A piece of visual history - the first photo album of the Bulgarian capital after the Communist takeover in 1944.

Most of the over 100 photographs were taken by Architect Nikolay Popov and Pencho Balkanski, both established internationally in the 1930, with exhibitions in Vienna and Belgrade.

Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959

(more to come)

Published in Photo Gallery Bulgaria

Milka_3

 

 

Nikola Mihov was a prominent Bulgarian army commander at the turn of the XX century. A career officer who managed to stay clear of politics in the turbulent 1930s, he ran the country's Military Academy till 1941. In 1942 he became a defence minister in Bulgaria's Nazi-allied government. In the summer of 1943 General Mihov was appointed as one of the three regents to the boy King Simeon after the death of his father King Boris.

Just over a year later, after the Communist takeover of Bulgaria, Nikola Mihov's fate took a dramatic turn – he was arrested, taken to the Soviet Union for questioning, then returned, put on show trial in Sofia and executed together with 96 other statesmen and prominent Bulgarians. They were all shot and buried in a mass grave on 1-2 February 1945.

Lyudmila Doytchinova was Nikola Mihov's niece. She remembered vividly the day her uncle vanished.

 

Filmed in Sofia, 2008

Published in YOUR STORY

May 1985 2

Bulgaria's Communist leader Todor Zhivkov at a traditional parade on the day of the Cyrillic alphabet and Bulgarian culture in Sofia, 24 May 1982.

Carefully rehearsed and meticulously orchestrated, the parades in front of the embalmed body of the ex-Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov were also an indicator of the place in the hierarchy of each member of the party nomenclatura.  While teachers, pupils and students waved obediently at Number One and his lieutenants, others were trying to spot who was in and who was out on the tribune.

There were several of these parades each year, all the way to the end 1989. Even the day dedicated to letters and culture was no exception from the military discipline of marching past Sofia's Mausoleum.

Converted from 16 mm film.
All rights to use purchased.

Published in Bulgaria

 

74 years ago on 10-11 March 1943 Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was mainly down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev.

Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. 

His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembered.

Published in Bulgaria

Soviet-justice arrives in Bulgaria: Bulgarian Communist leader and Komintern-apparatchik Georgi Dimitrov returns from Soviet exile. Andrei Vishinsky pays a visit to Bulgaria's new Communist rulers.

Prosecutor General of the USSR since 1935, Andrey Yanuaryevich Vishinsky was the legal mastermind of Stalin's Great Purge. One of the principles of Vyshinsky's theory was that criminal law is a tool of the "class struggle".

Vishinsky also served as Soviet Foreign Minister, 1949-53.

A colourful episode from one of Vishinsky's visits to the UN.

Monday, Oct. 06, 1947

Vishinsky Meets the Press

It was an old U.S. custom, but Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Y. Vishinsky had never tried it before. Last week, he summoned U.N. newsmen to a press conference at Lake Success. He had discovered the soft underbelly of democratic journalism. He had only to make any charge he wanted, or slander anyone he pleased, and U.S. newspapers would spread his words on Page One.

By the time he bounded into the U.N.'s roomy Security Council chamber, more than 300 reporters, delegates and hangers-on awaited him. Wearing a grey suit and a shiny celluloid collar, Vishinsky posed briefly for photographers. Then began a turbulent 2½-hour press conference. While the bored reporters squirmed, Vishinsky read a ten-page manuscript. Vishinsky's Russian was crisp and emphatic; he seemed annoyed at the interpreter's colorless, halting rendition. The statement was a fingerpointing, arm-waving rehash of his attack on U.S. "warmongers" (TIME, Sept. 29). This time, Vishinsky proposed that the "warmongers" should be jailed.

He also added three more candidates to his blacklist: upstate New York Press Lord Frank Gannett, onetime U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Bullitt, Columnist Walter Winchell. For Winchell, Vishinsky reserved his choicest invective: "The new American Baron Munchausen, famous . . . for his utterly absurd lies."

