housewives. However, most men surveyed in 1988 cited economics as the reason for their wives to work, asserting that the wives should give up their work if they were needed at home.

Household chores remained primarily the responsibility of women, including most working wives. In 1990 the average working woman spent eight and one-half hours at her job and over four and one-half hours doing housework: cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes, ironing, mending, and tending the children. In many households, such tasks were still considered "women's work," to which husbands contributed little.

In their social planning, Bulgarian legislators usually viewed their country's women mainly as mothers, not as workers. Besides the laws passed in an effort to increase the country's birth rate, legislators passed laws giving certain privileges to women in the workplace, often keeping their reproductive capability in mind. Women were prohibited by law from doing heavy work or work which would adversely affect their health or their capacities as mothers. The list of prohibited jobs changed constantly, and women sought such jobs because they generally offered better pay and benefits. Depending on the type of work, women could retire after fifteen or twenty years, or after reaching age forty-five, fifty, or fiftyfive . Women who had raised five or more children could retire after fifteen years of work, regardless of their age or type of work. Men were generally offered retirement after working twenty-five years or reaching age fifty, fifty-five, or sixty. Some jobs were restricted to women unless no women were available. Without exception these were low-skill, low-paying jobs such as archivist, elevator operator, ticket seller, coat checker, and bookkeeper. Other jobs, such as secretary, stenographer, librarian, cashier, and cleaning person were considered "appropriate for women." Men in the workplace often expressed resentment of women in positions of authority.

Social Groups and Their Work

Postwar Bulgarian society was divided into three social groups, according to type of work. Workers held jobs in the "productive" manufacturing sector of the economy. Employees worked in "non-productive" service and education jobs. The third group was made up of agricultural workers. The intelligentsia, usually considered a subsector of the employee category, held professional or creative positions requiring specific qualifications. In 1987 nonagricultural workers made up 63 percent of the population; employees made up 18 percent, and agricultural workers made up 19 percent. The intelligentsia made up 13.5 percent of the total population in 1985. Both the nonagricultural worker and the employee category grew about 15 percent between the censuses of 1975 and 1985, but the number of agricultural workers dropped steadily through the 1970s and 1980s. Of all people in the work force in 1990, only 21.7 percent were rated as highly qualified. Sociologists warned that figure would have to more than double if Bulgaria were to become economically competitive with the West.

Most of those registered as workers had jobs in industry. Between 1975 and 1985, the number of workers in the machinebuilding , spare-parts and metal-processing industries increased. Other industries, such as the food industry, the lumber industry, and the fuel industry, lost workers. Most workers were comparatively young, with little education and few work qualifications. In 1990 some 66.8 percent of industrial workers had a basic education or less. However, young workers were valued because they were considered most capable of adapting to new technology--a critical requirement for upgrading Bulgaria's outdated industrial infrastructure.

In the 1980s, employment grew in the trade, supply, construction, and transportation sectors. But the sectors requiring primarily intellectual work grew the fastest: research and research services, education, and administration. After growing by 90 percent between 1965 and 1985, administration included 26 percent of all employees and was the largest division of this category. The housing sector was the only component of the employee category that lost jobs between 1975 and 1990.

The number of agricultural workers decreased markedly from 50 percent of all workers in 1965 to 20 percent in 1985. As agricultural production intensified, many agricultural workers were transferred to nonagricultural jobs. In the late 1980s, however, a shortage of agricultural workers occurred because so many people had left the villages. For this reason, labor-intensive farm activities such as harvesting required recruitment of brigades from schools and nonagricultural enterprises. Many of the remaining farm workers could not adapt to new technology. This lack of adaptation inhibited the modernization and mechanization of agricultural processes.

The democratization that followed the Zhivkov regime raised the problem of unemployment, unknown in Bulgaria after 1944. As of April 1991, some 124,000 Bulgarians were unemployed, with no sign of improvement in the midst of economic restructuring, enterprise shutdowns, and scarcity of raw materials. The highest unemployment rates occurred in Plovdiv and Sofia. Most unemployed persons were under age thirty, and over 60 percent were women. Job vacancies continued to decline in 1991, with most remaining opportunities in low-skilled jobs or hard physical labor. Persons with the highest level of education, such as engineers, economists, and teachers, were least likely to find suitable positions. In 1990 the lack of skilled professional positions spurred a "brain drain" emigration that further threatened Bulgaria's ability to compete on technologically oriented world markets. In the meantime, the country's economy had lost its protected position as a member of the defunct Comecon, putting more pressure on the domestic labor force.

Because the national welfare system could only accommodate those who lost their jobs because of enterprise shutdown, in 1990 the Bulgarian government began seeking ways to create more jobs. It considered rewarding businesses that added shifts or offered parttime or seasonal work, and it encouraged development of small business. One proposed solution, replacing working pensioners with young unemployed workers, was unworkable because enterprises found it less expensive to continue hiring pensioners.


Between independence and the communist era, the Bulgarian government had used its social welfare funds mainly for government workers, army officers, white-collar workers, craftsmen, and tradesmen. The 1949 social welfare law founded a new social welfare system that endured into the 1990s. The new system greatly expanded the categories of people eligible and the amounts they could receive. The social welfare system in 1991 was largely based on the 1951 section of the Labor Code which regulated monetary compensation and supplements, and the 1957 Law on Pensions. Both laws were revised countless times and no longer agree with each other. The National Assembly delayed creation of a new law until the new constitution was ratified in the summer of 1991.

In 1991 two-thirds of Bulgaria's social welfare budget was spent on pensions; the rest went for monthly child-care allowances and other programs. As of late 1990, the Bulgarian government provided over 4 billion leva per year to 2,300,000 pensioners-- almost one fourth of the entire population. To keep pace with the rising cost of living in the transition to a Western economic system, the government had to index pensions several times in 1990. By the beginning of 1991, some 165 leva were being added monthly to every pension, casting doubt on the long-term possibility of maintaining the program. The ratio of Bulgaria's pensioners to its total population was the largest in the world, almost twice that of most Western countries. Because the society was aging, some experts declared that workers should be encouraged to remain in the work force and participate actively in society much longer than had been the practice under the communist regimes.

In early 1991, in a further effort to keep pace with the rising cost of living, the Council of Ministers established a new minimum wage and new subsidy levels for all social welfare programs. Anyone who had received the old monthly minimum wage of 165 leva would now be compensated 270 leva to provide for a new minimum wage of 435 leva. This minimum wage was subsequently changed three times in 1991, peaking at 518 leva. The 1991 program also gave 242 leva to pregnant or nursing women and to those on temporary workers' disability. Child-care compensation for households with children under three years of age was raised to 90 leva, with a monthly supplement of 100 leva per child. In 1991 several cost-of-living increases were added to those categories as well. In 1991 unemployment compensation was set at 270 leva per month; students over eighteen received 130 leva per month; graduate students, 230 leva. Those payments were funded from the state budget and from enterprise salary budgets, neither of which seemed adequate to keep pace with rapidly changing prices in 1991.

Under socialism all citizens who had been awarded the title "active fighter against fascism and capitalism" for military or civilian contributions in World War II received a large pension and special privileges such as free public transportation, free medical prescriptions, and free vacations at special resorts. After much controversy, those privileges were abolished in 1990.


Bulgaria - Health

Until the 1920s, peasants relied on traditional medicine and went to a doctor or hospital only as a last resort. Traditional healers believed that many illnesses were caused by evil spirits (baiane) and could therefore be treated with magic, with chants against the spirits, with prayers, or by using medicinal herbs. The knowledge of healing herbs was highly valued in village society. For healing one could also drink, wash, or bathe in water from mineral springs, some of which were considered holy. Even in postcommunist Bulgaria, some resorted to herbal medicine or to persons with reputed extrasensory healing powers. Herbalists and "extrasenses" resurged in popularity in Bulgaria after the overthrow of Zhivkov. Because of the skepticism of conventional doctors, little research was done on the validity of traditional herbal medicine, but in 1991 doctors began to consider rating skilled herbalists as qualified specialists.

Beginning in 1944, Bulgaria made significant progress in increasing life expectancy and decreasing infant mortality rates. In 1986 Bulgaria's life expectancy was 68.1 years for men and 74.4 years for women. In 1939 the mortality rate for children under one year had been 138.9 per 1,000; by 1986 it was 18.2 per 1,000, and in 1990 it was 14 per 1,000, the lowest rate in Eastern Europe. The proportion of long-lived people in Bulgaria was quite large; a 1988 study cited a figure of 52 centenarians per 1 million inhabitants, most of whom lived in the Smolyan, Kurdzhali, and Blagoevgrad regions.

The steady demographic aging of the Bulgarian population was a concern, however. In the 1980s, the number of children in the population decreased by over 100,000. The prenatal mortality rate for 1989 was 11 per 1,000, twice that in West European countries. In 1989 the mortality rate for children of ages one to fourteen was twice as great as in Western Europe. The mortality rate for village children was more than twice the rate for city children. However, in 1990 some Bulgarian cities had mortality rates as low as 8.9 per 1,000, which compared favorably with the rates in Western Europe.

Poor conditions in maternity wards and shortages of baby needs worried new and prospective mothers. Hospital staff shortages meant that doctors and nurses were overworked and babies received scant attention. Expensive neonatal equipment was not available in every hospital, and transferral to better-equipped facilities was rare. In 1990 the standard minimum weight to ensure survival at birth was 1,000 grams, compared with the World Health Organization standard of 500 grams.

The number of medical doctors, nurses, and dentists in Bulgaria increased during the 1980s. Bulgaria had 27,750 doctors in 1988, almost 6,000 more than in 1980. This meant one doctor for every 323 Bulgarians. Some 257 hospitals were operating in 1990, with 105 beds per 1,000 people.

Like other aspects of society, health services underwent significant reform after 1989. In 1990 health officials declared that the socialist system of polyclinics in sectors serving 3,000 to 4,000 people did not satisfy the public's need for more complex diagnostic services. They claimed the system was too centralized and bureaucratic, provided too few incentives for health personnel, and lacked sufficient modern equipment and supplies. Thereafter, new emphasis was placed on allowing free choice of a family doctor and providing more general practitioners to treat families on an ongoing basis. Beginning in 1990, Bulgaria began accepting donations of money and medicine from Western countries. During the reform period, even common medicines such as aspirin were sometimes in short supply. Prices for medicines skyrocketed. Shortages of antibiotics, analgesics, dressings, sutures, and disinfectants were chronic.

In November 1989, the Council of Ministers decreed that doctors could be self-employed during their time off from their assigned clinics. Doctors could work for pay either in health facilities or in patients' homes, but with significant restrictions: when acting privately, they could not certify a patient's health or disability, issue prescriptions for free medicine, perform outpatient surgery or abortions, conduct intensive diagnostic tests, use anesthetics, or serve patients with infectious or venereal diseases. In 1990 the National Assembly extended the right of private practice to all qualified medical specialists, and private health establishments and pharmacies were legalized. Church-sponsored facilities were included in this provision. The 1990 law did not provide for a health insurance system, however, and establishment of such a system was not a high legislative priority for the early 1990s.

In 1991 the government created a National Health Council to be financed by 2.5 billion leva from the state budget plus funds from donors and payments for medical services. The goal of the new council was to create a more autonomous health system. Also in 1991, the Ministry of Health set up a Supreme Medical Council and a Pharmaceutics Council to advise on proposed private health centers, pharmacies, and laboratories and to regulate the supply and distribution of medicine.

In 1988 the top three causes of death in Bulgaria were cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and respiratory illnesses. An expert estimated that 88 percent of all deaths were caused by "socially significant diseases" that resulted from an unhealthy lifestyle and were thus preventable. Strokes, the most prevalent cause of death, killed a higher percentage of the population in Bulgaria than anywhere else in the world. In 1985 nearly 58,000 Bulgarians suffered strokes, and nearly 24,000 of them died. The mortality rate for strokes was especially high in northern Bulgaria, where it sometimes exceeded 300 fatalities per 100,000 persons. In villages the rate was three times as high as in the cities. Doctors cited unhealthy eating habits, smoking, alcohol abuse, and stress as lifestyle causes of the high stroke rate.

In 1990 about 35 percent of Bulgarian women and 25 percent of men were overweight. Sugar provided an average of 22 percent of the calories in Bulgarian diets, twice as much as the standard for balanced nutrition. Another 35 percent of average calories came from animal fat, also twice as much as the recommended amount. That percentage was likely much higher in the villages, where many animal products were made at home. Modernization of the food supply generally led to increased consumption of carbohydrates and fats. In contrast, the traditional Bulgarian diet emphasized dairy products, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Large quantities of bread were always a key element of the Bulgarian diet. Average salt consumption was also very high. In 1990 the average Bulgarian consumed 14.5 kilograms of bread, 4.4 kilograms of meat, 12.6 kilograms of milk and milk products, 15 eggs, and 15 kilograms of fruits and vegetables per month.

In the 1980s, Bulgaria ranked tenth in the world in per capita tobacco consumption. Tobacco consumption was growing, especially among young people. Each Bulgarian consumed 7.34 liters of alcohol per month, not including huge amounts of homemade alcoholic beverages. Between 1962 and 1982, recorded alcohol consumption increased 1.6 times.

In 1990 an estimated 35 percent of the population risked serious health problems because of environmental pollution. In the most polluted areas, the sickness rate increased by as much as twenty times in the 1980s. By 1990, pollution was rated the fastest-growing cause of "socially significant diseases," particularly for respiratory and digestive disorders. Doctors in the smelting center of Srednogorie found that the incidence of cancer, high blood pressure, and dental disorders had increased significantly in the 1980s.

Pollution had an especially adverse effect on the immune systems of children. In the first few years of the Giurgiu plant's operation, the number of deformed children born across the Danube in Ruse increased 144 percent. From 1985 to 1990, this number increased from 27.5 to 39.7 per 1,000. Miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature, low-weight births doubled during that period. The infant mortality rate in Srednogorie was three times the national average in 1990. Excessive lead in the soil and water at Kurdzhali had caused a great increase in skin and infectious diseases in children there. In 1990 environmental authorities named the village of Dolno Ezerovo, near Burgas, the "sickest village in Bulgaria" because over 60 percent of its children suffered from severe respiratory illnesses and allergies.

In 1987 Bulgarian health authorities instituted limited mandatory testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). All prospective marriage partners, all pregnant women, and all transportation workers arriving from outside Bulgaria were required to be tested. Hemophiliacs, Bulgarian navy sailors who had traveled abroad after 1982, and students and workers visiting vacation resorts also fell under this rule. As of October 1989, some 2.5 million people in Bulgaria, including about 66,000 foreigners, had been tested for HIV, and 81 Bulgarians were diagnosed as HIV positive. According to government figures, six of that number had contracted AIDS. Foreigners diagnosed as HIV positive were ordered to leave the country. Bulgaria estimated it would spend over US$4 million to treat AIDS and HIV-positive patients in 1991.

Bulgaria - Education

Before the National Revival of the mid-nineteenth century, education usually took the form of memorization of the liturgy and other religious material. Supporters of the National Revival movement were instrumental in establishing and supporting Bulgarian schools in the cities--first for boys, and later for girls as well. These activists also introduced the chitalishta. Often located next to a school, the chitalishta served as community cultural centers as well as reading rooms. The first schools, which began opening in the early nineteenth century, often did not go beyond a basic education; students wishing to continue their education had to go abroad.

The educational system established after Bulgaria gained its independence retained the same basic structure through 1989. The 1878 Temporary Law on National Schools established free compulsory education in primary school for both sexes. The schools were designed to teach reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. In practice, not everyone received that education, but the law gave the villages an incentive to open new schools. By the turn of the century, one-third of all Bulgarian villages had primary schools. In the early days, the immediate demand for a large number of teachers meant that many new teachers had little more education than their students. Later reforms specified a seven-year standard education with a curriculum based on a West European model. Some peasants, especially uneducated ones, withdrew their children from school because they believed the classes were unrelated to peasant life. This led to the offering of textbooks and prizes as an incentive for students from poorer families.

Communist rule in Bulgaria brought forth a new approach to education as a means of indoctrinating Marxist theory and communist values. Literacy was promoted so that the communist-controlled press could be disseminated throughout society. New classes for both adults and children aimed at providing as many as possible with a high-school education and abolishing illiteracy. Schools switched their focus from liberal arts to technical training and introduced a curriculum modeled on that of the Soviet Union. Russian language study was introduced for all, from kindergartners to adults who had already completed their education. Copies of Pravda, the primary newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, were distributed even in isolated villages. After the overthrow of Zhivkov, however, English became the most studied foreign language in Bulgaria, and the study of Russian declined dramatically.

In 1979 Zhivkov introduced a sweeping educational reform, claiming that Marxist teachings on educating youth were still not being applied completely. Zhivkov therefore created Unified Secondary Polytechnical Schools (Edinna sredna politekhnicheska uchilishta, ESPU), in which all students would receive the same general education. The system united previously separate specialized middle schools in a single, twelve-grade program heavily emphasizing technical subjects. In 1981 a national program introduced computers to most of the ESPUs. The change produced a chaotic situation in which teaching plans and programs had to be completely overhauled and new textbooks issued to reflect the new educational emphasis. This project proved unworkable, and by 1985 new specialized schools again were being established.

The fall of Zhivkov resulted in a complete restructuring of the country's educational system. In retrospect Bulgarian educators recognized that the socialist way of educating was not only bureaucratic, boring, and impersonal. It also led to disregard for the rights of the individual, intolerance of the opinions of others, and aggressive behavior. The centralized system with its regional hierarchies was therefore scrapped in favor of a system of educational councils in which every 400 teachers could elect a delegate to the National Council of Teachers. The first goal of the new organization was to depoliticize the schools in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Education.

In 1991 the Bulgarian educational system consisted of three types of schools: state, municipal, and private (including religious). The grade levels were primary (first to fourth grade), basic (fifth to seventh grade), and secondary (eighth to twelfth grade). Children began first grade at age six or seven and were required to attended school until age sixteen. Parents also had the option of enrolling their children in kindergarten at age five. Secondary school students had the choice of studying for three years at professional-vocational schools or for four years at technical schools or general high schools. Religious schools operated only on the high-school level. Specialized high schools taught foreign languages, mathematics, and music; admittance to them was by special entrance exams. Special programs for gifted and talented children began as early as the fifth grade. Special schools also operated for handicapped children. Children suffering from chronic illnesses could receive their schooling in a hospital or sanatorium.

Prior to the postcommunist reform era, about 25,000 students dropped out every year before reaching their sixteenth birthday; another 25,000 failed to advance to the next grade. Under the new system, parents could be fined 500 to 1,000 leva if their children failed to attend school; fines also were levied for pupils retained in grade for an extra year.

Public opinion on the educational reform focused mainly on depolitization. By the 1990-91 school year, new textbooks had been introduced in many subjects, but many of them were not completely free of socialist rhetoric. A first-grade mathematics textbook published in 1990 contained the following exercise: "Count how many words there are in this sentence: 'I am grateful to the Party, for it leads my country to beautiful, radiant life and vigilantly protects us from war.'" A newly published music book contained songs about the party, a communist youth organization, and Lenin. Many teachers likewise continued to espouse the communist rhetoric in which their profession had been long and firmly indoctrinated. In late 1990, about 50,000 Sofia University students demonstrated against poor education and against continued requirements to attend courses in Marxism. Their protest caused the university to eliminate compulsory political indoctrination courses. The 1991 Law on Public Education declared that "no political activity is allowed in the system of public education."

Depolitization was expected to be a slow process because of the extent to which the schools had been politicized before 1990. At the end of 1990, over 90 percent of all teachers were still members of the Bulgarian Socialist (formerly Communist) Party. For this reason, the Law on Public Education prohibited teachers from becoming members of political parties for a period of three years, beginning in 1991. Because the Zhivkov regime had tinkered often with Bulgaria's educational system, longtime teachers had developed a cynicism toward reform of any type. This attitude hampered the removal of the old socialist structures from the educational system.

Some students married and began families while they were still in school, and two-student families were not uncommon. Such families often depended on help from parents because of their low income and because of a shortage of student family housing. By 1990 most Bulgarian students worked in their free time, unlike their predecessors in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Reform also reached higher education. In 1990 a new law on academic freedom emphasized the concept of an intellectual market in which universities, teachers, and students must maintain high performance levels to stay competitive. The law gave every institution of higher learning the right to manage its teaching and research activities without government interference. This right included control over curriculum, number of students, standards for student admissions and teacher hirings, training and organization of faculty, and the level of contact with other institutions of higher learning in Bulgaria and abroad. Students received the right to choose their own professors. The higher education law was criticized for withholding students' rights and because the legislature had failed to consult students in the law's formulation.

In 1991 experts evaluated the state university system as weak in critically needed technical fields of study. The availability of interested students was also questioned. In the 1990-91 school year, no graduate students with enterprise scholarships majored in subjects such as computer systems, artificial intelligence systems, or ecology and environmental protection. Graduate programs in critical nontechnical fields such as management economics, marketing, production management, and finance also had no students.

After the overthrow of Zhivkov, France and Germany made early commitments to help Bulgaria carry out educational reforms. In 1991 the United States began planning a new American college in Blagoevgrad, where students would be taught in English using American educational methods. The first 200 students were to include 160 Bulgarians, 20 students from neighboring European countries, and 20 Americans majoring in Balkan studies. The University of Maine was to supply the teachers. Plans called for business and economics to be the major areas of concentration. Affordability was a potential barrier to participation in this plan by Bulgarian students; the cost was low by American standards, but far above the average Bulgarian's price range. And the tuition-free Bulgarian university system was expected to lure many qualified students from the new university. Nevertheless, Western education assistance was an important symbolic step in moving the social institutions of Bulgaria into the European mainstream, from which they had been isolated for forty-five years.

Bulgaria - The Economy

FROM THE END OF WORLD WAR II until widespread revolution in Eastern Europe swept aside most communist governments in 1989, the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) exerted complete economic control in Bulgaria. The party's ascent to power in 1944 had marked the beginning of radical economic change for Bulgaria. After World War II, Bulgaria followed the Soviet model of economic development more closely than any other East Bloc country. The new regime shifted much of the labor force from the countryside to the city to provide workers for new large-scale industrial complexes. At the same time, the focus of Bulgarian international trade shifted from Central Europe to Eastern Europe.

These new policies resulted in impressive initial rates of growth. But this was partly because the country was starting from a low level of economic development. Throughout the postwar period, economic progress also was assisted substantially by a level of internal and external political stability unseen in other East European countries during the same period and unprecedented in modern Bulgarian history.

Nonetheless, beginning in the early 1960s low capital and labor productivity and expensive material inputs plagued the Bulgarian economy. With disappointing rates of growth came a high degree of economic experimentation. This experimentation took place within the socialist economic framework, however, and it never approached a market-based economy.

In the late 1980s, continuing poor economic performance brought new economic hardship. By that time, the misdirection and irrationality of BCP economic policies had become quite clear. Finally, on November 10, 1989, a popular movement toppled Todor Zhivkov, long-time party leader and head of state; orthodox communist dictatorship ended. But unlike the communist parties in most other East European states, the BCP retained majority power after the transition in Bulgaria by winning the first free national elections in June 1990. By that time, however, changes in party leadership and reduction of its power base permitted economic reorientation toward a market system. This difficult transition combined with political instability to seriously worsen economic conditions during 1990.

