Bulgaria’s outgoing government decided on December 28 2016 to name February 21 as a day to honour fighters against Nazism.
The centre-right coalition government chose February 21 because that was the day in 1941 that opposition leaders met at the home of Nikola Mushanov, a former prime minister, to oppose Bulgaria’s accession to the Tripartite Pact of Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Japan, that had been signed in September 1940.
Bulgaria joined the Tripartite Pact in March 1941. As the tide was running against Nazi Germany, Bulgaria declared neutrality in the war between the Soviet Union and Germany in August 1944.
A short-lived government, headed by Konstantin Muraviev and made up of opposition politicians from outside the communist-dominated Fatherland Front – including Mushanov, a liberal political leader who rejected communism and who was notable in his rejection of anti-Semitism in Second World War Bulgaria – fell when the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria and invaded the country in September 1944.
A communist government was installed and, like other Muraviev cabinet members, Mushanov was imprisoned. He died in May 1951, aged 79.
Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev said that marking February 21 as an annual homage to the opponents of Nazism would help in promoting democratic values.
During Bulgaria’s communist era, from the time of the coup at the end of the Second World War until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the communist regime liked to claim sole credit for resistance to fascism, and, ahistorically, also liked to claim a leading role in resisting anti-Semitism and in preventing the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the Nazi death camps of the Holocaust.
(Photo of Mushanov: Bulgarian Archives State Agency, via Wikimedia Commons)