TEN DAYS ~ 2-11 SEPTEMBER 1944
Author: Nedju Nedev
Communist St. Bartholomew’s Nights
Coup d’etat on 9 September 1944 found the clandestine party until then of the Bulgarian communists, which bore the name of Bulgarian Workers’ Party (BWP), with 7,000 members and about as many organized members of the Workers’ Youth Union. That was the total number of the bearers of “the most progressive idea,” who just days later turned into a factor dictating the course of events in the country occupied by the Soviet Army.
Many of them came down from the mountains and woods where they were hiding. These were the guerrilla fighters who took part in the so-called antifascist resistance, which consisted predominantly in terror over the population for three years, predominantly in the more remote areas, and in punitive actions and raids of dairy farms, subversive activities and murders. Another substantial part of them were convicts serving prison sentences, who were amnestied two days earlier by the government of Konstantin Mouraviev, among whom it is not clear who was convicted for political reasons and who was an ordinary thief or crook. The rest were “peaceful” citizens who were lying low until recently, but all of a sudden decided to cast themselves in the role of rebels, although there was no uprising, let alone a revolution.
Having once legitimized themselves, all these “ardent dreamers for the land of kolkhozes” took a position that was diametrally opposite to the claims of the official communist press that the aim of the BWP was to establish a lasting people’s democracy and to attain social justice. They rolled their sleeves for revenge and arbitrary retribution, formulated by the party leadership from Moscow — the overseas bureau — as “harsh judgement for the blood-suckers of the people” to which the leader Georgi Dimitrov added the definition of “revolutionary purge.”
Revenge, irrespective of whether it is justified, is inherent to a primitive and impersonal individual, who has claims far beyond his abilities. It is not at least accidental that the most fanatical among these “ardent lovers of justice” were actually social misfits, incompetent and semi-literate “people’s intellectuals” who were failures in life. The data from the preserved police archives confirm that the prevalent majority of the communist activists consisted of people without education and profession, high school and university students with anarchist ideas who had either been expelled or had dropped out. Among these passengers who has missed the train there were also adventurers with a dark past, scum with the dubious notoriety of district bullies, and persons with a criminal record and prior convictions.
Who could believe that such a gang could sincerely embrace the idea of fraternity and equality! True, there may have been naïve and romantic dreamers, but they do not count, because they are unfit for subversive activities against the tenets of the Bulgarian state. The job required people without scruples, capable of killing even their own brother if he stood on their way to power, which in their distorted notions meant nothing but triumph of the opportunity to steal with impunity and to control the destinies of thousands and even millions of people. It is the conduct of such active individuals that proves that the hatred with which communism is charged stems from its nature as the ideology of envy.
The communist party always had such people handy in the period between the two world wars. According to its terminology, these people were anti-fascists, which was a key concept in its semantic propaganda space, although there were no Bulgarians professing the fascist ideology on the other side of the barricade. Anyway, the real motives for the “revolutionary struggle” had to be disguised.
For the communist leaders the word “fascist” did not stand for party identification and affiliation. In their scanty vocabulary, the word was used as an appellation that had acquired universal applicability, mostly for pointing a finger at the enemy, because the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP/BWP), being a militant party, could not exist without an enemy. Even if there had been no enemy, it would have invented an enemy and would have branded it as “fascist.” And this would not have been so much an ideological opponent — for spiritual paupers this is not important, but rather as a target for hate, adroitly fuelled and fanned among the dwellers in the backyard of society.
Once set in motion, this concentrated expression of hatred for people who have different ideas began to self-proliferate and multiply, placing the BCP/BWP in the paradoxical position of a party fighting against all who do not share its ideology. Fascists are those who have power, affluence and prosperity. Fascists are police officers, clergymen, army officers who pledged allegiance to the King, outstanding figures in the arts, science and culture, the owners of factories and farm land, and the members of bourgeois parties. In other words, all those Bulgarians who did not wear the proletarian peaked hats on their heads. And the massive blow of the violence without court trial and sentence was directed against them immediately after 9 September 1944.
