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Author: Lyubomir Vladikin


Political Science in Bulgaria

[1]  Under Communist Party leader Todor Zhivkov, who was in power from 1956 until the fall of the regime in 1989, Bulgaria combined formal allegiance to the Soviet Union with a specific nationally oriented policy in which the attempt to accommodate the intellectual elite played a significant part. It conducted a carrot-and-stick policy, allowing certain freedoms and deviations from the official communist ideology. This explains why some sciences initially labeled "bourgeois", such as sociology and political science, were able in the 1970s and 1980s to find their way in the scientific community and even to institutionalize themselves, especially in Bulgaria’s major university, the University of Sofia (now the St. Kliment Ohridski University). Sociology was institutionalized in the early 1970s and very quickly became a popular scientific discipline and university course among students and teachers.

[2]  Political science had to follow a more difficult path than sociology because it dealt with notions directly associated with political power; these were seen as a threat to the political and ideological dominance of the Communist Party. The official line of the communist ideology was that political science was incorporated within "Scientific Communism", which was a universal "science" introduced as an obligatory course for all social and natural sciences at institutions of higher education. Nonetheless, in the early 1970s, a small community of scientists began to look for ways to circumvent the official ideological position. It was able to make some headway with the introduction of topics close to political science in the Western sense and in expanding its influence in various social science faculties.

[3]  The first breakthrough was the early 1970s inclusion in Scientific Communism of a specialized course on politics at the party’s Academy for Social Management. Later, in the sociology department of Sofia University, political sociology was introduced. These developments had been foreshadowed somewhat earlier when two institutes - the Institute of Contemporary Social Theories and the Institute of International Relations - were set up at the Academy of Sciences; there, research was conducted in certain fields of political science. The Bulgarian Political Science Association was founded in 1974 and was able to bring together various scientists - mostly from law, sociology, and scientific communism - who showed an interest in political science.

[4]  Bulgarian Political Science Association was under the control of the Communist Party’s ideological institutions. Nonetheless, it was able to further the cause of the development of political science and bring together scholars interested in political studies. It was the only institution that maintained contact with its colleagues in the West, mostly by participating in the world meetings of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) and various workshops organized by the latter. In the beginning, teachers from the law faculty at Sofia University dominated the Political Science Association, but later teachers from the sociology department were able to gain growing influence in the association and to play a determining role in its development and activities in the 1980s. By then it had already established itself as a permanent institution.

[5]  Political Science Association helped establish the Department of History and Theory of Politics at Sofia University. Members of the Political Science Association were able to give courses in the new discipline. This was a major breakthrough, three years before the fall of the regime. Political science was introduced in Sofia University as a separate five-year undergraduate course of study, and the first 20 students were enrolled in 1986.

[6]  Most of the association’s members participated in conferences organized during this period and in the publication of various articles and books, which developed certain themes typical of political science.

[7]  In other words, before the great changes in 1989, the Political Science Association and the new department had already become a center where a great number of scientists - arguably including some of the most forward-thinking in Bulgaria - were able to group and create the basis for the expansion of political science in the new conditions after 1989. A great number of these scientists came from the younger generation, who were able to specialize for a shorter or longer period in Western universities and were prepared to meet the challenges of political science under the new conditions.

[8]  Although the regime and its hard-line ideologists tried to stop this process, under the influence of Perestroika in the Soviet Union and the growing crisis of the communist regime, this shift constituted a major achievement of Bulgarian scientists’ long efforts. It can also be viewed as part of the process of the imminent demise of the regime, which was unable to stop the growing trends towards democratization and freedom, especially in the realm of social sciences. It is no coincidence that the first major dissident groups emerged in Sofia University; some of their members were excluded from the Communist Party and fired from the university in 1987. Most of them were from the philosophy faculty, where political science had first been introduced and where the new department had been established. In a way, the institutionalization of political science was a sign and a symbol of the end of the communist regime and of the birth of a new atmosphere in the social sciences, which brought with it the notion of liberal democracy and liberal democratic institutions.

[9]  Although, typically for the situation, the curriculum included so-called "ideological disciplines", by and large the program "copied" and was based on the American and West-European tradition in Political Science.


Core theoretical and methodological orientations

[10]  There was no pre-war tradition in political science in Bulgaria, but some major works, mostly by university teachers and researchers in law, treated topics that are today part of political science. The problems of the development of the state and democracy are discussed in works by Venelin Ganev, especially his study on "Democracy" (1946), and by Vladimir Vladikin, in his "Organization of the Democratic State" (1935). Vladikin wrote a remarkable essay on the essence of political science (1936).

