The Bulgarian Socialist Party, Antifascist Union and a motley crew of diehard communists celebrated on September 9 2013 the 69th anniversary of the 1944 coup that opened the way for decades of Soviet-backed communist rule of Bulgaria.
Anti-government protesters that want the immediate resignation of the current Bulgarian Socialist Party government had plans of their own to mark the day, while the BSP’s political rivals described September 9 1944 as perhaps the saddest and darkest day in the country’s history.
On that date, the Fatherland Front led a coup against the monarchist government, which was followed by a communist takeover after the Soviet Union completed its invasion of Bulgaria.
As the communists consolidated their power grab, in December 1944 the process of “People’s Courts” began in Bulgaria, with a range of political rivals put on trial for being “fascists”.
Those on trial included all members of governments and parliaments from 1941 to 1944.
The “People’s Courts” handed down 2800 death sentences. The overall death toll from the period is not clear because, in addition to the death sentences and even before the beginning of the kangaroo court process, communists murdered large numbers of local officials and civilians.
About 5000 Bulgarian families were sent into internal exile and an estimated 10 000 Bulgarians were in concentration camps by the end of 1945. Through the years of communist detention camps, gross abuses of human rights were routine, including murder, starvation, denial of medical assistance and serious assault.
In Sofia on September 9 2013, the national and city councils of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Bulgarian Antifascist Union organised a celebration of the day, with a wreath-laying at 11am in Borisova Gradina at a monument to honour the (communist) fallen, and with a celebratory concert scheduled for the evening at the National Palace of Culture, NDK.
Senior BSP member Georgi Pirinski, who attended celebrations in Sofia, told local media that September 9 was connected with the victory of those inside the country and in Europe who “wanted a fresh start”.
Pirinski said that at the time of September 9 1944, there had been a very deep desire in the society of the time, for the destruction of fascism “and of a society that violated human values and instilled hatred and sadness”.
Meanwhile, demonstrators from the #DANSwithme anti-government protests were organising a parody of the September 9 commemorations as part of the continuing series of gatherings to demand that the BSP government step down.
The parody is directed against the pro-government “counter-protesters”, to expose what the anti-government protesters see as the absurdity of these pro-government protesters.
They called on those who wanted to get involved in the event to wear communist youth gear, with banners in the style of the former “socialist-era” slogans.
Suggested examples were “Glory to the BSP”; “BSP-MRF: Eternal Friendship”; “Oligarchs of the World Unite”. All of these reference slogans of the type used on banners during “spontaneous manifestations” during the years of the communist regime in Bulgaria.
Plans were for a group of anti-government protesters to visit the chapel in front of NDK dedicated to victims of communism.
On his Facebook page, Andrey Kovachev, an MEP for centre-right party GERB, said that once again, the anniversary of September 9 had come around, “perhaps the saddest and darkest day for Bulgaria”, yet there was still no reconciliation, justice and repentance for the occupation and terror inflicted on several generations of Bulgarians.
The events that followed September 9 had been tragic for Bulgaria, which was left detached and isolated from Europe for decades, “we still cannot overcome the effects of this September 9 1944 and we are the poorest and most miserable part of our reunited continent of Europe”.
“It is up to each of us how quickly we make up for this loss,” said Kovachev, who concluded his post by paying tribute to the victims of communist terror.
The Bulgarian Communist Party, founded 100 years ago in 1903, dissolved itself on April 3 1990 and re-founded itself as the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
(Cartoon: Svetoslav Popov)