Incidentally, the scenario was conceived much earlier. A study of the books of memoirs of former communist activists and guerrilla leaders will reveal that the “neutralisation” of enemies from black lists drafted in advance was a directive imposed by Georgi Dimitrov and his Moscow entourage. Since the end of 1942, the announcers of the Hristo Botev Radio Station broadcasting from the Soviet capital incessantly threatened cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament, high-ranking army officers and magistrates, targeting personal attacks at them, appealing at the same time for “severe nemesis by the people right now.” And as “the people” did not respond, Vulko Chervenkov, acting on the orders of his brother-in-law Georgi Dimitrov, gave instructions on the air for the physical liquidation of the “blood-suckers of the people” to be entrusted to the combat groups formed for the purpose. The clandestine Politburo, according to the testimony of its member Tsola Dragoycheva, promptly endorsed the first list of “servants of Hitlerism and monarcho-fascism” who were marked to be killed and who were referred in another document as “malicious and active German agents, traitors and torturers of the people.” Several dozens of people were assassinated by the so-called “city guerrilla fighters” in the capital city and in the regional centres just in the winter and spring of 1943, among them secret police agent Nikola Hristov, Retired General Hristo Loukov, Members of Parliament Sotir Yanev and Zapryan Klyavkov, military counterintelligence officer Alexander Zlatkov and former Police Director Atanas Pantev. During the autumn the initiative was transferred to the guerrilla fighters in the mountains. According to police information of that time, 133 civilians became their victims merely for the period between 1 September 1943 and 15 February 1944: mayors, tax-collectors, field-keepers and gamekeepers, teachers, priests, etc. It is noteworthy that these people were not the persecutors, not army or police officers, but civilians!
Having acquired “combat” experience in that way and already from power positions, these 9 September off-springs started operating on a much broader front. And again against the same targets: the unarmed and defenceless “enemy”, under the approving scrutiny of the Soviet invaders.
The Red Army invaded the Bulgarian territory at 9:00 a.m. on 8 September 1944. Towards the evening on the next day its vanguard unit had already reached the line Rousse-Turgovishte-Karnobat-Bourgas. Encouraged by its presence, the local communists proclaimed themselves to be the ne government of the Fatherland Front, demonstrating immediately how they intended to rule. Events in Varna are a perfect illustration of what happened in the other towns and villages of the “liberated” lands, which was to spread throughout the country. In that city on the Black Sea, the “insurgents” went out into the streets to hunt for “fascists.” One of their first victims was the parish priest Father Svetoslav Vassilev, who was beaten to death by the mob and his body was abused. Then the assassins rushed to the home of Hristo Nedev, a lawyer and a leading figure for the local legions. He was kicked out of his house and was taken to the Seaside Park, where he was hanged on the first bigger tree. After that flagrant public execution, the turn of Lieutenant-General Nikola Hristov, commander of the Third Bulgarian Army, came and he was shot point blank again in public view by the political prisoner Angel Georgiev and by the Secretary of the BWP District Committee, Lambo Teolov. There was no trial and no sentence. Incidentally, both Nedev and General Hristov were to “stand trial” later, posthumously, by the so-called “People’s Tribunal” only to exonerate their direct assassins.
At the same time, without even waiting for the “liberators”, communists bludgeoned to death in Gorna Djumaya the famous journalist and editor Danail Krapchev, owner of the Zora daily newspaper in Sofia. On 10 September, early in the morning, Krapchev was found hanged in a carriage at the railway station. The official version was suicide, but nobody believed it. On that same date but in Sofia there was another “suicide” of a prominent person: Major-General Peter Tsankov, head of the Reserve Officers’ School, jumped — or was thrown! — from the fifth floor of the Slavyanska Besseda Hotel. On the next day another high-ranking army officer, General Karov, commander of the cover-up front on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, was shot at point blank in front of his headquarters in Elhovo by members of the so-called “Soldiers’ Committee.” On 12 September another general, Atanas Stefanov, commander of the Fourth Bulgarian Army, was travelling to Pleven in his official car. Passing through the town of Loukovit, he was identified and his car was stopped by the guerrilla fighter Mitka Grubcheva and she killed him with a round of her machine-gun. Hours later, in Haskovo, fellow-party members of hers killed with machine-guns five officers from the Second Army Artillery Regiment, including the commander, Colonel Veliko Marinov.