Bulgaria's success in transforming its economy from central planning to a market-based system remained unmeasured in 1991. Undoubtedly, any form of Bulgarian government faced a daunting task at that point. Because its financial and productive resources had been allocated ineffectively for many years, the economy urgently needed major reforms. The manufacturing sector was uncompetitive in world markets, was technologically outmoded, and consumed energy and materials at enormously wasteful rates. The agricultural sector, once the most productive sector of the Bulgarian economy, had degenerated to the point that the country could scarcely feed its own people. A new trade regime with traditional partners would strain already low hard currency reserves, restricting access to raw materials and sophisticated technology. External and internal debt were enormous when Zhivkov fell. Inflation was high, environmental problems were severe, and skilled labor was insufficient.

Several factors complicate the quantification of socialist economies from a capitalist perspective. Prices in socialist economies serve primarily an accounting function; they do not reflect relative scarcities and demand for a product as they do in capitalist economies. Hence, comparisons of value indicators are difficult. In addition, some socialist statistics simply are calculated differently. For example, the socialist equivalent of national income, referred to as net material product (NMP), excludes the value of most services, including government, that are unrelated to physical production.

Accurate assessment of Bulgarian economic policies and performance under communist regimes also is complicated by incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading statistics. Some Western economists have attempted to extrapolate data based on a combination of Bulgarian statistics, various economic assumptions, and statistical techniques.

Bulgaria - The Economy - RESOURCES

Bulgaria is relatively poor in both quantity and quality of natural resources. This situation has been an important factor in planning the national economy and foreign trade. The primary indigenous mineral resources are coal, copper, lead, zinc, and iron ore. Coal and Minerals

Lignite, by far the most prevalent form of coal, is mined chiefly in the Maritsa-zapad (West Maritsa) and Maritsa-iztok (East Maritsa) sections of the Maritsa Basin. The main source of other grades of brown coal is the Bobov Dol deposit in the Rila Mountains of southwest Bulgaria. There is little bituminous coal in the country. Copper is mined chiefly in the Sredna (central hills) in the western Balkans, and at Chelopets in south-central Bulgaria. There are also large deposits of lead, zinc, and iron ore, the largest of which are at Kremikovtsi. Bulgaria became self-sufficient in the production of pig iron in 1987. Manganese, uranium, gold, salt, and chromium also are mined. Small amounts of oil are extracted offshore in the Black Sea and inland near Pleven.

Agricultural Resources

In 1987 approximately 56 percent of Bulgaria's total land mass of 11,055,000 hectares was used for agriculture. Of that total, 3,825,000 hectares, or 35 percent of the total land mass, was arable. Although natural conditions are very good for some crops, not all of the land is ideal for agricultural purposes. Large portions of the western uplands are suitable only for tobacco and vegetable cultivation. Grain fields on the rolling plain to the north of the Balkan Mountains receive limited rainfall and experience periodic droughts. Environmental Problems

Although Bulgaria has had serious environmental problems for some time, they were not openly discussed until the overthrow of Zhivkov. Ecological groups were at the forefront of anti-Zhivkov demonstrations in 1989, when an all-European ecology conference focused world attention on Sofia. After acknowledging the problem, post-Zhivkov policy makers rated degradation of the air, water, and soil as one of the most serious problems facing Bulgaria. In April 1990, the Ministry of Public Health declared the cities of Asenovgrad, Dimitrovgrad, Kurdzhali, Panagyurishte, Plovdiv, Ruse, and Vratsa, ecologically endangered regions and announced that residents of these regions would be given medical examinations. But after forty years of touting heavy industry as the pathway to national advancement, Bulgaria could not easily remedy the intense pollution of chemical plants in Ruse and Dimitrovgrad or the copper smelters at Srednogorie without further damaging its already shaky economy. Likewise, the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant on the Maritsa River, provider of over 20 percent of the country's electric power but a persistent emitter of radiation, could not be closed without severe impact on the economy. Radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl' accident in the Soviet Union also remained an environmental hazard in 1991.

Bulgaria - The Economy - LABOR FORCE

Because of a low birth rate, labor shortages began to appear in Bulgaria in the 1980s. Then in 1989, deportation of 310,000 ethnic Turks created critical shortages in certain economic sectors. The dislocation caused by the large-scale economic reform that began in 1990 introduced high rates of unemployment and social insecurity to a system that nominally had no unemployment under the central planning regime. A period of protracted readjustment of labor to enterprise needs was expected in 1991. Factors of Availability

The total labor force in Bulgaria was 4.078 million in 1988. Of that total, 35.9 percent were classified as industrial workers, 19 percent as agricultural workers, and 18.9 percent as service workers. In 1985 some 56 percent of the population was of working age (16 to 59 years old for men and 16 to 54 for women); 22.9 percent were under working age, and 21.1 percent were over working age. These figures indicate that the population had aged demographically since 1946, when 30 percent of the population was under the working age and only 12 percent were over. Small growth rates and occasional declines of the Bulgarian labor force increasingly inhibited economic growth in the 1980s. The meager growth in the labor force was due primarily to a birthrate that began declining before World War II.

Declining population growth did not affect Bulgarian economic planning and performance for a number of years. In the 1950s and 1960s, the expanding labor requirements of industrial growth were accommodated by a steady influx of peasant labor from the countryside and by the nationalization of artisan shops in 1951. This migration slowed, however, and complaints of an industrial labor shortage were common by the late 1960s. The situation was exacerbated in 1974 when the government reduced the work week from 48 to 42.5 hours. By the early 1980s, Bulgaria's urban working-age population had begun to decline in absolute terms. Then in May 1989, ethnic strife caused thousands of ethnic Turks to leave Bulgaria for Turkey. In August Turkish authorities finally closed the border, but only after 310,000 ethnic Turks had left the country, taking with them a substantial chunk of the Bulgarian work force. In addition, a significant "brain drain" threatened in 1990 when large numbers of young, highly educated Bulgarians applied to leave the country. In the first four months of 1990, at a time when the country desperately needed its professional class to restructure society and the economy, 550,000 such applications were received.

Labor statistics reflect a distinct change of economic priorities from agriculture to industry under communist regimes. From 1948 to 1988, the shares of labor in industry and agriculture shifted dramatically. Industry's share rose from 7.9 to 38 percent, while agriculture's share fell from 82.1 to 19.3 percent. Among other sectors, in 1988 construction, transportation and communications, and trade respectively accounted for 8.3, 6.7, and 8.7 percent of employment.

Labor and Economic Reform

Under communist rule, unemployment officially was nonexistent. Like many other Soviet-style economies, however, the Bulgarian system included much underemployment and hoarding of surplus workers, particularly in industry. While in power, the BCP set wage and work norms. Average annual earnings rose from 2,185 leva in 1980 to 2,953 leva in 1988. Earnings were highest in the research, state administration, construction, transport, and finance sectors, in that order. Agriculture and forestry were among the lowest paid sectors.

After the overthrow of Zhivkov, reasonable use of industrial capacity was expected to maintain a tight labor market for the foreseeable future because the labor force had ceased to grow. Women already accounted for approximately 50 percent of the labor force in 1988; therefore, little additional growth was expected from that part of the population. Similarly, little growth was expected from among voluntarily employed pensioners and invalids. However, the tight labor supply was not the most pressing concern of the first post-Zhivkov economic planners. The economic transformation from centralized planning to a market economy meant increased influence by market factors on wage and unemployment rates in the future. This transformation also made high unemployment likely as state enterprises closed and generation of goods and services shifted to an expanded private sector. But this intermediate dislocation was thought necessary to achieve correlation between wages and productivity.

Unemployment, which stood at 72,000 at the beginning of 1991, was expected to jump to at least 250,000 by the end of that year because of the planned transition to a market structure. In 1990 the interim government of Petur Mladenov created a national labor exchange to assist in placing unemployed workers. Unemployment assistance remained a state responsibility, but the state had very little money for this purpose in 1991. Plans called for eventual contribution by private employers to a designated unemployment fund.

Bulgaria - The Economy - ECONOMIC STRUCTURE

Until late 1989, Bulgaria had a command economy based on centralized planning rather than on market forces. In such a system, crucial economic decisions such as allocation of output, rates of expansion of various sectors, values of goods and services, and the exchange rate of the national currency were made administratively, not by the market. Bulgaria's faithful adherence to the Soviet model of economic planning included rapid industrialization, large-scale investments, and other resource allocation to heavy industry at the expense of light industry and agriculture, higher rates of spending for capital investment than for consumption purchases, and forced nationalization of industry and collectivization of agriculture.

The Centrally Planned Economy

Proponents of centrally planned economies (CPEs) maintained that the advantages of such systems far outweighed the disadvantages. They believed that in many respects economic competition wasted society's resources. In other words, what Marx called the "anarchy of the market" led producers and consumers to expend resources in activities that became unnecessary when they worked in harmony rather than in competition. Planning could give priority to social goals over economic ones. Should the government decide that the development of health professionals was important to society, for example, it could earmark funds for that purpose. Proponents of CPEs also claimed that they could insulate their economies from the ups and downs of the business cycle, a phenomenon which Western economies never have been able to avoid. Theoretically, CPEs were designed to be immune to economic (and social) losses such as reduced output and unemployment associated with economic downturns. (As their national economies became more interrelated with international markets, however, CPE proponents admitted the difficulty of isolating themselves from swings in world economic conditions.) Another theoretical advantage was that economic decisions could be based on long-range goals because the financial losses of any individual enterprise or industry could be offset by profits in other areas of the economy. And, since the organization of the entire industrial and agricultural base was determined administratively, economies of scale could easily be incorporated into the planning process.

Western economists were generally critical of the CPE, however. Their criticisms had two essential components. First, central economic planners often were unable to plan an economy efficiently; and second, even when they could plan well, they were unable to achieve the goals they planned. These general assertions proved true regarding specific aspects of Bulgaria's command economy, and they had ramifications for efforts to reorganize that economy in the 1990s.

The CPE induced enterprises to seek low production targets, concealing productive capacity and never overfulfilling the plan by too much, lest higher targets be set in the next plan. The result was underutilized resources. Plans tended to stress quantity over quality. Simply requiring a particular level of output was insufficient if that output were of such poor quality that no one bought it, or if there were no need for such a product in the beginning. The consumer had no effective control over the producer when quality was low, and the artificial price structure prevented price signals from alerting producers to consumer preferences. Also, because enterprises were judged on their fulfillment of the plan, producers geared production levels for satisfying the plan, not consumers.

The CPE could induce technical progress from above, but it could not stimulate it from below. The plan discouraged enterprise innovation, because innovation meant interrupting current production, hence jeopardizing plan fulfillment. The system also encouraged waste and hoarding of fixed and working capital, and the wage system failed to encourage workers to work harder or managers to economize on labor. Under Zhivkov Bulgaria attempted to deal with these problems by a series of reforms in both industry and agriculture. These reforms included alternately centralizing and decentralizing economic management; adding and deleting economic ministries and committees; revising the economic indicators for plan fulfillment; and encouraging or discouraging elements of private enterprise. Despite such experimentation, however, Bulgaria remained faithful to the general Soviet model for over four decades. In the years after the end of communist rule, the CPE remained the predominant structural element in the Bulgarian economy, especially in large enterprise management.

The Planning System

Prior to 1990, the planning hierarchy in Bulgaria included several levels. The ultimate economic authority was the BCP. The party determined general economic policies, identified economic reforms and their structure, and monitored economic activity. Planning and control were the responsibility of the Council of Ministers, which was roughly equivalent to a Western cabinet. The most important planning committee within the Council of Ministers was the State Planning Committee (SPC). Within the Council of Ministers were specialized economic ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and various governmental committees and commissions. The composition and authority of the ministries underwent frequent change. In 1986, for example, six ministries with economic powers were eliminated and five cabinet-level "voluntary associations" were formed. The aftermath of these changes, however, showed few new power relationships. In the later Zhivkov years, the prime responsibilities of ministry-level agencies included forecasting development of their industries, assessing development bottlenecks, and generally overseeing state development policy. However, the ministries were not to participate actively in planning. That was a function of the associations.

The associations, also known as trusts, were an intermediary organization between the ministries and the lowest level of the planning hierarchy, the enterprise. The association integrated production, research and development, design, construction, and foreign trade functions. Unlike associations in the Soviet Union, which were merely an intermediary link in the chain of economic command, Bulgarian associations retained several essential decision-making prerogatives and were in direct contact with centers of economic power such as the SPC, the Ministry of Finance, and the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB). At the bottom of the economic hierarchy, enterprises were distinct economic entities that operated under an independent accounting system. They were expected to earn a planned amount of profit, a portion of which went to the state as a profits tax.

In the Bulgarian command economy, almost all economic activity was directed toward plan fulfillment. Economic directives were outlined extensively in the plans, which were not merely guidelines but binding, legal documents. The best known of these was the FiveYear Plan, although planning was done for longer and shorter periods as well. Most important for the day-to-day operations of enterprises were the annual and monthly plans.

One of the most important tasks of central planning was what was referred to as material balances--planning for correspondence between supply and demand of goods. At the draft plan stage, this required that supply (planned output, available stocks, and planned imports) equal demand (domestic demand and exports) for every industry. When demand exceeded supply, planners could increase planned output, increase imports, or reduce domestic demand. The SPC usually favored the last alternative. This manipulation limited the flow of inputs to low-priority industrial branches, which most often made consumer items, resulting in shortages of those goods.

The party began the planning process by providing priorities and output targets for critical commodities to the SPC, which reconciled them with required inputs. A draft plan then was created by a process of negotiation and information exchange up and down the planning hierarchy. After negotiating with the SPC on targets and resources and formulating specific guidelines, the associations then negotiated with their individual enterprises to establish final figures. The output targets then went back to the SPC for a final negotiation with the associations.

The final version of the plan was submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval or modification, after which the approved targets were sent down the hierarchy to the individual firms. Thus enterprises were informed of their binding norms for a planning period, including volume and mix of output, procurement limits, level of state investment, foreign currency earnings, foreign currency limits for imports, and wage rates. An important element of the plan fulfillment stage was manipulation of resources by ministries and the SPC to ensure fulfillment of priority targets and minimize bottlenecks. Occasionally, reforms allowed enterprises rather than higher echelons to make many of these decisions. For most of the communist era, however, this was not the case.


Bulgarian postwar economic development can be divided into four phases: the revolutionary period (1944 through 1948); the development of socialism (1949 through 1960); the age of intermittent reform (1961 through 1989); and the transformation to a market economy (beginning in 1990). Postwar Economic Policy

After the BCP came to power in 1944, the transition to socialism began slowly. Before World War II, the Bulgarian economy had been agrarian and decentralized, so the industrial base was relatively undeveloped. Following the Soviet model, the BCP first sought control over as many facets of the economy as possible. Thus, restructuring included collectivizing agriculture, confiscating private enterprises, nationalizing industry, and enacting various fiscal and monetary measures.

In the 1940s, the BCP viewed the agricultural sector as a major obstacle to the transformation of the economy. Although collectivization proceeded slowly at first, state power in the agricultural markets was quickly established by nationalizing internal and foreign commodity trade. To accomplish this, the BCP used the wartime organizations that had overseen distribution of major crops.

Industry continued to decentralize from 1944 until 1947. In those years, the majority of labor leaving the military and the farms entered small factories and unmechanized artisan shops. These small enterprises were quite the opposite of the modern, largescale industry that the BCP was committed to creating. Small enterprises also competed with state enterprises for scarce raw materials and skilled labor. Labor discipline also was a major problem during this phase; unexcused absences, sporadic strikes, and high labor turnover plagued the new state enterprises. In September 1947, a decision to accelerate the nationalization of industry was taken at a meeting of the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform). As a result, in December 1947 trained groups of party members entered all the approximately 6,100 remaining private enterprises, seized their capital, and announced their immediate nationalization. This act effectively erased Bulgaria's small class of private industrial entrepreneurs. Also in 1947, government monopolies were established over all items of retail trade. By the end of 1948, 85 percent of the means of production were run by the state.

Although Bulgaria had few private banks when the BCP came to power, by December 1947 those few were merged with the BNB. The BCP also enacted a series of fiscal and monetary measures to gain control over Bulgaria's financial resources by the end of 1947. Monetary reform froze all bank accounts over 20,000 leva, and a tax was imposed on the remaining accounts. These actions reduced the money supply by two-thirds. The new policy also levied high taxes on private income and high profits to absorb any potential new deposits.

This first phase of postwar economic development included a tentative Two-Year Plan (1947-48) that foreshadowed later policies. Aimed principally at speedy recovery from wartime stress, the program began large-scale industrialization and electrification; it sought to raise industrial production by 67 percent and agricultural production by 34 percent over prewar levels. In the event, the first plan disproportionately allocated funds away from agriculture and encountered severe organizational and technical problems, mistakes by inexperienced management, and shortages of energy and production equipment--problems that would continue in ensuing development phases.

The First Five-Year Plans

The next phase of Bulgarian postwar economic development included the First Five-Year Plan. This plan made an important contribution to the pattern of Bulgaria's socialist economic development by creating the institutional apparatus for long-term industrial planning. Already in 1945, the wartime Directorate for Civilian Mobilization had been replaced by a Supreme Economic Council that extended the previous organization's authority over resource allocation. Now the state's existing economic ministries were subdivided into one ministry for each branch of production. By January 1948, a separate and politically powerful State Production Committee (SPC) was established. By October 1948, representatives of the new SPC and the existing Main Directorate for Statistics had set out the criteria for calculating plan fulfillment.

The announced targets for the First Five-Year Plan (1949-53) confirmed the economic priorities indicated by the previous TwoYear Plan. Agriculture was to receive 17 percent of new investment and industry 47 percent. Gross industrial output was to grow by 119 percent, primarily because of a 220 percent increase in heavy industry. Light industry and agriculture were to raise output by 75 and 59 percent, respectively. The rapid collectivization and mechanization of agriculture was expected to achieve the last target while freeing labor for industry, construction, and transportation. Because about 25 percent of the country's national income was invested in the economic infrastructure, the standard of living remained low.

In 1952 the plan was declared fulfilled a year ahead of schedule, but statistics on the period were too incomplete and contradictory to evaluate its actual results. Substantial bottlenecks existed in material inputs and outputs. Agriculture received less investment than planned (only 13 percent), and showed no growth through the period. The effect of low agricultural output rippled through other sectors of the economy, hindering production in related industries. Substantial material and technical aid came from the Soviet Union, but with a steep price: Bulgaria was expected to sell products to the Soviet market at below-market prices, and the arrogance of Soviet economic advisers caused serious resentment.

Continuing problems with excessive labor turnover forced the regime to cut back the targets for heavy industry in the Second Five-Year Plan (1953-57), and average annual industrial growth fell from 20.7 to 12.7 percent during that period. This was the first of several dramatic swings that characterized Bulgarian economic development throughout the postwar period. The average annual growth rate of agriculture increased from negative 0.9 percent to 4.9 percent in the Second Five-Year Plan, but the same indicator for the overall NMP dropped from 8.4 to 7.8 percent. The industrial share of the NMP exceeded that of agriculture for the first time in this period.

Two important economic events occurred at the Seventh Party Congress of the BCP, which met in mid-1958. The party declared that Bulgaria was the first country besides the Soviet Union to achieve full collectivization of agriculture (estimates put the figure at 92 percent at this time), and it announced the goals for the Third Five-Year Plan. That plan, which began in 1958, set relatively moderate initial quotas that included substantially more production of consumer goods. In 1959, however, a BCP decision to make a "Great Leap Forward" (borrowed by the press from Mao Zedong's concurrent program for the Chinese economy) drastically raised quotas: by 1965 industrial output was to be three to four times the 1957 level, and by 1961 agriculture was to produce three times as much as it had in 1957. To achieve the latter goal, agriculture was again reorganized. Amalgamation of collective farms cut their number by 70 percent, after which average farm acreage was second only to the Soviet Union among countries in Eastern Europe. The grandiose Zhivkov Theses, as the quota program came to be known, were tempered noticeably by 1961, when the economy's inability to achieve such growth was obvious to all.

Meanwhile, throughout the late 1950s urban unemployment had been a major problem. The new collectivization drive brought another wave of peasant migration to urban centers. Compounding this problem was a cutback in Soviet imports of industrial inputs, which created some excess capacity in heavy industry. Thus, the intensified industrialization of the Third Five-Year Plan also aimed at absorbing surplus labor.

Trade relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe also played a large role in the investment priorities of the Third FiveYear Plan. Food processing and agriculture were earmarked for greatest growth, because these sectors, together with chemical fertilizers and small electric equipment, were now areas of Bulgarian responsibility in the plans of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) for greater East European trade. After a reduction in 1955, Bulgaria faced greatly increased export obligations to the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in the late 1950s. The latter two could provide badly needed industrial machinery in return, and the USSR provided vital raw materials and energy.

The party leadership initially resolved to fulfill the third plan, like the first, within three or four years; although none of its goals were reached, the party declared fulfillment in 1960, and Zhivkov survived the popular disillusionment and economic upheaval caused by his totally unrealistic theses. At that point, the twelve years of the second phase of Bulgarian postwar economic development had wrought major structural changes in the Bulgarian economy. Industry's share of the NMP increased from 23 percent to 48 percent as agriculture's share fell from 59 percent to 27 percent. By 1960 the value produced by heavy industry matched that of light industry, although food processing for export also grew rapidly. Throughout the second phase, budget expenditures consisted primarily of reinvestment in sectors given initial priority. Meanwhile, the completion of collectivization had shifted 678,000 peasants, about 20 percent of the active labor force, into industrial jobs. The average annual increase in industrial employment peaked at 11.5 percent between 1955 and 1960.

The Era of Experimentation and Reform

The first full five-year plans proved the Bulgarian system's capacity for extensive growth in selected branches of industry, based on massive infusions of labor and capital. In the first postwar decades, that system was much more successful in reaching goals than were the command economies in the other East European countries, largely because Bulgaria had started with a much more primitive industrial infrastructure. By the early 1960s, however, changes to the system were obviously needed to achieve sustained growth in all branches of production, including agriculture. Specific incentives to reform were shortages of labor and energy and the growing importance of foreign trade in the "thaw" years of the mid-1960s. Consequently, in 1962 the Fourth Five-Year Plan began an era of economic reform that brought a series of new approaches to the old goal of intensive growth.

Industrial Decentralization

In industry the "New System of Management" was introduced in 1964 and lasted until 1968. This approach intended to streamline economic units and make enterprise managers more responsible for performance. In June 1964, about fifty industrial enterprises, mostly producers of textiles and other consumer goods, were placed under the new system. Wages, bonuses, and investment funds were tied to enterprise profits, up to 70 percent of which could be retained. Outside investment funds were to come primarily from bank credit rather than the state budget. In 1965 state subsidies still accounted for 63 percent of enterprise investment funds, however, while 30 percent came from retained enterprise earnings and only 7 percent from bank credits. By 1970 budget subsidies accounted for only 27 percent of investment funds, while bank credits jumped to 39 percent, and retained enterprise earnings reached 34 percent. The number of compulsory targets for the Fourth Five-Year Plan was cut to four: physical output, investment funds, input utilization, and foreign trade targets. The pilot enterprises did very well, earning profits that were double the norm. By 1967 two-thirds of industrial production came from firms under the new system, which by that time had embraced areas outside consumer production.

