Bulgarian History

Figure 1.-- General Secretary Gorbechev's reforms in the Soviet Union and his refusal to use force to back the East German Communists inspired demands for democratisation throughout the Soviet Eastern European empire. This included Bulgatia, the most slanishly obedient of the Soviet satellite nations. Protests about polution brodened into a general campaign for political reform. Here youthful protestors demand reforms (November 1989). The protests led by young people who grew up under Communism was notable. Here they are protesting Communism with the Communist closed-fist salute. One little boy rases a closed fist mitten. Notice how the police are tolerating them. The protests led to a change of government.

The Bulgars invaded and soon dominated the Balkans in the 7th century. They accepted Christianity under Tsar Boris I in the 9th cetury. Tsar Simeon greatly expanded Bulgarian territory in the 10th century. The Christian kindoms in Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans were conquered by the Ottomon Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries. The modern Bulgarian state originated with the defeat of Ottoman Turk forces by the Russian Army and Bulgarian volunteers in 1878-79. The great powers intervened to prevent the creation of a strong Bulgarian state under the influence of the Russians. Instead a Bulgarian state was created which was nominally left under the jurisdiction of the Ottomans and two other liberated areas were returned to the Ottomans. Still some of Bulgaria was libetated and a Bularian nation created. The Bulgarian royal dynasty was restablished in the 19th century after the decline of Ottomon rule. A member of the German royal family was selected for the Bulgarian monarchy. German families were chosen despite the fact that Bulagria was in large part created by the Russian Tsars in their wars with the Ottoman Turks. Bulagria participated in the Balkan Wars and then the two World Wars. Despites it ties with Russua, Bulgaria participated in the two world wars, both times as a Germany ally. During the Cold War, Bulgaria was a slavish Soviet satellite.


Archeologists have found artifacts from primitive people living in the area of modern Bulgaria during the Neolithic era (40,000-10,000 BC). Bulgaria has a black Sea coast with it shares with several other countries. Many archeologists believe that the Neolithic people that lived along the coast were decimated by a great flood at the close of the last age when the higher level Mediterrean broke through what is now the Dardenelles/Bosporous to flood the Black Sea basin. Some archeologists believe that this may be the origins of the Great Flood tradition which many peoples of the Middle East (including the Hebrews) report in their traditions. The Thracian people from the east moved into the Thrace Valley of modern Bulgaria (about 3000 BC). The Thracians were cattle herders, but they were notble for ceramics and metal working (gold and copper). They traded with the neighboring people of the Balkans at the time: Dacians (Romania), Mycenneans (Greece/Crete), Illyrians (Albania) and the Macedonians (southern Bulgaria/Northern Greece/southern Yugoslavia).The Thracians initially controlled an area extending west to the Adriatic, but over time were pushed east and north by the Illyrians (1300 BC) and Macedonians (500 BC). Greek colonies such as Byzantium were founded, but the Thracians did not become Helenized.

Ancient History

Bulgarian history has been dominated by the location of Bulgaria on a crossroads between Europe and Asia. Waves of migrations swept back and forth from both Asia and Europe turing the plains of Thrace, Moesia, Macedonia and the Balkan mountains into intensly contested battlefields. The area now known as Bulgaria has been settled by many different peoples. the Odrysses, established the first sophisticated Thracian state (about 300 BC). It was centered on the area of modern Bulgaria for two centuries. They fought off invasions from northern and eastern peoples (Scythians, Sarmatians, and Celts). Philip II of Macedonia conquered souther Thrace (342 BC). The Macedonians under Alexander foused their attention on Persia and Asia. Lycimachus ruled much of the refion (after 323 BC). After finally destroying Cathage, the Romans expanded east, moving into Greece and the rest of the Balkans. The key battle was Cynoscephalae (197 BC) in which the Romans defeated Philip V of Macedonia. The Roman also targeted Thrace and had conquered the area (1st century BC). Spartacus who led the last of the Sevile Wars was a Thracian. Thrace prospered within the Empire, but was afected by the Batbarian invasuons (3rd century AD). The Visigoths, Huns and Ostrogoths moved into the area and many Thracian villages and Romanized towns were burned and plundered. When the Roman Empire split, the Balkans became a part of the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. A Visagothic army at Adrianople (378 AD) decisively ended Roman control over Thrace. With the decline of Roman military power, invasions by Barbarians tribes, especially the Huns, driven west by the Chinese, left Bulgaria a devastated wasteland. The Huns in particular devestated large areas of Thrace as tactic to demand more tribute from the Byzantines.

