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People’s Republic of Bulgaria (1946 – 1990)

State History

Todor Zhivkov held the position of First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party from 1962 to 1989. During his tenure, significant political and constitutional changes occurred in Bulgaria.

On September 8, 1946, disregarding the stipulations of the Tarnovo constitution, a referendum was conducted to decide on the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a people’s republic. Subsequently, on September 15, 1946, Bulgaria was officially proclaimed as a people’s republic. Elections for the VI Great National Assembly were held on October 27, 1946, tasked with drafting a new constitution. The Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) emerged victorious in these elections, with Georgi Dimitrov assuming leadership of the new government.

Bulgaria signed the Paris Peace Treaty on February 10, 1947, reaffirming the country’s borders as of January 1, 1941. The adoption of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, also known as the Dimitrov Constitution, took place on December 4, 1947. This constitution marked a pivotal moment as it formalized Bulgaria’s transition to a socialist state. Additionally, nationalization efforts were implemented, leading to the transfer of all property into state ownership by the end of 1947.

The Fifth Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1948 openly acknowledged the establishment of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Furthermore, during the 6th Great National Assembly, the Law on Religions was passed, granting state authorities the authority to directly intervene in the affairs of religious communities. These legislative measures reflected the consolidation of state control over various aspects of Bulgarian society under communist rule.

Vasil Kolarov assumed the position of chairman of the Council of Ministers following Georgi Dimitrov’s tenure, serving from 1949 to 1950. In 1950, Valko Chervenkov was elected chairman of the Council of Ministers, ushering in a period of total political dictatorship in Bulgaria.

During Chervenkov’s leadership from 1950 to 1953, the regime enforced policies of forced socialist industrialization and implemented mass cooperative agriculture initiatives.

A significant development occurred on May 10, 1953, with the restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, leading to the election of Metropolitan Kirill of Plovdiv as the Bulgarian Patriarch.

Bulgaria’s diplomatic standing also saw an enhancement, as on December 14, 1955, the country was admitted as a member of the United Nations.

However, internal political shifts were underway. In 1956, during the April Plenum of the Communist Party, Chervenkov was relieved of his position. Todor Zhivkov ascended to the role of head of the Politburo and assumed the position of the first state secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Anton Yugov was appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers.

The subsequent period from 1957 to 1970 witnessed notable growth rates in production, indicating a phase of economic expansion and development under Zhivkov’s leadership.

In the 1960s, as Bulgaria sought closer ties with the USSR, there were discussions within the Bulgarian party and state leadership about the possibility of “uniting” or “merging” with the Soviet Union in the future. However, due to international considerations, Moscow ultimately rejected this proposal.

In 1962, Anton Yugov and Valko Chervenkov were removed from their party and state positions. Todor Zhivkov assumed the role of first secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party and also became Prime Minister of Bulgaria. Subsequently, Zhivkov transitioned to the position of chairman.

Between 1963 and 1967, four meetings were held between Zhivkov and Josip Broz, during which discussions likely encompassed various regional and international matters, including the Macedonian question. Notably, a new stance emerged regarding the Macedonian population, which aimed to shed light on their identity and heritage.

In 1968, during Todor Zhivkov’s official visit to Turkey, an agreement was signed allowing for the emigration of Bulgarian Turks.

August of the same year witnessed Bulgaria’s participation in the intervention of the Warsaw Pact against Czechoslovakia, as a Bulgarian military contingent took part in the operation.

From 1968 to 1971, initiatives were undertaken to develop new programs and a revised constitution for the country, reflecting ongoing efforts to adapt to changing domestic and international dynamics.

On May 16, 1971, a new constitution known as the Zivkov Constitution was adopted in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria through a referendum, marking a significant legal and political development. Subsequently, in December of the same year, the State Council approved a revised coat of arms for the People’s Republic of Bulgaria.

During the early 1970s, Bulgaria underwent reorganization efforts, particularly in the form of constructing agro-industrial complexes. However, this process also led to concentration, which had adverse effects on the cooperative movement in agriculture.

Toward the end of 1984, a controversial initiative known as the “Revival Process” began, involving the changing of names for Bulgarian Mohammedans and ethnic Turks. This policy sparked resistance, and by mid-1985, an illegal organization called the Turkish National Liberation Movement emerged as a response to the assimilation efforts. The movement’s activities included the tragic attack on Bunovo station on March 9, 1985, resulting in the loss of seven lives.

In the spring of 1989, tensions escalated in Northeastern Bulgaria, prompting the government to allow free emigration to the Republic of Turkey. This decision led to a significant exodus, with over 350,000 Bulgarian citizens opting to leave the country during this period.

In the latter half of the 1980s, prompted by the initiatives of Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the process of restructuring the political system began in the Soviet Union under the banner of perestroika. However, during this period, Bulgaria did not witness significant changes in its own political system.

Between 1988 and 1989, informal organizations began to emerge within Bulgarian society, reflecting a growing desire for change among the populace.

On November 10, 1989, Todor Zhivkov was removed from his position as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP), and a week later, on November 17, he was also removed from his position as Chairman of the State Council. Petar Mladenov, a former member of the Politburo and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was elected as the new Secretary General. Subsequently, the National Assembly elected Mladenov as the chairman of the State Council, and later as the president of the republic. These developments marked a significant shift in Bulgaria’s political landscape.

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