Another distinctive feature of the Bulgarian economy during the 1960s was the high level of net capital investment (total investment minus depreciation). The average of 12 percent from 1960 to 1970 was the highest in all of Eastern Europe. As in the past, investment in heavy industry received the lion's share--over 80 percent of total industrial investment. Capital accumulation (net investment plus net inventories) averaged 29 percent from 1960 to 1970, also a very high level.

Industrial Recentralization

Before the end of the 1960s, however, Bulgarian economic planning moved back toward the conventional CPE approach. Many Western analysts attributed the Bulgarian retreat from the reforms of the 1960s to tension caused by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. International events may well have played a role, but the timing of the retreat and the invasion suggest another component: dissatisfaction among the BCP elite with the results and ideological implications of the reform. For example, in July 1968, one month before the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria's unorthodox, three-tiered pricing system was eliminated. The party leadership had never accepted the concept of free and flexible pricing for some products, which was an important Bulgarian departure from centralized planning in the 1960s. Resistance to reform was further encouraged by a series of cases in which major enterprise directors used newly decentralized financial resources to line their own pockets.

Despite the general retreat from reform, two important measures remained intact, one each in agriculture and industry. The first involved new operating procedures introduced on the larger collective farms in the early 1960s. To better exploit the new equipment introduced during the consolidation of the late 1950s, farms were assigned more agronomists and labor was specialized by establishing fixed brigades. Production target negotiations between the Ministry of State Planning and the agricultural collectives also were simplified.

The industrial reform that survived retrenchment in 1968 gave associations, not ministries, responsibility to supervise the new system of supply contracts between enterprises. This system continued to grow, with prices determined on the basis of enterprise bargaining rather than ministerial fiat. Interenterprise allocations clearly functioned more efficiently with this arrangement.

Larger Economic Units

Just as most reforms were being rescinded, the BCP began the last phase of postwar agricultural restructuring. Prompted by the labor shortage, the new streamlining of collective farms that began in 1969 introduced the so-called agricultural-industrial complex (agrompromishlen kompleks--APK). The new structure was to industrialize agricultural production, boost the value-added component in Bulgarian exports by processing more agricultural goods, and raise the food supply to cities without diverting labor back from industry. In the late 1960s, relatively poor agricultural performance under the existing structure had prevented those goals from being reached.

The idea of combining existing enterprises into a smaller, presumably more manageable number of units spread quickly from agriculture to industry. By the end of the 1970s, the number of associations into which industrial enterprises were grouped was reduced by half. The sixty-four new, larger associations were granted the authority to make decisions for their enterprises about new investments, bank credits, and budget subsidies. Within an association, the larger enterprises (called subsidiaries) still could sign their own supply contracts and maintain their own bank accounts, but they ceased to be legal entities. Smaller enterprises (called subdivisions) became fully dependent on their association.

The main advantage of this streamlined organization was seen as economy of scale through increased specialization and a simplified flow of information. Associations also were assumed to be better able to make investment decisions and oversee material and labor distribution than either a small number of ministries or a large number of enterprises. The new structure would link specific industrial enterprises with scientific institutes in the same way as the agricultural complexes had linked them.

These reforms proved disappointing. Reformed planning techniques continued to leave unused industrial capacity, and quality control failed to improve. Both Western and domestic customers remained dissatisfied with the quality of many Bulgarian manufactures. New planning indicators that set norms for cost reduction actually reduced quality in a number of cases. Individual members of institutes could not convey their ideas to associations or ministries, where decisions to import or to invest in new technology were made. Thus the new framework only accentuated the dangers of socialist monopoly. Party meetings and the press criticized monopolistic abuses resulting from irrational decisions at the top and poor implementation of rational policies at the enterprise level. By the end of the 1970s, a new set of reforms was prescribed.

The New Economic Model

Initiated in 1981, the next program of reforms was designated the New Economic Madel (NEM). This program involved both agricultural complexes and industrial enterprises. Goals of the NEM included updating the technical infrastructure of Bulgarian industry and improving the quality of Bulgarian exports to raise hard-currency income. Centralized planning now was relegated to setting gross profits and overseeing the national scientific program. In 1978-79 and 1982-83, the NEM's principal instruments were financial incentives and accounting regulations aimed at all levels of management, but especially at the smallest unit of labor, the brigade. Brigades, each containing thirty to fifty workers, now would set labor and material input levels and dispose of finished products. In an effort to remedy the chronic distribution problems of the central economy, higher economic institutions became financially accountable for damage inflicted by their decisions on subordinate levels.

Several important initiatives were launched in 1978. The longstanding limits on enterprise investment were lifted. In their place, a new investment plan was based on the enterprises' contractual obligations and credits with the BNB. The bank monitored the cash balance of enterprise contracts with customers and suppliers, granting credits only when required. Three separate reinvestment funds received first claim on the net income of the enterprise. Although budgetary subsidies were not eliminated, the NEM directives assigned responsibility for financial losses to all levels of enterprises. Self-financing became the watchword for all economic organizations.

Another major change eliminated the automatic first claim of salaries and wages on gross enterprise income. This meant that wages could rise only after an increase in labor productivity, and then only by 50 percent of that increase. Moreover, management salaries could be cut by as much as 20 percent if the complex or enterprise failed to meet its norms for production and productivity. The formula for sanctions against management salaries changed several times. Finally, binding performance criteria were limited to five financial indicators for agricultural complexes and industrial associations, and to four for individual enterprises. Profit criteria were set only for the complexes or associations. Complexes or associations were given explicit freedom to sign their own contracts with suppliers and customers at home and abroad.

The BNB was granted some flexibility in restricting its terms of lending and in charging interest rates above the nominal 2 percent. These measures were designed to bestow greater rewards for efficiency and to reduce the number of unfinished or unprofitable new projects. The latter accounted for 57 percent of all Bulgarian investment as late as 1976. A provision for joint ventures with foreign firms met little enthusiasm from abroad.

The Last Round of Zhivkov Reforms

By 1982 economists and the party leadership admitted that the NEM had not led to the anticipated upturn in overall productivity and efficiency. Even upwardly skewed official statistics indicated that aggregate economic growth had dropped to its lowest postwar level. Under the NEM, enterprises could still get approval from state pricing authorities for price increases with marginal or nonexistent quality improvement--an important factor in evaluating official figures.

The differences between the Western concept of gross national product (GNP) and NMP make performance comparisons problematic. However, a Western economist who calculated growth rates for the Bulgarian economy according to the conventional GNP standard used in market economies determined the official Bulgarian growth rates between 1961 and 1980. The calculated rate for 1981-2 was 2.9 percent.

The Bulgarian response to declining growth rates under NEM was to initiate a second set of NEM reforms. Measures in 1982 and 1983 concentrated almost exclusively on financial incentives and prices. Net income was identified as the major basis for judging plan fulfillment. The only other targets were tax payments, domestic and imported input limits, and minimum export levels. The emphasis on self-supporting net income was extended downward to the brigade and upward to the associations. Guarantees of a minimum wage were removed for workers and all levels of management. Ministers themselves now were subject to salary reductions if their industrial association failed to meet the streamlined list of targets. Ministry access to budgetary subsidies for new investment was drastically cut and limited to a fixed term. Most investment capital outside net income had to be procured from the BNB. The bank's increasingly independent guidelines included the authorization to hold regional competitions for investment funds. Interest rates remained low however, ranging between 2.5 and 8 percent.

All these reforms did little to invigorate economic growth. In the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1981-5), the NMP growth rate dropped to 3.7 percent, its lowest postwar level. Officially, industry grew at a rate of 7 percent and construction at 5.4 percent, but agriculture declined by 3.9 percent per year.

In 1985 Mikhail S. Gorbachev visited Bulgaria and reportedly pressured Zhivkov to make the country more competitive economically. This led to a Bulgarian version of the Soviet perestroika program. New Regulations on Economic Activity took effect in January 1987. These directives, intended to stimulate "socialist competition," allowed enterprises to retain a much greater share of their profits and also required them to compete for investment capital from newly formed commercial banks. In June 1987, in response to widespread dissatisfaction and confusion over the measures, a decree on collective and individual labor activities made it possible for state economic organizations to lease small trading and catering facilities to private individuals by offering contracts at public auctions. The auctions were an abject failure, however, because of high taxes, high rents, restricted access to capital, uncertain supplies, the short duration of the contracts, and legal insecurity. The idea was quietly abandoned.

Finally, in January 1989, the party issued Decree Number 56. This decree established "firms" as the primary unit of economic management. Theoretically, four types of firm could be created: joint-stock firms, firms with limited responsibility, firms with unlimited responsibility, and citizens' firms. The differences among the first three types of firms were small. But citizens' firms offered the potential of individual, collective, and associative ownership arrangements. In a fundamental departure from the socialist prohibition of private citizens hiring labor, as many as ten people could now be hired permanently, and an unlimited number could be hired on temporary contracts. A wave of reorganizations produced new, larger firms, depriving numerous enterprises of their self-management status. Nonetheless, hundreds of private and cooperative firms were authorized by Decree Number 56.

Other elements of the decree allowed firms to issue shares and bonds and pay dividends, with a number of restrictions. Other clauses sought to encourage foreign investment in the country. State-owned enterprises that were transformed into joint-stock firms now could have foreign shareholders. Although tax incentives and legal guarantees were provided for joint ventures, little foreign investment was stimulated. In 1989 and 1990, only 117 joint ventures were consummated, totaling US$10 million in Western capital. In all probability, low labor costs were not enough to attract foreign investment given remaining organizational disadvantages, poor infrastructure, low political credibility, the nonconvertability of the lev, and close economic ties to the Soviet Union.

This last round of reforms by the Zhivkov regime confused rather than improved economic performance. Statistics on growth for 1986-88 indicated a 5.5 percent annual rate, up from the 3.7 percent rate achieved during the previous five-year plan. However, these statistics were internally inconsistent and widely disputed in the press. Expert observers speculated that they were the minimum growth the regime could tolerate given the 6 percent target rate in the five-year plan.

Ultimately, the reforms failed to radically change the economic conditions in the country. Public discontent increased and finally, emboldened by revolutions throughout Eastern Europe, a popular revolt ousted Todor Zhivkov in November 1989. By early 1990, the first attempts were being made to establish a market-based economy.

Bulgaria - The Economy - ECONOMIC SECTORS

Bulgaria's consistent emphasis on developing heavy industry at any cost created raw material demands well beyond the country's domestic resources. This problem was compounded by the inefficient industrial use of energy and raw materials: Bulgaria used more energy per unit of NMP than any Western economy. For this reason, one of the most salient aspects of the Bulgarian postwar economy was reliance on imported Soviet natural resources. Fuels

In 1989 Soviet imports supplied Bulgaria with 95 percent of its coal, 90 percent of its crude oil, and 100 percent of its natural gas. Although Bulgaria imported the majority of its raw materials for energy and industrial requirements, some domestic fuels and minerals were available. A small supply of hard coal was depleted rapidly in the 1980s; in 1987 only 198,000 tons were mined. More ample deposits of low-quality lignite yielded 31,400,000 tons in 1987, but those fuels were relatively inefficient energy producers and high polluters. In 1990 the Maritsa Basin in south-central Bulgaria was expected to remain the prime source of lignite for the foreseeable future; yearly production at its Maritsa-iztok open-pit mines was projected to reach forty million tons after the year 2000.

Bulgaria - Energy Generation

In 1988 Bulgaria produced approximately 43 billion kilowatt hours of electricity (in contrast to 384 billion for France and 83.5 billion for Yugoslavia). At that point, planners expected power consumption to increase by about 3.5 percent per year through the year 2000. The 1988 Program for Energy Development through 1995 and in Perspective until 2005 set general long-term goals for the Bulgarian power industry, including more effective integration of machine building and construction industries into power projects, improved balance between supply and demand of energy, and more effective use of low-quality coal and local hydroelectric plants. In 1988 Bulgaria and the Soviet Union signed a bilateral agreement for scientific and technical cooperation in thermoelectric, hydroelectric, and nuclear power generation. That year 59 percent of Bulgaria's electricity came from thermoelectric plants (primarily coal-powered); 35 percent came from nuclear reactors, the remainder from hydroelectric stations. Total generating capacity in 1988 was 11,300 megawatts (in contrast to 103,400 for France, 20,000 for Yugoslavia).

Conventional Power Generation

Besides the pollution caused by burning domestic coal, about 1,500 megawatts of Bulgaria's thermoelectric generation capacity was idle in the late 1980s because of inefficient fuel delivery or equipment breakdown. About half the capacity of local heat and power plants, relied upon to supplement major electrical plants and provide heat for industries and homes, was unavailable for the same reasons.

In the early 1990s, Bulgarian energy planners faced serious dilemmas. At the Maritsa-iztok-1, Maritsa-iztok-2 and Dimo Dichev thermoelectric plants, located in the Maritsa-iztok coal fields, long-term plans called for gradual replacement of old generating equipment in existing stations. But most such projects were far behind schedule in 1990. The 1990 decision not to complete the Belene Nuclear Power Plant meant increased reliance on Maritsaiztok coal for heat and power generation. In 1990 that spurce provided 70 percent of the country's coal, and its three power stations contributed about 25 percent of total power generation.

The Maritsa-iztok Industrial-Power Complex (with its machine building and repair enterprises one of the largest industrial centers in Bulgaria, employing 22,000 people in 1991) had been in operation since 1951; by 1991 the quality of its coal and the reliability of its infrastructure were steadily declining. But at that crisis point in the national economy, funds were unavailable for capital investment, especially to buy expensive foreign technology. At the same time, industry authorities acknowledged burning high-sulfur coal and strip mining at Maritsa-iztok as a severe environmental problem whose amelioration would cost at least a billion leva, mostly hard currency.

Hydroelectric power generation was concentrated in southwestern Bulgaria, but few Bulgarian rivers offered large-scale hydroelectric potential. The major hydroelectric project in the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1986-90) was completion of the Chaira station, which would add 864 megawatts of generating capacity. Development of local hydroelectric stations on small streams was a planning priority for the 1990s.

Nuclear Power

Nuclear power provided Bulgaria a way of easing its dependence on imported fuels, although the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia provided the expertise and equipment on which Bulgaria built its nuclear power industry. Lacking hard currency to buy enough oil, and reaching the toleration limit for pollution by coal-burning plants, Bulgaria increasingly made nuclear power the center of its energy policy in the 1980s. In 1974 the first nuclear power plant was opened at Kozloduy north of Sofia on the Danube River. After completing the original four-reactor complex in 1982, Kozloduy added a fifth unit in late 1987. This was the first 1,000-megawatt reactor in Eastern Europe outside the Soviet Union. A sixth unit was installed in 1989. At that point, Bulgaria ranked third in the world in per capita nuclear power generation, and the extent of its reliance on a sole nuclear power plant was unsurpassed in the world.

The Bulgarian nuclear power industry was beset with major problems from the beginning. The Kozloduy station had a history of technical difficulties and accidents, many of which were related to the low quality or poor design of Soviet and Czechoslovak equipment. The fifth reactor, a constant source of trouble, was out of commission for several months in 1991 because of extensive turbine damage. This setback put the entire country on a brownout schedule that shut off electricity two out of every four hours.

The Chernobyl' disaster in 1986 made nuclear safety a sensitive political issue in Bulgaria, and by the late 1980s public opinion, now a much more significant factor for policy makers, had turned strongly against the nuclear industry. A second nuclear power complex was started at Belene, to add six 1,000-megawatt reactors by the end of the Tenth Five-Year Plan. But construction was halted in 1989 by public opposition and disclosure that both Kozloduy and Belene were located in earthquake-prone regions. Long-term plans for nuclear heat generation also were shelved at that time. In 1991 the government's Commission on Nuclear Power Supply reported that the supply system was poorly organized and managed, and that managers relied on expensive foreign technical help instead of available domestic engineers. The commission also reported that, once Soviet specialists left, a shortage of qualified personnel delayed activation of the sixth reactor at Kozloduy (considered a top priority once Belene was rejected), and that most monitoring instruments in the first four Kozloduy reactors were out of operation.

In mid-1991 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declared the Kozloduy reactors unsafe. Two reactors were shut down. Meanwhile, the planned activation of the two newest reactors at Kozloduy raised the problem of nuclear waste disposal in 1991, because the Soviet Union began charging hard currency to reprocess waste from East European reactors, formerly one of its functions under Comecon. In 1991 Bulgaria requested European Economic Community (EEC) aid to build its first permanent domestic repository for nuclear waste.

The Bulgarian power transmission network was supplemented in 1988 when a high-capacity transmission line from the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Station in the Soviet Union reached the northeastern port city of Varna. But like Soviet fuels, imported Soviet electricity required hard currency in 1991, mitigating the advantages of the old CEMA agreement.

Bulgaria - Industry

From 1956 through 1988, industrial production rose an average of 8.9 percent per year according to official figures, but the actual rates declined steadily during the thirty-three year period. The annual average rate of industrial growth for the periods 1956- 60, 1961-70, 1971-80, and 1981-8 was 15.5, 11.6, 7.5, and 4.4 percent, respectively. By the late 1980s, Bulgarian industry had completely exhausted the advantages it had used in earlier decades to post impressive growth statistics.

Industrial Policy

The cost of Bulgaria's industrial growth was substantial. Besides environmental problems, the commitment to heavy industry came at the expense of light industry--especially food processing and textiles--and agriculture. These were sectors in which prewar Bulgaria had relatively high production potential. But de-emphasis held the official annual NMP growth figures for light industry and agriculture to 7.5 and 2.8 percent, respectively, between 1956 and 1988.

In the postwar command economy, the chief beneficiaries of this emphasis were the chemical, electronics, and machinery industries. Their respective share of total industrial production rose from 1.9, 0, and 2.4 percent in 1939 to 8.8, 14.4, and 15 percent in 1988. Similar statistics indicate big drops in production shares for the food processing and textiles industries--from 51.2 to 23.3 percent, and from 19.8 to 5.1 percent, respectively, in the same period.

Besides the unchanging commitment to heavy industry, two other major trends appeared in postwar industrial policy. The first was steady and substantial support for a basic ferrous metals industry, regardless of cost, in order to reduce dependence on imports. The second was an effort to produce machinery competitive in international markets, with special emphasis on electrical equipment.

A result of the first policy was the Kremikovtsi Metallurgical Complex. In 1954 Soviet-supported geological surveys indicated major new deposits of higher quality iron ore that would support a second complex to supplement the existing V.I. Lenin Ferrous Metals Combine at Pernik. Although the deposits were actually found to be inadequate, the extremely expensive Kremikovtsi plant finally opened in 1963 and used Soviet iron ore to produce over half of the national production of steel and iron through 1978.

The Kremikovtsi complex brought numerous problems. By the mid1970s , over 75 percent of its ore and coking coal was imported. Costs were inflated by premium wages paid to maintain the labor force and by delays in construction and delivery. Production at Kremikovtsi consistently failed to meet planned targets, and less than three-quarters of plant capacity was used. The enterprise never showed a profit; in 1989 it lost 99.5 million leva despite receiving 600 million leva in state subsidies. Using 15 percent of the country's total energy output, Kremikovtsi generated only 1 percent of national income in the late 1980s.

The strategy of heavy equipment production for export fared better than did metallurgy in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the most competitive Bulgarian industries were those most committed to export markets. The machine building and electronics industries averaged 16 percent growth between 1960 and 1980 while their combined share of export value jumped from 13 to 55 percent from 1960 to 1982. The primary exports in these sectors were forklift trucks and electrical hoisting gear produced by the Balkancar enterprise. Computer equipment and chemicals also showed improved export performance.

Bulgaria's postwar industrialization was clearly positive in some sectors. Two notable examples were the construction of electric power plants in the 1950s, which made possible the nationwide spread of industry, and the development of an electrical equipment industry that produced exportable products. Nonetheless, as the 1980s drew to a close, it became increasingly clear that even the most competitive sectors had serious problems that the BCP's halfway reforms could not solve. After the initial postwar climb, four decades of socialist central planning had left the industrial sector in a very poor state.

Industrial Centers

Bulgarian heavy industries, mostly machine building, chemicals, and electronics, were concentrated in relatively few production centers. Important machine tool plants were the Bolshevik Tool Plant at Gabrovo, the Nikola Vaptsarov Combine at Pleven, and the Radomir Heavy Equipment Plant in southwest Bulgaria. The Electronic Materials Processing and Equipment Scientific-Production Combine was a combined scientific and industrial center at Sofia. Electronic instrument production centers were located at the Plovdiv Power Electronics Plant, the Shabla Electromechanical Plant on the northeast coast, the Stara Zagora Industrial Robot Plant, the Pravets Instrument Plant in the southwest, and the Petkov Instrument Plant at Turgovishte. Major chemical and petrochemical producers were the Industrial Petrochemical Plant at Pleven (specializing in vehicle lubricants and oils), the Burgas Petrochemical Combine (plastics), the Vratsa Industrial Chemical Combine (chemical fertilizers), and four chemical plants at Dimitrovgrad. Bulgaria also built large numbers of ships, many for Soviet customers, at its Ruse and Varna shipyards on the Black Sea. The Shumen Vehicle Plant assembled LIAZ-Madara heavy trucks in a three-way arrangement with the Liberac Auto Plant of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.

Obstacles to Industrial Growth

In 1989 the domestic market still featured little or no competition. Over 80 percent of exports went to Comecon countries, and 75 percent of that total went to the Soviet Union. This situation insulated the computers, industrial robots, microprocessors, and other high-technology exports of Bulgarian industry from the market competition that would require backing by substantial investment in research and development. Bulgaria thus developed a practice of expending a small proportion of its national income on applied science, even compared with other East European states.

Falling productivity was a major problem in a number of key industries. Many of these industries were inherently uncompetitive, and attempts to raise productivity through large-scale production concentrated industrial and research facilities into enormous enterprises that further reduced industrial flexibility. Unprofitability made Bulgarian industry dependent on a system of widespread state subsidies. It was reported at the BCP Central Committee plenum in December 1989 that a quarter of all state companies had received state support during the year, totaling 7 billion leva--almost a quarter of the national income. Machine building, one of Bulgaria's key export industries, became a problem area for the economy in the 1980s. Because it was the chief consumer of the overpriced, low-quality output of the metallurgical industry, the machine industry eventually became unprofitable as well. In 1990 Balkancar, the country's biggest company, one of its most successful exporters, and another major customer of the metallurgy enterprises, lost money for the first time.

A critical economic policy decision in the late 1980s was Zhivkov's special emphasis on several energy-intensive industries, despite the inadequacy of domestic energy supply. In the early 1990s, the new regime faced a choice of dismantling many of those enterprises, finding less expensive energy sources to keep them running, or acquiring enough hard currency to upgrade their technological level and make them less energy-intensive. To further complicate industrial policy, beginning in 1991 the Soviet Union began charging market prices in hard currency for its oil and gas.

Finally, emergence of a significant, fast-growing environmental movement cast the tradeoff of environmental quality for economic growth in starkly negative terms. Barring substantial technical aid (most likely from the West) to reduce industrial waste, public demand for environmentally sound economic policy stood as a formidable obstacle to industrial expansion.