[11]  Stefan Balamesov, one of the most famous writers in constitutional law, followed the French tradition later developed by Maurice Duverger and others, combining constitutional law with the study of political institutions.

[12]  In the aftermath of the political change in 1989, which created brand new conditions for the development of political science, the main focus has been on current political developments. This is quite understandable - the post-communist change is so radical and unprecedented in history, and so many dynamic events took place in the span of a few years that Bulgarian political scientists were overwhelmed with various topics to be analyzed. They had to adapt to quite new circumstances and to a new environment, and their current involvement as citizens made it practically impossible to do fundamental research, at least in the early years of transition.

[13]  At the same time, the detrimental effects of the general distaste for the ideology and ideological themes connected in the public mind in part with the old dogmatic Marxism-Leninism made systematic research difficult. For this reason, most of the writings of political scientists reflected their participation in the development of the new party system and of the new political structures. Many of them were engaged as experts in political parties and in the media as political commentators.

[14]  All these factors, especially in the first few years after 1989, led political scientists’ activities and theoretical thoughts to concentrate mainly on day-to-day politics rather than on more fundamental issues. Indeed, most of the attention of political scientists concentrated on the analysis of empirical data produced by the newly established institutes for public opinion, such as BBSS Gallup Bulgaria, Sova-Harris, MBMD, Alpha-Research, and others. Some successful attempts to apply content analysis to compare party platforms were made.

[15]  Much attention was devoted to overcoming the deficit in the literature on political science by translating important classical works in political science (for example, Locke, Schumpeter, Parsons, Nozik, Lipset, Habermas, Duverger, Bentham, Verba, etc).

[16]  The lack of a longer tradition in political science and the youth of the discipline are the major reasons for a certain chaos and eclecticism in theoretical and methodological approaches. Some teachers and researchers from the older generation are under the influence of the Marxist tradition and heritage. The majority of them have tried to adapt their courses and work to various dominant Western theories. The most popular such theories are the institutional, system, and structural-functionalist methods. A few have been attracted to behaviorism or to organizational and game theory.

[17]  Although there is still a lack of systematic and well-structured research in Political Science, the main fields in the discipline are relatively well represented.

[18]  In the fields of History and Theory of Politics and Political Ideas, several textbooks were published. In the Theory of Politics, these are the works of Semov and of Fotev. More books appeared on the History of Political Ideas and young and promising political scientists has consistently entered the field.



Remarks on the development of political science in Bulgaria

[1]  The report on the development of the political science in Bulgaria is relevant and rather exhaustive. The author gives the most essential ideas in order to explain the features and the general trends in this filed of theoretical research as well as of university teaching. The main conclusions in the report are objective and well founded. The report provides knowledge about the history of the political science as a university discipline and as a field of research work especially after 1989, but with general suggestions about some important authors before this period. The report also deals with the institutionalization of the political science at the universities and at several research bodies, the funding of the research, and with the main theoretical approaches in the Bulgarian political science recently, as well as the principal fields of the research (institutions, democracy, political parties, electoral studies, political philosophy and political theory, transition and civil society building, international relations, especially on the Balkans). The author points out one of the most important challenges for the political science in Bulgaria in his opinion - the establishment of a Bulgarian school in political science. Even though it seems that this assumption is quite optimistic and nation allegiant, the problem is evident - is there a Bulgarian model specific in the political science or not.

[2]  The following remarks are intended to give additional elements for understanding the problems and the characteristics of the political science in Bulgaria. I try to emphasize some supplementary remarks, ideas and details in order to improve his description and the analysis of the Bulgarian political science after 1989.


Before and after 1989

[3]  Speaking about the intellectual roots of the current Bulgarian political science, it seems important to mention the development during the Perestroyka period. This short lap of time (the second part of 1980’s) was marked by intensive discussions, concerning also political science and sociology as separate and autonomous fields of the social sciences.

[4]  The debate was influenced by several texts of researchers from the former Soviet Union, during the Perestroyka period, dealing with political sociology, political systems, and political behavior. Some Western texts in political science became accessible for the large academic public in Bulgaria during this period through their Russian translations.