However, there were no journalists, generals and colonels in the small towns and
villages, so the “revolutionaries” had to be satisfied with administrators,
merchants and wealthier peasants. In the village of Ferdinandovo near Plovdiv,
guerrilla fighters from the Georgi Dimitrov Brigade and the local communist
combat group slaughtered eleven fellow-villagers of theirs, branding them as
“wealthy pigs and blood - suckers of the people.” Together with them they also
killed the village policeman, first cutting his fingers with a butcher’s knife,
then his palms, then his arms up to the elbows and finally his legs, until he
died in excruciating pain.
Georgi Dimitrov summarised later the hundreds of such cases in the following way: “The hatred pent up against fascism for more than two decades and the firm resolve of the working masses to do away with it burst out irrepressibly and swept away the fascist regime.” There was sweeping — with the axe and the butcher’s knife, and there was hatred — blind and savage, but the carriers of that hatred were totally unfamiliar with the ennobling labour. These “masses” had a different genesis and they unleashed their primitive instincts that were yet to be channeled in a systematic and targeted process of physical extermination of the kind that Bulgaria and its people had never known in their history. Organizers of that genocide were the members of the Political Bureau of the BWP Central Committee Traycho Kostov, Anton Yugov, Dobri Terpeshev, Tsola Dragoycheva and a few other top-ranking communists. The master- puppeteer was Georgi Dimitrov from Moscow, the direct executors of his will were the local executive commands, subordinated to the respective militia and security bodies.
On 10 September, the facade Prime Minister Kimon Georgiev signed a government decree on the “formation of a people’s guard and of a people’s militia composed of members of the insurgent detachments.” The two institutions were attached under the supervision of the respective power-wielding ministries: of War and of the Interior. The People’s Guard was charged with the vigilance in the army and was authorized to “shoot and kill” any saboteurs. The People’s Militia “took over the internal security” and was given the right to use discretion and to shoot efficiently, although this instruction does not appear in writing in any document. Needless to say that it was self-evident.
Three centres started functioning and cooperating on that date in Sofia, their innocent task being to watch for public order and discipline of the citizens, to guard their peace and to arrest former officials, who were to be brought to justice. These centres were the Military Command Office headed by the high-ranking communist activist Nikola Pavlov; the Directorate of the People’s Militia, where Lev Glavinchev was in charge, having been promoted overnight to the rank of colonel, and where the State Security Department had its own territory under the supervision of Dimo Dichev; the so-called Headquarters of the People’s Militia, headed by the notorious Todor Zhivkov, the future No. 1 of the Party. The functioning of these three centres can be judged by an excerpt from the memoirs of Vladimir Bonev, subsequently Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly, who was at that time Zhivkov’s devoted assistant: “Various criminals were constantly brought to us under convoy: former fascist ministers, former Members of Parliament, police and military henchmen, some of whom got immediately what they deserved, while others were sent to the People’s Tribunal and then received their deserved punishment.” A propos, such centres for sifting the detained people were created in all regional and district centres.
Apparently, their work lacked the required efficiency at first, because the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party sent a circular letter to the party committees on 12 September, designated as “Circular Letter No. 5”, urging the campaign of arrests and assassinations to be stepped up. With this circular letter the Political Secretary Traycho Kostov, whose signature appeared under it, gave orders for a “resolute and efficient purging of the entire state apparatus from all malicious enemies of the people and of the Fatherland Front, and for an energetic and firm liquidation of the still undestroyed nests of the fascist resistance.” Of course, there was no resistance — neither fascist, nor non-fascist. There were thousands of people detained in the militia directorates and stations, in the basements of mayoralties and schools that had been turned into improvised detention centres. The meaning of the instruction was to reduce substantially the number of names on the blacklists. In other words, as Dobri Terpeshev explained on that same day before communist activists in Stara Zagora, the enemies were to be liquidated without trial or sentence within a week, i.e., by 19 September.