Bulgaria - Agriculture

Prior to World War II, agriculture was the leading sector in the Bulgarian economy. In 1939 agriculture contributed 65 percent of NMP, and four out of every five Bulgarians were employed in agriculture. The importance and organization of Bulgarian agriculture changed drastically after the war, however. By 1958 the BCP had collectivized a high percentage of Bulgarian farms; in the next three decades the state used various forms of organization to improve productivity, but none succeeded. Meanwhile, private plots remained productive and often alleviated agricultural shortages during the Zhivkov era.

Early Collectivization Campaigns

When the BCP came to power, Bulgarian agriculture consisted primarily of 1.1 million peasant smallholdings. The party saw consolidation of these holdings as its most immediate agricultural objective. It dismantled the agricultural bank that had been a primary source of investment for the agriculture and food processing sectors before World War II.

The first attempts at voluntary collectivization yielded modest results, partly because open coercion was impossible until a peace treaty was signed with the Allies. The labor-cooperative farm (trudovo-kooperativno zemedelsko stopanstvo--TKZS) received official approval in 1945. It closely resembled Soviet cooperatives in organization, although members were guaranteed a share of profits and membership was (nominally) completely voluntary. By 1947 only 3.8 percent of arable land had been collectivized. After the communists won the first postwar election and the peace was concluded in 1947, pressure on private landholders increased. Although most small farmers had joined collectives, by 1949 only 12 percent of arable land was under state control--mainly because the collectivization program alienated many peasants. But between 1950 and 1953, the Stalinist regime of Vulko Chervenkov used threats, violence, and supply discrimination to produce the fastest pace of collectivization in Eastern Europe. Sixty-one percent of arable land had been collectivized by 1952. The process was declared complete in 1958 when 92 percent of arable land belonged to the collective farms. This ended the first phase of Bulgarian postwar agricultural restructuring.

Farm Consolidation in the 1960s

At this stage, Bulgarian collectives were much smaller than the Soviet organizations on which they were modeled. To fulfill the ambitious goals contained in the Zhivkov Theses (January 1959) for the Third Five-Year Plan (1958-60), further consolidation was deemed necessary. This process reduced the number of collectives from 3,450 to 932, and the average size of a collective grew from 1,000 to 4,500 hectares.

In the late 1960s, an agricultural labor shortage combined with fascination for China's agrarian amalgamation to prompt further consolidation of collective farms into APKs. By the end of 1971, all of Bulgaria's 744 collectives and 56 state farms had been merged into 161 complexes, most of which were designated APK's. These units averaged 24,000 hectares and 6,500 members. The consolidation continued until there were only 143 complexes in 1977. Several complexes were larger than 100,000 hectares, and twenty-five were between 36,000 and 100,000 hectares. In the short term, they were to achieve horizontal integration by specializing in three or fewer crops and one type of livestock. In the longer term, they would be the basis for linking agriculture with manufacturing and commerce. On the political level, this consolidation was to be a symbolic merger of the agricultural and urban workers, who had remained quite distinct parts of the Bulgarian population since the nineteenth century in defiance of the theory of the unified socialist society.

The new organizations never met the higher agricultural quotas of the late 1970s, however. For some products, yield did not keep pace with investment. Overall growth in agriculture continued to fall after the creation of the APKs. And the goal of freeing farm workers to take industrial jobs was not reached. On the contrary, the annual reduction in agricultural employment dropped from 4 to 2 percent while farm labor productivity declined. As a result, agriculture's share of gross investment in fixed capital fell to 18 percent by 1976, a level last seen in the mid-1950s. In 1978 this failure triggered a new policy emphasizing smaller complexes. Reduced agricultural quotas in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1981-85) were an admission that too much had been expected from the constant tinkering process.

Reform in the 1980s

By 1982 the total of old and new APKs reached 296, the average size was halved to 16,000 hectares, and the management hierarchy was simplified. Most importantly, the number of annual indicators of plan fulfillment was reduced from fourteen to four. The new, simpler approach also allowed greater freedom for APKs to negotiate prices on surplus production and to purchase their own supplies.

In the last Zhivkov years, the communist regime attempted other agricultural reforms, including autonomy for the collectives. At that point, the only funds the state received from agriculture were 60 percent of foreign currency from exports. Even then, government delivery prices remained so low that state foodstuff monopolies received only the absolute minimum supply. In 1989 the exodus of 310,000 ethnic Turks, many of whom had cultivated personal plots, also hurt agricultural output.

Despite these handicaps, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that within Eastern Europe Bulgaria was second only to Hungary in agricultural trade surpluses through 1987. After that time, however, agricultural output dropped so far that the country could no longer feed its own people. In 1990 the first rationing and shortages since World War II were the most obvious indications of this situation. Because of domestic shortages, export of several agricultural products was banned in 1990.

Agricultural Products

Two long-term policies strongly determined priorities in Bulgarian agricultural production after 1960. First, livestock was promoted at the expense of crop cultivation, mainly to meet export demand. Between 1970 and 1988, the share of livestock in agricultural production rose from 35.3 to 55.6 percent. As a result, less land was available for crops in that period. Pig and poultry production increased the most, but large numbers of sheep also were raised. The second policy was a shift away from industrial crops (primarily tobacco and cotton), toward production of fruit (most notably apples), vegetables (most notably tomatoes), and grapes. Bulgaria remained an important exporter of tobacco, however, averaging 65 percent of East European exports of that crop in the 1980s. Grain production concentrated on wheat, corn, and barley, crops which are vulnerable to weather conditions. Poor harvests in 1985 and 1986 led to grain imports of 1.8 and 1.5 million tons, respectively. Sugar beets, potatoes, sunflower seeds, and soybeans also were important crops at the end of the 1980s. In 1990 Bulgaria was the world's largest exporter of attar of roses, used in making perfume.

The Role of Private Plots

After 1970 the only consistent contribution to agricultural production growth was family farming on private plots leased from the agricultural complexes. These plots could not be bought or sold or worked by hired labor, but their yield belonged to the tenant. In 1971 special measures were instituted to increase the number and the availability of personal plots. Beginning in 1974, peasant households were permitted to lease additional plots and given free access to fertilizer, fodder seed, and equipment belonging to their agricultural complexes. To encourage this practice, the government extended loans and waived income taxes. More importantly, delivery prices increased for agricultural products. In the mid-1970s, a reduced work week for urban workers and relaxed requirements for plot leasing encouraged weekend cultivation of personal plots by the nonagricultural population. Plot size limits were removed in 1977.

By 1982 personal plots accounted for 25 percent of Bulgaria's agricultural output and farm worker income. In 1988 personal plots accounted for large shares of basic agricultural goods: corn, 43.5 percent; tomatoes, 36.8 percent; potatoes, 61.5 percent; apples, 24.8 percent; grapes, 43.2 percent; meat, 40.8 percent; milk, 25.2 percent; eggs, 49.4 percent; and honey, 86 percent. The sales from plots to town markets meant that despite low overall agricultural growth rates in the 1980s, the urban food supply actually improved in many areas during the early and mid-1980s.

Post-Zhivkov Agricultural Reform

In 1991 privatization of agriculture was a top priority of the government of Prime Minister Dimitur Popov. That spring the National Assembly passed a new Arable Land Law, revising the conditions for ownership and use of agricultural land. The law allowed every Bulgarian citizen to own as much as thirty hectares of land, or twenty in areas of intensive cultivation. Use of this land was at the complete discretion of the owner. Conditions were stated for voluntary formation of cooperatives by private landowners and resale of their land. With some limitations, landowners whose property had been incorporated into state farms were to receive "comparable" plots elsewhere or other appropriate compensation. The state or municipality retained title to land not in private hands. Another provision described redistribution of land seized by the state from cooperatives and individuals during Zhivkov's several agricultural consolidations. A National Land Council under the Council of Ministers was to oversee land distribution and arbitrate disputes, aided by a system of municipal land commissions.

As elsewhere in the Bulgarian economy, agricultural reform encountered stout resistance from entrenched local Zhivkovite officials. Pre-collectivization land ownership records were destroyed, and farmers were threatened or bribed to remain in collectives rather than seeking private farms. Although the Arable Land Law was widely hailed as an equitable and useful economic reform, its association with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, formerly the BCP) majority brought criticism from the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). Some farmers circumvented the law simply by seizing land. The government, meanwhile, announced that no state land would be redistributed before the 1991 harvest.

In early 1991, staples such as sugar and olive oil were unavailable in many areas; livestock feed rations had been cut by more than half; a grain shortfall of 1.7 million tons was expected; meat, withheld from markets until new government prices were announced, was very scarce and expensive in cities; and fertilizers for the year's crops were in very short supply. Western firms expressed interest in joint agricultural ventures in Bulgaria, but hesitated because of uncertainty about political and legal conditions for such projects. A new round of government pricefixing in February 1991 substantially raised food prices but did restore supplies of some items.


Under the Zhivkov regime, Bulgaria followed the customary communist pattern of a single state-run bank performing all banking and investment functions. Investment policy was the province of state planning agencies, with substantial input from the BCP and the national bank. Post-Zhivkov reform aimed at privatizing and compartmentalizing the banking system, a goal that would likely require years of gradual reform. Currency and Exchange

The national currency of Bulgaria is the lev, which is divided into 100 stotinki (sing. stotinka). Throughout the communist era, the lev could be used only in domestic transactions because it was not convertible into foreign currency. Bulgarian nationals were prohibited from owning foreign currency, and the law prohibited citizens and foreigners from entering or leaving the country with leva. Like domestic prices, the value of the lev was administratively determined. This led to frequent overvaluing of the lev in terms of hard currencies and black market rates well below official exchange rates. Besides official rates, which were based on a gold parity developed after World War II, a commercial rate was used for business transactions and statistical purposes, and a tourist rate determined the amount received by foreigners in Bulgaria for their domestic currencies. None of these arbitrary rates reflected the relationship of domestic and foreign prices. Trade with Western countries was conducted in hard currency, while the transferable ruble, an accounting device with no convertible value, was primarily used to clear commercial accounts within Comecon. In 1990 the lev was devalued several times, finally settling at rates of about 0.76 stotinki to the United States dollar (official), 3 leva to the dollar (commercial), and 7 leva to the dollar (tourist). The black market rate fluctuated considerably, but ended 1990 at approximately 11 leva to the dollar. In mid-1991 the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) issued conversion tables for the lev into major world currencies. The official value at that time was 18 leva to the United States dollar.

Banking System

As the chief financial instrument of economic policy making, the BNB assumed virtually all of the financial functions in the country under the centrally planned economy. Only the granting of foreign trade and consumer credits were separate functions, performed respectively by the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank and the State Savings Bank--both of which were subordinate to the BNB. The BNB worked with the Ministry of Finance to finance capital investments in the economy. The BNB also monitored the economic organizations that received investment funds to ensure their use for accomplishing plan targets. As enterprises became more selffinancing in the 1970s, a greater share of their investment capital was composed of bank credits granted by the BNB. Between 1965 and 1975, the BNB share of investment funds jumped from 7 percent to 54 percent; the trend then moderated as enterprises began to rely more on retained earnings to finance investments.

Like industry and agriculture, banking under the BCP experimented occasionally with decentralization but remained quite centralized until shortly before the overthrow of Zhivkov. A 1987 reform nominally split Bulgarian banking into a two-tiered system. The function of the BNB was restricted to money supply, although it also retained significant supervisory power. The reform also created several specialized banks including the Agricultural and Cooperative Bank, the Biochemical Bank, the Construction Bank, the Electronics Bank, the Transportation Bank, and the Transport, Agricultural, and Building Equipment Bank--each responsible for an industrial sector.

Post-Zhivkov banking reform began hesitantly but grew more comprehensive in 1991. In a controversial policy decision, the government first increased interest rates from 4.5 to 8 percent in 1990, then let them float freely beginning in 1991. Although the first private commercial bank was established in May 1990, a new National Bank Bill was not passed until June 1991. That law provided for a two-tier bank system independent of direct government control but accountable to the National Assembly. The first tier of the new system was to be the Central Bank, the second a separate system of commercial banks and lending institutions serving private citizens and enterprises. Three-month bank credits would be available to cabinet ministries. The BNB was to issue monthly balance statements and report semiannually to the National Assembly.

Investment Policy

In choosing among alternative investment projects, Bulgarian planners in the Zhivkov era faced greater difficulties than investment decision makers in Western economies. True relative costs of labor and materials were masked by state assignment of prices, meaning that funding allocations among projects often were arbitrary. In most cases, investments were not based on efficiency criteria, but rather on plan goals. Artificially low interest rates also discouraged enterprises from efficient investment fund allocation.

The state budget also guided party economic policy under the old regime. Until the reforms of the 1970s, the budget was the primary source of funds for enterprise investment. Budget revenues were originally derived mainly from the turnover tax, a retail sales tax that was also used to regulate demand for various products. Beginning in the mid-1960s, budget revenues were derived progressively less from the turnover tax and more from taxes on net enterprise income.


Investments in inefficient operations and subsidies on consumer items often led to budget deficits. Often the state simply printed more money to cover its obligations. Eventually this led to circulation of excess currency compared with consumer goods and services available at prevailing prices. Because prices were administratively set, shortages and long lines occurred more often than inflation under the CPE. But party-directed general price increases such as the average 15 percent rise in 1979 usually were quite steep.

In the post-Zhivkov era, economic planners saw marketdetermined prices for most goods and services as their long-term goal. In 1990 the prices of 40 percent of goods and 60 percent of services were freed from administrative control. In the second half of 1990, price liberalization raised consumer prices an average of over 50 percent. In February 1991, price controls were removed from all goods and services except fuels, heat, and electricity. Immediately after this step, average food prices were nearly six times their 1989 level; housing was up 3.7 times, clothing three times more expensive. These levels, established by an independent trade union study, were above the level triggering new talks on compensation payments. (For the second consecutive year, a government indexation program was established to reimburse a share (estimated at an average 65 percent) of the higher cost of living caused by the new price policy in the first half of 1991.) In a two-month period of early 1991, consumption dropped by over 50 percent, but total consumer spending still increased by 11.5 percent.


Membership in Comecon tied Bulgarian trade policy closely to the Soviet economic sphere following World War II. By 1991, however, trade policy was on the verge of significant diversification. With the trade protection of Comecon no longer available, Bulgaria aggressively sought new markets in the West while seeking to retain the most advantageous commercial relations with its former Comecon partners.

Postwar Trade Policy

The adoption of the Soviet economic model had direct and indirect impact on Bulgarian international trade after World War II. Among direct results was the decision to reduce dependency on prewar Western trade partners. This meant strong promotion of import substitution policies to bolster domestic production of goods previously imported. In 1960 Bulgaria's total foreign trade (exports plus imports) was 31 percent of NMP, quite low for a country with a small internal market and few natural resources. By the 1980s, however, this figure had risen to over 90 percent. Before World War II, Germany was well-established as Bulgaria's top trading partner. Postwar economic policy diverted trade from Central Europe to Eastern Europe, and primarily to the Soviet Union. The new domestic economic priorities dictated a revised foreign trade structure. The policy of promoting heavy industry, for example, required huge imports of machinery and raw materials. Beginning in the mid-1950s, imports of machinery accounted for approximately half the value of total imports, while fuels, metals, and minerals made up more than a quarter of this value. Lower postwar investment in agriculture eventually lessened the share of foodstuffs in total exports.

The state monopoly of foreign trade also changed the way decisions were reached on international allocation of goods. Trade decisions were reached administratively by planning authorities or negotiated with other members of Comecon. Overall control of foreign trade was shared among the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Finance, and the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank.

Import and export operations were conducted by foreign trade enterprises, most of which were affiliated with one or more associations but retained a legal identity outside the associations. Although reform measures by the Zhivkov regime gave associations some profit incentives in international trade, the producing enterprises themselves were completely isolated from the foreign customer. This meant that world quality standards had no influence on Bulgarian producers.

Bulgaria in Comecon

The most important event in postwar Bulgarian international economic relations occurred in 1949 when it became a founding member of Comecon. Comecon was an attempt by the socialist economies to simplify the planning process by synchronizing the five-year plans of member countries and (more importantly), by achieving what Marxists called an international division of labor. Countries within Comecon would specialize in the products they made most efficiently and export the surplus. Products that a country could not produce efficiently would be available from one or more of its Comecon partners. This design was intended to eliminate some redundancies inherent in the Soviet economic model where each country produced goods of all categories. Although the concept achieved isolated successes such as Bulgarian forklift trucks, broad growth was blocked by the uniform socialist preoccupation with heavy industry and the lack of a single convertible currency. The currency issue in particular made intra-Comecon trade a cumbersome process requiring negotiation of annual bilateral trade agreements for all member nations.

In the 1980s, exports to the Soviet Union consisted primarily of machinery, electronic components, and agricultural goods. These included forklift trucks, electric engines, telephones, tobacco, fresh fruits and vegetables, and wine. Imports from the Soviet Union were mainly energy and raw materials, including oil, natural gas, iron ore, ferrous metals, and cotton. In 1988 Bulgaria still relied almost entirely on Soviet oil and natural gas. East Germany and Czechoslovakia were the next most important Comecon trading partners, accounting for 5.2 and 4.6 percent of exports, respectively, and 5.9 and 5.4 percent of imports, respectively. Exchanges of goods between Bulgaria and these countries emphasized both exports and imports of machinery and the export of agricultural products.

In the initial years of Bulgaria's Comecon membership, the country benefited from energy prices below world levels, especially for oil, in two ways. The cost of developing otherwise inefficient industries was lower, and reexport of crude and refined oil for hard currency bought Western technology to upgrade the industrial infrastructure. Comecon members paid for their imports through bilateral clearing agreements, with no exchange of hard currency. In the initial stages of Comecon, Bulgaria exported mainly food, the price of which was lower in Comecon than on the world market. Later, however, Bulgaria paid for imported Soviet raw materials largely with machinery that was priced higher than on the world market.

Beginning in 1974, Soviet energy exports were based on a floating five-year average of world prices that rarely matched market prices at a given time. Even when Comecon prices were above the world level, Bulgaria benefited from the lack of currency exchange in the Comecon system. But dependence on Comecon trade, especially Soviet energy exports, damaged Bulgaria tremendously when economic reform swept through the Soviet sphere in 1989 and 1990. Of Bulgarian exports, 62.5 percent still went to the Soviet Union in 1988, and 53.5 percent of imports came from that country. The new trade system established after reforms required trade accounts to be cleared in hard currency at current world prices as of January 1, 1991. (Bilateral protocols for this procedure had not been signed by that time, however; Bulgaria still owed Hungary 87 million transferable rubles in 1991.)

After the political reforms in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union announced cutbacks in energy exports to Eastern Europe. This caused energy and raw materials shortages. In 1990 Bulgarian industry was forced to curtail production sharply; meanwhile, consumers endured severe shortages of gasoline as fuel prices doubled. A new set of export and import regulations adopted in mid-1991 removed import taxes from 200 types of raw materials and consumer goods in critically short supply. The same regulations set export price minimums to eliminate pricing below world market levels; export of crude oil, metals, grains, and textile raw materials was banned.

Trade with the West and the Third World

After 1960 Bulgaria's trade with the West increased, partly because Bulgaria needed Western machinery to supplement the outdated, overpriced manufacturing equipment supplied by Comecon. Between 1960 and 1975, the Western share of Bulgarian imports went from 13.6 percent to 23.6 percent. In the same period, however, exports dropped from 12.4 to 9.3 percent, creating an external debt problem with the West. Increased exports to Third World nations did little to help Bulgaria reduce this trade deficit because most Third World trade was not in convertible currencies.

Throughout the 1970s, Bulgarian trade balances alternated between solvency and high deficits. Although the trade deficit was eliminated in 1975, many short-term debts to West European banks remained. By 1976 Bulgarian debt was 13 percent of estimated GNP-- the highest ratio in Eastern Europe at the time. Bulgaria greatly diminished this debt by reexporting Soviet oil to Western buyers in the late 1970s.

From that point, Bulgaria maintained trade surpluses in hard currency until 1985, when emergency imports of grain and coal created a deficit of US$200 million. A series of poor harvests, high machinery imports in the investment push of the Ninth FiveYear Plan (1986-90), and sharply dropping oil prices deprived Bulgaria of hard currency and created a major new trade deficit. Libya and Iraq, the main Third World customers with which a surplus had been accumulated, also reduced their purchase of Bulgarian goods at this time.

The resulting trade deficits were financed by credits from Western banks. After the overthrow of Zhivkov, the government announced that the gross hard currency debt had reached US$10.6 billion by the end of 1989. Net indebtedness was somewhat lower at US$7.7 billion, but much of the hard currency export credits that Bulgaria granted were to Libya and Iraq, who were likely to default on many of their deals. Bulgaria had arranged for Iraq to repay these loans with oil, but in 1991 the trade embargo and ensuing Persian Gulf War negated that agreement. In March 1990, the incoming Bulgarian government announced unilateral suspension of principal payments on outstanding debt, and later interest payments were suspended as well. Western lines of credit immediately were frozen and Bulgarian hard currency holdings dropped to the minimal level of US$200 million in May 1990.

Bulgaria's main Western trading partners were the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) before German unification in 1990, Switzerland, and Italy. Exports to these countries were relatively minor, accounting for between 1 and 0.7 percent of total exports. Imports from West Germany were 4.9 percent of the total, while Switzerland accounted for 1.4 percent of imports, and Italy 1.1 percent. Trade with the developed, Western economies resembled trade between an undeveloped country and an industrialized one. Bulgaria imported mostly machinery from those countries and sold them raw and semifinished materials and agricultural products.

The most important Third World trading partners, Iraq and Libya, purchased 2.8 and 2.3 percent of Bulgarian exports, respectively. These exports consisted mainly of major construction projects and agricultural goods. The overthrow of the Zhivkov regime revived talk of establishing a Black Sea Trading Zone that also would include Turkey and Greece and perhaps Romania. In establishing its new trade policy in 1991, Bulgaria faced a choice of expanding its traditional commercial ties with Germany and Germany's partners in the EEC or cultivating new ties with closer markets such as Turkey. In 1991 Turkey offered to invest US$13 billion in Bulgaria's economy. An independent Union for Cooperation between Bulgaria and Turkey was founded to foster direct cooperation between enterprises of the two countries, and transportation links were solidified by ministerial agreements in 1991. Talks with the EEC early in 1991 yielded assurance of shortterm EEC financial support through the PHARE program (Economic Reconstruction Aid for Poland and Hungary) and closer future ties, assuming that Bulgaria continued to make progress in its political and economic reform programs.

New Trade Conditions, 1990

The end of central planning opened the Bulgarian economy to world competition and began a wrenching transition for which it was ill-equipped in finance, industrial diversity, agricultural infrastructure, and available natural resources. The transition was made doubly difficult because the long years of privileged access to energy had fostered inefficient energy use in the Bulgarian economy.

Under the new economic conditions, imports would be purchased only in hard currency; although Western firms and governments offered some credits and aid in 1991, Western investors preferred Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia to Bulgaria. Those countries were more familiar to Westerners, and they had had relatively advanced market economies before World War II. For these reasons, in the early 1990s they received the lion's share of a rather meager Western investment in Eastern Europe.

