Eugene K. Keefe
Violeta D. Baluyut
William Giloane
Anne K. Long
James M. Moore, Jr.
Neda A. Walpole

Research completed August 1973

First Edition
Published 1974

DA Pam 550-168

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Keefe, Eugene K.
Area handbook for Bulgaria.

"DA Pam 550-168."
"One of a series of handbooks prepared by Foreign Area Studies (FAS) of the American

Bibliography: p. 301-316
Supt. of Docs. no.: D 101.22:550-168
1. Bulgaria. I. American University, Washington, D.C. Foreign Area Studies. II. Title.

DR90.K4      914.977 03'3       74-600028

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402—Price $5.55

[Pg iii]


This volume is one of a series of handbooks prepared by Foreign Area Studies (FAS) of The American University, designed to be useful to military and other personnel who need a convenient compilation of basic facts about the social, economic, political, and military institutions and practices of various countries. The emphasis is on objective description of the nation's present society and the kinds of possible or probable changes that might be expected in the future. The handbook seeks to present as full and as balanced an integrated exposition as limitations on space and research time permit. It was compiled from information available in openly published material. An extensive bibliography is provided to permit recourse to other published sources for more detailed information. There has been no attempt to express any specific point of view or to make policy recommendations. The contents of the handbook represent the work of the authors and FAS and do not represent the official view of the United States government.

An effort has been made to make the handbook as comprehensive as possible. It can be expected, however, that the material, interpretations, and conclusions are subject to modification in the light of new information and developments. Such corrections, additions, and suggestions for factual, interpretive, or other change as readers may have will be welcomed for use in future revisions. Comments may be addressed to:

The Director
Foreign Area Studies
The American University
5010 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20016

[Pg iv]

[Pg v]


Although many changes have swept across the Eastern European communist countries, Bulgaria through the years has remained a bastion of consistency. It is a loyal military ally of the Soviet Union as a member of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact), and its economy is inextricably linked to the Soviet Union through bilateral agreements as well as through membership in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). Of the six Eastern European members of the Warsaw Pact, Bulgaria shares with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) the distinction of not having contiguous borders with the Soviet Union. It is, however, important geographically because it anchors the southeastern sector of the alliance and borders two member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—Greece and Turkey.

The authors of the Area Handbook for Bulgaria have attempted to describe, comprehensively and objectively, the workings of the economic, political, social, and military systems dominant in the country in the early 1970s as those systems have developed in the post-World War II period. Despite the concentration on the communist era, important historical factors are referred to wherever necessary for understanding the modern scene, and a historical chapter is included to provide the proper setting for the modern state.

The spelling of place names conforms to the transliteration system used by the United States Board on Geographic Names. The use of abbreviations, acronyms, and foreign terms has been held to a minimum. The one abbreviation that necessarily appears throughout the work is BKP for Bulgarian Communist Party (Bulgarska Komunisticheska Partiya). All tons are metric unless otherwise stated. A glossary is appended for convenience, but all unfamiliar terms are explained on first use in the text.

[Pg vi]

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1. COUNTRY: People's Republic of Bulgaria. Proclaimed by the communist party in the 1947 Constitution. Formerly, Kingdom of Bulgaria.

2. SIZE AND LOCATION: Area 42,800 square miles. Located in eastern part of Balkan Peninsula on Black Sea south of Danube River. Borders Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey.

3. TOPOGRAPHY: Mountains predominate in west and in ranges that run west to east across the central and southern regions. Lower and more level areas south of Danube River and between the mountain ranges permit extensive cultivation.

4. CLIMATE: Transitional between Eastern European continental and Mediterranean. Northern regions have hot summers, cold winters; south is more moderate but has hot, dry summers.

5. POPULATION: About 8.7 million in 1973; density 203 persons per square mile. Growth rate 0.7 percent annually.

6. ETHNIC GROUPS AND LANGUAGES: 85 percent of population is Bulgar. Persons of Turkish, Macedonian, Greek, Romanian, and other origins are guaranteed the right to use their languages and to preserve their cultural heritage, but Bulgarian, the official language, is spoken by the entire population.

7. RELIGION: 90 percent of population adheres to the Eastern Orthodox faith. There are some 750,000 Moslems, 26,000 Protestants, 32,000 Roman Catholics, and 3,000 to 7,000 Jews. Freedom of religion guaranteed, but practice strictly controlled by state.

8. GOVERNMENT: National Assembly is unicameral legislature. Council of Ministers, performing governmental administrative functions, is responsible to State Council, the supreme executive body. Real power vested in communist party's first secretary, Politburo, Secretariat, and Central Committee.

9. ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISIONS: Administration is by people's councils at district (okrug) and township or borough (obshtina) levels. There are twenty-eight districts, including one composed only of metropolitan Sofia. Districts subdivided into about 1,150 townships and boroughs.

10. INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: Member of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact); the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON); and the United Nations (UN), including several UN specialized agencies.

[Pg viii]11. JUSTICE: Three-level court system headed by Supreme Court. Military and special courts responsible directly to Supreme Court. Judiciary administered by Ministry of Justice within Council of Ministers.

12. COMMUNICATIONS: Mass media are state owned and regulated. Little latitude given subject matter produced locally; imports of foreign films and publications are restricted.

13. EDUCATION: Free and compulsory until age fifteen. Priority on scientific, technological, and vocational curricula. Marxism-Leninism stressed in all curricula.

14. ECONOMY: Production, growth, and development programmed in five-year plans, drawn up and monitored by party. The 1971-75 plan, dependent on financial and technical aid from Soviet Union, recognizes need to raise standard of living; improvement is conditional upon rising productivity.

15. LABOR: Work force numbers about 4.4 million. About 27 percent (1.2 million) of the total are in state and collective industries; 25 percent (1.1 million) work full time on agroindustrial complexes. Skilled workers in short supply.