While the new blood-drenched wave was gaining momentum, Traycho Kostov enthusiastically reported in a telegram to Georgi Dimitrov: “In the first days of the revolution we settled our accounts with the most vicious enemies who fell in our hands.” The telegram was sent on 14 September, and on 16 September came the encouraging answer of the boss: “Bulgarian chauvinism, nationalism and anticommunism are to be burnt with red-hot iron!” Apparently the recipient understood the metaphor “to be burned” far too literally, because there was indeed burning. Groups of people were massacred at night from 16 to 19 September around Vurshets, Ferdinand, Koula, Vidin, Samokov, Stara Zagora, Tarnovo and elsewhere. St. Bartholomew’s nights!
On 19 September, the headquarters of the assassins issued a new instruction: the next Circular Letter No. 6, containing an appeal to make the transition to a higher quality stage in the struggle “against the internal fascists.” For the purpose, the BWP Central Committee compelled all communists and members of the youth communist organization “to place themselves in the full service” of the People’s Militia and of the combat groups, i.e., of the groups of executioners. That meant a total mobilization of the members of Dimitrov’s party and its transformation into a collective henchman.
On the next night, in the early hours of 21 September, the execution squads in Sofia gave their contribution to attributing a more mass character to the massacres. Three delivery vans packed with tied people started from the square near the Lions’ Bridge and the Directorate of the People’s Militia in the direction of the northwestern exit of the city. Colonel Lev Glavinchev sat next to the driver of the first van, Mircho Spassov was in the second van and Kolyo Moryaka — in the third. The vans stopped 15-20 minutes later, beyond the solitary building of the sugar factory. At that time the place was a bare field on which a residential district was built some twenty years later. And precisely while digging for the houses, a large pile of human bone was discovered, which were broken to such an extent that it was even impossible to count the number of the people buried in that mass grave. But then there was no time to count the bones, because officers of the Ministry of the Interior and of the State Security arrived quickly on the spot, sealed off the area and on the next day nothing was left of the bones. One thing is known, though: the famous journalist and literary critic Yordan Badev, Editor of the Zora daily and head of its cultural section, was in one of those vans.
On 24 September Traycho Kostov reported to Georgi Dimitrov that the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party had endorsed the draft of the Ordinance-Law on the People’s Tribunal. However, in view of the fact that “some time would pass” before that piece of legislation came into effect, the Politburo decided to make use of the interim days for “tacit liquidation of the most vicious enemies.” The encrypted message ended with a slogan of determination: “The counter-revolution ought to be beheaded swiftly and resolutely!” But what kind of “counter-revolutionaries” were the eight peasants, for example, who were slaughtered with knives and thrown into the animal pit near the village of Dolna Kremena near Vratsa?!
On 25 September, the communist daily Rabonichesko Delo carried an article with the breath-taking title: Revenge. Blood dripped from the pen of the anonymous author with unadulterated passion, who sent the following fervent appeal: “Shoot straight into the target, drive the knife to the hilt! Hold the guns firmly in you hands! Advance bravely against the enemy! Destroy him mercilessly! He deserves no mercy — not even the mercy that one would give to a beaten up dog!”
Wolfgang Bretholz, correspondent of the Naionalzeitung published in Switzerland and of the Stockholm newspaper Svenska Dagblade, who travelled hundreds of kilometres in Bulgaria during those days, reported: “What I saw and learned in the small town and villages showed me that the atrocities and tyranny of the Bulgarian communists jointly with the Soviet occupation powers had spread all over the country. The violence was targeted predominantly against those people from whom something could be taken, against the owners of factories and enterprises, property and lands, houses, workshops and small businesses. Every slightly more affluent Bulgarian was branded as “collaborationist” or “fascist”, and if he put up any resistance, he was taken away or shot on the spot.”