Bulgaria - Government and Politics

ON NOVEMBER 10, 1989, after thirty-five years as undisputed leader, Todor Zhivkov resigned his positions as head of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) and head of state of Bulgaria. This act, forced by political opposition and turmoil, was the symbolic watershed between two very different eras in Bulgarian governance. One year after Zhivkov's resignation, Bulgaria had at least some of the primary building blocks for a democratic state: a freely elected parliament, a coalition cabinet, independent newspapers, and vigorous, independent trade unions.

Beginning with Soviet occupation of Nazi-allied Bulgaria in September 1944, the political culture of that country had been totally dominated by a monolithic communist party. In the following three years, that party took advantage of the presence of Soviet troops, decades-long disorder in the Bulgarian political system, and its own high visibility as an anti-Nazi resistance force to complete a rapid communization process.

Postwar communist rule in Bulgaria can be divided into three periods with varying political characteristics. The first period, 1944 through 1947, saw the consolidation of communist power. The Fatherland Front, which began in 1942 as a small illegal antifascist coalition, led a coup that coincided with the 1944 Soviet invasion and installed communists for the first time in crucial government positions. In the next three years, the BCP gradually eliminated disorganized blocks of political opposition, cut Bulgaria off from foreign influences except that of the Soviet Bloc, and confiscated most private economic resources. By the end of 1947, the last effective political opposition had been eliminated and Soviet troops had left Bulgaria. Longtime communist leader Georgi Dimitrov was prime minister of a Bulgarian government that ruled according to a new constitution modeled after that of the Soviet Union. Although that constitution left the political institutions of prewar Bulgaria nominally intact, the consolidation period set the pattern for a very different set of political relationships. Actual political power was concentrated entirely in the national BCP. From 1947 until 1989, nominations and elections to judicial, legislative, and executive posts required party approval. During that time, a nominal second party existed, but party nominees were elected without opposition at all levels of government. The National Assembly (Narodno Subranie) met only to rubber-stamp proposals from the party or the executive branch.

The second phase of the communist period, from 1948 through 1953, strengthened Bulgaria's traditionally close ties with the Soviet Union and established a pattern of imitating the Soviet Union in all major aspects of foreign and domestic policy. The first Bulgarian Five-Year Plan began in 1949, by which time most means of production were in state hands. In 1949 Dimitrov was succeeded by Vulko Chervenkov, a protégé of Soviet leader Joseph V. Stalin. Chervenkov imitated his patron's cult of personality by assuming total control of the BCP and the government and enforcing complete conformity to party policy through 1954. Chervenkov intensified the sovietization that began under Dimitrov; the only vestiges of political diversity at this point were a few national party leaders who survived Chervenkov's purges.

In 1953 the death of Stalin brought a strong reaction in Soviet politics against the cult of personality and in favor of collective leadership. Accordingly, in 1954 Todor Zhivkov replaced Chervenkov as first secretary of the BCP. In the next eight years, Zhivkov gradually consolidated his position as supreme leader. In doing so, he maintained the totalitarian state machinery of his predecessors but showed flexibility and resiliency--especially in maintaining power at home while following the winding path of Soviet policy to which Bulgaria remained scrupulously loyal. In spite of dramatic international changes and crises between 1954 and 1989, the Zhivkov era was the longest period of stable rule by a single administration in the history of the modern Bulgarian state.

In the 1980s, however, the Zhivkov regime was overtaken by the wave of political liberation that swept all of Eastern Europe, and by the lethargy and corruption of an administration totally without opposition for nearly thirty years. Immediately after Zhivkov's fall, Bulgaria returned to its precommunist political culture, a shifting mosaic of major and minor parties and coalitions. The National Assembly was resurrected as the vehicle for democratic representation, and the first free parliamentary election was held in 1990. Unlike the communist parties of other East European nations, the BCP (which changed its name in 1990 to the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP) was based on a domestic political movement that predated the 1917 Russian Revolution. Partly for this reason, the BSP was able to win the first free elections that followed overthrow of the old regime. But internal fragmentation, economic crisis, and the party's connection with the wrongs of the Zhivkov era diminished the BSP's popular support as the 1990s began.

Meanwhile, based on very brief experimentation with true parliamentary democracy before World War II, and imitating its East European neighbors, Bulgaria had decisively rejected repressive one-party rule and professed allegiance to democracy. But formation of democratic institutions on the ruins of the early 1900s proved a formidable task in the early years of the postcommunist era. Coalition government, the main device of political stability in the precommunist era, functioned unevenly in solving the massive problems of the early 1990s, and the remaining power centers of the old regime hindered reform.

The Bulgarian Communist (Socialist) Party
<>The Union of Democratic Forces
<>Trade Unions
<>Youth Organizations
<>The Movement for Rights and Freedoms
<>Ecological Organizations and Revived Prewar Parties
<>The Monarchist Movement


From its separation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 until 1947, Bulgaria was ruled as a constitutional monarchy, with a parliamentary system based on the Turnovo Constitution of 1879. Although that document was one of the most progressive national constitutions in the world when it was written, actual governance of Bulgaria under it was a constant struggle for power among the tsar, the unicameral parliament, and the Council of Ministers. The many political factions that proliferated in the twentieth century added another dimension to this struggle. Parliaments were elected and dissolved for purely political reasons; strong prime ministers such as Stefan Stambolov (1886-94) and Aleksandur Stamboliiski (1918-23) ignored parliament to advance their own programs (the constitution had no provision for consultation among government branches, although the Council of Ministers was nominally subordinate to parliament); a succession of weak prime ministers were controlled by the tsar or by political factions such as the pro-fascist Zveno coalition of the 1930s; the need to placate the forces of Macedonian irredentism distorted both domestic and foreign politics throughout the post-independence period; and no prime minister survived without stitching together tenuous coalitions of parties, many of which had only narrow political agendas. Frequent appeals were made to amend the Turnovo Constitution; in other cases, the constitution simply was ignored.

The last arrangement of Bulgarian political forces before World War II was the royal dictatorship of Boris III. Boris devised a system of "controlled democracy" after the short totalitarian regime of Zveno had virtually abolished conventional political parties in 1934. Boris's system was based on judicious appointments and the balancing of civilian politicians against the army. His purpose was not authoritarian rule but to achieve a temporary centralization of power that would allow Bulgaria to return to stable constitutionality after the chaotic post-World War I period. Boris believed that independent parties would hinder this process, so such parties did not reemerge in Bulgaria under his rule. National elections were not held between 1931 and 1938, and subsequent prewar elections were held under strong government control. In spite of that control, an opposition bloc including the communists gained sixty parliament seats in the 1938 election, compared with ninety-five for Boris's nonpartisan government candidates. In the late 1930s, Boris struggled in vain to form a lasting coalition that could provide solid middle ground between the communist and pro-Nazi factions, both of which rapidly gained support between 1935 and 1940. But when Bulgaria entered the war in 1940, the same "temporary" balance remained in place.


During World War II, the BCP actively opposed Bulgaria's Axis alliance by forming partisan terrorist and sabotage groups. In 1942 the broad Fatherland Front coalition was formed as the communists attempted to involve legal opposition groups in exerting antiwar pressure on the government. The coalition's activities brought severe government reprisals. By 1944 partisan units also were being formed in the Bulgarian army.

The Red Army invasion of September 1944 found a temporary Bulgarian government desperately trying to avoid accommodation with the communist left or the pro-German right, but under intense diplomatic and military pressure from both Germany and the Soviet Union. Boris had died in 1943 and by 1944 severe wartime shortages (partly caused by peasants hoarding food supplies) eroded support for the government.

When Soviet troops entered Bulgaria, the Fatherland Front engineered a bloodless coup displacing the government of Prime Minister Konstantin Muraviev. In 1946 the first Fatherland Front government divided ministries among the BCP, Zveno, the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), and the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (BSDP). Within a year, the BCP had used that power base to purge the government of all key opposition figures and dominate the Fatherland Front. In 1946 a national referendum rejected the monarchy in favor of a people's republic, leading to the immediate exile of Simeon II, nine-year-old son of Boris III. The following month, the communists easily won a national election for representatives to a subranie to write a new constitution over the objections of BANU, which sought a return to the Turnovo Constitution. In early 1947, the conclusion of peace between Bulgaria and the Allies eliminated the Allied Control Commission, through which Britain had maintained some influence on domestic Bulgarian politics. By that time, the only remaining obstacle to total BCP domination was Nikola Petkov's BANU, in a coalition with other noncommunist parties. The power struggle ended abruptly in mid-1947, when the Fatherland Front arrested and executed Petkov as a Western agent. This event paved the way for unanimous adoption of a new constitution in December 1947. The new document was closely modeled on the 1936 Soviet constitution.

The parliamentary election of fall 1946 gave the BCP 275 of 465 seats and made Georgi Dimitrov prime minister. The communists gained control of all significant ministries, beginning the last stage of consolidating communist dictatorship. The ensuing regimes of Dimitrov and Chervenkov defined Bulgaria as a highly conventional communist state and isolated it from nearly all noncommunist commercial and cultural influences.

The State under Dimitrov

In the 1946 elections, noncommunist parties in the Fatherland Front lost influence far out of proportion to the numerical election results. The most salient new feature of the Dimitrov Constitution was that it rejected the separation of powers among government branches in favor of a "unity of state power," lodged in a presidium wielding legislative, judicial, and executive powers and chosen by the National Assembly with party approval. As before, the National Assembly was a unicameral legislature; elections were to be held every four years, and members could be recalled at any time. The assembly would meet in regular sessions twice a year, or by special order of the Presidium--making the full assembly little more than a rubber-stamp body. The Presidium met continuously and exercised all constitutional powers of the National Assembly when the assembly was not in session. The Presidium's powers included controlling the selection of the Council of Ministers, amending the constitution, approving the national economic plan, declaring war, and making peace. The president of the nineteen-member Presidium thus became one of the two most powerful men in Bulgaria.

The Council of Ministers retained a nominal executive authority as a cabinet, but it was overshadowed by the designation of the National Assembly as "supreme organ of state power." In practice, the council chairman, who by office was prime minister of the country, was always the first secretary of the BCP. This gave the prime minister power equal to that of the Presidium president. The judiciary, now also chosen by the legislative branch at all levels of government, lost all independence. Independent local political power was eliminated when province and district jurisdictions were restructured into people's councils. The councils elected executive committees analogous to the national Presidium and overseen by that body. As at the national level, local government bodies were filled primarily with party officials. Thus, the Dimitrov Constitution achieved unprecedented centralization of political power in Bulgaria.

Like its Soviet model, the 1947 constitution guaranteed broad freedoms to all citizens (religion, conscience, assembly, speech, the press, emancipation of women, and inviolability of person, domicile, and correspondence). The Bulgarian document differed from the Soviet by allowing private property, but only if the privilege were not used "to the detriment of the public good." All means of production shifted to state ownership. Universal suffrage was guaranteed, as were welfare and employment. Guaranteed employment was restricted to socially useful occupations, however.

Government practice soon eroded the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Between 1948 and 1952, several official acts repressed the Bulgarian religious community. In 1948 the exarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was forced into retirement for his refusal to defend the communist state and the Soviet Union. In 1949 the Law on Religious Organizations put all churches under state control; over the next four years, Catholic and Protestant clergy were harrassed and imprisoned as part of an overall policy of preventing contact with the West. During this period, the Dimitrov government continued purging party and nonparty officials, imitating the contemporaneous Stalinist practice of eliminating all possible political rivals. The most notable victim was the hardline Stalinist and long-time party leader Traicho Kostov, convicted and executed in 1949 as a collaborator with the fascists and Josip Broz Tito, the heretical Yugoslav communist leader.

The Chervenkov Era

The fifth party congress, held in December 1948, rightfully celebrated the complete political dominance of socialism in Bulgaria. When Dimitrov died in 1949, his successor, Stalin protégé Vulko Chervenkov, began four years of intense party purges (disqualifying nearly 100,000 of 460,000 Bulgarian communists). Chervenkov's cultivation of a cult of personality earned him the nickname "Little Stalin." The breakaway of Tito's Yugoslavia from the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) in 1948 caused Stalin and Chervenkov to put additional pressure on the BCP to conform with the Soviet line. Stalin's death in 1953 introduced new Soviet leaders who disapproved Chervenkov's methodology, but the Bulgarian leader remained prime minister and dominated politics until 1956. Chervenkov announced a "new course" in 1953, police terror abated, and some political prisoners were released. Meanwhile, Bulgarian government under the communists followed a postwar East European pattern by creating large numbers of bureaucratic posts, filled by party-approved functionaries, the nomenklatura. A swollen bureaucracy had been traditional in Bulgaria since the modern state was founded in 1878; but previously appointments had depended on membership in the civil service elite, not on membership in a particular party.


Todor Zhivkov was the dominant figure in Bulgarian government for about thirty-five years, during which time the political scene remained remarkably stable. In the context of post-Stalinist communist statecraft, Zhivkov was a masterful politician. In the context of popular demands for meaningful reform, he was an anachronism whose removal symbolized the beginning of a new approach to governance. The Rise of Zhivkov

The Chervenkov era firmly established Bulgarian reliance on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) for policy leadership and resolution of domestic party rivalries. Just as Stalin's condemnation had doomed Kostov, so condemnation of the cult of personality by Stalin's successors doomed Chervenkov and prepared the way for his successor, Todor Zhivkov. Zhivkov, who began his political career in the party youth organization and worked his way to the party Central Committee in 1948, became party chief when Chervenkov resigned that position in 1954. Both the Moscow authorities who ultimately chose new Bulgarian leaders and the BCP leaders in Sofia approved Zhivkov's flexibility, youth (he was forty-two when selected), and lack of powerful friends and enemies.

In 1956 Bulgarian politics again felt the influence of the Soviet Union. When Nikita S. Khrushchev became leader of the CPSU, he began a new phase of de-Stalinization and party reform that echoed strongly in Bulgaria. This left Chervenkov without support outside Bulgaria. Then, in 1956 the April Plenum of the BCP Central Committee began a broad party liberalization policy that caused Chervenkov to resign as prime minister. Rather than break completely with the past, however, the party retained Chervenkov as a member of a de facto ruling triumvirate that included Zhivkov and longtime party leader and purge participant Anton Yugov, who became prime minister. Although party liberalization was stalled by 1956 uprisings in Hungary and Poland, the April Plenum identified Zhivkov as the leader of the Politburo. In doing so, it also shifted power conclusively to the "home" branch of the BCP, more attuned to Bulgarian issues and less to total obedience to the Soviet line.

Zhivkov Takes Control

By the end of 1961, a new wave of Soviet anti-Stalinism gave Zhivkov the support he needed to oust Chervenkov and Yugov. Zhivkov's political position had deteriorated because his grandiose, failed plans for industrialization and agricultural collectivization had evoked strong social protests between 1959 and 1961, but he succeeded Yugov as prime minister in 1962. Khrushchev formally endorsed Zhivkov with a state visit to Bulgaria in 1962. Although no additional changes occurred in the party or the government until 1971, Zhivkov began introducing a new generation of leaders in the mid-1960s, and political repression eased noticeably. The old guard of officials remaining from the 1944 revolution remained a powerful party element with important Soviet connections; therefore, Zhivkov provided that group enough Politburo positions to ensure its support. Meanwhile, Zhivkov selectively purged officials throughout the early period to prevent development of alternative power centers in the party. In 1964 Zhivkov earned peasant support by appointing Georgi Traikov, chief of the nominally independent BANU, head of state and by pardoning comrades of the executed BANU leader Petkov.

In 1966 a strong resurgence of the conservative wing of the BCP at the Ninth Party Congress curtailed Bulgarian diplomatic and economic overtures to the West and to its Balkan neighbors. The new conservatism also tightened government control over the media and the arts, and the government resumed anti-Western propaganda to protect Bulgarian society from bourgeois influences. As was the case in the 1956 invasion of Hungary, Bulgarian support for the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia brought tighter party control of all social organizations, and reaffirmation of "democratic centralism" within the party--all with the goal of reassuring the Soviet Union that Bulgaria would not follow in the heretical footsteps of the Czechs.

The Constitution of 1971

A later echo of the events of 1968 was the drafting of a new constitution at the Tenth Party Congress in 1971. Unlike the Dimitrov Constitution, the new document specified the role of the BCP as "the leading force in society and the state," and the role of BANU as its collaborator within the Fatherland Front. The 1971 constitution also defined Bulgaria as a socialist state with membership in the international socialist community. As before, broad citizen rights were guaranteed but limited by the requirement that they be exercised only in the interest of the state. Citizen obligations included working according to one's ability to build the foundation of the socialist state and defend the state, compulsory military service, and paying taxes. Most of the governmental structure specified in the Dimitrov Constitution remained, but a new body, the State Council, replaced the Presidium as supreme organ of state power. This council consisted of twentytwo members and a chairman who was de facto head of state. The State Council was more powerful than the Presidium because it could initiate as well as approve legislation, and because it exercised some of the non-governmental supervision normally delegated to ruling parties in East European communist states of that period. Council members, nominally elected by the National Assembly, were members of the BCP or other mass organizations.

In 1971 Zhivkov resigned as prime minister to become chairman of the State Council. The National Assembly, traditional center of political power in Bulgaria until the 1947 constitution stripped it of power, received some new responsibilities. Permanent commissions were to supervise the work of ministries, and legislation could now be submitted by labor and youth groups (all of which were partycontrolled ). In practice, however, the National Assembly still rubber-stamped legislation and nominations for the State Council, Supreme Court, and Council of Ministers. As a follow-up to the constitution's prescription of private property rights, the 1973 Law on Citizens' Property virtually abolished private ownership of means of production, confining such ownership to "items for personal use."

The Tenth Party Congress also devised a new BCP program to coincide with the new constitutional description of party power. The program specified an orthodox hierarchical party structure of democratic centralism, each level responsible to the level above. The lowest-level party organizations were to be based in workplaces; all other levels would be determined by territorial divisions. Loyalty to the CPSU was reiterated. The BCP goal was described as building an advanced socialist society lacking differentiation by property and social standing--at that point, all of society was to be a single working class. Science and technology were to receive special attention by the party, to improve production that would make possible the next jump from advanced socialism to the first stage of communism.

After a decade of political calm and only occasional purges of party officials by Zhivkov, social unrest stirred in the mid-1970s and alarmed the Zhivkov government. International events such as the Helsinki Accords of 1975, the growth of Eurocommunism in the 1970s, and the 1973 oil crisis stimulated hope for liberalization and discontent with the domestic economy. Zhivkov responded in 1977 by purging Politburo member Boris Velchev and 38,500 party members--the largest such change since the early 1960s. Provincial party organizations also were substantially reorganized. In May 1978, the Bulgarian government acknowledged for the first time that an antigovernment demonstration had occurred-- indicating that the 1977 measures had not quelled domestic discontent.

The Last Zhivkov Decade

The period between 1978 and 1988 was one of political calm. With minor exceptions, the structure and operations of the government and the BCP remained unchanged. But the avoidance of meaningful change, despite cosmetic adjustments in the Zhivkov government, assumed that Bulgarian governance was the same uncomplicated procedure it had been in the 1970s and early 1980s--a major miscalculation.

Celebration of the 1,300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state in 1981 brought official liberalization and rehabilitation for some segments of Bulgarian society. Bourgeois political factions that had opposed the BCP before World War II were exonerated and described as comrades in the fight for Bulgarian democracy. Zhivkov also raised the official status of the Orthodox Church to codefender of the Bulgarian nationality, and restrictions on religious observances were eased.

By the second half of the 1980s, substantial maneuvering and speculation centered on identifying the successor to the seventyfour -year-old Zhivkov, who was increasingly isolated from everyday governance. Four younger politicians divided most of the key responsibilities of government and party in 1986. Although speculation grew that Zhivkov had become a figurehead or was preparing to resign, in the late 1980s he was still able to divide the power of his rivals and avoid naming a single successor.

The BCP maintained complete control over all major programs and policies in the Bulgarian government, although the role of the party in specific instances was not clear. In 1987, facing a budding opposition movement and pressure from the Soviet Union, the BCP began planning for multiple-candidate (not multiparty) regional elections to end citizen apathy toward both government and the party. Although some reforms were made in the nomination process, local electoral commissions retained control over final lists of nominees.

By February 1989, at least nine independent political groups had emerged. Spurred by the liberalized domestic policies of Mikhail S. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, such groups demanded similar concessions from the Bulgarian government. Given Bulgaria's long record of mimicking Soviet policy changes, this was a natural expectation. In fact, the 1987 BCP Central Committee plenum had endorsed officially perestroika and glasnost, the cornerstones of the Gorbachev reform program. The plenum also substantially reduced official state ceremonies, rituals, personal awards, and propaganda, explaining that such formalities alienated the people.

In the three years following the 1987 plenum, however, the Bulgarian government and the BCP gave lip service to Soviet reforms, while quietly taking a more hard-line approach to many issues. During this period, reform in the BCP and the government apparatus was confined to reshuffling ministries, departments, and personnel as a gesture of solidarity with perestroika. At the same time, dissident groups were harrassed, put under surveillance, and accused of unpatriotic activities.

Issues of Dissent

In the late 1980s, official repression of the Turkish minority was the most visible domestic issue in Bulgaria. By 1989 this policy had brought harsh international condemnation and provided a human rights issue for the domestic opposition. A total of 310,000 ethnic Turks were expelled or emigrated voluntarily in 1989, and the Bulgarian economy suffered greatly from this depletion of its work force.

In July 1989, more than a hundred well-known Bulgarian intellectuals petitioned the National Assembly to restore rights to the ethnic Turks suffering forced emigration. Bulgarian Turks formed the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, advocating a wide range of government reforms besides the Turkish issue. The regime responded by accusing Turkish agents of fomenting ethnic strife, denying the existence of a Turkish minority in Bulgaria, and fanning the racial animosity of Bulgarians toward Turks.

In addition to the ethnic and political problems, in the late 1980s Bulgaria faced the need for strenuous economic reforms to improve efficiency, technology, and product quality. Between 1987 and 1989, the Zhivkov regime promised expansion of trade and joint ventures with the West, banking reform, currency convertability, and decentralized planning. In actuality, however, the thirty-five- year-old regime lacked the political will and energy to press drastic economic reform. The economic stagnation that began in the early 1980s, with which Zhivkov had become identified, continued unchallenged and became another major cause of political discontent.

The Removal of Zhivkov

Despite the appeareance of numerous opposition groupsa in the preceding year, the Zhivkov regime was unprepared for the successive fall of communist regimes across Eastern Europe in late 1989. In October an all-European environmental conference, Ecoforum, was held in Sofia under the auspices of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). This event focused world attention on Bulgaria's history of repressing environmental activism and stimulated open demonstrations by human rights advocates and the Bulgarian Ekoglasnost environmental group. Although some demonstrators were beaten and detained, direct communication with the West inspired them to greater self-expression. This activity culminated in a mass demonstration in Sofia on November 3. Meanwhile, in a speech to a plenum of the BCP in late October, Zhivkov admitted that his latest restructuring program, begun in 1987 to achieve "fundamental renewal" of society, politics, and the economy, had been a failure. He unveiled a new, detailed program to counteract "alienation of the people from the government and the production process." Other party spokesmen increasingly noted recent drastic reforms in other socialist states and pointed to Bulgaria's failure to keep pace. Then, at the regular plenary meeting of the BCP Central Committee in November, Prime Minister Georgi Atanasov announced Zhivkov's resignation.