Slavs and Bulgars (500-650 AD)

Modern Bulgaria is today peopled primarily by Slavs and Bulgars. Both of these people moved in to Thrace or the area of modern Bulgaria after the decline of both the Romans and Huns. Slavic tribes moved into the Balkans from the north and east (about 500 AD). The Slavs settled the Danube Plain (Moesia Region). The Byzantines tried to reconquer this former territory of the Roman Empire. The Slavic tribes in an effort to resist the Byzanties united as never before to form a Slavonic state. Somewhat later the Bulgars, a fierce Turkic people living on the Russian Steppe north of the Black Sea, were pushed west. Some of the Bulgars under Tartar Khan Asparuh settled on the Thracian plain (about 650 AD). What we are less sure about is what happened to the Thracians and other resident Thraco-Illyrian population when the Slavs and Turkic people arived. The Bulgars crossed the Danube and moved south to found the First Bulgarian Empire (679 AD). This was the first modern Bulgarian state located around Lower Moesia, then a province of the Byzantine Empire. The Bulgars/Slavs united to fight the Byzantines who they defeated in a major battle (681 AD). The Bulgarian state was ruled by a Tartar khan supported by Slavic and Bulgar nobels. Over two centuries the Slavs and Bulgars assimilated forging a new Bulgar mational identity. Although called Bulgars, the name of the Turkic tribe, the original Turkic Bulgars were gradually assimilated by the more numerous Slavs, and adopted their language and way of life. The Bulgars were thus thus more associated with the Slavic cultural tradition. Treaties were negotiated with Byzantium. The Bulgars over time, however, expanded south taking more and more of Byzantium's Balkan lands. The Bulgars seized Macedonia (9th century).

Bulgarian Christian Kingdoms (865-1393/96)

Tsar Boris I converted to Christianity (865 AD). One source reports that a Byzantine monk painted a picture of hell on the palace walls frighten Boris into accepting Orthodox Christianity. Many Bulgars object to this characterization as mocking the Tsar and suggesting that his choice of Christianity was unreasoned. There were important cultural and political reasons that influenced Boris to convert the Bulgarians to Christianity. [Cherneva] It was his rule that encoureged that the Cyrilic alphabet was invented and spread. A substantial part part of the European population uses this alphabet. Tsar Simeon (893-927) expanded his kingdom. At his time Bulgaria experienced a "Golden Age" since Bulgaria experienced amazing cultural progress and geographically possesed the areas between three seas surrounding the Balkans - Black, Aegean and Adriatic. Simeon was crowned as an 'Emperor of Bulgarians and Romans' by the Patriarch in Constantinople (913). [Cherneva] The Byzantine Emperor, Basil II gained a decisive military victory and had the eyes of 15,000 Bulgarian soldiers put out (1014). Bulgaria came under Byzantine rule in 1018. A Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396) was created when two brothers, Asen and Peter, led a general uprising against Byzantium. The Second Empire extended over Thrace, Macedonia and Albania. It was Tsar Ivan II (Ivan Asen) (1218-1241) who extended the Bulgarian empire over the largest area. He conqquered virtually the entire Balkan Peninsula, except for Greece in the extreme South which remained under Byzantine control. After Iban II, Bulgaria declined and was confronted with a rising Srbian Christian kingdom. Macedonian which had been part of Bulgaria was conquered by Serbia (1330). Fighting between the two Christian kingdoms weakened both.

The Ottoman Empire

Gradually the Otomon Turks became the dominate power in the Islamic world. The Ottomons presed on the Byzatines, taking Constanople in 1453. They then conquered the Balkans, driving deep into Europe, only beeing stopped at the gates of Vienna. The Ottoman Turks in 1453 seized Constantinople and by 1460 controlled most of Greece. Thousands of Greeks went into exile in Christain Europe and had an important influence on the European Renaissance. The Ottomons conquered Mesopotamia in 1533. For the next three centuries, the regional Christan powers (Venice, Austria, and Russia) warred intermitently with the Turks and Greece changed hands several times.