Bretholz was a German who fled from the Nazis and continued to fight against them with his pen. He was unable to distort the truth, irrespective on which side of the barricade that truth happened to be. And so he went with that truth to Vulko Chervenkov, then Organisational Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party. Chervenkov’s commentary struck him: according to him, that was an “anti- fascist revolution” and not an attempt “to impose our will upon the Bulgarian people through violence.
Having reloaded the guns of the assassins and having sharpened their knives with the article entitled Revenge, the communist daily Rabonichesko Delo did not stop there. On 28 September, the newspaper came with a leading article entitled The People’s Tribunal, which was again a foreboding of death. It raised for the first time openly and bluntly the issue of the journalists and writers from the “trumpets of the fascist propaganda”, i.e., the newspapers Slovo [Word], Zora [Dawn], Utro [Morning], Vecher [Evening] and Dnes [Today], which were stopped already on 9 September. The people, the article claimed, demanded “severe retribution” for them, because these “journalists, artists and literary critics, who sold themselves dearly to the enemies of the people, instigated the killers, praised their evil deeds and slung mud and libel against the honest fighters. The people have not forgotten their writings, they know them well, as well as who they are and where they are. So these gentlemen are hiding in vain.”
The article was a signal that a crushing blow would be dealt against the “fascist intelligentsia” — a term Georgi Dimitrov used for the cultural elite of Bulgaria before 9 September 1944. According to the American political representative in Sofia, Maynard Barnes, who learned about that macabre intention through his own information channels, the instructions were given to the Politburo orally by a courier who arrived from Moscow. Minister Yugov immediately gave orders to Colonel Glavinchev to form a special punitive squad for the purpose. Within days, dozens of people were arrested, ticked off from a black list compiled with the help of the proletarian writer Kroum Kyulyavkov, too, although they had no idea what and where they had done wrong. They were held in custody in the building of the Home for the Blind, which was expropriated “for State Security needs.” Soon the citizens of Sofia started calling secretly the building “House of Death”, because some people had noticed that one entered the building with hands tied and came out feet-first. Such was the tragic fate of Peter Nikolchev, the Editor-in-Chief of the Zora daily, of the extremely popular cartoonist and writer Rayko Alexiev, Editor of the weekly newspaper for humour and satire Shtoures [Cricket] and Chairman of the Union of Bulgarian Artists, of the Editor-in-Chief of the Nova Vecher [New Evening] newspaper Nikola Panchev, of the Editor of the Douma and Dnevnik Peter Atanassov, and many, many more. Some narrowly escaped death, but came out of there crippled and very sick, as was the case with the artist Nikola Tanev — a painter famous all over Europe.
On 29 September, a formal but symptomatic change took place on the political scene. The Bulgarian Workers’ Party added to its name the extension and clarification “communists.” The decision for that had been taken the day before and now a lowercase “c” for “communist” was added in parenthesis after the acronym of the party: BWP(c). They no longer needed to hide.
On 1 October, the regular encrypted message to Moscow informed Georgi Dimitrov that the Politburo had decided that “the purge is to continue for another week” and that “the work is to be done carefully.” On that same date the regional directorates and the district stations of the militia received a telegram from Minister Yugov’s institution with the extremely laconic text: “Send the detainees to Sofia!”
Indeed, they were to be sent, but not to the capital city, in spite of the imperative tone of the telegram. The actual meaning of the telegram was quite different and it meant “in translation”: “Liquidate immediately the persons earmarked for extermination!” The telegram was the password for the speedier and total completion of the slaughterhouse before the Ordinance-Law on the People’s Tribunal was promulgated in the State Gazette.
