The death sentences and labour camps as the communist regime extended its grip on Bulgaria 70 years ago did not crush the freedom of the human spirit, President Rossen Plevneliev said at the February 1 commemoration of the victims of the communist regime.
Through murders and a “People’s Court” process, the communist regime killed at least 30 000 Bulgarians in its early years.
The February 1 2015 ceremony at the memorial to the victims of communism, near the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, marks the anniversary of a large-scale executions on that date in 1945. Those killed included state and government leaders, as the “People’s Court” put on trial all members of governments and parliaments that had been in office at the time that Bulgaria was allied with Germany during World War 2.
Begun in 2011, the annual commemoration was initiated by former presidents Zhelyu Zhelev and Petar Stoyanov, the first two democratically-elected heads of state after the fall of communism. The 2015 ceremony coincided with the state funeral of Zhelev, who had died two days earlier.
Addressing the commemoration, Plevneliev said that “There are anniversaries that we celebrate with pride, there are events in the rich history of our country that nourish our confidence. There are events that simply should not be forgotten. There are events that must be transmitted from generation to generation so that they are not repeated.”
Today, Bulgaria had reason for pride, because Bulgarians had never been so free, Plevneliev said.
“The first of February is not a day in which we celebrate the atrocities and crimes of a totalitarian regime, but it is a day of gratitude and homage to the victims of communism. It is our responsibility to remember the work and ideals of all those whose dreams and aspirations were always untouched by the Iron Curtain – those we are proud of and whom we honour today,” Plevneliev said.
He repeated his previous calls for a clear reading of the history of Bulgaria in the 20th century, including regarding the times of fascism, totalitarianism and the transition to democracy.
Stoyanov said that it was high time for young people to learn the truth about the 45 years of totalitarianism.
The communist era was the first time in the country’s history that one group in Bulgarian society had been set against another, Stoyanov said.