16. AGRICULTURE: Approximately 53 percent of land is agricultural, 69 percent of which is cultivated. All but small mountain farms are organized into 170 agroindustrial complexes. Grains predominate on plains south of Danube River; irrigated Thracian Plain produces more diversified crops. Livestock production inadequate for domestic needs and exports.

17. INDUSTRY: Virtually all state owned. Rapid expansion encouraged by state, increasingly slowed by inadequate raw material resources and skilled labor. Emphasis in early 1970s on improving unsatisfactory productivity levels and quality of industrial products.

18. FINANCE: Nonconvertible lev (see Glossary) has officially declared values ranging from 0.59 to 1.65 leva per US$1; unofficial rates in early 1973 were substantially higher. Banking system consists of Bulgarian National Bank and subordinated Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank and the State Savings Bank.

19. FOREIGN TRADE: State monopoly administered by Ministry of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Finance, and the state banks. Bulk of trade is with Soviet Union and other COMECON countries.

20. RAILROADS: Operational network totals about 2,620 miles, most of it standard gauge. System carried bulk of long-distance domestic cargo and passenger traffic.

21. ROADS: Total mileage about 21,000, but less than one-half has asphalt or other paved surface. Highway vehicles carry increasing traffic, preponderance of short-haul cargo and passengers.

22. INLAND WATERWAYS: Lower course of Danube River accommodates 2,500-ton vessels. Black Sea and ocean commerce increasing rapidly.

[Pg ix]23. CIVIL AVIATION: State-owned Balkan-Bulgarian Airlines (BALKAN) connects Sofia with about a dozen cities on internal routes and almost twice as many foreign capitals.

24. ARMED FORCES: Bulgarian People's Army is subordinate to Ministry of National Defense. Ground forces have 80 percent of its personnel; air and naval forces, included in the army, have only about 15 and 5 percent, respectively, of total strength.

25. SECURITY: Ministry of Internal Affairs controls police and security organizations, except Border Troops, which are part of army. Party and mass organizations apply pressures on behalf of public order and in defense of the system.

[Pg x]

[Pg xi]



Chapter 1. General Character of the Society 1
2. Historical Setting 9
      Early History—Turkish Rule—The Rise of Nationalism—Liberation and Its Aftermath—World War I—The Interwar Years—World War II—The Communist State  
3. Physical Environment and Population 37
      Natural Features—Boundaries and Political Subdivisions—Settlement Patterns—Population—Transportation  
4. Social System 65
      Ethnic and Religious Composition—The Family—Social Stratification—Other Social Groups  
5. Living Conditions 79
      Health—Personal Income and Expenditures—Housing—Social Benefits—Work and Leisure  
6. Education 93
      History of Education—Communist Educational Policies—Educational Reforms—Literacy—The Educational System—Teacher Training—Other Education  
7. Artistic and Intellectual Expresssion 123
      The Arts and Sciences under Communism—Literature—Theater—Films—Music—Folk Arts—Painting and Sculpture—Architecture —Scholarship and Science  
Chapter 8. Governmental System 137
      Constitutional Evolution—Structure and Function of the Government—Judicial Procedure—The Electoral Procedure  
9. Political Dynamics 153
      Major Political Developments, 1965-71—The Bulgarian Communist Party—The Bulgarian Agrarian Union—Mass Organizations  
10. Foreign Relations 171
      Determinants of Foreign Policy—Conduct of Foreign Affairs—International Relations—Membership in Regional and International Organizations  
[Pg xii]11. Mass Communications 183
      Background—Objectives of Mass Communications—Freedom of Information—Administration of the Mass Communications System—Themes of the Media—The Press—Radio—Television—Publishing—Libraries—Films
Chapter 12. Character and Structure of the Economy 203
      Organization—Structure and Growth—Labor—Investment—Budget—Banking and Currency—Foreign Trade
13. Agriculture 225
      Climate and Soils—Land Use—Organization—Planning and Management—Labor and Wages—Investment and Mechanization—Marketing—Production
14. Industry 249
      Organization and Structure—Fuels and Power—Raw Materials —Investment—Labor—Production
Chapter 15. Public Order and Security 269
      Internal Security—Civil Defense—Public Order—Crime and Justice
16. Armed Forces 287
      Historical Background—Governmental and Party Control Over the Armed Forces—Organization and Mission—Foreign Military Relations—Manpower, Training, and Support—The Military Establishment and the National Economy


Figure   Page
1 Bulgaria xiv
2 Topography of Bulgaria 39
3 Political Subdivisions of Bulgaria, 1973 51
4 Communications Systems of Bulgaria, 1973 60
5 The Bulgarian School System, 1973 111
6 Bulgaria, Structure of Government, 1973 144
7 Bulgaria, Organization of the Council of Ministers, 1973 146


Table   Page
1 Bulgaria, Population by Age and Sex, 1973 Estimate 56
2 Use of Transportation Facilities in Bulgaria, 1960 and 1970 61
[Pg xiii]3 Bulgaria, Percentage Distribution of Household Expenditures by Population Group, 1962 and 1971 85
4 Bulgaria, Actual and Desired Annual Consumption Levels 87
5 Bulgaria, Percentage of Housing Units Equipped with Various Amenities, Decemer 1965 89
6 Number of Schools in Bulgaria, Selected Years, 1938-70 101
7 Number of Students in Bulgaria, Selected School Years, 1938-70 101
8 Number of Teachers in Bulgaria, Selected School Years, 1938-70 102
9 Number and Proportion of Students in Various Bulgarian University Faculties, Selected Years, 1939-71 114
10   Bulgaria, Newspaper Circulation by Frequency of Issue, 1971 192
11   Bulgaria, Circulation of Newspapers and Periodicals, Selected Years, 1939-71 193
12   Bulgaria, Number of Radio Stations and Subscribers, Selected Years, 1939-71 194
13   Bulgaria, Book and Pamphlet Publication, 1971 198
14   Libraries in Bulgaria, 1971 200
15   Bulgaria, Films Produced and Translated, Selected Years, 1939-71 201
16   Bulgaria, Production of Major Crops, Annual Average, Selected Years, 1958-60 to 1966-70, and 1970 242
17   Bulgaria, Livestock Numbers, Selected Years, 1948-72 244
18   Bulgaria, Production of Meat, Selected Years, 1948-71 247
19   Bulgaria, Production of Milk, Eggs and Wool, Selected Years, 1960-71 247
20   Output of Selected Industrial Products in Bulgaria, Selected Years, 1960-71 266
[Pg xiv]
Figure 1. Bulgaria