If we follow the chronology of the events described, on 3 October there was a simultaneous response to the telegram with enviable efficiency on the part of the executioner’s squads in the towns of Tarnovo, Trun, Sveti Vrach and even in the village of Belchin near Samokov, on 4 October — in Chirpan, on 5 October — in Rousse, Pleven and Pavlikeni. With pick-axes, spades, axes and bullets — depending on the concrete conditions and the availability. In most cases they used whatever came handy, so long as the “instrument” matched their revolutionary wrath and did the job. For example, fourteen men were killed in Chirpan with iron bars in the basement of the old school that had been transformed into a detention centre and a place for executions. The security agents from Tarnovo, on the other hand, when they had to liquidate one of their “lots”, finished off their victims by hitting them with stones on the head so as not to waste bullets on them. The regional inspector of forestry and hunting Vassil Pissarov, who was arrested on 2 October, also belonged to that group. Much later, the authorities formulated the motive for this execution in writing as a “refusal to give permission to the authorities to cut a forest massif for the needs of the Soviet Army.”
Probably most numerous were the victims who came to their death that night in and around the town of Radomir, where the guerrilla commander and future General Slavcho Radomirski was giving the orders. That was so because his combat groups exterminated not only the local “fascists”, many tied people were brought to that improvised “polygon for extermination” from Kyustendil, Doupnitsa and Pernik, and even from the capital. Their mass graves in the Trayanovo Usoe and Ursul, in the lands belonging to the villages of Boboratsi, Drougan, Debeli Lag and Izvor are still awaiting their cold-blooded researchers, of the type that have investigated the mass grave above Dobrinishte in the Pirin Mountain. Bones of forty people, including one woman, were found “cut with sharp and hard objects” there in the Loshin locality on 15 April 1990.
The Nights of St. Bartholomew in that area of the Pirin Mountain continued until 6 October. The total number of people killed from the region of Svetivrach, Petrich, Gorna Djumaya, Razlog and Nevrokop was approximately 200. Most of them had been members in the past of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation. By killing them the authorities eliminated the possible armed resistance and opposition to the intentions of the BWP(c) to hand Pirin Macedonia on a platter to Tito’s Yugoslavia. One week later, in Gorna Djumaya, during a closed meeting of party activists in the region, Anton Yugov personally congratulated the henchmen on a mission accomplished to perfection, pointing out that owing to the revolutionary vigilance demonstrated by them, “Macedonian issue was liquidated.” Macedonia, the minister declared, was given the right to self-identification, while it also made arrangements to fit in a new federal Yugoslavia.
The Ordinance-Law on the People’s Tribunal, endorsed on 3 October with a Decree issued by the Council of Regents, came into force on 6 October after it was promulgated in the State Gazette. Encouraged, the frightened population heaved a sigh of relief, because the impartial Themis was to decide who was guilty and what punishment was to be imposed, and not the irresponsible “People’s Militia”. An end to lawlessness at long last! On 7 October, the Director of the Militia Radenko Vidinski issued an order for the arbitrary detentions of citizens to stop. However, it was not possible to stop the repressive machine that had gathered momentum. Or, to be more precise, the upper crust of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (communists) was reluctant to stop it. Its heavy wheels were to crush the blood-drenched Bulgarian land for more time to come.
Later on the communist retributions and revenge continued in a “legal” form. On 20 December, the two main trials of the People’s Tribunal started simultaneously. By the end of April 1945, eleven main and special panels and 124 ordinary panels of that tribunal in a total of 64 regional and district centres delivered about 2,700 death sentences. The protocols of the executions, however, indicate that 1,576 were effected. Then what about the others on “death row”? Could it be that they were pardoned or they ran away? No, they had been murdered already during the days of the “spontaneous revolutionary revenge” and during St. Bartholomew’s nights. They were tried and sentenced posthumously, marking either “not present”, “absent” or sometimes even the fairly innocuous “deceased” opposite their names. In Stara Zagora, for example, only 29 out of the 40 people sentenced to death actually faced the firing quad, the remaining eleven deaths went to the September account of the notorious Chochoolu. The real record in that respect, however, was in Doupnitsa, where the firing squad executed only 20 out of the 49 “fascists” sentenced to death. The rest were massacred in the first days of the “victory” by Zhelyu Demirevski’s guerrilla fighters.
