Annual acrimony over anniversary of communist takeover of Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s rival politicians marked the September 9 2020 of the 1944 communist takeover of the country with their customary acrimony.

September 1944 saw the ouster of the government in a coup d’état following the Soviet declaration of war against Bulgaria and the Red Army’s invasion of the country.

Seventy-six years later, a declaration by the Bulgarian Socialist Party – lineal successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party – hailing the events of September 9 1944 date as having “its true meaning in hope” and decrying 1940s Bulgaria as having been a place of misery for the rural poor under monarchist rule.

According to the BSP declaration, September 9 saw “a huge social effort taking place, which transforms Bulgaria”.

“The signs of this transformation are still evident today. Take a walk around the country – in each village there is a community centre. The big hospitals. Schools. Enterprises that have been privatised and destroyed these days because no one cared how people would live from now on.”

The BSP declaration concluded: “We see before our eyes how more and more people turn to the past not in an accusatory way, but with melancholy. Because the failure of the 30-year transition, the failure marked by tear gas against protesting young people, will make generations come back again and again to the meaning of September 9 to understand its lessons, its dreams, its hopes, of course, its mistakes.”

The reference to 30 years was to the period after the fall of the communist Zhivkov regime in Bulgaria.

The BSP declaration prompted a walkout by right-wing MPs.

The parliamentary group of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party described the events of September 8 and 9 1944 as a coup d’etat.

GERB MP Toma Bikov said that these events were the result of geopolitical interests, not the participation of the people. He said that over the past 30 years, the practice of revanchism and political violence has ceased.

“The Bulgarian people did not choose who to govern them on September 9,” Bikov said.

He said that for 45 years, Bulgaria had to endure the suffering of not being where it belonged, where it is today, “in Europe, among developed and civilised countries”.

MP Milen Mihov of the ultra-nationalist United Patriots group said that there had not been a fascist regime in Bulgaria of the kind there was in Italy and Germany.

Notes from history:

In 1941, Bulgaria became part of Hitler’s Axis. Under the monarchist regime, severe antisemitic measures were implemented. Resistance by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, intellectuals, professional associations and ordinary Bulgarians prevented the implementation of the government’s agreement to the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the death camps of the Holocaust.

The Bulgarian monarchist government did not allow Bulgarian troops to be deployed to fight the Red Army. In the closing stages of the war, the government declared neutrality, which was followed by the Soviet Union declaring war on Bulgaria on September 5.

The communist takeover involved not only murders of prominent figures from the former regime, but also a “People’s Court” that resulted in large numbers of death sentences and imprisonments. Conservative estimates are that 30 000 Bulgarians were killed under the communist regime in its opening years.

During the communist regime, September 9 was a public holiday in Bulgaria.

In recent years, by decision of the Cabinet, February 1 is observed in Bulgaria as the day of commemoration of the victims of the communist regime, a date chosen to mark the anniversary of the People’s Court death sentences handed to a large number of figures from the monarchist regime.

November 10 1990 saw the end of the Zhivkov communist regime. Like September 9, this date too is the occasion for annual acrimony among rival politicians.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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