Figure 1. Bulgaria

[Pg 1]




In mid-1973 Bulgaria was under the complete control of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary) as it had been since the latter days of World War II. As that war came to a close, the Kingdom of Bulgaria was occupied by the Soviet army and was governed by a coalition under the communist-dominated Fatherland Front. By 1947 the monarchy had been deposed, a new constitution had been promulgated, and the country had become the People's Republic of Bulgaria under the BKP. Todor Zhivkov, who became first secretary of the party in 1954, retained that position in 1973 and, with nineteen years' tenure, was senior in length of service among the top leaders of the Soviet-aligned, communist countries of Eastern Europe. Zhivkov, who weathered several years of intraparty struggles after assuming the secretaryship, has led an apparently stable regime since an abortive coup d'etat failed to dislodge him in 1965. The hallmark of Zhivkov's leadership has been his intense loyalty to the leaders of the Soviet Union.

Zhivkov's critics accuse him of what they call subservience to the Soviet Union, stating that he relies on Soviet backing to remain in power. His supporters, on the other hand, commend him for his loyalty to the Soviet Union, pointing out the historical affinity between the Bulgarians and the Russians that dates back to the nineteenth-century Russian role in the liberation of Bulgaria from 500 years of Turkish rule. Whether he should be condemned or praised for it, the fact is that Zhivkov has guided his ship of state in very close conformity with directions first taken by the Soviet Union.

Bulgaria, motivated mainly by irredentism, fought on the German side during both world wars. The lands that Bulgaria coveted and pressed ancient claims for were Macedonia (which had become part of Yugoslavia) and parts of Thrace (which had become Greek territory). Its claims to these lands date back to the glorious days of Bulgarian kingdoms in the Middle Ages, when its territory stretched from the Black Sea in the east to the Adriatic Sea in the west and from the Carpathian Mountains in the north to the Aegean Sea in the south. Five hundred years of Turkish rule failed to erase the Bulgarian ideas of territorial grandeur.

The 1877-78 Russo-Turkish war that liberated Bulgaria ended in the [Pg 2]Treaty of San Stefano, which reestablished a Bulgarian kingdom using the ancient boundaries; but the treaty was never put into effect because the European powers feared a large Russian client-state in the Balkans. Meeting in the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the powers nullified the Treaty of San Stefano and decreed Bulgarian boundaries that drastically reduced the size of the newly liberated country. Bulgaria seethed with irredentism and fought wars over the so-called lost territories until World War II, from which it emerged with a communist-dominated coalition government but confined to almost the same boundaries. After the Communists took complete control, irredentism was overshadowed by Marxist ideas of internationalism; but the dream of a greater Bulgaria did not die, and irredentist opinions were commonly expressed until 1972, when they were muted, probably on the insistence of the Soviet Union.

The original Bulgars were of an Asian tribe that moved into the Balkan Peninsula as conquerors during the seventh century A.D. The occupants of the area at the time were mostly Slavs who had been migrating to that region for more than a century, absorbing former inhabitants as they settled. Within about two centuries of their conquest, the Bulgars also had been completely absorbed by the much more numerous Slavs, leaving only their name to mark the land they had conquered. From the ninth century A.D. on, Bulgarian history is the story of this amalgamated nation of Bulgar-Slavs who enjoyed two different epochs of independent glory under medieval Bulgarian kingdoms but who also suffered invasion and defeat and, eventually, 500 years of domination by Ottoman Turks. In 1878 Turkish rule was finally ended, and a truncated Bulgaria reappeared on the map of Europe. After five centuries of foreign domination, Bulgaria was backward, underdeveloped, and poor.

The descendants of the Bulgar-Slavs made up the majority of the approximately 8.7 million people living in Bulgaria in 1973. The largest minority group, which numbered about 0.7 million people, was Turkish. The few Greeks, Romanians, Armenians, and Jews in the population collectively accounted for only about 1 percent of the total. These modern Bulgarians live in a country that is almost rectangular in shape and covers roughly 42,800 square miles of the lower Balkan Peninsula. Their country is bounded on the east by the Black Sea, on the south by Greece and the part of Turkey that is in Europe, on the west by Yugoslavia, and on the north by Romania.

The most prominent communist leader of Bulgaria was Georgi Dimitrov, a native-born Bulgarian who had lived in exile during most of the period between the two world wars and had become a Soviet citizen in 1935. Dimitrov was prominent in the international communist movement and, while resident in Moscow, had served as secretary general of the Comintern (Communist International), founded under Lenin's guidance in 1919. Dimitrov returned to his homeland in late [Pg 3]1945, resumed his Bulgarian citizenship, and took over the leadership of the BKP and the government. He was instrumental in developing the 1947 Constitution (usually referred to as the Dimitrov Constitution) and set about remaking his country's economic, political, and social structures in the Soviet image. Nationalization of all means of production, collectivization of agriculture, and an ambitious program of industrialization all commenced under Dimitrov.