The question about the real total number of the persons liquidated in the autumn of 1944 is still open. Different researchers of the events during that period provide different answers. The documents that have survived to our times are scarce. The authentic black lists are missing, with a few exceptions. Acting on orders from Minister Anton Yugov, the communist party activists responsible for the blood-drenched purge or the militia chiefs destroyed them after their mission was accomplished. However, judging from their indirectly written reports to the Ministry of the Interior, the planned results had been achieved.
The first figure —5,000 — appeared in the documents immediately after the Ordinance-Law was promulgated. According to the Chief People’s Prosecutor Georgi Petrov, these were “missing people until 5 October” — as he stated before the Central Committee of the BWP(c). Anton Yugov himself gives a more accurate idea about the scale of the slaughterhouse. In his report to the BWP’s Central Committee of 16 November 1944, the Minister indicated that the total numberr of arrested persons throughout the country was 28,630. If we subtract from them the 10,000 people approximately who were slated to be brought to court, this leaves us with 18,000 of whom no one returned home. These were the people who were killed without sentence or trial, according to Professor Mito Isussov.
In the towns, and especially in each of the regional centres and the capital, hundreds were killed. According to the incomplete data of a study, their number was 965 only in Sofia. This indeed can lead to the total figure of 30,000, as reported by the American journalist Marc Ethridge, who was sent by President Truman as observer of the elections in October 1945. He conducted his own “private” inquiries by questioning eminent politicians from the opposition. However, Marc Ethridge also met with Minister Yugov and with Tsola Dragoycheva, who was then Chairperson of the National Committee of the Fatherland Front. The two admitted that there had been retributions out of the courts involving an impressive number of people. Dragoycheva mentioned cautiously ten thousand. We know from experience what staunch supporters of truth communists are. Therefore, we believe that both Professor Georgi Markov, who repeats in his book Bulgarian History the 18,000 cited by Isussov, and Stoyan Rachev in whose book Churchill, Bulgaria and he Balkans the figure 20,000 is cited, must have been a bit too trusting towards sources that had apparently “spared” some of the data. In 1991, the then Minister of the Interior, the late Hristo Danov, announced during a session of the National Assembly that 25 thousand persons were missing. Peter Konstantinov counted a thousand more in his book Some Still Undisclosed Faces. Plamen Tsvetkov also assumes that although the available data are insufficient, they nevertheless place the number of the barbarously murdered people in the 25-30 thousand range.
We shall refrain from any summarizing and generalizations. Our concrete aim in this case was to report the horrifying facts as they transpire from the respective schemes and decisions of the Politburo and the Central Committee of the party of the Bulgarian communists, which were coordinated with the Moscow-based leader Georgi Dimitrov and were even very often endorsed by him. We also have at disposal abundant material: narratives of survivors, of eyewitnesses, of relatives of the victims, as well as several confessions of participants in the massacres, whom we have met. Maybe they will be published one day in a book of the investigative journalism type.
Addendum: After much deliberation we continue our story on anti-fascist resistance in Bulgaria during the years of WW II. All the turmoil of war ended with socialist revolution on 9 September 1944 (or coup d’etat, a term coined by proponents of the Cold War in Western countries). Having in mind what we have already written in a previous review from the booklist — cf., Dimo Kazasov's "Spomeni" (1969) — now, we continue our commentaries a step further. The material from the appended introductory essay was taken from the circulation press in the 1990s. It is obviously product of foreign journalism, a non-Bulgarian critical acclaim, that doesn't reflect properly the attitudes and feelings of the Bulgarian people. As a matter of fact coziness and indetermination still prevail in Bulgaria of the 2010s; consider, for instance, the towering monument of the Soviet Army in Central Park of Sofia.
