Bulgaria holds annual commemoration of victims of communist regime

Ceremonies were held in central Sofia, other cities in Bulgaria and in Parliament on February 1 to mark the 14th annual commemoration of the victims of the communist regime.

In 2011, the government approved the marking of the day, acting on a proposal by former presidents Zhelyu Zhelev and Petar Stoyanov.

On February 1 1945, the communist “People’s Court” sentenced three regents, 67 MPs, former government ministers, generals and colonels to death. The sentences were carried out immediately.

At the 2024 ceremony at the monument to the victims of the communist era, near the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, wreaths were laid by the Speaker of the National Assemby Rossen Zhelyazkov, Sofia mayor Vassil Terziev and former president Rossen Plevneliev, as well as MPs from various parliamentary groups.

Rossen Zhelyazkov, the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Vassil Terziev, the mayor of Sofia.

In a declaration in Parliament, Deputy Speaker Nikola Minchev, of We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria, said that in the four-month existence of the “People’s Court”, the details were more than chilling.

Almost 11 000 verdicts were handed down, more than 2700 people were sentenced to death and more than 300 to life imprisonment, Minchev said.

Minchev, whose great-grandfather was among the 67 MPs who were sentenced to death by the “People’s Court” said that the political purpose of that body had been criminal.

“The fact that the day after the execution of the regents, one of the executioners, Ferdinand Kozovski, walked around the centre of Sofia with the boots of the murdered Prince Kiril is indicative of the general judicial attitude of the People’s Court. This same executioner Kozovski was later the Speaker of the National Assembly for 15 years,” Minchev said.

“The extraordinary productivity of the People’s Court in its four-month existence is a clear sign that the accused were presumed guilty by default. And how could it be otherwise, if a person like Dimitar Peshev – we hardly need to remind you of his contribution to the rescue of Bulgarian Jews – was sentenced by the People’s Court to 15 years in prison ‘for fascist activity and antisemitism’,” he said.

Minchev said that recalling some facts surrounding the “People’s Court” was not intended to moralise or mentor, nor was it intended to draw dividing lines.

“However, the purpose, apart from paying respect and appreciation to all the innocent victims, is also to preserve the historical memory, so that in the future we do not fall into the same traps, disguised under a different package, but with similar content.

“Whoever does not believe, let him look carefully at the so-called Lukov March. It is indisputable that knowing history is a prerequisite for avoiding the repetition of mistakes in the future,” Minchev said, referring to a torchlight procession held every February in Sofia in honour of a Bulgarian Second World War pro-Nazi general.

With a minute of silence being held in the House, the Bulgarian Socialist Party – lineal successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party, staged its customary walkout, while pro-Russian minority party Vuzrazhdane pointedly remained seated, with its leader Kostadin Kostadinov engaging in whataboutery.

Kostadinov said that there should be a day honouring both the victims of the regime before 1944 and the victims of the regime after 1944.

Union of Democratic Forces leader Roumen Hristov called on the Bulgarian Socialist Party to repent for what the Bulgarian Communist Party had done.

Hristov, addressing himself to Kostadinov, said: “August 23 is a day to honour the victims of all regimes, including the Nazi regime. Every year I lay wreaths , but I have not seen your representatives lay wreaths for those who were victims of both the Nazi and communist regimes”.

(Photos: National Assembly, and Sofia municipality)

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