The People's Republic of Bulgaria (PRB; Bulgarian language: Народна република България (НРБ)
Narodna republika Balgariya (NRB)) was the official name of the Bulgarian socialist republic that existed from 1946 to 1990, when the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) was ruling together with its allegedly 'independent' coalition partner National Agrarian Party. Bulgaria was viewed in the West as a satellite state of the Soviet Union, part of Comecon and an Eastern Bloc country, and a Soviet ally during the Cold War, a member of the Warsaw Pact.
In 1989, democratic reforms were initiated after some few years period of unspoken liberalization and after in the autumn of 1989 the long ruling Todor Zhivkov was removed from power in a BCP congress. In 1990 BCP changed its name to Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and adopted a centre-left political ideology due to Georgi Parvanov, then political historian at the BCP Institute, in place of Marxism-Leninism. Following first free elections since 1931 were held (won by the BSP), the country's name was changed to Republic of Bulgaria.
Early years and Chervenkov era
Although the Kingdom of Bulgaria changed its alliance and declared war on Nazi Germany on September 7, 1944 on September 9 a coup d'état, backed by Red Army troops, installed a new government led by the Fatherland Front (FF), which was dominated by the Bulgarian Communist Party. The next two years were accompanied by heavy-handed repression of the non-Communist opposition. This only increased when it became apparent that the United States and United Kingdom had largely disinterested themselves in Bulgaria. The tempo of repression ramped up even further in November 1945, when Communist Party leader Georgi Dimitrov returned to Bulgaria after 22 years in exile. He made a truculent speech that made it apparent the party had no intentions of working with the opposition. Elections held a few weeks later resulted in a large majority for the Front.
In September 1946, a referendum on whether to retain the monarchy or make Bulgaria a republic resulted in an implausible 95.6 percent voting in favour of a republic. Almost immediately after that Bulgaria was declared a people's republic. The young Tsar Simeon II, his mother and sister were required to leave the country. Vasil Kolarov, the number-three man in the party, became acting head of state. This moment marked the onset of undisguised Communist rule in Bulgaria. Over the next year, the Communists consolidated their hold on power. Elections for a constituent assembly in October 1946 gave the Communists a majority. A month later, Dimitrov became prime minister. The constituent assembly, with the help of Soviet jurists, issued the so-called "Dimitrov Constitution" in December 1947—a copy of the 1936 Soviet Constitution. By 1948, the remaining opposition parties had been destroyed; the Social Democrats had been forced to merge with the Communists, while the Agrarian Union converted itself into a loyal partner of the Communists.
In 1948-49, Orthodox, Muslim, Protestant and Roman Catholic religious organizations are restrained or banned. The Orthodox Church of Bulgaria somehow continued functioning but was restricted and later infiltrated with communist functionaries.
Dimitrov died in 1949. For a time, Bulgaria adopted collective leadership with Vulko Chervenkov becoming leader of the Communist Party and Vasil Kolarov becoming prime minister. This broke down a year later, when Kolarov died and Chervenkov was once again able to combine the posts of party boss and prime minister. Chervenkov started a process of rapid and forceful industrialization. Yet, Chervenkov's support base even in the Communist Party was too narrow for him to survive long once his patron, Stalin, was gone. In March 1954, a year after Stalin's death, Chervenkov was deposed as Party Secretary with the approval of the new leadership in Moscow and replaced by the youthful Todor Zhivkov. Chervenkov stayed on as Prime Minister until April 1956, when he was finally dismissed and replaced by Anton Yugov.
Zhivkov ruled Bulgaria for the next 33 years, being completely loyal to the Soviets but pursuing a more moderate policy at home. Relations were restored with Yugoslavia and Greece, the trials and executions of Traicho Kostov and other "Titoists" (though not of Nikola Petkov and other non-Communist victims of the 1947 purges) were officially denounced. A limited degree of freedom of expression was restored and the persecution of the Church was ended.
The upheavals in Poland and Hungary in 1956 did not spread to Bulgaria, but the Party placed firm limits and restraints on intellectual and literary freedom to prevent any such outbreaks. In the 1960s some economic reforms were adopted, which allowed the free sale of production that exceeded planned amounts. The country became the most popular tourist destination for the Eastern Bloc people. Bulgaria also had a large production basis for commodities such as cigarettes and chocolate, which were hard to obtain in other socialist countries.
Yugov retired in 1962, and Zhivkov then became Prime Minister as well as Party Secretary. He survived the Soviet leadership's transition from Khrushchev to Brezhnev in 1964, and in 1968 again demonstrated his loyalty to the Soviet Union by taking a formal part in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968; that is, he sent a limited number of troops for attendance but not for actually taking part in the bringing down of the Prague Spring. At this point Bulgaria became generally regarded as the Soviet Union's most loyal Eastern European ally.
In 1971, with the adoption of a new Constitution, Zhivkov promoted himself to Head of State (Chairman of the State Council) and made Stanko Todorov Prime Minister.