Although the resignation appeared voluntary, Western observers agreed that top party figures, increasingly dissatisfied with Zhivkov's refusal to recognize problems and deal with public protests, had exerted substantial pressure on him. The leaders of the movement to remove Zhivkov--Atanasov, Foreign Minister Petur Mladenov (who became head of state), and Defense Minister Dobri Dzhurov--had received the advance blessing of Moscow and the majority of the Bulgarian Politburo. Soviet leader Gorbachev apparently approved the change because Zhivkov had not heeded warnings that cosmetic reform was insufficient given the drastic restructuring sought by Gorbachev. Within a month of his resignation, Zhivkov was expelled from the BCP, accused of abuse of power, and arrested. Mladenov became chairman of the State Council and chief of the BCP.


The Zhivkov ouster brought rapid change in some political institutions, little or no change in others. The official name of the country dropped "people's" to become simply the Republic of Bulgaria. For two years, the BCP remained entrenched as the most powerful party, slowing reform and clinging tenaciously to economic and political positions gained under Zhivkov. But a new constitution was ratified in mid-1991, laying the basis for accelerated reform on all fronts. The Mladenov Government

The first few months of the Mladenov regime brought few of the dramatic changes seen in Czechoslovakia or the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in the same period. Mladenov, who came to power without a personal following, left much of the old government in power and failed to separate state from party functions. Although initial reforms came from the Politburo, Mladenov achieved popularity by immediately legalizing political protest, giving the media unprecedented freedom, abolishing privileges of party officials, and scheduling free elections within six months. Article 1 of the 1971 constitution, which established the leading role of the BCP in Bulgarian government and society, was abolished in January 1990. Public repudiation of Zhivkov allowed his subordinates to treat him as a scapegoat, thus protecting themselves from blame by the proliferating opposition groups.

The Bulgarian communists avoided the immediate political rejection suffered by their East European comrades for several reasons. Because the BCP had begun as an indigenous Bulgarian movement in 1891, Bulgarians did not resent it as an artificially imposed foreign organization. In 1989 nearly one in nine Bulgarians belonged to the party, a very high ratio that included a large part of the intelligentsia. Early opposition groups were concentrated in Sofia and did not have the means to reach the more conservative hinterlands, reflecting a political dichotomy between town and country that had existed since pre-Ottoman times. Visible reorganization and reform occurred in the BCP shortly after Zhivkov left power; the Politburo was abolished and some old-guard communists were purged. The BCP invited opposition representation in the government and conducted a series of round-table discussions with opposition leaders. In February 1990, Mladenov resigned as party chief, removing the stigma of party interference in government; in April, the State Council was abolished and Mladenov was named president.

The 1990 Stalemate

The first free election of the postwar era, the national election of June 1990, was anticipated as an indicator of Bulgaria's post-Zhivkov political mood and as an end to the extreme uncertainty that followed the Zhivkov era. But the election results provided no decisive answers or conclusions. During the political maneuvering that preceded the election, the contest for control of the National Assembly narrowed to the BCP and the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), a coalition of several major and many minor parties and groups with diverse interests. The BCP presented a reformist image, liberally blaming Zhivkov for national problems and changing its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to stress that a new era had begun. In March an agreement with opposition groups had made approval of legislative proposals by the round table necessary before the BCP-dominated National Assembly could consider passage. The round table also signed accords defining future legal changes in the political system, including multiple parties, separation of powers, constitutional protection of media freedom, and legalization of private property.

The parliamentary election was followed by three months of inactivity and drift in the summer of 1990. Although the Council of Ministers had resigned immediately after the election, a new government was not formed until late August. BSP party official Andrei Lukanov finally became prime minister in an all-socialist cabinet because UDF and other opposition parties refused to form a coalition. At the same time, the National Assembly required several weeks to agree on compromise candidate Zheliu Zhelev to replace Mladenov as president. The most significant political situation was outside government institutions. The two major parties became deadlocked over UDF demands that the BSP acknowledge its responsibility for the economic ruin of Bulgaria, and that the government adopt the UDF plan for radical economic reform similar to that in Poland. Although much of the Zhivkov old guard had been forced out in favor of middle-of-the road socialists in 1990, the UDF demands activated strong pockets of reaction. Zhelev, a dissident philosopher and UDF leader, spent the rest of 1990 seeking compromises among the factions.

The Lukanov government, tied to an aging, largely conservative constituency and full of little-known BSP figures, met few of the reform demands. In October Lukanov presented a 100-day economic reform plan to serve as a transition to longer-term planning in 1991. The plan borrowed major parts of the program advocated by the UDF. The National Assembly remained too divided on the reform issue to give Lukanov the legislative support he needed. Meanwhile, polls showed a definite drop in popular support for the BSP; under these circumstances, the UDF intensified efforts to turn out the government by refusing to support any of Lukanov's proposals.

In November Bulgaria was paralyzed by student demonstrations and general strikes called to topple Lukanov. Lukanov's resignation ended the opposition's refusal to form a coalition government. Zhelev, who then commanded more political power than any other figure, proposed a compromise candidate, Dimitur Popov, as prime minister. Popov, a judge with no party allegiance, received a mandate to form a new cabinet and proceed with reforms as soon as possible. After considerable deliberation, cabinet posts were distributed among major factions, and reform legislation began slowly moving into the National Assembly in the first half of 1991.


In the years immediately following the Zhivkov regime, the nominal structure of the Bulgarian government remained essentially unchanged. Actual decision making, however, moved from the elite level of the communist leadership to a variety of political figures and institutions. The Role of Unofficial Organizations

An important quasigovernmental institution in the early stages of this process was the national round table. Conceived by opposition groups shortly after Zhivkov's fall, the round table format was accepted by the Atanasov government under threat of general strikes. In March 1990, a declaration on the role and status of the national round table, formulated by all major political groups, gave the round table approval rights to all major legislation proposed by the government, prior to formal consideration by the National Assembly. In 1990 round table discussions included key government figures and representatives of all constituent groups of the UDS and other opposition parties and trade unions. This forum was an effective bridge across the chaotic months preceding the first free election. It reached key compromises on election law, major provisions of the new constitution, and economic reforms. Compromise measures were then forwarded to the parliament for ratification. By mid-1990 round table proposals were dominated by the platform of the UDF, for which that forum had become the chief input to government policy. The national round table thus replaced the BCP as the de facto source of legislative initiatives, in the absence of a coalition government representing the major Bulgarian political factions.

In late 1990, President Zhelev convened a Political Consultative Council that was able to unite all major factions behind formation of a coalition government in December 1990. This step ended the threat that chaos would follow the resignation of the Lukanov government. In January 1991, the parties represented in the National Assembly signed a detailed agreement describing political rights, the legislative agenda for 1991, BCP (BSP) responsibility for the mistakes of the Zhivkov regime, property rights, resolution of social conflicts, and ethnic questions. The stated purpose of this agreement was to ease national tensions and provide a proper working atmosphere for the immense reform program envisioned for 1991.

The National Assembly

In the post-Zhivkov reforms, the National Assembly returned to its prewar status as a forum for debate of legislation among representatives of true political factions. This status had been lost completely from 1947 to 1989, when the assembly rubber-stamped legislation originating in the BCP hierarchy.

The Assembly under Zhivkov

According to the 1971 constitution, the unicameral National Assembly was the supreme organ of state power, acting as the national legislature and electing all the other bodies of the national government. In practice under the Zhivkov regime, the National Assembly met for three short sessions each year, long enough to approve policies and legislation formulated by the Council of Ministers and the State Council. The National Assembly had a chairman (elected by the entire body, until 1990 at the recommendation of the BCP Central Committee), and four deputy vice chairs. In the intervals between sessions, the functions of the assembly were conducted by permanent commissions whose number and designation varied through the years. Not enumerated in the 1971 constitution, the authority of the commissions often overlapped that of the ministerial departments. The National Assembly had the power to dissolve itself or extend its term in emergency session.

During the Zhivkov years, new assemblies were elected every five years to coincide with party congresses; the Central Committee of the BCP met immediately before the first session of each new assembly to approve candidates who were then rubber-stamped by the National Assembly for the leadership positions of the assembly, State Council, and Council of Ministers. The ninth National Assembly (1986-90) was rarely even notified of policy decisions of the Zhivkov-led State Council. Nevertheless, election of the National Assembly remained the most important political ritual in Bulgaria throughout the communist period, and the return to free assembly elections in 1990 recalled the direct popular representation prescribed in the Turnovo Constitution of 1879, still revered as a model for Bulgarian governance.

The First Freely Elected Assembly, 1990

The first significant post-Zhivkov act of the holdover (ninth) National Assembly was passage of twenty-one measures of constitutional reform. These measures included abolition of the article of the 1971 constitution giving the BCP sole right to govern. In April 1990, that National Assembly dissolved itself to make way for national election of a Grand National Assembly, charged with writing and ratifying a new constitution; this was the first voluntary adjournment of that body since World War II.

In accordance with the provisions under which the 1990 parliamentary elections were held, after passing the new constitution in July 1991 the Grand National Assembly voted to dissolve itself and continue working as a normal parliament until election of the new body. Thus, in the second half of 1991 work would continue on critical legislation covering issues such as privatization, election procedures, and local government reform.

After the 1990 national elections, the National Assembly remained a weak legislative body, but for a new reason. No longer required to follow party orders precisely, representatives often were split quite evenly on reform issues. The majority BSP included reform and reactionary factions, and the 144 UDF members were a formidable opposition group. Unlike the brief assemblies of the Zhivkov era, the new body remained in session several days a week throughout the remainder of 1990 through mid-1991, struggling for compromise on reform legislation.

The State Council and the Presidency

The State Council, technically an executive committee within the National Assembly, was created by the 1971 constitution as the primary executive agency of the national government. Because of that role, the chairman of the council was automatically president of the country and thus one of the two most powerful figures in Bulgaria in the Zhivkov years. The State Council included representatives from trade unions, the Communist Youth League of Bulgaria (Komsomol), and other mass organizations. The council supervised the Council of Ministers and had the right to repeal ministry decisions--a function that clearly reduced the Council of Ministers to secondary executive status. In addition to its executive functions, the State Council could issue direct decrees with full legal authority when the National Assembly was not in session, with no provision for later approval by the full legislative body. Under Zhivkov most members of the State Council were high officials of the BCP. When Petur Mladenov replaced Zhivkov as chairman of the State Council, he did not automatically become head of state. When the State Council was abolished in April 1990, the round table named Mladenov president of the republic, a new title for the Bulgarian head of state. The appointment was made with the understanding that the new constitution would set guidelines for this office. Meanwhile, Mladenov and his successor Zheliu Zhelev retained the power to form cabinets with the consent of the National Assembly, to represent the country abroad, and to act as commander in chief of the armed forces.

The Council of Ministers

The constitution of 1971 substantially diminished the power of the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which had been an intermittent center of executive authority in Bulgarian governments since 1878. In the last two decades of the Zhivkov regime, the council acted as an advisory board to the State Council and directed everyday operations of the government bureaucracies. All members of the Council of Ministers belonged to the BCP or BANU, and many held top party posts and ministries simultaneously. Longtime Politburo member Stanko Todorov headed the executive committee of the council from its creation in 1971 until 1989. Within their areas of responsibility, the ministries had authority to form administrative organs and to overturn acts by local government agencies. The exact makeup of the council was not prescribed in the constitution; the National Assembly had authority to make changes as necessary, and the council's shape and size changed often in the last Zhivkov years.

After the elections of 1986, the Council of Ministers was reorganized and reduced in size. In the last years of the Zhivkov regime, it included eleven ministers, a chairman (the prime minister), a deputy prime minister, and the chairman of the Committee on State and People's Control. In early 1990, the new provisional council had fourteen ministries: agriculture and forests; construction, architecture, and public works; economy and planning; finance; foreign affairs; foreign economic relations; industry and technology; internal affairs; internal trade; justice; national defense; national education; public health and social welfare; and transport. The ambassador to the Soviet Union also had full cabinet status, as did the heads of the committees for protection of the environment and state and people's control. Five deputy prime ministers also sat in that cabinet, which was headed by Zhivkov-era holdover Georgi Atanasov. The second provisional cabinet, under Andrei Lukanov, included ministers of the environment, culture, and science and higher education in its seventeen departments. The ambassador to the Soviet Union was dropped, and a minister for economic reform added.

The new status of the Council of Ministers as the power center of Bulgarian government was signaled by the targeting of Prime Minister Lukanov for opposition pressure in the fall of 1990. A second signal was intense bargaining between the BSP and opposition parties for positions in the Popov cabinet. That bargaining produced a compromise agreement that gave the key ministries of foreign economic relations and finance to the BSP, with national defense going to the UDF. The Ministry of the Interior, very sensitive because of its role under Zhivkov as the enforcer of state security, was largely reorganized and headed by a nonpolitical figure whose two deputies represented the major parties. The splitting of the deputy minister positions was a key compromise to gain approval of the Popov cabinet. In all, five of the seventeen ministers in the new cabinet were politically unaffiliated; seven remained from the last Lukanov cabinet to soften the transition; and the UDF filled only three posts. The multiparty conference that reached this agreement also allowed for further adjustments in the cabinet structure for the Popov government. As an interim head of government, Popov's main goal was to establish minimal political and economic conditions favorable to long-term reforms.

The Judiciary

Members of the highest national judicial body, the Supreme Court, were elected to five-year terms by the National Assembly. Until 1990, however, National Assembly approval really meant control by the State Council, hence by the BCP. The national court system was divided into criminal, civil, and military courts; the Supreme Court had jurisdiction in both original and appellate cases, and it controlled the activities of all lower courts. The 1971 constitution called the court system and state prosecutor's office "weapons of the dictatorship of the proletariat." The chief prosecutor, chief legal official of Bulgaria, was responsible for compliance with the law by ordinary citizens, local and national political entities and officials, and other public organizations. The powers of this office were extended by law in 1980 in an effort to forestall public dissatisfaction with the crime prevention system. Like the justices of the Supreme Court, the chief prosecutor served at the approval of the State Council. Together with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the chief prosecutor provided absolute BCP control of the Bulgarian judicial system until 1990. The election of all judicial officials further guaranteed this control.

Lower courts functioned at the provincial and municipal levels; election was by people's councils at the provincial level and directly by citizens at the municipal level, using party-approved lists. In 1990 each of Bulgaria's provinces (including Sofia) had a province court. The 105 provincal courts tried minor offenses. Both professional judges and lay assessors sat in the lower courts. Specialized disputes were heard outside the regular court system. For example, international trade cases went to the Foreign Trade Court of Arbitration of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, civil disputes among enterprises and public organizations were heard by the State Court of Arbitration, and labor disputes were settled by the conciliation committees of enterprises.

Criticized before and after the fall of Zhivkov, the Bulgarian justice system changed little with the reform programs of 1990 and 1991. The round table resolutions of early 1990 alluded only to separation of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches to avoid concentration of power in any single branch. However, establishment of an independent, authoritative judiciary would be complicated by the universal view, instilled by forty-five years of complete control by the BCP, that the Bulgarian court system was only an extension of the state's executive power. In a 1991 poll, only 1.7 percent of Bulgarians expressed trust in the courts and the prosecutor's office. In 1990 the youngest judges were over forty years old, and the most talented had left for other careers because of the short term of office, poor pay, low professional status, and party control. In late 1990, Judge Dimitur Lozanchev became the first politically neutral chairman of the Supreme Court since World War II.

Local Government

In 1987 Bulgaria consolidated its local government structure by combining its twenty-eight districts (okruzi; sing. okrug), into nine provinces (oblasti; sing. oblast), including the city of Sofia. A tangible part of the Zhivkov regime's massive (and largely theoretical) plan for economic and political restructuring, the reorganization imitated restructuring plans in the Soviet Union. Local government consolidation was to eliminate the complex and inefficient okrug bureaucracies and improve the operation of "people's self-management," the system by which people's councils nominally managed area enterprises. The latter improvement was to result from narrowing the primary function of the new oblast government to the assistance of local workers' collectives. At the same time, municipalities and townships became somewhat more autonomous because the restructuring gave them some of the administrative power removed from the higher level.

Although the number of districts had remained stable from 1959 until the 1987 reform, the number and allocation of smaller urban and rural political entities changed rapidly during that period as the population shifted. In 1990 there were 299 political divisions smaller than the oblast and twentynine separate urban areas. Both oblasti and smaller constituencies were ruled by people's councils, elected for thirtymonth terms. The local multiple-candidate elections of February 1988 were another aspect of the restructuring program. Although local election commissions retained considerable influence over nominations, about 26 percent of successful candidates were nonparty in 1988. At that time, 51,161 councillors and 3,953 mayors were elected.

The people's councils at all levels were run by elected executive committees that met continuously. These committees had full executive power to act between sessions of the people's councils, in the same way as the State Council acted for the National Assembly in the Zhivkov-era national government. Each council was responsible to the council at the next higher level; financial planning was to conform to the goals of national economic programs. Local councils had authority over the People's Militia, or police, as well as over local services and administration. The Popov government scheduled new local elections for February 1991, after which time reforms were expected in the local government system. Meanwhile, most provincial governments remained under the control of Zhivkovite officials, intensifying the schism between the urban and provincial political climates.

Electoral Procedures

The round table reforms of 1990 included a new election law ratified by the National Assembly. As in other aspects of governance, prescribed election procedures did not change greatly under the new regime, but the intent and practice of the law did. The right to vote by direct secret ballot remained universal for all Bulgarians over eighteen, and the officials they elected remained thoretically responsible only to the voters. Prescriptions for eligibility for nomination and the nomination process changed little with the new law. The main difference was that in practice the BCP (BSP) no longer could indiscriminately remove elected representatives or members of people's councils, nor did it control the nomination function nominally given to public organizations, trade unions, youth groups, and cooperatives.

Under the election law of 1953, all candidate lists were approved by the communist-controlled Fatherland Front. Under the 1990 law, all parties and registered nonparty organizations could submit candidates; individuals could be nominated for the assembly with 500 signatures of voters from their district, and an unlimited number of candidates might run from each district. The State Council formerly had the power to call elections; for the 1990 Grand National Assembly election, the date was fixed by agreement of the UDF and the BCP. The Central Election Commission, formerly a creature of the State Council, was to supervise the equitable implementation of election laws, overseeing the operation of equivalent commissions at local levels. Election commissions at all levels included members from various parties; the Central Election Commission was headed by a professor of law with no political connection.

The new law also revised the representational system of the National Assembly. The new assembly continued to have 400 seats, but it would sit for four instead of five years. A new electoral structure also was introduced. Half the National Assembly members were elected in multiple-seat districts, in proportion to total votes cast for each party in the district. A 4 percent minimum was required for a party to achieve representation. The law designated twenty-eight multiple-seat voting districts, based on the pre-1987 okruzi. The other 200 members were elected from 200 singleseat voting districts. A runoff election was held in each district where no candidate received 50 percent of the initial vote (this occurred in 81 of the 200 districts). All voters in the 1990 election had one vote in each type of district.

The election was supervised by the CSCE. According to impartial observers and the parties themselves, the election was reasonably free of interference and coercion, considering that most of the electorate had never faced a true political choice and the registration and voting systems were quite complex. Party strategies were dictated by timing and geography. The UDF, lacking time and resources to campaign in the provinces, confined its efforts to the more congenial constituency in Sofia and other large cities. The BSP campaigned as a reform party in progressive Sofia, but it took advantage of the substantial residue of Zhivkovite local officials in the provinces (many of whom were accused of exerting pressure on their constituents to vote BSP) to gain 211 assembly seats to the UDF's 144. The UDF outpolled the BSP in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, and most other Bulgarian cities.

The timing of the next national election was the topic of heated debate in the first half of 1991 as political factions maneuvered for advantage. After the new constitution was ratified in July 1991 and a new election law was scheduled for August, elections were tentatively set for October 1991. The new election law was to free the system of the cumbersome procedure used in 1990. Controversial elements of the law were a BSP-backed clause disallowing absentee ballots from émigrés and the restriction of all campaign activities to the Bulgarian language. The 1991 law prescribed a Central Electoral Commission of twenty-five, to be appointed by the president in consultation with major political factions. The central commission would then appoint and oversee like commissions at lower jurisdictions and set policy for election administration. National elections were to be held by the proportional system, eliminating the two-part system of 1990. Recognized parties, coalitions of parties, individual nominees, and combinations of individuals and parties would be eligible to run. The country was divided into thirty-one electoral constituencies, three of which were in Sofia.


Until 1989 the BCP exerted firm control over such nongovernmental political institutions as trade unions, youth groups, women's groups, and the nominally oppositionist BANU. The ouster of Zhivkov, however, brought a torrent of new and revived groups into the political arena. In the new open political climate, the groups' fragmented constituencies often spoke loudly for their own special interests, greatly complicating the process of coalition-building and compromise needed to accomplish national reform. The Bulgarian Communist (Socialist) Party

The Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP), which renamed itself the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) several months after the fall of Zhivkov, boasted one of the highest membership-to-population ratios (one in nine Bulgarians) in any communist country in the late 1980s. Between 1958 and 1987, membership grew by 442,000, mainly by adding bureaucrats and blue-collar workers in younger age groups. In 1986 women made up 32.7 percent of party membership but few women held high positions. The proportion of worker members had grown to 44.4 percent by 1986, and the proportion of farm members had dropped to 16.3 percent, reflecting an even sharper drop in the overall farming population of Bulgaria. Party recruitment in the 1980s targeted individuals already successful in public or economic life, and the proportion of whitecollar members increased in that decade.

In 1987 the BCP was organized into 2,900 local units. Until 1990 primary party organizations were based primarily in workplaces. The next level in the hierarchy was municipal organizations, which were overseen by city or province and ultimately national bodies. At every level, party and government personnel were closely interwoven, and the principle of democratic centralism kept the lower levels strictly subordinate to the national party. The primary organizations were charged with recruitment and mobilization. A major concession by the postZhivkov party was removal of party cells from all state offices, the judiciary, educational and health agencies, as well as all nongovernmental workplaces--a concession forced by the UDF's threat to boycott the round table negotiations that would set a national agenda for political reform early in 1990. That change significantly altered the primary level of party organization.

Until 1990 the top level of party leadership was the Politburo, of which Zhivkov was general secretary. That position had been abolished in the 1950s in the BCP as part of de-Stalinization. It was restored in 1981, however, to recognize Zhivkov's long service and conform to Soviet restoration under Leonid Brezhnev. Politburo members usually were selected from the central committee and nominally elected by party congresses, which normally met every five years. In 1986 the Thirteenth Party Congress elected an eleven-member Politburo dominated by party loyalists of Zhivkov's generation but supplemented by a few younger specialists in politics and economics. Following tradition, the 1986 congress made few changes in the previous Politburo. The party congresses were nominally the top policy-making body of the party, but, like the National Assembly, they rubber-stamped decisions handed them by the party elite.