Dimitrov died in 1949 but, before he died, his programs were well under way, the Moscow-oriented BKP was in complete control, and the country was firmly in the Soviet orbit. Several years later, even though the term satellite was no longer used to describe the Eastern European countries aligned with the Soviet Union, Bulgaria was considered to be the most rigidly loyal of all former Soviet satellites. Shortly after the death of Dimitrov, the top position of leadership was secured by Vulko Chervenkov who, over the next few years, earned a reputation as Bulgaria's version of Stalin. After Stalin died, Chervenkov's power base eroded to the point that he was forced to give up the top party post in favor of Zhivkov; Chervenkov retained the top position in the government, however, and remained on the scene as an opposing locus of political power. The intraparty factional strife that ensued lasted into the 1960s, but Zhivkov, who had established a close relationship with Soviet party leader Nikita Khrushchev, eventually overcame the opposition and stabilized his regime. Zhivkov also managed to establish close relations with the Soviet leaders who ousted Khrushchev and has apparently maintained good rapport with Leonid Brezhnev, the general secretary of the Soviet party.

The BKP in 1973 was structured very much like the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The structure is pyramidal in form, the general membership making up the base and the office of first secretary occupying the apex. Between the two extremes the most important bodies from bottom to top are the Party Congress, the Central Committee, the Secretariat, and the Politburo. The Party Congress is a large gathering of delegates, representing the rank and file, that meets every five years, theoretically, to make party policy, amend party statutes if necessary, and determine the party program for the ensuing five-year period. Actually the congress is a large, unwieldy body (over 1,500 delegates at the 1971 congress), which meets to demonstrate solidarity rather than to make policy. The congress, by party statute, elects the Central Committee, which is a permanently sitting body that acts in the name of the congress during the long intervals when the larger body is not in session. The so-called election of the Central Committee is, in fact, a ratification of preselected members. The same holds true for the election of the Politburo and the Secretariat by the Central Committee—in effect, the Politburo has already determined its own membership and that of the Secretariat, and the election process by the Central Committee is unanimous confirmation [Pg 4]rather than election, making the Politburo a self-perpetuating body.

The Politburo for policymaking and the Secretariat for policy implementation are the true centers of power in the overall party-government system. The Central Committee is an operating body and is made up of important members of the party, although they rank below the small group that has reached the top echelons of the structure. It is the interlocking of various party and government positions that really concentrates power in the hands of a few individuals and permits the ultimate leader, Zhivkov, to control the entire apparatus. Zhivkov himself is an example of the interlocking in that, since 1971, he has been the first secretary of the party and a member of the Politburo at the same time that he was the president of the governmental State Council. Only one other individual in 1973 combined membership in the party's most prestigious bodies—Politburo and Secretariat—with membership in the government's leading body—the State Council. Two other party secretaries were candidate (nonvoting) members of the Politburo, but they did not concurrently hold any high government office.

The government established under the Dimitrov Constitution, as changed by the Constitution of 1971, is the instrument through which the party administers the country. The central government consists, essentially, of the National Assembly, the State Council, and the Council of Ministers. The unicameral National Assembly is described in the constitution as "a supreme body of state power," whereas the State Council is described as "a supreme constantly functioning body of state power." In practice, if one or the other were to be described as the single supreme body of state power, it would be the State Council, the membership of which in 1973 included seven (out of twenty-four) members or candidate members of the party Politburo and the operations of which, during its first two years of existence, have stamped it with the mark of supreme authority.

The role of the National Assembly as a legislative body is circumscribed by the infrequency of its meetings. The assembly is popularly elected from a single list of nominees at five-year intervals, but it is required to meet only three times annually. The sessions of the assembly are usually so brief that it functions as an after-the-fact approving body rather than as a legislature. The development and initiation of new legislation, therefore, is handled outside of the actual legislature, primarily by the State Council and the Council of Ministers.

At its first session after general elections the National Assembly elects the State Council, but it would be highly unlikely if not impossible for the assembly to refuse to elect the complete slate of nominees that has been preselected by the party hierarchy. The election of the State Council, therefore, as is the case with various party elections, is a unanimous vote of approval rather than a true election. The State Council is the true center of the government. When it was created by the 1971 Constitution, Zhivkov chose to relinquish his governmental [Pg 5]post as chairman of the Council of Ministers (the country's premier) and assume the position of president of the State Council, leaving no doubt about where real governmental power lay. The State Council, in effect, is a collective executive body that, because the National Assembly meets so infrequently, also becomes a major initiator of legislation.

The Council of Ministers, also elected by the National Assembly in the same manner as the State Council, functions as the administrative arm of the government. Here again, party influence is pervasive. In 1973 the chairman of the council (premier) and four deputy chairmen were concurrently members of the party Politburo, the minister of internal affairs was a candidate member of the Politburo, and most other ministers were members of the Central Committee.

Matters of state—such as defense, foreign affairs, education, and welfare—usually associated with the central government of any country are handled by individual ministries and are overseen by the Council of Ministers. In addition to such affairs of state, however, various ministries, as well as the council itself, are charged with administering the country's entire economy, as is the case in other communist-ruled states. In mid-1973 eleven ministries out of a total of twenty-two dealt exclusively with economic matters. In addition, the State Planning Committee, the chairman of which holds ministerial rank, is of great importance in the overall economic structure.

The economic ministries control virtually every aspect of the country's economy. The goals of nationalization of all industry and collectivization of agriculture were achieved early in the communist era, and the efforts of the party-government ever since have been toward increased efficiency. In Bulgaria the quest for greater production has led to ever greater centralization of control. In the early 1970s this quest has brought about the reorganization of industry wherein industrial enterprises have been grouped into huge trusts at the same time that collective and state farms have been similarly grouped into so-called agroindustrial complexes.