Fall of the Communist regime
Although Zhivkov was never in the Stalinist mould, by 1981, when he turned 70, his regime was very autocratic but brought also some social and cultural liberalisation and progress led by his daughter Lyudmila Zhivkova who unlike her father didn't receive approval of communist functionaries because of her pro-Western attitudes.
Before the fall of communism this autocracy was shown most notably in a campaign of forced assimilation against the ethnic Turkish minority, who were forbidden to speak the Turkish language and were forced to adopt Bulgarian names in the winter of 1984. The issue strained Bulgaria's economic relations with the West. The expelling of 300,000 Turks caused a significant drop in agricultural production in the southern regions due to the loss of labour force.
By the time the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program in the Soviet Union was felt in Bulgaria in the late 1980s, the Communists, like their leader, had grown too feeble to resist the demand for change for long. Liberal outcry at the breakup of an environmental demonstration in Sofia in October 1989 broadened into a general campaign for political reform. More moderate elements in the Communist leadership reacted promptly by deposing Zhivkov and replacing him with foreign minister Petar Mladenov on November 10, 1989.
This swift move, however, gained only a short respite for the Communist Party and prevented revolutionary change. Mladenov promised to open up the regime, even going as far as to say that he supported free elections. However, demonstrations throughout the country brought the situation to a head. On December 11, Mladenov went on national television to announce the Communist Party had abandoned power. On January 15, 1990, the National Assembly formally abolished the Communist Party's "leading role." In June 1990, the first free elections since 1939 were held, thus paving Bulgaria's way to multiparty democracy. Finally in mid-November 1990, the National Assembly voted to change the country's name to the Republic of Bulgaria and removed the Communist state emblem from the national flag.
Immediately after the fall of the socialist regime in Bulgaria, an era of demonization of socialism and of all of its aspects began. Today, after more than two decades of capitalism, there is a certain feeling of nostalgia for the People's Republic, with some Bulgarians stating that the stability, safety and social services that they had are now lost.
Government and politics
The People's Republic of Bulgaria was a single-party Communist state. The Bulgarian Communist Party created an extensive nomenklatura on each organizational level. The constitution was changed several times, with the Zhivkov Constitution being the longest-lived. According to article 1, "The People's Republic of Bulgaria is a socialist state, headed by the working people of the village and the city. The leading force in society and politics is the Bulgarian Communist Party."
The PRB functioned as a one-party people's republic, with the People's Committees representing local self-governing. Their role was to exercise Party decisions in their respective areas, and in the meantime to rely on popular opinion in decision-making. In the late 1980s, the BCP had an estimated peak of 1,000,000 members—more than 10% of the population.
After Bulgaria was proclaimed a people's republic in 1946, the military rapidly adopted a Soviet military doctrine and organization. The country received large amounts of Soviet weaponry, and eventually established a domestic military vehicle production capability. By the year 1988, the Bulgarian People's Army (Българска народна армия) numbered 152,000 men, serving in four different branches - Land Forces, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces, and Missile Forces.
The BPA operated an impressive amount of equipment for the country's size - 3,000 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles, 2,500 large caliber artillery systems, over 500 combat aircraft, 33 combat vessels, as well as 67 Scud missile launchers, 24 SS-23 launchers and dozens of FROG-7 artillery rocket launchers.
The economy of the PRB was a centrally planned economy, similar to those in other COMECON states. In the mid-1940s, when the collectivisation process began, Bulgaria was a primarily agrarian state, with some 80% of its population located in rural areas. Production facilities of all sectors were nationalised, although it was not until Vulko Chervenkov that private economic activity was completely scrapped.
Despite negative effects in some other countries, the productivity of Bulgarian agriculture increased rapidly after collectivisation. Large-scale mechanisation resulted in an immense growth in labour productivity. A vast amount of government subsidies were spent each year to cover the losses from the artificially lowered consumer prices.
Chervenkov's Stalinist policy led to a massive industrialisation and development of the energy sector, which is one of Bulgaria's most advanced economic sectors to date. His rule lasted from 1950 to 1956, and saw the construction of dozens of dams and hydroelectric powerplants, chemical works, Elatsite gold and copper mine, and many others. The war-time coupon system was abolished, healthcare and education were made free. All this was achieved with strict government control and organization, prisoner brigades from the labor camps and the Bulgarian Brigadier Movement - a youth labor movement where young people worked voluntarily on construction projects.
In the 1960s, Todor Zhivkov introduced a number of reforms which had a positive effect on the country's economy. He preserved the planned economy, but also put emphasis on light industry, agriculture, tourism, as well as on Information Technology in the 1970s and the 1980s. Surplus agricultural production could be sold freely, prices were lowered even more, and new equipment for light industrial production was imported. Bulgaria also became the first Communist country to purchase a license from Coca-Cola in 1965, the product had the trademark logo in Cyrillic.
Despite being very stable, the economy shared the same drawbacks of other countries from Eastern Europe - it traded almost entirely with the Soviet Union (more than 60%) and planners did not take into account whether there were markets for some of the goods produced. This resulted in surpluses of certain products, while other commodities were in deficit.