The BCP hierarchy also included the Central Committee, whose members the congress unanimously approved from candidates supplied by the party leadership. Through a number of specialized departments, the Central Committee performed administrative party work between sessions of congress. After considerable size variation, the last Central Committee included 190 members and 131 candidate members in early 1990. The third elite group was the BCP Secretariat, a group somewhat smaller than the Politburo (its number also varied during the Zhivkov years), entrusted with implementing party policy.

Membership in the BCP required recommendation by three established members; if accepted at the primary and next-highest level, a candidate received full membership with no probationary period. Criminal or unethical behavior caused withdrawal of membership. Without benefit of explanation, a varying number of members also failed to receive the new party cards issued before each party congress. Abrupt purging of cadre and membership elements deemed potentially hostile to current programs was a procedure that Zhivkov used with great skill to balance and weaken opposition forces throughout his tenure in office.

The fall of Zhivkov brought immediate and dramatic changes in the BCP, including removal of the word "communist" from its name. The Extraordinary Fourteenth Party Congress of the BCP was held in the winter of 1990, over a year sooner than scheduled. That congress abolished the Central Committee and the Politburo in favor of a Supreme Party Council headed by a presidency. To streamline party activity, the new council had only 131 members, 59 fewer than the last Central Committee. The Secretariat was abolished. The party emerged from the congress with significant splits between reform and conservative factions and a new temporary program. Only about 10 percent of previous Central Committee members became members of the new Supreme Party Council; several party stalwarts who had survived the Zhivkov overthrow, including Prime Minister Atanasov, were not elected. The BCP's constitutional guarantee of the leading role in Bulgarian society already had been abolished. In a compromise with the UDF shortly after the congress, party organizations were banned from workplaces and the armed forces. The BSP had full control of the government (the UDF refused to form a coalition both before and after the 1990 elections), but BSP popularity and power ebbed rapidly during 1990 and 1991. By the first anniversary of Zhivkov's resignation, party membership had decreased to an estimated 250,000. (Membership had been reported as 984,000 at the time of the Fourteenth Party Congress.)

Bulgaria - The Union of Democratic Forces

The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF--Bulgarian Sayuz na Demokratichnite Sili--SDS), which emerged as the chief opposition faction to the BCP after 1989, was a motley coalition of several major and many minor parties and groups. Some of the parties, such as BANU, predated the communist era by several decades. Others, such as the Green Party, were organized after the overthrow of Zhivkov. When the UDF was founded in December 1989, it included ten organizations; by the following spring, six more parties and movements had joined.

The basis of the UDF was the dissident groups that formed under the faltering Zhivkov regime in the late 1980s. The all-European Ecoforum of October 1989 allowed many such groups to meet and exchange ideas for the first time; once Zhivkov fell, the initial contacts spawned an organizational declaration that envisioned a loose confederation. Within the confederation, constituent groups would continue to work for their own specific interests. The coordinating council was to include three members from each organization. Longtime dissident philosopher Zheliu Zhelev was elected chairman and Petur Beron, a well-known environmental scientist, was chosen secretary.

The diversity of membership required substantial compromise in the UDF program. At least one issue central to each member group was included in the program, however. The general goals of the program were: a civil society, market economy, multiparty system, and constitutional government. Sixteen specific steps were outlined to achieve those goals. The main criterion for acceptance of new member organizations was compatibility of their goals with those in the UDF program.

Shortly after the UDF was founded, a vital policy decision confronted its leaders: the BCP-dominated government revoked the Zhivkov program of Bulgarizing the names of all Turkish citizens. Alienating the extreme nationalist factions that opposed compromise with the ethnic minority, the UDF supported the government decision in its first major policy statement.

In the first half of 1990, the stature of the UDF was enhanced by its participation as an equal in round table discussions with the BCP (BSP) on a range of policy issues that would set future economic and political policy. By March 1990, the coalition's main goal was clearly stated: to push the interim National Assembly to draft a democratic constitution and urgent reform legislation as quickly as possible, over the opposition of remaining BSP hardliners and noncommunist splinter groups. All factions recognized that once this was completely accomplished, the coalition would dissolve and members would act as independent political parties with varying agendas.

In the parliamentary elections of June 1990, the UDF platform advocated a wide range of drastic reforms in government structure, the media, foreign policy, and the economy. Detailed proposals were offered for education, the environment, and a two-phase "shock therapy" reform leading to a free market economy. Finally, the UDF blamed the previous communist regime for Bulgaria's current crises. The UDF failed to gain a majority in the National Assembly because many rural areas remained in control of Zhivkovite BSP politicians. Many peasants had felt relatively secure under the old collective system, and the timing of the election had forced opposition parties to concentrate campaigns in the cities, their strongest regions. The BSP won 211 of the 400 seats.

In the year following parliamentary elections, BSP obstructionism stymied legalization of the UDF's reform goals. On the other hand, the UDF's refusal to participate in the Lukanov cabinet proved its popular strength by stalemating Lukanov's economic reform program. In the crisis-driven formation of the Popov government in December 1990, the UDF gained strategic cabinet posts. In January 1991, the UDF and the BSP agreed on a timetable for passage of the new constitution and other urgent legislation, but early in 1991 parliamentary disagreements set back the schedule. In March 1991, the UDF sponsored a protest rally attended by more than 50,000 people in Sofia. In May legislators from several smaller parties walked out of the National Assembly to protest its inaction; the BANU contingent promised to do the same if the parliament had not passed a new constitution by the end of June. Meanwhile, however, official UDF policy continued seeking to break the long stalemate by convincing the socialists in the National Assembly to abandon their go-slow approach to reform.

By mid-1991 a split developed between the largest member groups (the reconstituted BSDP, BANU, Ekoglasnost, and the Green Party) and the smaller ones over using quotas and preferential lists in the next election--a practice that would contradict the UDF's role as a single national movement and give larger parties substantially more influence in policy making. Easily the largest member organizations with about 100,000 members each, the BANU and BSDP would benefit most from such a shift. In July 1991, voting in the National Assembly on the new constitution clarified the split between factions viewing the UDF as a single national movement and those seeking individual identity within a loose confederation. The main issue was the constitutional prescription for legislative representation by party. By summer 1991, disagreements on ratification of the constitution had led splinter groups to form a new Political Consultative Council to rival the UDF's existing National Coordinating Council as a controlling agency of the UDF. This threatened to split the UDF into two or three slates of candidates for the 1991 national elections. Thus, by mid-1991 the relative harmony of the UDF's first year had evolved into persistent divisiveness affecting tactics, organizational structure, and the pace of reform. In spite of conciliatory efforts by the coordinating council, the effective united front that had forced major concessions from the BSP in 1990 seemed less potent in 1991.

Bulgaria - Trade Unions

The Bulgarian trade union movement was rejuvenated in the pluralist post-Zhivkov political atmosphere after being forced to adhere totally to BCP policy throughout the postwar period. By 1990 unions were a powerful policy-making force, using well-organized strikes and walkouts to emphasize their positions. Unions under Communist Regimes

In the decade before World War II, the benign dictatorship of Tsar Boris III abolished independent trade unions in favor of a single government-sponsored Bulgarian Workers' Union. As Bulgaria emerged from the war under Soviet occupation, communists abolished that union and replaced it with a General Workers' Professional Union that included both white- and blue-collar workers. Gradually, independent union organizations were forced to disband or join the communist organization. By 1947 union leaders were an important instrument in consolidation of the party's power. When capitalism was declared illegal in 1948, the Dimitrov government united thirteen unions under the Central Council of Trade Unions, which endured until 1989 as the single umbrella organization representing Bulgarian workers.

During that entire period, all workers' and professional organizations followed faithfully the economic policies of the BCP. The official goals of the Bulgarian trade unions were first to help management to fulfill state economic plans, then to defend workers' interests when they did not conflict with such fulfillment. As institutions the unions had no policy input. In individual enterprises, union leaders and managers developed informal advisory relationships. The only official role of the unions was as transmitters of party policies to the working masses. Although union and BCP membership were theoretically separate, officials at the national and local levels often overlapped to give the party direct control of workers. For example, members of the districtlevel people's councils often were also union executives.

General congresses of trade unions were held explicitly to carry out BCP policy; congress delegate structure (2,997 attended the ninth congress in 1982) and the holding of preliminary district congresses mimicked BCP procedures. The many industrial reorganization plans of the Zhivkov regime meant periodic restructuring, if not new roles, for the unions. In the early 1980s, for example, the decentralizing reforms of the New Economic Model (NEM) changed the labor union structure from one divided by region to one divided by brigade, collective, and enterprise, matching the NEM industrial structure of the time. Although this change was controversial, it did little to improve the influence of the Bulgarian working class on enterprise policy.

In the 1980s, union membership approached 4 million, encompassing an estimated 98 percent of Bulgarian workers. Almost a year before the fall of Zhivkov, the Independent Labor Federation, Podkrepa, organized as a white-collar opposition group inspired by the Polish Solidarity movement. In 1989 Podkrepa consistently was persecuted for its outspoken criticism of Zhivkov's policies.

Independent Union Organizations

When the communist regime was overthrown, the central council began restructuring the trade union system, declaring the organization independent of the BCP and renaming its umbrella organization the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CITU). In 1990 BCP organizations were banned from work places, although the continuing overlap of party and union officials maintained substantial communist influence in the CITU at local levels. In the early reform years, the CITU and Podkrepa were the two major trade union federations, although many independent unions also emerged in this revival period for the movement. Early in 1990, Podkrepa established its credibility by exacting an agreement with CITU guaranteeing its members all the rights (and the substantial privileges) accorded official trade unions under the previous system. From the beginning, Podkrepa sought maximum influence on government policy, repeatedly demanding radical economic reform.

Podkrepa grew rapidly in 1990 because of its roles as a charter member of the UDF, as a participant in the policy round tables with the BCP, and as the organizer of strikes and demonstrations against the communist-dominated Lukanov government. In early 1990, an estimated 300 strikes helped convince the government that talks with opposition groups were necessary. Although Podkrepa ran no candidates in the national elections of 1990, it vigorously supported candidates who espoused labor views. In late 1990, another wave of strikes pushed the Lukanov government out and led to the coalition Popov government. Although CITU and other unions participitated, Podkrepa usually was the prime organizer in such actions.

CITU, whose membership of 3 million dwarfed the 400,000 of Podkrepa, remained politically passive in the early post-Zhivkov period. In mid-1990 CITU began issuing statements critical of government inactivity, and it mobilized 500,000 workers to participate in the November 1990 strikes initiated by Podkrepa against the Lukanov government.

The strikes that forced Lukanov's resignation also raised criticism of the political role of both labor organizations late in 1990. CITU received criticism for both its continued ties with the BSP and its aggressive reformist stance. The Supreme Party Council of the BSP declared a policy of noninterference in CITU affairs. Meanwhile, Podkrepa, led by controversial, outspokenly anticommunist Konstantin Trenchev, responded to internal and external criticism by changing from active membership to observor status in the UDF.

The unions continued active participation in political decision making in 1991, however. Because economic reforms brought substantial unemployment and workplace disruption, representing worker interests was synonymous with such involvement in this period. In January 1991, CITU and Podkrepa signed a "social peace agreement" with the Popov government to refrain from striking during the first phase of economic reform in exchange for limitations on work-force cutbacks. However, jurisdictional and policy disputes threatened to undermine the agreement. Although both organizations continued to support the Popov government, in March 1991 Podkrepa proposed that UDF representatives boycott the National Assembly because it failed to pass reform measures.

As opposition to the communists declined as a uniting factor, Bulgaria's trade unions maneuvered to shape new roles for themselves in 1991. Representing 40 percent of the population in a wide-open political culture, they exerted tremendous influence on policy even in the first post-Zhivkov year. The radical economic reform envisioned by Bulgarian leaders would include entirely new relationships among the government, enterprise management, and unions. Movement to a Western-style free-market economy would mean conceding some worker rights taken for granted under the command economy, but compromise with the Podkrepa-led union movement promised to be a severe test for other political institutions.

Bulgaria - Youth Organizations

Following the model of the Soviet Union, the BCP put massive resources into its party youth organization when it came to power. Officially called the Communist Youth League of Bulgaria (later the Dimitrov Communist Youth League of Bulgaria) and abbreviated to Komsomol, the league sought to ensure that proper socialist values would pass to the next generation and to supply new members for the party. With a peak membership of 1.5 million in 1987, the Komsomol had the same organizational structure as the BCP, with a secretariat and executive bureau analogous to the Politburo at the top and a pyramid of local and regional sub-organizations. Besides instilling party dogma in Bulgarian youth, the organization was a vehicle for enforcing party directives, a source of reserve personnel, an organizer of social and recreational activities, and, in the 1980s, an instrument for encouraging computer training in the schools. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the Komsomol's lack of self-confidence was revealed in a series of party meetings, speeches, and programs aimed at explaining and combatting apathy and materialism in Bulgarian youth. By the late 1980s, the Komsomol was widely seen as a hollow facade; between 1987 and 1989, membership dropped by 30 percent after compulsory registration ended in secondary schools.

Immediately after the overthrow of Zhivkov, alternative youth groups began to form. One such group, the Federation of Independent Students' Unions (FISU), gained support by advocating complete separation of student groups from the BCP/BSP and its ideological constraints and by proclaiming itself a student voice on questions of national policy. FISU gained stature by being a charter member of the UDF.

Meanwhile, the Komsomol acknowledged past failures, changed its name to the Bulgarian Democratic Youth (BDY), and began issuing policy statements on student rights and broader social issues. The organization was decentralized by giving local affiliates substantial autonomy, and democratized by limiting the terms of officials. Election of a political unknown, Rosen Karadimov, as first secretary was another signal that the youth organization had broken with conventional communist party practices.

The BDY was overwhelmed by a wave of student activism in alternative groups. Student strikes in support of the anti-Lukanov labor strikes in late 1990 shut down major universities. And, like the BSP, the BDY faced reminders and accusations of its misdeeds in the prereform era. In late 1990, the BDY returned to the state much of the property the Komsomol had accumulated during decades of BCP funding. It also renounced socialism and recast itself as an apolitical social organization.

Bulgaria - The Movement for Rights and Freedoms

With 120,000 members, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was the fourth largest political organization in Bulgaria in 1991, but it occupied a special place in the political process. The leader of the movement, Ahmed Dogan, was imprisoned in 1986 for opposition to the Zhivkov policy of assimilating ethnic Turks. Founded in 1990 to represent the interests of the Turkish ethnic minority, the MRF gained twentythree seats in the first parliamentary election that year, giving it the fourth-largest parliamentary voting bloc. Its agenda precluded mass media coverage or building coalitions with other parties, because of the strong anti-Turkish element in Bulgaria's political culture. By mid-1991, the UDF had held only one joint demonstration with the MRF; their failure to reconcile differences was considered a major weakness in the opposition to the majority BSP. In early 1990, the MRF protested vigorously but unsuccessfully its exclusion from national round table discussions among the major Bulgarian parties.

In 1991 the MRF broadened its platform to embrace all issues of civil rights in Bulgaria, aiming "to contribute to the unity of the Bulgarian people and to the full and unequivocal compliance with the rights and freedoms of mankind and of all ethnic, religious, and cultural communities in Bulgaria." The MRF took this step partly to avoid the constitutional prohibition of political parties based on ethnic or religious groups. The group's specific goals were ensuring that the new constitution protect ethnic minorities adequately; introducing Turkish as an optional school subject; and bringing to trial the leaders of the assimilation campaign in the 1980s. To calm Bulgarian nationalist resentment, the MRF categorically renounced Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and ambitions for autonomy within Bulgaria. Political overtures were made regularly to the UDF, and some local cooperation occurred in 1991. Although the MRF remained the fastest growing party in Bulgaria, however, the sensitivity of the Turkish issue caused official UDF policy to keep the MRF in isolation.

Bulgaria - Ecological Organizations and Revived Prewar Parties

Besides the BSP and BANU, parties officially sanctioned under Zhivkov, an unofficial list of political organizations in early 1990 contained fourteen political parties, seven unions and labor federations, and sixteen forums, clubs, movements, committees, and associations--diverging widely in scope, special interests, and size. Ecological Organizations

Two ecological organizations, the Green Party in Bulgaria and Ekoglasnost, were founding members of the UDF. The Greens, which separated from Ekoglasnost shortly after Zhivkov's fall, included mostly scientists and academics. Their platform stressed decentralized government and a strong role for the individual in determining quality of life and preservation of the environment. The government was to play a leading role, however, in providing social security, health care, and support for scientific reasearch. Ekoglasnost, which described itself as nonpolitical despite its role in the UDF, was founded in early 1989 as an open association of environmentally concerned citizens. Its purpose was to collect and publicize ecological information about proposed projects, and to assist decision makers in following environmentally sound policy. Ekoglasnost had a membership of 35,000 at the end of 1990.

Revived Prewar Parties

The Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) was an offshoot of the movement that produced the BCP. The main socialist party in Bulgaria between the world wars, the BSDP was disbanded by the communists in 1948. It resurfaced in 1990, resuming its advocacy of government reform and elimination of social privilege. The BSDP saw a freely elected National Assembly as the chief instrument of popular democracy. The BSDP party platform also called for close economic ties with Europe, disarmament, and respect for private property. The BSDP was a founding member of the UDF and, under the controversial leadership of Petur Dertliev, one of its most active participants.

The history of the BSDP followed closely that of the communists, except that the latter had a larger following. The BSDP recovered official status in 1990 after being disbanded in 1948. Representing the middle class, the party stood for private property rights, a multiparty parliamentary system of government, radical reduction of the military budget, and active participation in the European Community. Membership in 1991 was 25,000 to 30,000.

The Petkov branch of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), the third of the prewar parties to emerge as an independent entity after Zhivkov, was the part of the agrarian movement that had actively opposed the communists between 1944 and 1947 and thus did not survive the postwar communist consolidation. The "official" BANU, showpiece opposition party to the BCP from 1947 until 1989, also was revitalized in 1990. In 1990 and 1991, efforts were made to reunite the two factions. (Petkov himself was officially rehabilitated by the National Assembly in 1990.) In its new incarnation, the Petkov branch advocated complete government decentralization, extensive support for agricultural privatization and investment, punishment of the communists and "official" agrarians for crimes against the Petkov branch, and a general return to the populist ideas of Stamboliiski. Together with the BSDP, the Petkov BANU was the largest (110,000 members in 1991) and most active constituent of the UDF.

Bulgaria - The Monarchist Movement

Simeon II, exiled son of Tsar Boris III, was 54 years old in 1991, healthy, and popular with many Bulgarians. In the difficult reform years, he was the center of a small but significant movement that saw restoration of the monarchy as a solution to the dilemmas of governing society. Simeon encouraged the movement by agreeing to return if his people wished a restoration. Newly available publications on the history of the Bulgarian monarchy, especially Boris III, had evoked considerable public interest by 1991. A referendum on monarchy-versus-republic was scheduled for July 1991, then cancelled by the National Assembly because of its potentially divisive impact and because of strong opposition from the BSP and most UDF factions. The new constitution's description of Bulgaria as a republic ended official consideration of restoration in 1991, but Simeon's personal popularity preserved monarchism as a political option for many disillusioned Bulgarians in the early 1990s.


In the post-Zhivkov era, extreme diversification of political organizations and activities paralleled a similar liberation in the media and the arts. Under Zhivkov Bulgaria had followed the totalitarian formula for media control, allowing only official radio and television stations and newspapers that were conduits for the official party line on all subjects. Limited artistic freedom came in several "thaw" periods (notably in the mid-1960s and the late 1970s) that closely followed similar relaxation in the Soviet Union. The charisma of Liudmila Zhivkova, appointed by her father to oversee cultural affairs in 1975, notably lightened the Bulgarian cultural scene from the late 1970s through 1981. The early 1980s was a time of unprecedented freedom for media discussion of controversial topics; the Law on Plebiscites (1983) was to have promoted discussion of preselected issues of public interest, but by 1984 party reactionaries had reasserted control. The 1984 Bulgarian Writers' Conference called for more ideological content in literature, signaling a change that lasted through the end of the Zhivkov regime.

The Intelligentsia

Intellectual groups developed no formal organizations comparable to groups in other East European countries, because the small intellectual community centered in one city (Sofia) required no such measures. Furthermore, the Bulgarian Writers' Union already contained a large percentage of the intelligentsia. Especially during the "thaw" periods, factions in the union showed substantial diversity in their approach to the role of art versus that of the state. A much smaller Bulgarian Artist's Union and Bulgarian Journalists' Union had similar status. A samizdat (underground publication network) did circulate dissident writings from the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Among official publications, Narodna kultura (People's Culture) gained a singular reputation between 1984 and 1988 by publishing provocative articles on politics, economics, education, and the environment. In 1988 Zhivkov fired its editor Stefan Prodev for helping found a dissident organization.

Zhivkov and the Intelligentsia

Until the late 1980s, Zhivkov successfully prevented unrest in the Bulgarian intellectual community. Membership in the writers' union brought enormous privilege and social stature, and that drew many dissident writers such as Georgi Dzhagarov and Liubomir Levchev into the circle of the officially approved intelligentsia. On the other hand, entry required intellectual compromise, and refusal to compromise led to dismissal from the union and loss of all privileges. The punishment of dissident writers sometimes went far beyond loss of privileges. In 1978 émigré writer Georgi Markov was murdered in London for his anticommunist broadcasts for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and Blaga Dimitrova was harshly denounced for her critical portrayal of party officials in her 1982 novel Litse.

Zhivkov also softened organized opposition by restoring symbols of the Bulgarian cultural past that had been cast aside in the postwar campaign to consolidate Soviet-style party control. Beginning in 1967, he appealed loudly to the people to remember "our motherland Bulgaria." In the late 1970s, Zhivkov mended relations with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and in 1981 Liudmila Zhivkova's national celebration of Bulgaria's 1,300th anniversary raised patriotic feeling. Zhivkov's extensive campaign of cultural restoration provided at least some common ground between him and the Bulgarian intelligentsia.

The Ferment of 1988-90

In late 1987, dissatisfaction with government corruption, pollution, the Turkish issue, and repeated failure of economic reform programs began to stimulate open political dissent. By that time, a younger generation had matured, unimpressed by communist doctrine and disinclined to blind obedience. In November 1987, the Federation of Clubs for Glasnost and Democracy (originally the Discussion Club for Support of Glasnost and Perestroika) was founded by communist intellectuals to promote openness in Bulgarian society. In early 1988, the appearance of the Independent Association for Defense of Human Rights in Bulgaria publicized the repression of the regime. Meanwhile, the fragmented intellectual community had been galvanized by a single issue: environmental degradation. In the winter of 1987-88, an ecological exhibition in Ruse, one of the most seriously polluted industrial centers in Bulgaria, received national media attention. The communist regime's failure to protect its people from such dangers became a symbol for the general aura of incompetence that surrounded Zhivkov in the late 1980s.

In mid-1988 Zhivkov responded to the new opposition by purging two high pro-glasnost party officials, signaling that the party would permit glasnost only on its own terms. The BCP also tried to preempt environmental opposition by forming the Movement for Environmental Protection and Restoration amid promises for stiffer environmental regulation.

