Bulgarian President Radev: Russian claim to have rescued Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust is ignorance or provocation

The claim that it was the Soviet army that rescued Bulgarian Jews from deportation to the Holocaust is either deep ignorance of history or an attempt at provocation, head of state President Roumen Radev said on November 4.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry’s response to the statement by the spokesperson of the foreign ministry in Moscow had been appropriate, Radev said.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova caused outrage in Bulgaria by saying at a November 2 news conference, in a comment on the daubing of the Soviet Army monument in Sofia with an anti-Semitic slogan, that “this escapade is especially cynical in view of the fact that during the Second World War, it was thanks to our soldiers that the deportation of Jews from Bulgaria was prevented and thus about 50 000 people were saved from certain death”.

Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responding on November 3 to the Russian statement, said: “When Bulgarian citizens stood on railway lines, headed to the Nazi death camps, when representatives of the Bulgarian political, economic and intellectual elite wrote protest letters in defence of the Bulgarian Jews, and senior hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church stood with the Jews gathered for deportation, stating that their compatriots could be taken to the camps only if they too were taken, the Red Army was thousands of kilometres away from the borders of Bulgaria.”

The Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria, also responding to the Zakharova statement, reiterated the position it had formally adopted in 2011, that the prevention of the deportation of the Bulgarian Jews to the Nazi death camps was the result of the actions of the majority of the Bulgarian people, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian non-fascist community.

Bulgarian-language media reports about Zakharova’s claim resulted in numerous forum comments by readers expressing indignation. On social networks, her statement was satirised by Bulgarians depicting various imaginary Russian claims to other parts of Bulgarian history. An example was one post that said, “Maxim Gorky wrote Under the Yoke,” a reference to the novel by Ivan Vazov. Another post showed a cap, on which were written the words “Make Bulgaria Great Again” – written in Russian.



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.