Whether there is resident Communism in Bulgaria today, or just remnants of it lurking around the corner is matter of another annotation. Herewith, our aim should be to give some more details on entering phase and development of Eastern Satellite Block (conveniently termed Warsaw Pact as counterpoise to NATO military alliance). The salient international literature couldn't give much appreciation on what was really happening in East Europe. For Bulgaria, good books on communism appeared considerably late. We already mentioned the work of F. Chary (1972) on the Jewish question in Bulgaria. Simultaneously, there appeared two more very precious scholarly monographs written in English from foreign researchers, 1) "Revolution Administered: Agrarianism and Communism in Bulgaria" (1973), authored by Nissan Oren of Jerusalem; and, 2) "Bulgaria in the Second World War" (1975), authored by Marshal Miller of California. Both have used the state central Archive at the Institute of History of BCP, People's Republic Bulgaria.
The blunt statements in these semi-detached studies were unequivocal. The longtime curtain of silence was raised, so to speak, in a performance that harboured guest stars from the West to relinquish the outdated (but not forgotten!) burdens of sedentary Eastern politics. It was always like that for centuries and especially on the Balkan Peninsula. How was it that none of the Great Powers took appreciation of Bulgaria except for Germany. The Third Reich poured millions of golden marks to restructure an otherwise backward state in the far South-East corner of Europe. Strategic interest dictated that in case of war, which inevitably succeeded the World Economic Crisis in the 1930s, Bulgaria should join the Triple Axis. That actually happened and by 1944, a losing Germany and an inefficient Allies were fighting for domination in the Balkans. The macabre perspective was broken/interrupted by an unexpected third party or actor. Had Germany not invaded the Soviet Union, the latter wouldn't have had the jest or capability to advance in the West. But mistakes imminently happen in global conflicts and in 1945, the Red Army was already in Berlin. There were three seats on the round table at that time and they were occupied by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
What was to be the fate of Bulgaria at the end of WW II. Two things happened with much significance to the ensuing 50 years or so. The Red Army entered Bulgaria in a blitz war, 6-9 September 1944. While keeping a facade neutrality government of Konstantin Muraviev was actively supporting the retreating German army from the south Balkans. Thus the expectations for fraternity with Soviet Union proved wrong amidst of a landscape that threatened an invasion of Anglo-American and Turkish forces from the east. The bewildered Germans and particularly their plenipotentiary ambassador Beckerle fled east to Istanbul instead of west to Belgrade, which proved wrong. The Turks captured the runaway train and later delivered the whole composition to the Soviets. This ambivalence stopped a 300 kilometers detour of the Red Army which re-grouped at Calafat (Rumania) and continued westward into Yugoslavia.
That was all with respect to international military intervention on Bulgarian soil. The rest was completed by Partisan forces and local Army and Militia detachments that switched sides on the eve of national revolt. The Fatherland Front — a joint structure of militaries, intellectuals, as well as vagabonds — took control of the government on the night of 8-9 September 1944. The anatomy of a plot that had its genesis from the early 1941 became a realization. This was not a bloodless putsch but shed victims on both sides, the Communists as "underground revolutionary army" and the Gendarmerie as "forceful detachments of the monarch-fascist government". St. Bartholomew’s nights from title page of this article had their ugly face shown.
We are not going to retell the events from this book at hand. Nedju Nedev on behalf of the State Archive has done a fair job which kept its repetitiveness even to now-a-days. The day-by-day account from 2nd to 11th September give some resemblance to another popular book with similar treatment (cf., John Reed's "Ten Days That Shook the World" about the October Revolution in 1917, Russia). The Bulgarian variant is meeker but nonetheless a medley to recognize the original intentions of the author. For the moment we preclude our narrative since the sources of Nedev's book should be themselves subject to supplement explorations, ditto.
Picture 1: Sample illustration on the text above.
(i). Three people that destined Socialist Revolution in Bulgaria /from left to right/: 1) Georgi Dimitrov — Communist International Commissariat; 2) Sergey Biryuzov — Allies Control Commission; and, 3) Feodor Tolbukhin — Third Ukrainian Front. Inter alia, war of the Red Army in Bulgaria was due about 100 hours from 3 a.m. on 6th September - 22 p.m. on 9th September.
Copyright © 2011 by the author.