[5]  Here it seems important to mention also the role of the research institutions, which were close to the governing elite during Communism like the Academy of Social Sciences, the Institute for Contemporary Social Theories, the Institute for History of the Bulgarian CP, the Institute for Social Management. These research bodies are discussed in the report. But they influenced the development of the political science also by one very specific activity by that time - the publication of texts and translations of texts on political science, with restricted distribution among a limited number of politicians, civil servants, party officials and some academics. This practice was called “official samizdat”, because within these publications different points of view as well as different theories in the field of the political science were broadcast somehow in the public sphere.

[6]  When discussing the development of the political science during Communism it seems important to notice that many researchers by that time tried to escape from the rigid ideological prescriptions for the social sciences by developing studies on Western societies and Western political system. This allowed them to use many Western classical texts in political science, which enriched the methodological knowledge in Bulgaria.

[7]  All these particular developments in Bulgarian political science during the Perestroyka period were enhanced after 1989 with the appearance of many new opportunities, especially for young scholars, to get fellowships for visits and research in Western universities (especially in US, France, Germany, Austria, and UK). This had as a result the interference of different methodologies, coming from a lot of countries: United States, UK, France, and Germany. One can argue that the scientific exchanges with many Western states after 1989 contributed to the diversification of the methodological store of the Bulgarian political science making it very heterogeneous and eclectic.


Teaching political science

[8]  Teaching political science became one of the main challenges for the scholars in this field. For evident reasons, the most professors of all grades came into the discipline from other sides: philosophy, sociology, “scientific communism”, political economy, and even from anthropology and cultural studies, international relations, history. The newly established chairs of political science in most cases, except the University of Sofia and the New Bulgarian University, were the transformed chairs of “scientific communism” or of History of the Communist Party. They were a part of the Faculties of Philosophy, so that most of the new coming professors were from related disciplines as pointed out below. The newly established discipline did not have special relations with the faculties of law, as it was the case in many European or American universities, where political science grew within these faculties.

[9]  New Bulgarian University took different academic structure, like in United States and UK. In 1992 the Department of Political Science was established, bringing together researchers from former institutes of political studies and of international relations of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, some professors in sociology and political science from the Sofia university (in a part-time job) as well as researchers from the former Academy of Social Sciences of the Bulgarian CP, the Institute for Social Theories and the Institute of History, which were dismantled by that time. This gave more opportunities to establish curriculum in political science on the bases of interdisciplinary approach (the Department united different scholars: political scientists, sociologists, lawyers, economists. philosophers, and historians).

[10]  The first curricula in political science were initiated following some US and Western European university curricula. The core curriculum included more or less the same disciplines as the core curriculum in many Western universities. This was true for the University of Sofia and was accepted in other universities too. In New Bulgarian University the curriculum in political science was influenced by the experience in the Institute of Political Studies in Sorbonne, France. Somehow we cannot say that there is a local traditional or specific way to teach political science. Many traditions and experiences had an impact on the way in which political science exists as a discipline in Bulgarian universities.

[11]  During these 12 years of transition many new handbooks and university manuals in political science appeared, as an addition to the main texts on general political theory as it is shown in the report. In principle every chair of political science in every university made an attempt to publish its own manual. Now there are at least 10 handbooks on political science, most of them by colleagues from the Higher Military Schools (of Land Forces, Air Forces and Artillery). But among the most frequently used handbooks with more than one edition, are the books from the University of National and World Economy.

[12]  When discussing how political science is taught in Bulgaria, it is important to mention the existence of the so-called “state requirements” or state standards in the university curricula. These standards are introduced with a special decision of the Government after having consulted the professional community. These requirements are obligatory for the university curricula and impose a number of compulsory courses.

[13]  The list of the compulsory courses with the minimum of hours was issued as Government’s directive of the state requirements in political science from 13th November 1997, Official Journal, No.109, 1997.

[14]  It is difficult to say whether the existence of these standards has a good impact on the quality of the teaching, much more uncertain is if these requirements are comparable with the standards in foreign universities in US, Canada or Western Europe. However, universities have some autonomy to choose different non-compulsory courses and to make their curricula more individual and specific. There is now a big discussion if the state requirements shall exist or not in their detailed structure as it is the case.

[15]  In principle we cannot say that there is much difference between university curricula in political science. Nevertheless at least two main strategies: (1) to follow in a close way the state requirements, what means to have curriculum close to that of the University of Sofia, or (2) trying to establish a different curriculum in political science, by following the standards in one or more Western universities in this field (as is the practice at the New Bulgarian University).