Ottoman Conquest (1352-1396)

The Ottoman conquest of Christian southeast Europe began in 1352. An Ottoman force sailed through Hellespont (Dardanelles) separating Europe from Asia, and took Tsimpe, a small Byzantine fort. The first two assaults in the 8th century and the turn of the 13th century failed. The third Ottoman invasion was very different. The increasing internal feudal disorders in Bulgaria weakened the Bulgarian state. Thus the Bulgars were unable to effectively resist Ottoman armies. The Ottomons defeated both Bulgarian and Serbian Christian armies. The Serbs were defeated at Kosovo (1389). An Ottomon campaign succeeded in taking two-thirds of Bulgar territory (1393). The Ottomans destroyed Veliko Târnovo. Despite heroic resistance at Vidin, another Ottoman victory at Nikopol (1396) allowed them to sweep over the remaining Bulgarian territory. Both Bulgaria and Serbia were was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria became the Ottomon province of Roumelia. Ottomon rule over the Balkans was finalized with the fall of Constaninople (1453).

Ottoman Rule

Bulgaria like most of the other medieval Christian states in the Balkans were overcome by the Ottomans and absorbed into their Empire during the l4th and l5th centuries. The Ottomans were only finally stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Ottoman rule in the Balkans was oppressive, although accounts vary widely. It seems fair to describe Ottomon administration as oppresive, but within the context that they were much less oppressive than comparable measures in Western Christendom. There were numerous unsuccesful rebellions by their Christian subjects. The Ottomans conducted a sustained campaign to to destroy Bulgarian Christianity and the Bulgarian language, major components of Bulgarian nationalism. The Turks recognized Christianity as a legitimate religion in the Empire. They recognized Orthodox Eastern Church in Constantinople and the Patriarch there as the sumprme Christian authority which served to undercut the Bulgarian Church and Bulgarian culture. The construction of churches were restricted and not permitted to rival mosques. Modern Bulgarian historians emphasized the taking of Christian children who were converted to Islam and made Ottomon administrators or the fierce Janissaries, a major component of the Ottomon Empire. The revulsion of this practice by modern historians probably was not as strongly felt at the time. As a result of Ottoman promotion of Islam, sometimes through the sword. This appears to have been especially the case in the Rhodopes. More commonly the Ottomons used economic and social measures to promoye conversions. Some Bulgarians, as a result, converted to Islam. Most Bulgarians, however, clung to their Christian faith. A Bulgarian reader disagrees with this interpretation. Ottomon rule in the Balkans is a matter of considerable controversy, strongly colored by recent Balkan history. A Bulgarian reader writes, "I totaly, radically and undoubtedly disagree with your description. The Bulgarians were torchured and murdered in case they did not convert. It was definately systematic!!! It was done purposely." There is no doubt that the Ottomons were oppressive rulers. There were numerous incidebnts of brutality, especially when repressing rebellions. The Ottomon conquest, however, was not a Holocaust. The Christians of the Balkans were allowed to retain their Christianity. The proof of this is that only in Albania did the population become predominately Muslim. This is in sharp contrast to Christian practices, such as the forced conversion and expulsion of the Moors from Spain (1492). Nowhere in Christian dominated Europe was Islam tolerated.

