CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS
Author: Nedyu Nedev
Vladimir Stoyanov Zaimov (1888-1942) was a Bulgarian military and political figure, Colonel-General, Hero of the Soviet Union (1972). Son of Stoyan Zaimov, a participant in the April Uprising of 1876.
A graduate of the Royal Officers’ College (1907), Zaimov served in the Balkan wars of 1912-13 and in World War I. Beginning in 1927, he helped build up the Bulgarian artillery, and in 1934 he headed the Military League. In 1935 he was appointed Inspector of the artillery, but, because he was a republican and an advocate of friendship with the USSR, he was transferred to the reserve and in late 1935 imprisoned.
Active in the antifascist struggle from 1939, Zaimov fulfilled assignments of the Communist Party. On 23 March 1942, he was arrested and executed at the Sofia military firing squad. The rank of Colonel-General was conferred on him posthumously.
Richard Zorge from Tokyo, Vladimir Zaimov from Sofia, and other Soviet intelligence agents sent invaluable information reports, citing the dates for the start of "Barbarossa Plan" and invasion of the Soviet Union.
Vladimir Zaimov was born on December 8, 1888, in Kyustendil. Son of Bulgarian revolutionary and revivalist Stoyan Zaimov. Originated from ancestral pro-Russian family. Stoyan Zaimov was chief apostle during the April Uprising in 1876. He was married to a Russian woman. For two years after the uprising he was exiled in Diyarbakir, Turkey.
Vladimir Zaimov graduated cadet school in 1907. He participated in the Balkan Wars 1912-1913 and First World War. In 1923 in his capacity as commander of the artillery division, Zaimov prevented the firing of communists arrested in Sliven after the September uprising.
In 1935 Colonel Zaimov was appointed Inspector of Artillery. In the same year he was elected political secretary for the Military Alliance. On October 16, 1935 Zaimov was discharged from the army with the rank of Major General. In 1935-1936, the jurisdiction for the trial of Damian Velchev in plotting a coup d'etat acquitted General Zaimov for lack of evidence.
Spying for Soviet Union
Vladimir Zaimov was arrested on charges of espionage in favor of the USSR on 22 March 1942. The accusations were specifically that on the benefit of Soviet intelligence were created intelligence groups working under guise and belonging to Zaimov's cardboard factory "Slavianin". Those were connected with other groups in Varna, Romania and Czechoslovakia.
The accusation said he was in contact with the Soviet military attaché, Colonel T. B. Sukhorukov, since 1935, and that through him was contacted in July 1938 with Colonel Benediktov. In October that same year he offered to cooperate with Soviet intelligence. In January 1939 his proposal was accepted and Zaimov received a nickname "Azorsky". After his arrest for three months he was held incarcerated in conjunction with other suspects at custody until court martial. The verdict was based on confessions and statements made primarily from the nephew of General Zaimov - Evgenia Chemshirova. From tabloid books at Sofia Central Courtyard, where the case was proceeded, it appears that no physical torture was evident. Attorneys of General Zaimov - retired Colonel Vladimir Tumparov and Dimitar Bocharov - argued that the information General Zaimov had passed, in notes on rare occasion meetings in the street with the Registrar of the Soviet military attaché, were not a strictly classified state secret. In addition, from police reports stored in the archives of the Ministry of Interior, it is clear that General Zaimov and other activists of the Union Army were subjected to rigorous daily monitoring from year 1936 onwards, all from the circle of Damian Velchev.
According to the memories of General Hristo Stoikov, Zaimov was considered close to the circles at the Royal Palace. Subsequently, during the investigation he attempted to commit suicide but unsuccessfully. New evidence appeared in the trial, that in the period 1940-1941 the Soviet legation had paid Zaimov cash, a total of about 120,000 g. leva spent on lodging, rail subscription cards and visits to cafes, bakeries, restaurants, etc. General Vladimir Zaimov left after his death a large number of debts to banks, including mortgaging his house, against which he had received credit from Bank Sofia, BAC Bank and others.
General Zaimov was sentenced to death by firing squad. Applying for a pardon, addressed to King Boris on June 3, 1942 the manuscript have a following note: "The verdict has already been met. Shot on June 1, 1942, the date of issue of the death penalty, less than 12 hours after pronouncing it". At 9 a.m. that same day Sovietinformbyuro spokesman Yuri Levitan made a pathetic call from Moscow: “Bulgaria kneel! General Zaimov is dead.”
The actions of the “red” General Vladimir Zaimov were indirectly recognized as honest, as in the case of avaricious conduct Art 112 of the then State Military Law provided in this case the death penalty would be by hanging. Vladimir Zaimov was shot and is not degraded in rank. The fine of 500,000 g. leva has been simplified by Dobri Bojilov - finance minister in the cabinet of premier Bogdan Filov and later Prime Minister (14.IX.1943 - 1.VI.1944).
In May 1945 the death sentence of Vladimir Zaimov issued in 1942, was repealed by a panel of the Sofia Court held at the People's Tribunal of the Fatherland Front. After September 9, 1944, pleading was taken to the Soviet Union without an inventory, where it was returned at the end of the 60s-years of the twentieth century. According to the General Intelligence Department (GRU) of the General Staff of the USSR: "During the casework of Zaimov (1939 to 1942) he repeatedly had passed military and military-political information for Bulgaria, Germany, Turkey, Greece and other countries. After the entry of German units in Bulgaria, Zaimov provided information on their size and armament. His work was highly valued by the Soviet command. In the information provided by Zaimov there is evidence of German military equipment and tactical characteristics of the actions of the Wehrmacht during the Balkan campaigns in 1941".
By decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Court of the USSR on 30 May 1972, for bravery and heroism in the fight against fascism in World War II, General Zaimov was posthumously awarded the title "Hero of Soviet Union".
Addendum: We have included two books in our booklist about Central Intelligence of Bulgaria (during the years of World War II). The same theme has already been developed in another title, Ivan Vinarov's "Combatants on the Silent Front", yet here the perspective is different since narrative comes from within Bulgaria rather than as directives from "Radio Moscow". The plot itself, as presented by documentalist N. Nedev, is very complicated while involving numerous personalities in an intricate spy web. Thus it resembles more a masterly spy thriller, which it is not but a real life story. All heroes are actual and not fiction. By their position and rank in the Bulgarian Army, those that take central role in the story are General Vladimir Zaimov and General Nikifor Nikiforov.
Part I of the 2-book set develops around the initial years of World War II. The first steps of recruiting high military officials are related, while here main contact person is Marxist writer and political prisoner Krastyu Belev. As second in charge at the spy ring, Belev was personal friend of Georgi Dimitrov and Vasil Kolarov. He further gave unity links to the collateral radiotelegraphy group "Pan", leader Vasil Popov; also, to Anton Prudkin's explosives and political immigrant trafficking group. The end-point of first book was the sentencing to death of Vladimir Zaimov (1 June 1942).
Part II continues with the subversive activity of Dr. Alexander Peev's group, codename "Boevoi". The plot ends in November 1943 when Nikifor Nikiforov was discharged from the Army, and main spy coordinator Alexander Peev put to execution. The story of Bulgarian Espionage in favour to the Soviet Union continued to the final days of World War II, ditto.
Pictures 1, 2 & 3: Sample illustrations on the text above.
(i). General Vladimir Zaimov (1888-1942) — high military official and personal friend to Boris III.
(ii). Radiotelegraphy group "Pan", leader Vasil Popov — sent coded radio messages from North-East Bulgaria to Moscow.
(iii). Anton Prudkin's explosives and political migrant trafficking group — performed high saboteur activity along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
Copyright © 2011 by the author.