In late 1988 and early 1989, many leaders of independent Bulgarian groups were deported or harrassed. Nevertheless, by mid1989 at least thirteen independent associations and committees had been founded for the defense of human rights and the environment. Then in 1989, communism was discredited by successful freedom movements in Hungary, Poland, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia. By that time, glasnost had stimulated political dialog in the Soviet Union, which was still the model for Bulgarian political behavior. Under these new conditions, government intimidation failed. Although Zhivkov sought reconciliation with the intelligentsia by proclaiming a "new cultural revolution" in early 1989, the unions of writers, journalists, and artists leveled strong criticism on the environment and other issues. When Ekoglasnost was formed that year, it made a formidable public appeal for an accounting of economic policies that harmed the environment.

In 1989 the Federation of Clubs backed the National Assembly petition against Turkish assimilation by characterizing the policy as against the best traditions of the Bulgarian nation. According to one theory, the Zhivkov policy toward the Turks was calculated to alienate the intelligentsia from the ethnocentric Bulgarian majority by forcing the former to take sides with the Turks; whatever its purpose, the policy failed amid the massive Turkish exodus of 1989. Leaders of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, deported for defending the Turks, were welcomed at a session of the CSCE, severely damaging Zhivkov's image in Europe. In the fall of 1989, dissident groups received further validation at the CSCE Conference on the Environment in Sofia, where they held public meetings and were received by Western delegates. The mass demonstrations that followed convinced the BCP that the Zhivkov regime could not survive.

Dramatic expression of public discontent continued after the Zhivkov ouster. In mid-1990 tent-city demonstrations in Sofia continued for several weeks, encountering no effective official resistance. Patterned after peaceful antigovernment protests of the 1960s in the West, the Sofia campsite of over 100 tents near the BSP headquarters building began as a protest against communist retention of power in the national elections of June 1990. The protest eventually included demonstrators of many political viewpoints. Besides election fraud by the BSP, issues targeted were the Chernobyl' coverup, corruption among former and present BCP/BSP officials, Bulgaria's role in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and past actions of present government officials such as Lukanov and Interior Minister Atanas Semerdzhiev. The tent city played an important role in publicizing reform issues as a new national government was being formed.

The Media and Public Issues

In the wake of Zhivkov's overthrow, fast-spreading pluralism in the media and intellectual circles brought a din of conflicting opinion to the public. In 1987 Bulgaria had seventeen daily newspapers, most of which were local. By 1991 eight national newspapers were publishing, and an expanding variety of local and weekly papers was available. Until 1990 the chief daily newspaper was Rabotnichesko delo, the official organ of the BCP. After the fall of Zhivkov, the daily was renamed Duma; in its new format, it began to feature more balanced accounts of national problems, reflecting the moderate image now cultivated by its sponsoring organization. The fragmentation of politics in 1990 brought a newspaper boom that included a full spectrum of political views. In 1991 the leading papers by circulation were Duma, Demokratsiya (an independent), the trade union daily Trud, and Zemia, aimed primarily at rural readers. The most popular weeklies were Sturshel, featuring folk humor, and the long-running Pogled. The weekly 168 Chasa went furthest in rejecting traditional Bulgarian journalism in favor of sophisticated parody and Western-style indepth features.

Universities dropped their required study of Marxist-Leninist ideology, and student organizations emerged immediately to assert positions on a wide variety of issues. In numerous national polls, the public expressed dissatisfaction with government leaders, economic policies (as both too radical and too conservative), and the BSP. Vestiges of the traditional gap between city and village remained, however: on the average, rural Bulgarians expressed less support for market reform and noncommunist leaders, placed less blame on the communists for current problems, and opposed complete rights for the Turkish minority more strongly.

In 1990-91 the media featured major exposés on malfeasance by the Zhivkov regime (acknowledged by the present BSP under public pressure), coverups of radiation exposure from the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant and the Chernobyl' disaster in the Soviet Union, and the murder of Georgi Markov (a full-scale investigation of which opened in 1990). In mid-1991 Bulgaria opened its archives to an international commission investigating the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. In spite of those developments, in 1991 government agencies and individuals still threatened independent publications with court action for "treasonous" statements. In a 1991 poll by the independent 168 chasa, 46 percent of respondents expressed the belief that a campaign had been organized to control the Bulgarian media (the BSP and party officials were most often named responsible), and 37 percent said that freedom of the press was not in danger in Bulgaria.

The Permanent Commission for Human Rights and the National Problem was created in 1990 as an advisory and investigatory agency of the National Assembly. Composed of thirty-nine members of parliament, the commission received the nominal assignment of investigating past and present human rights violations in Bulgaria, recommending appropriate compensation, and drafting new human rights legislation. Among the issues addressed in the commission's first year were restoration of government-confiscated property to churches and Turkish citizens; verifying complaints of unfair sentencing and inhumane prison conditions; proposing laws to replace restrictive legislation such as the Law on Religious Beliefs and the Law on Passports; and erecting legal barriers against state persecution for political reasons. In January 1991, commission chairman Svetoslav Shivarov reported that all political prisoners in Bulgaria had been freed.

The Turkish Problem

As in other parts of Eastern Europe, the repeal of single-party rule in Bulgaria exposed the long-standing grievances of an ethnic minority. Especially in the 1980s, the Zhivkov regime had systematically persecuted the Turkish population, which at one time numbered 1.5 million and was estimated at 1.25 million in 1991. Mosques were closed, Turks were forced to Slavicize their names, education in the native language was denied, and police brutality was used to discourage resistance. The urban intelligentsia that partcipated in the 1990 reform movement pushed the post-Zhivkov governments toward restoring constitutionally guaranteed human rights to the Turks. But abrogation of Zhivkov's assimilation program soon after his fall brought massive protests by ethnic Bulgarians, even in Sofia.

In January 1990, the Social Council of Citizens, a national body representing all political and ethnic groups, reached a compromise that guaranteed the Turks freedom of religion, choice of names, and unimpeded practice of cultural traditions and use of Turkish within the community. In turn the Bulgarian nationalists were promised that Bulgarian would remain the official language and that no movement for autonomy or separatism would be tolerated. Especially in areas where Turks outnumbered Bulgarians, the latter feared progressive "Islamification" or even invasion and annexation by Turkey--a fear that had been fed consciously by the Zhivkov assimilation campaign and was revived by the BSP in 1991. Because radical elements of the Turkish population did advocate separatism, however, the nonannexation provision of the compromise was vital.

The Bulgarian governments that followed Zhivkov tried to realize the conditions of the compromise as quickly as possible. In the multiparty election of 1990, the Turks won representation in the National Assembly by twenty-three candidates of the predominantly Turkish MRF. At that point, ethnic Bulgarians, many remaining from the Zhivkov regime, still held nearly all top jobs in government and industry, even in the predominantly Turkish Kurdzhali Province. Nevertheless, parts of Bulgarian society felt threatened by the rise of the MRF. In 1990 that faction collided with a hard-line Bulgarian group, the National Committee for Defense of National Interests--an organization containing many former communists instrumental in the Zhivkov assimilation program. In November 1990, Bulgarian nationalists established the Razgrad Bulgarian Republic in a heavily Turkish region to protest the government's program of restoring rights to the Turks. In the first half of 1991, intermittent violence and demonstrations were directed at both Turks and Bulgarians in Razgrad.

These conditions forced the government to find a balance between Turkish demands and demonstrations for full recognition of their culture and language, and Bulgarian nationalist complaints against preferential treatment for the ethnic minority. In 1991 the most important issue of the controversy was restoring Turkishlanguage teaching in the schools of Turkish ethnic districts. In 1991 the Popov government took initial steps in this direction, but long delays brought massive Turkish protests, especially in Kurdzhali. In mid-1991 continuing strikes and protests on both sides of the issue had brought no new discussions of compromise. Frustration with unmet promises encouraged Turkish separatists in both Bulgaria and Turkey, which in turn fueled the ethnocentric fears of the Bulgarian majority-- and the entire issue diverted valuable energy from the national reform effort. Although most political parties supported full minority rights, in 1991 the strength of Bulgarian nationalist sentiment, deeply rooted in centuries of conflict with the Ottoman Empire and not inclined to compromise, promised to make the Turkish question the most pressing human rights issue in Bulgaria for the foreseeable future.


From World War II until 1989, Bulgarian foreign policy revolved around the Soviet Union. Without exception Sofia imitated or supported Soviet twists and turns such as Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in 1956 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Substantial historical and economic ties supplemented the ideological foundation of the relationship. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bulgaria improved its diplomatic relations with nations outside the Soviet sphere. But in 1989, domestic and international events jolted Bulgaria from forty years of uniformity and forced it to consider for the first time major diversification of its foreign policy, abandoning its paramount reliance on the Soviet Union. This meant a lengthy period of reevaluation, during which general goals were agreed upon but specific policy was hotly debated.

In 1991 Foreign Affairs Minister Viktor Vulkov listed several general goals of his ministry: the integration of Bulgaria as fully as possible into the unified European Community to facilitate development of a market economy and Western political institutions; improving relations with all Bulgaria's Balkan neighbors and the countries of the Black Sea region, with emphasis on mutual territorial integrity and sovereignty; active participation in the United Nations and other international organizations able to guarantee the security of small states; and maintaining as much as possible of Bulgaria's unique relationship with the Soviet Union while drawing much closer to the United States. Once the economic advantages of membership in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) disappeared in 1990 and instability became chronic in the Soviet Union, other sources of economic and geopolitical security became the primary quest in Bulgaria's pragmatic search for foreign partners. In 1990 indications of the new pragmatism were recognition of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Israel and an official invitation for the pope to visit Bulgaria.

The Foreign Policy Establishment

Major changes were made in the organizations conducting Bulgarian foreign affairs after the ouster of Zhivkov. Post-Zhivkov governments ended the practice of selecting members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for diplomatic positions in which they gathered intelligence and carried out subversive activities abroad. Admitting that the Bulgarian intelligence presence abroad had been extensive under Zhivkov, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared in mid-1991 that henceforth only a single, identified intelligence officer would remain in each Western embassy. In a sharp streamlining of the diplomatic corps, 200 of Bulgaria's 544 foreign diplomats were called home in 1990 and 1991, and 20 of its 79 foreign missions were closed, mostly in Third World countries (relations with those countries continued, however).

Under the communist Lukanov government of 1990, President Zheliu Zhelev assumed major responsibilities as head of state in talks with foreign leaders; his nonpartisan political position at home and his direct approach to foreign and economic issues gained Zhelev respect as a spokesman in Bulgaria and abroad, as well as large-scale commitments of aid from several Western sources. When Popov formed his government in 1991, Vulkov (leader of BANU) replaced a former Zhivkovite intelligence official as minister of foreign affairs, supplementing Zhelev's efforts and improving the world image of Bulgaria's official foreign policy agency.

Bulgaria - Relations with Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece and Turkey

Although the Zhivkov regime often advocated closer relations and multilateral cooperation with Yugoslavia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, and Romania, a number of traditional issues barred significant improvement until the late 1980s. Bulgarian proposals to make the Balkans a zone free of chemical and nuclear weapons, or a "zone of peace and understanding" (advanced by Zhivkov at the behest of the Soviet Union, and to eliminate weapons of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from the region) was vetoed on several occasions. But in 1990, Zhelev was able to remove some of the suspicion that had barred rapprochement by the Zhivkov regime. Post-Zhivkov regimes sought closer relations with both Greece and Turkey, partly in the hope that NATO would grant Bulgaria membership to form a bridge between its two mutually hostile members.


Bulgarian relations with Yugoslavia were conditioned by old issues of Balkan politics and by strong domestic political forces at work in both countries. Throughout the 1980s, the Yugoslav media complained loudly that Bulgaria mistreated its Macedonian citizens by insisting that Macedonians were ethnically Bulgarians, making separate ethnic recognition inappropriate. The Zhivkov regime (and its successors), fearing that inflamed nationalism in Yugoslavia would intensify demands for Macedonian autonomy across the border in Bulgaria, largely ignored the Yugoslav propaganda campaign on the Macedonian issue. The dispute over Macedonia survived and prospered after communism lost its grip on both countries. Bulgarian nationalists, stronger after Zhivkov, held that the Slavic population of the Republic of Macedonia was ethnically Bulgarian, a claim leading naturally to assertion of a Greater Bulgaria. To defuse nationalist fervor on both sides, and in keeping with the policy of improved relations with all neighbors, Zhelev officially advocated nonintervention in the ethnic affairs of other nations.

The nonintervention strategy assumed greater importance when the Republic of Macedonia sought independence from the Yugoslav federation in 1991 in an effort to escape the increasing dominance of the Republic of Serbia in the federation. That effort reinforced the protective attitude of Macedonian nationalists in Bulgaria toward Yugoslav Macedonia, which had been part of Serbia in the interwar period. Serbia's use of force to prevent the breakup of the Yugoslav federation in 1991 triggered Bulgarian fears of wider destabilization in the Balkans if Serbian expansionism were fully revived.

In 1991 Bulgarian policy toward Yugoslavia was complicated by the rejuvenation of Macedonian national groups in Bulgaria. The largest of these was the Union of Macedonian Societies, a longstanding cultural and educational society that in 1990 took the prefix IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization), which was the name of the terrorist organization active in Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia between 1893 and 1935. But the threat posed by such groups remained small because the focus of Bulgarian nationalism was the Turkish issue in 1991, and because economic reform was the major concern of all factions. In spite of claims by the Serbian press that Bulgaria was aiding Croatia in the civil war of 1991 and that Bulgaria owed Serbia reparations from World War II, Bulgaria followed Zhelev's policy of nonintervention as the Yugoslav civil war continued.


In the early 1980s, Bulgarian relations with Romania featured regular official visits by Zhivkov and Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and diplomatic avoidance of differing approaches to internal control (Romania being the more totalitarian) and the Warsaw Pact (Bulgaria being the more loyal member). At that point, both countries concentrated on more pressing foreign issues, and both advocated creating a Balkan nuclear-free zone. But during the 1980s, relations were strained by the independent foreign policy of Romania, its opposition to perestroika in the late 1980s, and mutual accusations of environmental pollution affecting the other country. Deteriorating personal relations between Zhivkov and the maverick Ceausescu also may have contributed to the decline. But, in the name of Warsaw Pact solidarity, the Zhivkov regime subdued criticism of chemical pollution from Romanian plants across the Danube, and it remained neutral in the Hungarian-Romanian dispute over Romanian treatment of ethnic Hungarians in that country in the late 1980s. After the emergence of the environment as a political issue in 1989, however, accusations became more harsh on both sides. In 1991 joint commissions attempted to reach a compromise on the environmental issue and restore the pragmatic, relatively amicable relationship of the postwar years.


Bulgarian relations with Greece, a traditional enemy, were stable throughout the 1970s and 1980s, in spite of major government changes in both countries. Zhivkov made this stability a model for the overall Balkan cooperation that was a centerpiece of his foreign policy in the 1980s. In 1986 the two countries signed a declaration of good-neighborliness, friendship, and cooperation that was based on mutual enmity toward Turkey and toward Yugoslav demands for recognition of Macedonian minorities in Bulgaria and Greece. An important motivation for friendship with Greece was to exploit NATO's Greek-Turkish split, which was based on the claims of the two countries in Cyprus. In early 1989, Bulgaria signed a ten-year bilateral economic agreement with Greece.

The main historical issue between Bulgaria and Greece, disposition of their Macedonian minorities, was settled during the 1970s; after that time, the parties adopted mutual policies of strict noninterference in internal affairs. In mid-1991 the possibility of independence for Yugoslav Macedonia threatened to renew tension in that area. Post-Zhivkov Bulgarian policy toward Greece remained very conciliatory, however; in 1991 Zhelev stressed cooperation with Greece as a foundation for Balkan stability and reassured the Greeks that Bulgarian rapprochement with Turkey did not threaten this relationship.


In spite of intermittent rapprochement, Turkey was hostile to Bulgaria through most of the 1980s because of Zhivkov's mistreatment of Bulgarian Turks and the economic hardship caused in Turkey by mass immigration of Turks from Bulgaria in 1989. The last rapprochement, a protocol of friendship in early 1988, was signed by Bulgaria to defuse international criticism of its ethnic policy. That agreement dissolved rapidly in 1988, when Turkey saw no change in Bulgarian ethnic assimilation; by 1989 Turkey was vowing to defend the Turkish minority, while Bulgaria claimed that its "Turks" were all Bulgarians converted to Islam under the Ottoman Empire.

The ouster of Zhivkov and subsequent Bulgarian commitment to repatriate deported Turks and grant them full human rights brought a marked change in Turkish policy. Despite delays and complaints from the Bulgarian Turks, Turkey remained patient and positive toward all signs of progress. The former dissident Zhelev, long a vocal critic of assimilation, became president and met with Turkish President Turgut Özal in September 1990. That meeting began a series of high-level economic talks in 1990-91 that yielded Turkish loans and technical assistance to Bulgaria and promised to bolster bilateral trade, which had shrunk by 80 to 90 percent in the mid1980s . A new treaty of friendship and cooperation was prepared in the summer of 1991.

Despite the thaw, obstacles remained in Bulgarian-Turkish rapprochement. The ill will caused by Zhivkov's shrill anti-Turkish propaganda remained fresh in the early 1990s. Strident anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish statements in the media by Bulgarian nationalist factions kept tension high, and minor border incidents continued in 1991. And Bulgarian friendship with Greece created a precarious balancing act that required caution toward such moves as the Bulgarian-Turkish nonagression pact proposed by Turkey in late 1990.

Bulgaria - The Soviet Union

In the post-Zhivkov era, the most controversial foreign policy problem was defining Bulgaria's new relationship with its traditional protector and best trading partner, the Soviet Union. Although Zhivkov's relations with Gorbachev had not been as warm as those with earlier Soviet leaders, Bulgaria remained strongly dependent on the Soviet Union economically even in the years immediately following Zhivkov's ouster (permission for which Bulgarian Politburo members duly sought and received from Moscow). In mid-1992 the 1967 Treaty for Cooperation, Security, and Friendship with the Soviet Union was to expire.

Because the treaty called for notice of abrogation to be given a year in advance, by mid-1991 Bulgarian national opinion was divided over what terms should be included in the National Assembly's draft of a new treaty. Led by the BSP, one body of Bulgarian opinion advocated essentially renewing the existing treaty, giving the Soviet Union top priority in the new foreign policy to ensure continued supply of fuels and other vital materials. A second body of opinion, led by the UDF and Podkrepa, conceded the pragmatic necessity of continued economic relations but urged that a new treaty eliminate all subordination of Bulgarian to Soviet interests and provide complete flexibility for Bulgaria to establish commercial and diplomatic ties with the West. Amid heated public debate, the Popov government reached agreement with the Soviet Union on a short-term abrogation followed by accelerated joint development of a new treaty reflecting the changed positions of both sides. The Bulgarian National Assembly was expected to pass a bill to that effect in August 1991.

Because the two countries had no disputed territory and were on roughly parallel paths of political reform in 1991, major issues between them were mostly economic. The primary Bulgarian concern was to protect its newborn geopolitical independence from any recurrence of the Warsaw Pact mentality in Moscow. Other critical goals in 1991 were stabilizing the unpredictable supply of Soviet oil, protecting large numbers of Bulgarian guest workers threatened with layoff in the Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Komi ASSR), and reestablishing Soviet markets for Bulgarian goods that had shrunk drastically in 1990. A new bilateral defense agreement also was a priority in the wake of Warsaw Pact disestablishment. In July 1991, Bulgaria set a precedent by signing a trade agreement with the Byelorussian Republic, the first intergovernmental pact made directly with one of the Soviet republics.

Bulgaria - Western Europe and the United States

Under Zhivkov Bulgaria's policy toward Western Europe and the United States was determined largely by the position of the Soviet Union. Events such as the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan automatically distanced Bulgaria from the West; then, in the early 1980s Soviet efforts to split NATO by cultivating Western Europe brought Bulgaria closer to France and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)--a position that continued through the 1980s. A 1988 application for membership in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was refused because of the Turkish assimilation program, after widespread expectations of success.

Decades of complete isolation from the West left traces on Bulgarian policy even in the 1980s. In early 1989, President François Mitterrand of France was the first Western head of state to visit Bulgaria since before World War II. Between 1945 and 1989, the highest visiting United States official was an assistant secretary of state. And in 1985 Sir Jeffrey Howe became the first British foreign secretary to visit Bulgaria since the nineteenth century--an indication that isolation began before the onset of communism.

The first post-Zhivkov regime recognized quite early, however, that Cold War politics no longer could limit Bulgaria's choice of economic or diplomatic partners. Within a few months of the Zhivkov ouster, the National Assembly Committee on Foreign Policy had received the head of the Council of Europe and received a pledge of closer ties, and Bulgarian diplomats and businessmen had described reform goals, priorities, and investment opportunities to a CSCE Conference on Economic Cooperation. Shortly thereafter Prime Minister Lukanov visited the headquarters of the European Economic Community (EEC) in Brussels. Lukanov signed a treaty on trade and economic cooperation to remove all trade barriers by 1995 and guarantee Bulgarian access to EEC markets. Lukanov also gained substantial support for Bulgarian membership in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and GATT.

A critical stage in the new policy was Zhelev's meeting with Western leaders in Europe and the United States in the fall of 1990. Zhelev explained Bulgaria's nonaligned position and its needs to United States President George H.W. Bush and to Mitterrand, receiving substantial pledges of aid from both leaders. Traditional trading partner Austria also pledged substantial new investment in the Bulgarian economy during Zhelev's tour of the West.

Bulgaria's new policy toward the West was reflected in a series of decisions taken in 1990. Diplomatic relations were restored with South Korea and Israel, Western allies in sensitive areas of Cold War confrontation. An official invitation for Pope John Paul II to visit Bulgaria constituted a new level of recognition of that religious leader's authority. And in early 1991, Bulgaria sent token noncombat forces in support of the United States-led Persian Gulf War effort. In 1991 Zhelev's cooperation with an international investigation of the Markov murder was another significant gesture to the Western world.

From the beginning, the success of Bulgaria's intense campaign for closer relations with the West depended on continued progress in economic and human rights reform and was measured in economic terms. As the stature of the Soviet Union dwindled steadily in 1991, the hope of gaining full status in the European community was a powerful weapon for reformers within Bulgaria. Given Bulgaria's strategic position and chronic instability elsewhere in the Balkans, Western nations monitored Bulgaria carefully and rewarded its progressive steps. Nonetheless, in 1991 Bulgaria remained far behind Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland in receiving Western aid.

Bulgaria - Bibliography

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Bromke, Adam, and Derry Novak, (eds.). The Communist States in
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Bromke, Adam, and Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone (eds.). The
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Bukowski, Charles. "The Dilemma of Economic Reform and Political
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Constant, Stephen. Foxy Ferdinand: Tsar of Bulgaria. New
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Debove, Alain. "The Turkish Minority in Bulgaria," Nordic
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Dimitrov, Ilcho (ed.). Kratka istoriia na Bulgariia.
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Genchev, Nikolai. The Bulgarian National Revival Period.
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Georgiev, Emil, et al. Bulgaria's Share in Human Culture.
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Jelavich, Charles. The Establishment of the Balkan National
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Kaplan, Robert D. "History's Cauldron," Atlantic Monthly,
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Kinder, Hermann, and Werner Hilgemann. The Anchor Atlas of
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Lang, David. The Bulgarians. Boulder, Colorado: Westview
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Oren, Nissan. Bulgarian Communism: The Road to Power,
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CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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