Independence Movement

Bulgaria's desire for independence began to grow in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Bulgarian historians call this the national revival. Here the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars may have been a factor. Increasing Russian pressure on the Ottomans may have been another factor. An increasingly asertive Bulgarian nationl spirit can be seen in the work of artists and craftsmen. Traders began to increasingly turn toward Western markets, although Ottoman authorities placed limitations on such trade. As Turkish power weakened Bulgarians began to suffer rising taxes and inflation, the result of unsuccessful Turkish wars against the Austrians and the Russians. Resentment against the Turks grew. It was at this time that the Ottomans introduced reforms aimed at assimilating the Bulgarians. The Bulgarians were not, however, by the early 19th century at all interested in assimilation. Many Bulgarians had begun to think of independence. The Bugarians by the 19th century in a National Revival with a revived interest in popular customs and folklore. Clandestine revolutionary groups began plotting against the Turks. Some Bulgarians became the Haiduks or bandits/highway men who oprerated from mountain hideouts where Ottoman authorities were increasingly reluctant to veture. This was another factor on weakening the Ottoman hold on Bulgaria. Today the Haiduks are remembered in Bulgarian folk songs A good example is Širto dance with the inspirational song "Sleznai Paule ot Balkana" (Sleznai Paule of the Balkans). The Crimean War (1853-56) temporarily reduced Russian pressure on the Ottomans, but the independence movement in Bulgaria continued to grow. The Bulgarian Church achieved independence from the Greek Patriarchate (1870). was successful. Vasil Levsky helped organize revolutionary committees throughout the country. Ottoman officials arrested him (1873). They hanged him, but his revolutionary network was firmly ebtrenched. Kristov Botev (1848-76) wrote nationalist poems while leading an armed band. He died in the Pirin mountains. Bulgarian revolutionaries launched a revolt at Koprivshtitsa (April 1876). The Turks suppressed the revolt with great brutality. The Turks massacred about 15,000 people at Plovdiv. This city is today of a notable Bulgarian boys' choir.) The Ottomans also destroyed 58 in supressing the revolt.

Russo-Turkish War (1877-78)

European public opinion was outraged at the Turkish attrocities. The Europens led by Russia decided to intervene and declared war. The Russians were joined by both the Romanians and Bulgarians forces. The Bulgarians call this the War of Independence. The resulting Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) destroyed Ottoman power in the Balkans. Russia alone suffered 0.2 million casulties in the resulting war. The Russian army advanced to within 50km of Istanbul before the Ottomans sued for peace. The War was ended with the Peace of San Stefano. Bulgarian natiionalists were disappointed as Bulgaria was partitioned. The Ottomn's ceded 60 percent of their Balkan territories to Bulgaria. Sofia became the capital of Bulgaria, but the Turks regained control over Macedonia, Thrace, and Eastern Roumelia. The Ottomon state might have been destroyed at partitioned at this time if the Great Powes had been able to decided on how to do this. The Russians wanted the straits (the Bosporus and Dardenelles) for their Black Sea warm water ports, but the British and French were determined to keep the straits out of Russian hands.

Bulgarian Monarchs

The Bulagarian monarchs have come from German families, despite the fact that Bulagria was in large part created by the Russian Tsars in their wars with the Ottoman Turks.

Independent Bulgaria

The modern Bulgarian state originated with the defeat of Ottoman Turk forces by the Russian Army and Bulgarian volunteers in 1878-79. The great powers intervened to prevent the creation of a strong Bulgarian state under the influence of the Russians. Instead a Bulgarian state was created which was nominally left under the jurisdiction of the Ottomans and two other liberated areas were returned to the Ottomans. Still some of Bulgaria was libetated and a Bularian nation created.

Balkan Wars (1912-13)

The Balkans Wars are very complicated and involved extensive assaults and killing of civilians by all sides. Italy began the assault on the Ottomon Empire by declaring war in this case to secure a new colony in North Africa--Libya. The Turko-Italian War (1911-12). While fought outside the Balkans, it further weaked Ottomon troops. In this case the Ottomons largely ceeded to Italian demands because of the worsening situation in the Balkas. The First Balkan War (1912) was essentially a continuation of the wars for independence from the Ottoman Empire. This meant by the 20th century dividing up the spoils of the Ottomon territories in Europe. The new Balkan states (Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia) combined to drive the Ottomans from Eastern Roumelia (Lower Thrace and Macedonia). Unfortunately for the people of Macedonia and other Balkan lands, there was no agreed plan for partitioned the territory liberated from the Ottomans. Which lead to the Second Balkan War (1913). This time the primary target was Bulgaria. Romania joined this war to get a slice of Bulgaria--Southern Dobrudža. Even the Ottomns attacked Bulgaria which had occupied areas desired by its neighbors. The First Balkan War had been fought by the Balkan states obstensibly to liberate Christian peoples from Muslim Turkis rule. The Second Balkan War was largely fought among those Christian states and involved attrocities and ethnic cleaning that still affect the people of the Balkans today. While not active participants, the Wars also involved Russia and Austria-Hungary. The rivalries involved were probably a factor in the ability of the two Emoires to contain the escalating conflict after the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand which finally led ton World War I. In the end, Bulgaria was outraged by the territories that it had to surender. In particular it had to renounce its claims to Macedonia and cede Southern Dobrudža back to Romania. This left an embittered Bulgaria, once World War I (1914) broke out, willing to join the Central Powers to regain these territories. As did the Ottomons. The Greeks, Serbs, and Romanians joined the Allies.