The consolidation of agriculture into extremely large complexes, begun in 1970, was intended to raise productivity through concentration of effort, specialization of production, and increased control by the central government. The reorganization is a long-range program that is expected to be completed by 1980, at which time authorities predict that farm incomes will have risen to equal industrial incomes and, because agricultural enterprises will be run just like factories, the social differences between peasants and workers will have been eliminated. By 1973 results of the reorganization that had already occurred were mixed, and it was still too early to assess the long-range value of the agroindustrial complexes.

In the industrial sector the consolidation of various enterprises into trusts was undertaken in the early 1970s for the same reasons that the agroindustrial complexes were formed, that is, greater efficiency [Pg 6]through concentration, specialization, and increased control. Bulgarian industrial growth since World War II had been remarkable, considering particularly the inadequate base of skilled labor and natural resources in a country that had been predominantly agricultural. Bulgaria's need for raw materials, machinery, and technological assistance during its long period of industrialization and the Soviet Union's willingness to supply them accounted in large measure for the extremely close economic ties between the two countries. Because the growth rate had begun to slow toward the end of the 1960s, the BKP decided to try a massive reorganization of the economic structure as a remedy for the situation.

In addition to the political and economic systems of the country, the social system has been a major concern of the party and government ever since the BKP took power. Social restructuring has resulted in a system wherein the party elite occupies the highest level. This group is small and represents the apex of the social pyramid. The next level down, which is much broader, includes lesser party functionaries, professionals, administrators and managers, technicians, and all white-collar workers. The next level is made up of blue-collar industrial workers, who constitute the largest group in the society. At the bottom of the structure are the peasants. There are, of course, gradations of power, privilege, and prestige within all of the social groupings. The society has been very mobile since World War II with rapid upward mobility based mainly on the expanding economy, industrialization, and modernization. Toward the end of the 1960s, as the economic growth rate slowed, so also did the social mobility, and there was evidence that social groups were stabilizing.

Education has been the key to upward mobility and, since coming to power, the Communists have given preference in educational opportunity to formerly underprivileged groups. At the beginning of the 1970s, however, the percentage of students of worker and peasant origin enrolled in institutions of higher learning was far below the percentage of workers and peasants in the population. Students from the lower income groups have not competed favorably against those from more advantaged backgrounds and, although upward mobility is not blocked, it has been becoming more difficult. Membership in the BKP remains important for persons desiring to move upward in the social structure.

For the leadership the importance of education lies in the fact that it is the best means for orienting the people in the official ideology as well as for training the professionals, technicians, and skilled workers needed to run the country. The ideological indoctrination is pervasive throughout the entire school system, but the concurrent goal of meeting the needs of the economy has suffered because the system of higher education has not expanded rapidly enough to absorb most secondary school graduates who are desirous and capable of pursuing higher studies. Many educational reforms have been enacted over the years, [Pg 7]but they have been cautious and limited and have not attacked the major problem of providing much greater funding for higher education.

In the cultural sphere the party and government have promoted pride in the ancient Bulgarian heritage but have regulated art, music, and literature in order to bring about conformity with the Soviet-developed doctrine of Socialist Realism. Throughout the communist era there have been periods of freeze and thaw in the controls imposed on artists and intellectuals, but the periods of greatest restriction in later years have not equaled the severity of the Stalinist times. In the 1960s and early 1970s control has been exercised primarily through publishers, art galleries, theaters, and other outlets. Artists and intellectuals know that their work must pass through state-owned outlets if it is to be seen or heard; therefore, they exercise self-censorship to ensure acceptability. Other means of control are the professional unions that all artists, writers, and actors must join if their work is to be exhibited or published. The unions are run by the BKP and, in effect, become instruments through which the party promotes its cultural policies. For some artists conformity with ideological goals leads to upward social mobility, and some enjoy privileges and life-styles that are usually reserved for the ruling elite.

For control of the general population the government relies on the regular police, court, and penal systems, which are supplemented by state security police, paramilitary police auxiliaries, and militarized border guards. The regular police forces, the auxiliaries, and the state security police are all under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, whereas the border guards are subordinated to the army and are regulated by the Ministry of National Defense. Courts and penal institutions are under the Ministry of Justice.

Also as means of control, the government sanctions and the party operates a number of mass organizations that affect or influence the lives of most people in the country. The Fatherland Front is a large umbrella organization that includes all other groups as well as individual members. The other mass organizations include trade unions, youth groups, athletic societies, and similar interest groups. Other than these officially sanctioned groups, there are no organizations permitted and, because the party retains control through the leadership positions, all organized activity in the country comes under BKP supervision. Such organizations also serve as upward channels of information through which the party hierarchy is able to keep in touch with popular opinion.

Militarily, Bulgaria in 1973 maintained about 160,000 men in its armed forces, which are committed to the Soviet-dominated alliance known as the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact). Ground forces constitute the great bulk of the so-called Bulgarian People's Army, but it also includes a small air and air defense force, a small naval force, and the border guards. All of the armed forces are under [Pg 8]the supervision of the Ministry of National Defense, but top-level policymaking is a prerogative of the BKP. The party maintains great influence in the armed forces through the officer corps, 85 percent of which is made up of party members. Those officers who are not party members usually belong to the communist youth organization. Many career noncommissioned officers are also party members and, for the conscript in the ranks, political indoctrination is as regular as his military training.

[Pg 9]



The history of Bulgaria is marked by four interrelated motifs or themes. The first motif is that of regional rivalry coupled with irredentism. The second is Bulgaria's strategic significance for the leading powers of Europe and the varying relationships with those powers. The third theme is Bulgaria's constant conflict between loyalty to, and alliances with, the East—particularly Russia and the Soviet Union—on the one hand and to the West—particularly Italy and Germany—on the other. The fourth major theme in Bulgarian history is the influence exerted by Russia (and the Soviet Union) on the internal and external affairs of Bulgaria. This influence was intermittent from the late nineteenth century until World War II but was constant after that war.