Apart from the Soviet Union, other main trade partners were East Germany and Czechoslovakia, but non-European countries such as Mongolia and various African countries were also large-scale importers of Bulgarian goods. The country also enjoyed good trade relations with various non-Communist developed countries, most notably West Germany and Italy. In order to combat the low quality of many goods, a comprehensive State standard system was introduced in 1970, which included precise and strict quality requirements for all sorts of products, machines and buildings.
The People's Republic of Bulgaria had an average GDP per capita for an Eastern Bloc country. A comparative table is given below. At least on paper, average purchasing power was one of the lowest in the Eastern Bloc, mostly due to the larger availability of commodities than in other socialist countries. Workers employed abroad often received higher payments, thus could afford a wider range of goods to purchase. According to official figures, in 1988 100 out of 100 households had a television set, 95 out of 100 had a radio, 96 out of 100 had a refrigerator, and 40 out of 100 had an automobile.
Per Capita GDP (1990 $) 1950 1973 1989 1990 United States $9,561 $16,689 n/a $23,214 Finland $4,253 $11,085 $16,676 $16,868 Austria $3,706 $11,235 $16,305 $16,881 Italy $3,502 $10,643 $15,650 $16,320 Czechoslovakia $3,501 $7,041 $8,729 $8,895 (Czech)
Soviet Union $2,834 $6,058 n/a $6,871 Hungary $2,480 $5,596 $6,787 $6,471 Poland $2,447 $5,334 n/a $5,115 Spain $2,397 $8,739 $11,752 $12,210 Portugal $2,069 $7,343 $10,355 $10,852 Greece $1,915 $7,655 $10,262 $9,904 Bulgaria $1,651 $5,284 $6,217 $5,552 Yugoslavia $1,585 $4,350 $5,917 $5,695 Romania $1,182 $3,477 $3,890 $3,525 Albania $1,101 $2,252 n/a $2,482
Since 1965 in People`s Republic of Bulgaria many companies from Western Europe choose Bulgaria to build their factories to sell their automobiles in the countries which were in the eastern bloc.Renault and Citroen from France, Fiat and Alfa Romeo from Italy tried to convince Bulgaria for a partnership, but People`s Republic of Bulgaria made deals only with Renault and Fiat.
- Bulgarrenault started in 1966 until 1971 making cars based on Renault 8 and Renault 10.The factories were in Plovdiv. In the end around 6500 cars were produced.
Culture in the People's Republic of Bulgaria was strictly controlled and regulated by the government, although there have been some periods of liberalization (meaning entrance in Bulgaria of Western literature, music, etc.). The thaw in intellectual life had continued from 1951 until the middle of the decade. Vulko Chervenkov's resignation and the literary and cultural flowering in the Soviet Union created expectations that the process would continue, but the Hungarian revolution of fall 1956 frightened the Bulgarian leadership away from encouragement of dissident intellectual activity.
In response to events in Hungary, Chervenkov was appointed minister of education and culture; in 1957 and 1958, he purged the leadership of the Bulgarian Writers' Union and dismissed liberal journalists and editors from their positions. His crackdowns effectively ended the "Bulgarian thaw" of independent writers and artists inspired by Khrushchev's 1956 speech against Stalinism. During the later years of communist rule, nationalism became a doctrine that the ruling party promoted.
- History of Bulgaria since 1989
- Rose, Richard; Neil Munro (2002). Elections without order: Russia's challenge to Vladimir Putin. Cambridge University Press. pp. 54. ISBN 978-0-521-01644-5. "Bulgaria was a loyal satellite that benefited economically by following the Moscow line"
- Streissguth, Thomas (2002). The Rise of the Soviet Union. Greenhaven. pp. 225. ISBN 978-0-7377-0929-2.
- Crampton, R.J., A Concise History of Bulgaria, 2005, pp.205, Cambridge University Press
- "1990 CIA World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. http://www.umsl.edu/services/govdocs/wofact90/world12.txt. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
- "UK Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate Country Assessment - Bulgaria". United Kingdom Home Office. 1 March 1999. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,UKHO,,BGR,,3ae6a69e8,0.html. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
- Bulgaria - Military Personnel
- Agricultural policies in Bulgaria in post Second World War years, p.5
- IT Services: Rila Establishes Bulgarian Beachhead in UK, findarticles.com, June 24, 1999
- Living Standards
- Madison 2006, p. 185
- Teichova, Alice; Matis, Herbert (2003). Nation, State, and the Economy in History. Cambridge University Press. p. 138. ISBN 0-521-79278-9.
- Intellectual life
- Ethnologia balkanica, Tome 10,2006,page 9,"In Bulgaria nationalism became a doctrine that was more or less discretely promoted by the ruling party"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to People's Republic of Bulgaria.|
- Maddison, Angus (2006), The world economy, OECD Publishing, ISBN 92-64-02261-9
- The Cold War International History Project's Document Collection on Bulgaria During the Cold War
|This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).|