World War I (1914-18)

Bulgaria believed that it had a right to Macedonia. Nationalists were upset with thecsmall part of Macedonia it received in the First Balkan War (1912-13). As a result it largely caused the Second Balkan War (June–Aug. 1913). This time Bulgaria not only fought Turkey, but its former Christian allies as well. Not surrisinly Bulgaria lost the War and substantial territory, primarily to Serbia. The territory gained by Serbia made it a growing threat to Austria-Hungary which had a Slavic minority in its southern provinces, especially newly annexed Bulgaria. The desire to destroy Serbia as a threat to the Empire was why Austrian authorities made such onerous demands on Serbia following the assasination of Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand (June 1914). With the outbreak of the World War I (August 1914), Germany courted allies. One of the few countries to respond was Bulgaria. German diplomats promissed Bulgaria territories it lost during the Balkan Wars if they joined the Central Powers. And Bulgaria was still intent or obtaining Macedonia. Even before Bulgaria joined the Central Powers, the Bulgarians allowed the German to ship pontoon bridges to the Ottomons to be used in crossing the Suez Canal in an attack on Egypt. Bulgaria participated in the attack on Romania after that country joined the Allies (1917). A new front opened up when Greece entered the War on the Allied side (1917). Although Romania was defeated, the Bulgarians had to face a new front opened from Greece with Greek, Serbia, and British troops. The demise of Austria-Hungary and the defeat of Germany on the Western Front ended the War. The defeat of Germany on the Western Front (1918), With his failures to obtain Macedonia in the Balkan WSars and World War I, King King Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his son (1918). Bulgaria was punished by the victorious Allies in the the Peace treaty of Neuilly (1919). Bulgaria had to cede southwest Thrace to Greece and much of Macedonia to Serbia which became Yugoslavia. Bulgaria as a result lost access to the Aegean Sea. Bulgaria also had to ceed territory to Romania.