From its earliest history Bulgaria was in continual conflict with its Balkan neighbors. The area that eventually became Bulgaria was the object of regional disputes as early as the fourth century B.C. Later, when that area was taken over by the Slavs in the sixth century A.D. and the Bulgars in the seventh, a state evolved that proceeded to encroach on the territory of the mighty Byzantine Empire itself. Despite successful raids and conquests during the periods of the First Bulgarian Kingdom and the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, Bulgaria was eventually reduced to subject status by the Byzantines and later by the Ottoman Turks. During Turkish rule the country was not only under constant attack by neighbors but was also utilized by the Turks as a base for Turkish expansion. When Bulgaria was finally liberated from the Turks by the Russians, irredentism and regional rivalry became the prime focus of its foreign policy. Macedonia, a much-valued land throughout Bulgarian history, became the major object of Bulgaria's irredentist campaigns, although eventually most of the land reverted to Serbia and was later incorporated into Yugoslavia. Macedonia, in addition to Thrace, which was valued because it provided access to the sea, was the primary motive for Bulgaria's role not only in the two Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 but also in the two world wars.

Bulgaria was not only struggling for power throughout its history; it was also a pawn in the power struggles of the so-called great powers. Before the Christian era the area was conquered first by Greece and later by Rome and was influenced strongly by both of these early cultures. Later, when the Slavs and Bulgars succeeded in forming a united state, the country was still besieged by both Byzantium and Rome. [Pg 10]Although the Romans eventually lost their hold over Bulgaria, the Byzantine Empire took both political and religious control of the country for two centuries. When Bulgaria managed to reassert its autonomy in the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, independence was short lived, and the country again fell under alien control, this time to the Ottoman Turks. The Turks dominated Bulgaria for five centuries, until liberation by the Russians temporarily gave the country full sovereignty. Before each of the two world wars of the twentieth century, Bulgaria was actively courted by both sides as a potentially strategic ally. Realizing Bulgaria's territorial aspirations, Germany played upon Bulgarian irredentism in order to gain its collaboration in the wars, and both times Bulgaria emerged on the losing side. When World War II ended for Bulgaria in 1944, it fell under Soviet influence, where it has remained ever since.


The history of the country that became modern Bulgaria can be traced back many hundreds of years before the time of Christ, predating by fifteen or more centuries the arrival of the people known as Bulgars, from whom the country ultimately took its name. The earliest people to have a viable political organization in the area were the Thracians, whose loosely organized tribes occupied and controlled much of the Balkan Peninsula. Later, when their society began to disintegrate, the Thracians fell under Greek influence and joined forces with Athens to overrun neighboring Macedonia. In the fourth century B.C., however, Philip of Macedon, competing with the Greeks in a power struggle over Thrace, conquered Thrace and made the Thracians a subject people.

This invasion was followed in the second century B.C. by a Roman invasion of Macedonia and a subsequent conquest of Thrace. By the first century A.D. the Romans totally dominated the area. Despite their strict and unpopular military control over the population, under their tutelage cities grew, roads were constructed, and mining and farming were developed.

In the third century A.D. a series of mass migrations into the Balkans began; these migrations lasted for several centuries (see ch. 3). The Goths came in four separate waves during the third century. In the fourth century the Huns swept across the country, razing cities and villages. They were followed in the fourth and fifth centuries by the Visigoths and Ostrogoths who, like the Huns, continued to ravage the country. These invasions culminated in the eventual conquest and settlement by the relatively civilized Slavs in the sixth century.

In A.D. 330 the Emperor Constantine established what was to be considered a second Rome and named it Constantinople. In this period the Roman Empire in the Balkans was split into two parts: in the east, Thrace was once again under Greek domination, and the west was [Pg 11]dominated by the Romans. Constantinople was growing in power, and Greek influence was eroding the political and cultural influence of the Romans. By the mid-fourth century Rome and Constantinople were actively struggling for domination over the Balkans.

In the sixth century A.D. the Slavs crossed the Danube River and occupied much of the Balkan Peninsula. Although the Byzantines built fortresses to protect themselves, they were unable to hold the Slavs at bay. Once the Slavs had taken over most of the Balkan Peninsula, they succeeded in destroying the existing social system, rapidly replacing it with their own. Soon the entire Thracian population became slavicized.

In the seventh century A.D. the Bulgars in turn began to migrate into the Balkans. They had come originally from central Asia and were said to be related to the Huns. They were of the same stock as the Turks and spoke a language similar to Turkish. Before migrating to the Balkans, they had lived north of the Black Sea. Their social order was vastly different from that of the Slavs, although eventually the Slavic system became dominant. The Bulgars, unlike the Slavs who repudiated the concept of kingship, were governed autocratically by khans. The Bulgars were warriors who fought on horseback, and their customs and dress were Asiatic.

When the Bulgars overran what is now northeastern Bulgaria, they found Slavic tribes already established and quickly made peace with them in order to strengthen themselves against the Byzantines. As the Slavs were far more numerous than the Bulgars, the latter were assimilated, and within two centuries the Bulgars had been completely slavicized. The Slavic language and culture were adopted, although the Bulgarian name and political structure were retained. A Slav-Bulgarian state was formed with the capital at Pliska.

The First Bulgarian Kingdom lasted from A.D. 679 to A.D. 1018, when it fell to Byzantium. During this period the social system resembled the feudal system of Western Europe. The king, or tsar, was the leading nobleman. As the political situation of the period varied, he was alternately supported or opposed by the boyars (large landowners). The great majority of the people were serfs.

During the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. the Bulgarians consolidated and further reinforced their power. By the ninth century they were so powerful that they challenged the Byzantine Empire itself. Twice in this period the Bulgarians controlled areas of Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Romania, and even Russia. In a battle in 811 the Bulgars completely devastated the Byzantine army that had invaded their country; killed the Byzantine emperor, Nicephorus; and went on to lay siege to Constantinople itself. The siege failed, but Bulgaria had established itself as a power with which to be reckoned.