[16]  One other aspect of the university organization of the political science in Bulgaria is the difficult distinction between the content of the BA and MA degrees in political science. The state requirements in this purpose are quite ambiguous: they say, that Universities are free to build the curriculum at the master degree, but on the other side call for achieving the core curriculum of the bachelor degree before. This obviously makes the master degree in political science inconsistent and non-autonomous.

[17]  Political science is taught also in other curricula (law, economics, philosophy, sociology, cultural studies, and public administration). Many colleagues try to adapt the discipline for the students in other programs, so that many courses in political science for jurists or for economists appeared.


Field of the discipline

[18]  What is studied and taught in political science? The structure of the curricula in political science is relevant for the conception of what is the field of the discipline. History of the political thought, comparative political systems, political analysis, political theory or political philosophy, government and public policy are the main disciplines and this gives an idea about the field of the political science. This does not differ from many Western universities, but with some particularities, connected with the state requirements. In most cases these compulsory requirements are the result of the power position of one or another professor, teaching one of the core courses.

[19]  The structure of the manuals and handbooks in political science is also relevant. Power and politics, democracy, political elite, political system, constitution, parliamentary system, government, political parties and party systems, main political ideologies like liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism, neo-fascism, lobbies, elections, political culture, political change and theories of transition, European institutions - these are more or less the main themes in the handbooks of political science in Bulgaria. The overview of the handbooks in political science shows, that there are a lot of themes, not always subordinated to a general approach.

[20]  On the other hand, there is an obvious competition now between political science and other related disciplines, most of them newly established - public administration, European studies, international relations and diplomacy. There are a lot of difficulties for differentiating the specific field of the political science from the field of these disciplines. So that some influential handbooks avoid treating controversial fields and topics. And this is despite the fact, that all mentioned topics are part of the political science if taking as a standard the New Handbook of Political Science, published recently.

[21]  At least two books reveal the dominant perception of the field of the political science in Bulgaria - those of Mincho Semov and of Georgi Fotev - recently published and quoted below. For Mincho Semov in "Theory of Politics", the most important topics are the European antique roots of the modern political systems, politics as a mechanism of transformation of the private interests into public ones, the State as a core of the political organization. This book explores also the relations between politics and other social spheres. Georgi Fotev in "Limits of Politics" explores the political field as a system of state activity, power organization and freedom. He investigates the political regimes, especially the modern democracy with its main elements: political equality, common will, civil society, political parties, and public opinion. None of these books treats international relations or foreign policy as a topic of the political science in the strict sense of the word.



Otto von Gierke (1841-1921)

Otto Friedrich von Gierke (11 January 1841 - 10 October 1921) was a German historian. He was born in Stettin (Szczecin), Pomerania, and died in Berlin.

Gierke specialized in the study of the German antecedents of German law. His view of the Rechtsstaat (state on a legal basis), and his emphasis on the federal nature of medieval states, became important and debated. In fact, he said the society grows up because people form groups and groups of groups, from families to the State. He stood as an opponent of the trend of civil law interpretation and theorizing. His theory took up some older ideas from Thomas Aquinas and Dante Alighieri (De Monarchia).

Abroad he was a major influence on the British historian of law F. W. Maitland, who translated as Political Theories of the Middle Ages some of Gierke's major works, and on John Neville Figgis.


Ludwig Gumplowicz (1838-1909)

Ludwig Gumplowicz, born 9 March 1838 in Kraków, then a republic, now part of Poland, died 20 August 1909 in Graz, Austria, was one of the founders of European sociology. He was also a jurist and political scientist who taught constitutional and administrative law at the University of Graz.

Gumplowicz studied law in Kraków, then became a lawyer and publicist there. In 1875 he began teaching administration in Graz; in 1882 he became an associate professor, and in 1893 a full professor. In 1909, after he had become ill with cancer, he and his wife committed suicide by taking poison.

Gumplowicz became interested in the sociology of conflict, starting out from the idea of the group (then known as race). He saw the state as an institution which served various controlling elites at different times. In analysis, he leaned towards macrosociology, predicting that if the minorities of a state became socially integrated, they would break out in war. In his 1909 publication, Der Rassenkampf (Struggle of the Races) he foresaw world war. During his life he was considered a Social Darwinist.

His political beliefs and his polemic character attracted many Polish and Italian students, making his theories important in Poland, Italy and other crown states. But the fact that he published his works in German meant that he was also an important figure in German-speaking countries. Gustav Ratzenhofer was the most prominent of those influenced by him.