Inter-War Era

Bulgaria after World War I experienced a series of often unstable political coalitions, slow economic growth, and a serious Macedonia problem. There was considerable social unrest. King Boris ptoved to be a stabilizing influence. Bulgaria held general elections quickly after the War (1919). The pubic expressed displeaure with the resuklts of the peace imposed upon the country and the results, including war reparations, inflation, and rising taxes. This in effect prolonged the adverse living conditions that developed during the War. And unlike its Central Power allies, the monarch did not fall. The socialist/communist and agrarian parties gained ground in the elections. BANU emerged as the country's largest political party. BANU led by Alexander Stamboliiski won nearly 30 percent of the 1919 votes. This gave it a plurality but not a majority in the new subranie. Stamboliiski as a populist with notable political skill. He was certainly a man of principle, determined on doing good for Bulgaria. He is described as remarkably prescient, usually pragmatic, but some tims misjudging both people and events. [Crampton] The Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) finished second in the 1919 election. Primeminister Stamboliiski attempted to form a grand coalition government. He wanted to include both the BCP and the Bulgarian Workers' Socialist-Democratic Party (BWSDP) in the colition as he planned major reforms. (The BCP and the BWSDP were both Communist parties, but separate factions. Both had broken off from the main-line Social Democratic Party founded in 1891. They were never able to reach agreement, even during the World War II crisis. Stalin ordered the BWSDP disbanded after occupying the counrry at the end of World war II.) Stamboliiski ofered the two parties a role in Government, but not the level of control they y desired. Both thus refused to participate. , however, so they refused participation. As a result, Stamboliiski's postwar governing coalition included limited left-wing support. The left-wingb partiesimmediately tested the Government. The communists and social democrats organized a transport strike (December 1919-February 1920). They achieved some support from urban workers as well as the middle-class. The Government eventuially broke the strike by force with the Army and the Orange Guard. The Orange Guard was para-military group Stamboliiski organized to face off the mass demonstrations organized by the left-wing parties. His success in suppressing the trabnsport strike, mobilizing the peasant vote, and intimidating voters at polls allowed BANU to win the parliamentary election of 1920, significantly out polling the Communists. As a result, Stamboliiski was able to form aNY government without the need of coalition government. Tsar Boris was supported by the Bulgarian middle class and tended to side with BANU and the other agrarians having observed the Social Democrats and Communists in the Soviet Union. Stamboliiski immediately launched ground-breaking economic and social reforms. He abolished the merchants' trade monopoly on grain which had held down prices. The merchan's monoply was replaced with a government consortium. He also divided the large urban and rural landholdings. Tracts were sold to the poor on attractive terms. He pushed through an obligatory labor law in an effort to ease the country post-war labor shortage. He then pased the country's first progressive income tax. A major effort was made ineducation. The Government made secondary school attendance compulsory at a time that many children in Europe did not attend secondary schools. Many of the reforms had a strong socialist tinge. Ojnly the spectre of the Communists brought the Governmrnt royal support. Stamboliiski radical reforms were designed to rid Bulgarian society from 'harmful' groups incluing lawyers, usurers, and merchants. He sought to redistribute both wealth and obligations. He was particularly intent on raising the living standards of the countruy's landless and poor peasants. Attemps to limot free markets and disregard for property rights probably affected economic griowth. Stamboliiski also launched major foreign policy inititives. This involved an ideological shift against hypo-nationalism that had led to a a seies of debilitating wars ultimnately leading to the disaster of World war I. There was also a relaistic assessment of the country's military capabilities. He officially abandoned Bulgaria's territorial goals, including the desire to recoup the losses in the World War I peace settlement. He saw pursuit of these claims as leading to a large and expensive standing army, monarchy, unecessary government expenditures, and other political phenomena that had led to the war and that the agrarians with their socialist leanings saw at anachronistic. After the War, not only had the Bulgarian Army been smashed, but there was no major power interested in championing Bulgarian interests in the Balkans. Thus Stamboliiski sought a rapprochement with all European powers, including the Allied countries as well as the Turkish government of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey. They joined the new League of Nations. And they sought friendship with their former arch enemy--Serbia. The Serbs were in the processof creating the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes / Yugoslavia. Relations with Turkey, another former arch enemy, but World War I partner were also improved. Stamboliiski supported Atatürk's revolutionary Turkish Republic (1920). Stamboliiski's vision was a multi-ethnic Balkan peasant federation. A correct relationship with Yugoslavia required confronting the powerful Macedonian extremist movement which wanted ab independent country. Stamboliiski began a 2-year effort to supress IMRO (1921). Yugoslavia and Bulgaria agreed at the Nis Convention to cooperate in supressing extremist groups. Stamboliiski was less sucessful in developing a new relationship with Greece. A serious border incident developed requiring League of Nations adjudication (1925).i

World War II (1939-45)

The NAZIs duting the 1930s gave considerable diplomatic effort to drawing the Balkan coyntries unto the German orbit. The King resisted as best he could, but by 1941, NAZI military power and Bulgarian Fascist elements left King Boris III few options. Hitler as part of a Balkans settlement transferred Southern Dobrudža from Romania to Bulgaria (1940). Romania had fought with the Allies in World War I while Bulgaria had joined the Central Powers. The NAZIs applied considerable force and Bulgaria finally joined the Axis and agreed to the entry of German forces (March 1, 1941). The NAZIs offered Bulgaria the return of Macedonia. Bulgaria participated in the attack on Greece and Yugosalvia (April 1941). The Bulgarians in large part because of King Boris III who was very popular. The King refused to turn Bulgarian Jews over to the NAZIs as part of the Holocaust. The King employed a range of delaying tactics. The Bulgarians did, however, turn over Jews in the occupied areas of Greece and Yugoslavia. Bulgaria also refused to partcipate in the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). King Boris who was very popular died mysteriously in 1943, possibly by heart attack or by assassination. The King's 6-year old son, Simeon II, succeeded under a regency. The Red Army driving the NAZIs back on the Eastern Front reached Romania (1944). The Soviets next declared war on Bulgaria abd crossed the Danube (September 8, 1944). Bulgarian army units and partisan bans joined with the Red army and quickly took Sofia. There was only limited NAZI resistance. Unlike Romania with the key Ploesti oil fields, Bulgaria wa of only marginal strategic value to the Reich. The Soviets on the next day seized the rest of Bulgaria (September 9). This day is now known as Liberation Day.

