Lukov and his Legionnaires: The record speaks

The organisers of the 2018 Lukov March, at a news conference this week, denied that the general in whose honour the march is held was an anti-Semite – even resorting to the hoary “some of his best friends were Jews”.

In the face of denunciations of Hristo Lukov in all the 15 years since the first march was held, its supporters have rejected allegations of anti-Semitism or Nazism, insisting that the celebration of his memory is on the basis of his supposed status as a hero of the First World War.

Lukov was a founder and leader, from 1933, what first was the Union of Young National Legions and became the Union of Bulgarian National Legions, known as the Legionnaires. Five years after the founding of the Legionnaires, he was fired as minister of war, for his criticisms of the government, and simultaneously consigned to the military reserve.

Lukov remained leader of the Legionnaires until his February 1943 assassination, at the hands of a team of communist partisans. Bulgaria had joined Hitler’s Axis in 1941, having already enacted the anti-Semitic Defence of the Nation Act. But the Legionnaires were critical of the government for not being hard enough on the Jews. Lukov, an enthusiast for the alliance with Hitler’s Germany, had been awarded an Iron Cross by that country in 1939, seven years after the Fuehrer came to power.

Denials of anti-Semitism become rather disingenous, however, when the record is examined.

The Legionnaires had a “newspaper” called National Leader (Народен Водач), which on August 15 1941 published an article headlined “The two enemies”.

“Humanity has two enemies, whose destruction providence has entrusted to the invincible army of the national socialist Germany – world plutocracy and international Jewry,” the article says. “The destruction of these two enemies will also be the death of their two slaves – masonry and communism.”

According to the article, “it is no surprise to us that these mother and children, in the fight against civilisation and culture, are helping one another”. It goes on that the “masters and Jewish kings of capital have put power and thought to support their obedient children around the world, masonry and communism”.

The article continues, “they have sent experienced teachers, tutors and leaders to guard them (‘the children’) from mistakes and dereliction of duty,” adding the – perhaps inevitable – claim “this is proven by history”.

“Are there any more misguided people who do not know that the founder of communism was the Jew Karl Marx (Mordechai) and that the leaders and those who inspire pogroms of Jews are themselves pure-blooded Jews?”…”Do we need to mention that the creators and leaders of international Masonry are, again, pure-blooded Jews?”

The ink on paper carries on a line that remains sadly familiar in this internet age, in the more egregious recesses of extremist websites: “We the Bulgarians will carry out our duty as a people who are bearers of forwardness if we bring down and defeat these two enemies of our homeland”.

“Under no circumstances can be left even one little corner on which there is the Jewish-bolshevik and masonic-plutocratic mould.”

This would happen, according to the text, “when we enlighten and move the people and guard them from deception and treason and make them builders of a new Bulgaria according to the above-mentioned principles”.

The signal for this, the article says, was given 10 years before (apparently, the writer’s arithmetic was as poor as his grasp of reality) with the first “sermon” of the Legions, “against Jewry, communism and masonry”.

What would Lukov’s supposed “Jewish best friends” have said about such verbiage in an official organ of a movement of which he was leader? At the time this was published, the Defence of the Nation Act was already on the statute books, along with subsequent anti-Semitic legislation that deprived Bulgarian Jews of all forms of rights and subjected them to property confiscation and special taxes.

What about the attempted rebuttal of the view that Lukov was a fascist?

Here’s a copy of Mosht, the February-March 1933 edition, a journal of the Union of Young National Legions, self-described as “a publication for fascist enlightenment of young followers of the…Legions”.

In articles, including one on the history of fascism, the journal divides ideas into those which are destructive (communism) and those which are constructive (fascism).

One article, under the headline “The spirit of the church” heaps praise on the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as highly honourable. This may be the only point on which one might agree with Mosht (which, by the way, translates as “Power”) – but not for the reasons of the journal’s editorial policy. In the coming years, culminating in 1943, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod would be a noble voice against anti-Semitism and a leader in the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews from the death camps of the Holocaust.

Mosht devotes considerable column lengths to arguing for the abolition of democracy at municipal level, in a context that suggests that its writers did not think much of democracy in the least. It goes on, in another article, to propose the abolition of government-appointed commissions, describing them as inefficient and corrupt (anyone who wants to suggest parallels in the country in contemporary times should remember this dates from 1933, and suggested fascism as the alternative.

The publication rounds off with an account of how one Dimo Kazasov, a journalist (it is not clear whether this is the same Dimo Kazasov who was a well-known communist journalist and member of sundry National Assemblies) who went on a freebie to Italy and was wonderfully impressed by that nice Mr Mussolini. The article approvingly quotes Kazasov as describing Benito Mussolini as “the political genius of modern times”. This might be the only quote in the whole edition of which Herr Hitler might not have approved.

Opponents of Lukov and the march in his name will continue to call him a pro-Nazi, among other things. Defenders will continue to insist that calling him an anti-Semite is an unjustified smear. They say there is no record of him writing anything anti-Semitic (and some of his best friends were Jews, after all). And on February 17, for the 15th year, young black-clad people bearing torches will march through the streets of central Sofia. After all, they’re just honouring a war hero.



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, 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.