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IVAN BAGRIANOV ~ DIPLOMAT AT PEOPLE'S TRIBUNAL

Author: Mitre Stamenov

 

IVAN IVANOV BAGRIANOV

Ivan Ivanov Bagrianov (1891-1945) was a leading Bulgarian politician who briefly served as Prime Minister during the Second World War.

After a career as a diplomat he was chosen by the Council of Regents that at the time had power in Bulgaria to form a government capable of negotiating peace. In contrast to his predecessor, Dobri Bozhilov, Bagrianov was known for his largely pro-Western views and he saw as his mission removing Bulgaria from the war before the arrival of the Red Army and so attempted to open negotiations with the Western Allies. However the coup by Michael I of Romania on 23 August 1944 severely damaged this plan as it ended effective Romanian resistance and allowed the Red Army a free hand to advance into Bulgaria.

Bagrianov continued his drive to find separate peace and whence, 1) repudiating any alliance with Nazi Germany on 26 August and declaring neutrality, 2) ending all anti-Jewish laws on 29 August — although it was officially ratified by the new government on 5 September — and, 3) ordering the withdrawal Bulgarian troops from Yugoslavian Macedonia. However, Bagrianov's insistence on neutrality, rather than declaring war on the Axis Powers, hamstrung negotiations with the Allies and he was removed from government. He was further damaged by the inclusion in his cabinet of a number of 1930s fascists such as Alexander Staliyski.

After the Communist-led Fatherland Front came to power he was amongst those tried by the People's Tribunal for war crimes and executed.

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BULGARIAN COUP D'ÉTAT OF 1944

The Bulgarian coup d'état of 1944, also known as the 9 September coup d'état and called in pre-1989 Bulgaria the National Uprising of 9 September or the Revolution of 9 September, was a forceful shuffle in the Kingdom of Bulgaria's state authority carried out on the eve of 9 September 1944. With the help of the advancing forces of the Third Ukrainian Front of the Red Army, the government of Prime Minister Konstantin Muraviev was overthrown and replaced with a government of the Fatherland Front led by Kimon Georgiev. Following that date, large-scale political, economic and social changes were introduced to the country, with Bulgaria quitting the Axis and falling in the Soviet sphere of influence.

On 26 August 1944, the government of Ivan Bagryanov had orally declared Bulgaria's neutrality in the war under the threat of the Red Army's offensive in neighbouring Romania. At the same time, in Egypt the government had entered separate peace talks with the United Kingdom and the United States, hoping to secure the dispatch of British and American troops in Bulgaria. On that same day, the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Workers' Party (BWP) proclaimed the assumption of power by means of an uprising its official task.

A government of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU) "Vrabcha 1", until then in opposition, was formed on 2 September 1944, headed by Konstantin Muraviev. It continued the peace talks, declared its support for democratic reforms and ordered the withdrawal of German Army troops from Bulgaria. At the same time, the repressions of the partisans did not cease, the alliance with Nazi Germany was not disbanded and no attempts were made to normalize the relations with Moscow, forcing the Soviet Union to treat the new government with suspicion. On 5 September 1944, the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria.

Simultaneously, the Central Committee of the BWP and the general staff of the Popular Liberation Revolutionary Army hatched an operational plan to instigate an uprising. The plan was further particularized on 8 September. According to it, the coordinated actions of the partisans, the BWP combat groups and the Fatherland Front-supporting army detachments would assume power during the night of 9 September, establishing total control over the country. The declared goal of the uprising was the "overthrowing of the fascist authorities and the establishment of popular-democratic power of the Fatherland Front".

Unrest began all around Bulgaria on 6 September and 7 September, with the strikes of the Pernik miners and the Sofia tram employees, as well as the general strikes in Plovdiv and Gabrovo. The prisons in Pleven, Varna and Sliven were broken open and the political prisoners were released; 170 localities were permanently seized by partisan detachments between 6 September and 8 September. In many cities and villages, the strikes and meetings grew into armed clashes with the police, with victims from both sides.

On the eve of 9 September, army units together with Fatherland Front detachments captured the key points in Sofia, such as the Ministry of War, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Post, the Telegraph, the Radio, the Railway station, etc. Early in the morning, the new Prime Minister Kimon Georgiev informed the people on the radio of the shuffle: "With the complete awareness that it is a true and full voice of the popular will, the Fatherland Front assumes in that fateful hour and difficult conditions the government of the country in order to save it from destruction".

On 9 September, on the order of the Popular Liberation Revolutionary Army commander-in-chief Dobri Terpeshev, all partisan units descended from the mountains and assumed power in the villages and cities. In places, this happened without any resistance, but in other cases army and police detachments loyal to the old government put up resistance to the Fatherland Front forces. In Sofia, Plovdiv, the region of Pernik, Shumen and Haskovo, the old regime supporters were crushed by military means, with the army passing entirely under the control of the Fatherland Front. The establishment of the new authority happened at the latest in Haskovo, where partisans and other antifascists seized the artillery barracks on 12 September, but suffered many casualties, as the negotiations with the commanding officers failed.

As of 9 September, the Red Army had not reached Sofia but was only in northeastern Bulgaria. As the Bulgarian communists collaborated with the Soviets en masse and were capable of assuming power without any aid, the Red Army commanders decided not to advance further in direction towards the capital.

The Fatherland Front government included representatives of the BWP, BANU "Pladne", the Bulgarian Workers' Social Democratic Party (Wide Socialists) and "Zveno". The old Prime Minister Konstantin Muraviev went underground, Tsar Simeon II's regents and members of the former government were arrested, as were the police, the gendarmerie and some army detachments' heads. On 10 September, the police was abolished and replaced with a popular militia consisting mainly of recent partisans; 8,130 political prisoners were released from the prisons, and the concentration camps of the former regime were done away with. The fascist organizations were banned, as were their publications. The old regents, Prince Kiril, Bogdan Filov, and Nikola Mihailov Mihov, were executed in February and they were replaced by regents named by the new government. On 15 September 1946, a plebiscite was held and the monarchy was abolished.

After 9 September 1944, the Bulgarian Army joined the Third Ukrainian Front and contributed to the defeat of Nazism in Europe, helping drive out the Germans from much of Yugoslavia and Hungary, reaching as far as Klagenfurt in Austria by April 1945. Although Bulgaria was not recognized as a true member of the Allies, it still managed to retain Southern Dobrudja which it had acquired in 1940 with the Treaty of Craiova.

 

Picture 1: Sample illustration on the text above.

(i). Crisis cabinet of Ivan Bagrianov, from 1 June to 5 September 1944. Prime Minister Bagrianov is half-sitting, first row at right. At court decision from People's Tribunal from 2 February 1945 — all members of this cabinet, except three ministers sentenced to 20 years prison, were executed for war crimes.

 

 

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