Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has issued a strong call against attempts to re-bury communist-era secret service records and to manipulate the truth about the decades of communist repression.
Plevneliev issued the call in a special video message on February 1, the day on which Bulgaria remembers the victims of communist repression – victims that number in the many thousands.
After the Soviet communist takeover of Bulgaria, “People’s Courts” were staged, handing down about 2800 death sentences and about 2000 sentences of life imprisonment.
But under the heel of the Bulgarian Communist Party, the slaugher and suffering went far beyond just the abattoir of the “People’s Court”. About 5000 families were sent into internal exile and by the end of 1945, about 10 000 people were in internment camps where conditions were brutally inhumane and where murders and torture were committed.
Historians estimate that somewhere between 30 000 and 40 000 Bulgarians were murdered in the early years of the Bulgarian Communist Party regime, but destruction of records and official lying in the years of “socialist” rule mean that precise figures probably never will be known.
On top of state-sanctioned killings, torture and other gross abuses of human rights by the Bulgarian Communist Party regime, there were extensive seizures of private property.
Some years after the fall of communism, Bulgaria’s National Assembly approved a 2006 law on the opening of the archives of the State Security secret service and the military intelligence division of the “Bulgarian People’s Army”.
A process not yet complete, disclosure of people with State Security backgrounds in various areas of public life has led to the identification of former agents and collaborators in government ministries, political life, business associations, public and private media, opinion polling agencies, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and other religious groups, trade union federations and academia.
From within the Bulgarian Socialist Party (effectively, lineal successor to the BCP), Movement for Rights and Freedoms (led by former State Security agents, in the form of leaders present and past) and ultra-nationalists Ataka, all part of the effective ruling axis currently in power in Bulgaria, there have been rumblings about paring back the purview of the Dossier Commission and also turning over the secret service records to a “national memory institute”.
Plevneliev said in his address that reasons and means were being sought consciously to leave unread the documents of the communist secret services, and thus to manipulate the truth.
He said that all documents related to the activities of the communist-era secret services should be archived, recorded in digital form and handed over to the State Archive, ensuring that everyone could have access to them, “instead of having an intermediary who reads the documents for us”.
“There is no need for a mediator between us and the truth,” he said.
Plevneliev said that the public, students and pupils all had the right to see for themselves the truth about totalitarian rule in Bulgaria.
“The gravest vice of Bulgaria’s transition is the absence of a fair reading and unequivocal assessment of the crimes of the communist regimes,” he said.
Instead, there were continuing attempts to create a parallel reality and myths about that era, “conveniently forgetting the political prison camps, jails and the terror perpetrated on the Bulgarian people,” Plevneliev said.
He hit out at such convenient forgetting as an attempt to manipulate the truth so as to portray communist dictator Todor Zhivkov as a “man of the people” and State Security as professionals.
He said that February 1 1945 (a reference to the People’s Court process) was a symbolic date in Bulgaria’s history, not only for the action against Bulgaria’s intellectuals and political elite, but also for the attempt to brutally suppress any manifestation of civic activity and courage.