Cold War (1944-89)

Hitler had forced Bulgarian to join the Axis, but the Bulgarians adamently refused to participate in the invasion of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Red Army reached Bulgaroa (1944), the Bulgarians withdrew from the Axis and declared war on Germanyh on the Allied side. A new coalition goverrnment was formed in Sofia--the Fatherland Front which included the Communists. Initially the Communists, Bulgarian Workers' Party (BWP), took only a minority role in the government. Characteristically the BWP insisted on the Ministry of Interior, meaning that they controlled the police. The BWP had been excluded from power, thus they did not share in the blame attached to the old political parties for brining Bulgaria into the War. Thus membership in the Bulgarian Workers' Party (BWP) expanded substantially. The BWP moved to establish control over important state institutions (the army, the media, and civil service). The BWP also expanded its influence in local Fatherland Front inits. The Allied Control Commission in Bulgaria was controlled by the Soviets and associated the BWP. People who resisted the BWP were arrested. The U.S. and Britain, through the ACC, attempted to stop the BWP from turning Bulgaria from a multiparty democracy into a Soviet-style dictatorship (People's republic). The Red Army, NKVD, and BWP controlled Interior Ministry effectively controlled Bulgaria. The Allies did have the peace negotiations a a slender influence. The Soviets were, however, in xcontrol of the political process. Bulgaria was presented a peace treaty which was signed February 10, 1947. After this the Allies no longer had any influence in Bulgaria. The BWP proceeded to proclaime the People's Republic. The BWP was led by Georgi Dimitrov. (A leading Agrarian Party leader had the same name. A referendum was held on the monarchy (September 1946). The result was the abolition of the monarchy. A new constitution wasafopted (December 1947). It declared Bulgaria to be a People's Republic. The Fatherland Front presented a unified list of candidates (1946) They received 3.0 million votes. The opposition garnered 1.2 million vote. The Bugarian People's Republic proved to be a slavish Soviet satellite during the Cold War.

Fall of Communism

General Secretary Gorbechev's reforms in the Soviet Union and his refusal to use force to back the East German Communists inspired demands for democratisation throughout the Soviet Eastern European empire. This included Bulgaria, the most slanishly obedient of the Soviet satellite nations. Long-time Communist President Todor Zhivkov was aging. His regime was autocratic but by the 1980s was allowing some social and cultural liberalisation. This processwas promoted by of all people, Zhivkov's daughter, Lyudmila. The aginging functionaries appointed by her father did not approve of her pro-Western attitudes, but as her father tolerated her she was able to work for reform. Along with reform came a campaign of forced assimilation of the Turkish and Roma minorities. The Communists without Soviet backing were too weak to resist the demand for change. This could only have been done through force and part of the reform movement was to reduce the use of the Committee for State Security (Комитет за държавна сигурност- КДС,/ CSS) to limit speach and political discussion. The key issue in Poland and East Germany had been Communist economic failure. In Bulgaria it proved to be the developing enviromental decline. When the CSS broke up an environmental demonstration in Sofia (October 1989), popular outcry broadened into a general campaign for political reform. Here youthful protestors demand reforms (figure 1). The protests brodened into a general campaign for political reform and a change of government. Moderate Communists uncerimoniously ousted long-time President Todor Zhivkov was ousted, beginning a period of libralization and democratisation (November 1989). The protests led by young people who grew up under Communism was notable. Zhivkov was replaced by foreign minister Petar Mladenov. The Bulgarian Communist Party changed its name to Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and replaced Soviet imposed Marxist-Lenninsim with a moderate-left ideology (1990). They organized the first free elections since 1931. The BSP won the election, the firt former Communist party to do so in Eastern Europe. The new government chnged the country’s name to the Republic of Bulgaria.


Crampton, T.J. Alexander Stamboliiski .


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Created: 9:10 PM 10/27/2007
Last updated: 4:21 AM 4/27/2019