Another disciple of Gumplowicz was Manuel González Prada. Prada lived in Peru and found Grumplowicz’s theories on ethnic conflict useful for understanding not only the Spanish conquest of Quechua peoples during the sixteenth century but also how the descendents of the Spanish (and other European immigrants) continued to subordinate the indigenous peoples.



Addendum: Political science in Bulgarian developed for long years under the control of the Communist Party’s ideological institutions. As a matter of fact, it was non-existent as theoretical discipline until the 1990s when two textbooks — Prof. Mincho Semov's "Theory of Politics" and Prof. Georgi Fotev's "Limits of Politics" — appeared on the scientific market. Also, some modern politology studies were translated from foreign languages — Locke, Schumpeter, Parsons, Nozik, Lipset, Habermas, Duverger, Bentham, Verba, etc. This was all we could salvage on the topic in this country, fighting to overcome the legacy of Scientific Communism and overt participant in the affairs of European Commonwealth.

The fact that we re-introduced the book from Prof. Lyubomir Vladikin, written in the far away 1935, was beyond sheer antiquarian zeal or looking for populisms. Bulgaria had good standing tradition in politics from the first half of the 20th century, it being arena for conflicts in the World Wars. Without being a major power or possessing a strong statehood, still the country was important political factor on the Balkans and not less a counteragent in international relations. This tiny monarchy eloped in the 1880s and had its separate existence for 71 years. It was a state based on German principality model and had constitution with absolute rights of the King. However, the hereditary power of the monarch was overruled by Socialist Revolution and voting for republican constitution by the Great Assembly in 1947.

All those details are history in Bulgaria today. No one wants to blame politicians for shortsightedness, being they on the right or left at the assembly, but ignorance for national culture and prestige are inadmissible. We have been watching those phenomenon for some twenty years in the transitional period of the country and feel sorry for the majority of uneducated populace. As if L. Vladikin felt the same himself when he was writing his major bestseller, not for the sake of the King or for the Commoners, while political realities on global scale were going from bad to worse and nothing seemed to hamper the upcoming war. The good written masterpiece, however, remain unchallenged. It reads perfectly today after 75 years, coming to remind who you are, where you come from and where are you going?

We didn't daresay expertise in this short essay. For instance, the only altogether good critique on theory of state and law could be consulted elsewhere in the booklist — cf., "Popov, P. Critique on the Contemporary Bourgeois Theories of State and Law. Sofia, 1969". This monograph cite as proponent authority in political law Hans Kelsen, a teacher of Catholic clericalism. Analyzing the currents of political philosophy reveals more in-depth on the topic. Vladikin's textbook as only remnant on political science from the pre-war period is more explicit. There come the author's approach at revealing his methodology on the bourgeois state, not as dying substrate of Socialism or budding fantasy in Utopianism. Those are contemplations of a real philosopher (disregarding the bulk of 500 pages for the book, with thesaurus and index of authorities).

Comprehendible as it is, topics in the book are manifold and difficult for lay interpretation. It was not easy to trace Prof. L. Vladikin's principal sources, but they are eloquently discussed in the book at first hand; effectively so, an interested reader could use it as primer reading. Proceeding out of courtesy, we should illustrate in short the two mostly referenced titles in the volume — von Gierke (Staatsrecht, Staatslehre) and Gumplowicz (Staatstheorien), see above on the titular. From the two lineage of thought: 1. State on a legal basis, gave more adherents in Constitutional Law; and 2. Macrosociology, more disciples in the study of Democracy and Government.

Lastly, few words for the author Lyubomir Vladikin. As of year 1947 Vladikin was missing from the Bulgarian files, persecuted by the People's Court and probably died abroad. He was born in 1891, from village Golemo Belovo, district Tarnovo. Graduated law from Vienna and Wurzburg. Started work at Law Faculty, Sofia University, from the 1920s. Have written about half dozen quality books on the estate of Regency, on the French Revolution, on the history of Tarnovo Kingdom, etc. His father was Nikolai Yonkov-Vladikin, eminent journalist and secretary of Prince Stefan Bogoridi, ditto.


Picture 1: Sample illustration on the text above.

(i). Some "heavyweight" authorities from Faculty of Law, Sofia University /from left to right/ — Prof. Stefan Balamezov, Prof. Lyben Dikov, and titular Prof. Lybomir Vladikin (1891-1947).



Copyright © 2010 by the author.