Suave or Shrill. Then, picking up a sheaf of questions submitted in advance by newsmen, he tackled them in a manner alternately suave, sarcastic and shrill.
Q. (by six U.N. correspondents): "Will the Soviet Union [agree] to curtail the use of the veto?"
A.: "I am astonished with this question. . . It needs no answer."
Q. (by the six): "If talks on atomic control and disarmament fail, what course will the Soviet Union take?"
A.: "The six correspondents are full of great pessimism. I do not wish to join their prophecy."
Inez v. Andrei. A few minutes later, with 20 written questions still to go, Vishinsky tried to break off. But Hearstling Inez Robb spoke up. Said she: "Isn't the Russian press comparison of Truman to Hitler a sample of intemperate warmongering?" Vishinsky stalled a minute: ". . . I should know the expressions the Soviet press used." Then, firmly: "Anyone who incites a new war is worthy of being compared to Hitler."
Inez kept after him: "Do you include Truman?"
A. (hastily): "I did not say that."
By then, other questioners were joining in. Asked one: "You charged Bullitt with warmongering. Do you think Stalin is guilty of warmongering in an inflammatory speech which is cited by Mr. Bullitt?"
A.: "I cannot answer. If I answered, I would be unpleasant to the questioner."
Inez Robb: "Is rudeness a one-way street in Russia?"
A.: "I always avoid rudeness. But when I hear rudeness addressed to me I answer twice or three times as rudely, notwithstanding sex. . . ."

Then Vishinsky picked up a handy gavel, rapped the desk and stomped out. Last week, the U.S. Government granted a visa to Pierre Courtade, to cover U.N. for the Paris Communist paper L'Humanité, but it attached strings. Courtade could not go anywhere in the U.S. except New York, could only write about the United Nations while here.
The U.S. was not borrowing from the totalitarian primer. Reporters of the Soviet agency Tass can still travel where they please in the U.S. The State Department was merely applying its immigration laws. Since the U.N. is an international no man's land, reporters accredited to it can come go there as they please. But beyond the bounds of U.N., U.S. immigration laws, which bar foreign Communists, still apply.
* Winchell to Vishinsky: "If the people of Russia knew the facts, you might be a defendant, instead of a prosecutor." Winchell accepted a sarcastic Vishinsky "invitation" to visit Russia, provided other U.S. newsmen could go along. Said he: "I wouldn't be able to lie ... with so many rivals present."

 

Published in Bulgaria

Former camp inmates tell of the horrors in a Bulgarian Communist Forced Labour Camp. During the ex-inmates' first reunion in 1990.

Between 1944 and 1953, some 12,000 men and women passed through these camps, with an additional 5,000 between 1956 and 1962. The camp at Belene alone is believed to have held 7,000 people in 1952. Another source estimates a total of 187,000 political prisoners in Bulgaria during this period.

Another source estimates a total of 187,000 prisoners during this period, 'The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression', Paris 1997. By Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin. No one has been jailed so far for their responsibility for Bulgaria's Communist camps.

Бивши лагеристи разказват за преживяните години в комунистически лагери за принудителен труд. Oт 1944 до 1953 около 12 хиляди мъже и жени преминават през тези лагери в България, и още 5 хиляди от 1956 до 1962.
Само в Дунавския лагер край Белене се счита, че през 1952 са били държани 7 хиляди души. Друг източник оценява, че за този период в България е имало общо 187 хиляди политически затворници, 'Черната книга на комунизма: Престъпления, Терор, Репресии ', Париж 1997; Стефан Куртоа, Никола Верт, Жан-Луи Пан, Анджей Пачковски, Карел Бартошек, Жан-Луи Марголен. Досега никой не е осъден в България за комунистическите лагери за принудителен труд.

Епизод от документалния филм Лагерите
Режисьор Атанас Киряков, 1991

Published in Bulgaria

'Bulgaria and Russia are marching in one column under the banner of labour...' goes this song. The march was a favourite of the Soviet Army Group in Bulgaria.

In September 1944 the Red Army crossed the Danube and entered Bulgaria.

It ignored the announcement of the Bulgarian government that it was withdrawing unilaterally from the Axis, pulling its troops out of Greece and Yugoslavia and then declaring war on Germany, hoping to avoid a Soviet occupation. By the time the Red Army entered Sofia on 16th September 1944, the Bulgarian capital was already controlled by armed Communist activists. The Soviet army presence enabled the Bulgarian Communists to later seize power and establish a Communist state.

One of the first tasks for Soviet Power in Bulgaria was to establish continuity between the XIX Century Russian presence in Bulgaria and its new rulers. The myth of the Dual Liberators was born.

The new administration was equally harsh towards all within Bulgaria's borders. Tens of thousands of White Russians lived in Bulgaria after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Legally, they were not Soviet citizens, some of them had Bulgarian passports, others the so called Nansen Passports (as stateless people in need of protection), issued by the League of Nations in Geneva.

Similarly to the post-1945 practice across Eastern Europe, some of those Russians were taken to the Soviet Union, others to Bulgaria's Forced Labour Camps: first the Kutsiyan Mine near the town of Pernik, later to Bulgaria's largest Gulag on the Danubian island of Persin.

Published in Bulgaria