During the ninth century A.D. Bulgaria once again became the focus of Greek and Roman cultural and political rivalry. The dispute was finally terminated when Bulgaria, under King Boris I, accepted [Pg 12]Christianity from Constantinople rather than from Rome. As early as 836 the Byzantine Empire had sent two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, to convert the Slavs. When the brothers were in Venice, they argued in favor of church services and literature in the Slavic language, opposing the Roman bishops who believed that only Hebrew, Greek, and Latin were suitable languages for worship. This dialogue further exacerbated the tensions between Byzantium and Rome. By 870 Boris made Orthodox Christianity the official religion of the state. At this juncture Bulgaria fell under the Byzantine sphere of influence, completing—for the moment—its break with the Roman religion and culture.

The influence of Cyril and Methodius upon the Bulgarian language and culture is incalculable. They not only carried a new liturgical form to Bulgaria but also devised a new alphabet known as Cyrillic. This new alphabet soon replaced Latin and Greek as the only form of writing, and on its base a new Slavic literature and culture grew up.

When Bulgaria adopted Christianity from Byzantium, it also adopted Byzantium's territorial ambitions. Under Tsar Simeon (A.D. 893-927), a period known as the Golden Age, Bulgaria extended its territories from the Black Sea in the east to the southern Carpathian Mountains in the north, to the Sava River in the west, and to Macedonia in the southwest. It was in this period that Bulgaria reached the peak of its territorial expansion, penetrating deep into the Byzantine Empire. Macedonia and Albania became Bulgaria's new frontiers; in 924 Serbia fell under Bulgarian rule. With these victories Simeon claimed the title tsar of all the Bulgarians and the Greeks.

With the territorial expansion came a domestic flourishing in the arts and an increase in trade. The arts and architecture of the period were significant for their beauty and vitality. Preslav, then the capital city, became the center of culture. Crafts, such as goldsmithing, pottery, stonemasonry, and blacksmithing grew, and shops sprang up everywhere. At the same time literature flourished, and education and scholarship took on a new importance. Knowledge of Slavic literature became widespread, and writers treated such varied topics as religion, grammar, logic, and patriotism.

By the end of the tenth century A.D., however, the First Bulgarian Kingdom was beginning to decline. Internally, the local population was weary from continual warring and from the oppression of feudalism. The boyars continued to struggle against the king and his council for their own autonomy. Because of the internal weakness of the country, Bulgaria's neighbors began to encroach on her borders. The Magyars (Hungarians) attacked from the northwest, seizing territory north of the Danube River. The Byzantines in 967 formed an alliance with the prince of Kiev in Russia and, because of this alliance, succeeded in invading Bulgaria repeatedly.

In the late tenth century there was a brief revival of Bulgarian [Pg 13]power under Samuel, when the Bulgarians succeeded in liberating the northeastern sector of the country from Byzantine control and captured southern Macedonia. But the revival was short lived. The Byzantine emperor, Basil II, was determined to regain his lost land and once again recaptured the northeastern sector. In 1014 Basil again invaded Bulgaria; defeated Samuel's army; and, in an act of matchless cruelty, blinded 14,000 Bulgarian soldiers. From 1018 until 1185 all of Bulgaria was under Byzantine rule.

The eleventh and twelfth centuries witnessed a period of extreme hardship for the country. Byzantine domination was harsh and punitive. Monetary taxes, which added to the already heavy burdens of the peasantry, were levied in 1040. Bulgarian feudalism was replaced by Byzantine feudalism. The Byzantine church itself was a vehicle of oppression as it was later to become under Turkish rule; the church owned entire estates and villages and the people who inhabited them. There were a series of revolts during the eleventh century, but none were successful in overthrowing Byzantine tyranny. During this period the first and second crusades made their way through the Balkan Peninsula, wreaking havoc among the local populations.

The Second Bulgarian Kingdom was established in 1186 and lasted until 1396, when—like the First Bulgarian Kingdom—it was conquered by a powerful enemy and neighbor. Ironically, history came full circle to spell defeat for the Bulgarians. In the twelfth century, when the Byzantine Empire was declining because of internal weakness, the Bulgarians were able to free themselves from domination. In the fourteenth century, when Bulgaria itself was weakened by domestic strife, it was conquered by an enemy whose oppression was greater than that of the Byzantine Empire: the Ottoman Turks.

At the close of the twelfth century the internal situation in Bulgaria was deteriorating. Taxes had been increased, and the burden borne by the peasants became still heavier. The feudal lords openly began to proclaim their independence from Byzantium, whose empire was by now steadily declining. Bulgaria was surrounded by its enemies: the Ottoman Turks, the Magyars, and the Normans. In 1183 the Magyars invaded, penetrating as far as Sofia. Realizing the vulnerability of the Byzantine Empire, the Bulgarians rebelled under the leadership of two brothers, Asen and Peter. The brothers first liberated northeastern Bulgaria and then proceeded into Thrace, where they were opposed by Isaac Angel, then emperor of Byzantium. In 1187 a peace treaty was concluded in which Byzantium conceded autonomy to Bulgaria.

Despite the peace treaty, however, the Bulgarians continued to wage war against the empire, hoping to regain northern Bulgaria and Macedonia—a contested territory and bitterly disputed issue throughout Bulgarian history. In 1201 the empire again concluded a peace treaty with the Bulgarians, ceding all of northern Bulgaria and a [Pg 14]large part of Macedonia. Eventually, in 1207 Constantinople recognized the complete independence of Bulgaria, and Bulgarian freedom was firmly established.

This new-found independence, however, did not extend to the Bulgarian church, which was still under the aegis of the empire. For that reason Kaloyan, the Bulgarian ruler, negotiated with the Roman pope, Innocent III, in order to ally the Bulgarian church with the church of Rome. The motives of Rome and those of Kaloyan were similar: to isolate the influence of Byzantium from Bulgaria. In 1204 Kaloyan was crowned king by the papal nuncio in Turnovo. Although this union lasted only briefly, it served the purpose for which it was designed, and Bulgaria was effectively cut off from Byzantium.

During the thirteenth century the Holy Roman Empire replaced the Byzantine Empire on the borders of Bulgaria, and Byzantine aggression was replaced by that of the Holy Roman Empire. When Rome declared war on Bulgaria, the Bulgarians invaded Thrace, defeating the crusaders at Adrianople in 1205. The reestablishment of the Bulgarian patriarchate in 1235 represented the end of the short-lived alliance between the Bulgarian church and Rome.

Under the reign of Ivan Asen II in the mid-thirteenth century peace was again restored, and the country once more extended its territories. The Bulgarians succeeded in capturing eastern Thrace, the Aegean coast, Albania, and Macedonia. Bulgarian territory at this time was as great as under the reign of Tsar Simeon; with these conquests Bulgaria became the largest state in the Balkans. The country was now surrounded by three seas—the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea, and the Adriatic Sea—opening the country's doors to foreign trade and culture.

Again, as in the time of Simeon, the arts and cultural life of the country flourished. Monasteries, churches, and fortresses were constructed. Religious literature and art achieved a high level of excellence, and secular works became popular. The first chronicle of Bulgarian history was written, and an interest in history grew among the people. The first Bulgarian coins were minted at this time. Trade, particularly with Italy, increased greatly because of Bulgaria's free access to the sea. Merchants and ambassadors came to Bulgaria from abroad, lending their influence to Bulgaria's economic and cultural life.

By the second half of the thirteenth century, however, internal conditions in the country had deteriorated. The feudal system, which had been further consolidated during the thirteenth century, had exacerbated the tensions of the peasants, and hostilities among the boyars increased. The throne was contested between 1257 and 1277 and was eventually taken forcibly by Ivailo, known as the swineherd tsar because of his leadership of a peasant uprising in 1277.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's neighbors again sensed an opportune time to attack because of the internal divisions in the country. The [Pg 15]Byzantines conquered several parts of Macedonia and Thrace, and the Hungarians and Tatars invaded on another front. At one point the Hungarian king declared himself king of Bulgaria. In 1242 there was a large-scale Mongol invasion. Tatar raids went on continually between 1241 and 1300. The country was totally fragmented; each separate area attempted to ally itself with its former enemies, whether Russian, Hungarian, or Tatar, in order to prevent widespread damage.

By the fourteenth century the Turks began to envision the conquest of Bulgaria. Internally the boyars continued to fight among themselves, and externally the country was threatened alternately by Byzantium and by Serbia. By the mid-fourteenth century all of Macedonia was under Serbian control, and the Serbian tsar—much like the Hungarian king before him—called himself the tsar of the Bulgars. The area of the country retained by the Bulgars by this time was divided into three parts: the last Bulgarian tsar maintained his capital at Turnovo in the central highlands; the so-called Vidin Kingdom, ruled by the tsar's brother, existed in the far northwest; and a principality of Dobrudzha was established in the northeast.

At the same time the Ottoman Turks were beginning to advance. Having seized areas of Asia Minor, they proceeded to raid the Balkans from 1326 to 1352. Under their leader, Murad I, they began to attack Thrace, Macedonia, and parts of Bulgaria. By 1371 they were attacking territories in northeastern Thrace. At this point they marched against Sofia and, despite active resistance, succeeded in capturing it. Despite an alliance with the Serbs, the Bulgarians were too weak to resist further; in 1388 the Turks easily won a battle against the Serbs. The fall of Turnovo was followed by the fall of Vidin and Dobrudzha. By 1396 all of Bulgaria was under Turkish domination.


The Second Bulgarian Kingdom, like the first, had ended in total defeat, and the darkest period in Bulgarian history began with the Turkish conquest. Only the priests of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church—despite its takeover by the Greeks—were able to preserve Bulgarian national literature and culture to some degree. The Bulgarians once again were subjected to foreign domination, only this time foreign rule lasted for five centuries. Historians agree that Turkish rule was a death blow to the creative forces that had been responsible for the development of the country to that time. With Turkish domination the normal economic, political, and social life of Bulgaria ground to a halt.

The Ottoman Turks were at a far lower stage of social development than either the Byzantine Empire, which preceded them in their occupation of the Balkans, or the Balkan states themselves. The Turks lived an almost nomadic life in primitive communal systems that were headed by tribal chiefs. When the Turks occupied Bulgaria, [Pg 16]they replaced the established feudal system with their own more rudimentary and conservative feudalism. Many boyars were executed or rendered powerless if they failed to convert to Islam. The peasants were more completely under the feudal yoke than they had ever been under Byzantine rule. The Turks imposed heavy taxes and hard labor on the people of the conquered country, whom they considered cattle. Young boys were taken from their homes, proclaimed Muslims, and conscripted into the army.

The Turks ruled Bulgaria by means of a sharply delineated administrative system. Bulgaria as an entity did not exist for the Turks; the entire Balkan Peninsula was known as Rumili (Rumelia) and was ruled for the sultan by a beylerbey (governor general) whose headquarters was located in Sofia. Rumili was divided into vilayetlar (sing., vilayet), which were further subdivided into sanjaklar (sing., sanjak), each in turn ruled by lesser officials. Bulgaria itself was divided into five sanjaklar: Kyustendil, Nikopol, Silistra, Sofia, and Vidin. Although all land was considered to be the property of the sultan, on the local level the land was distributed to feudal lords and was tilled by non-Muslim serfs.

A second vehicle for both administration and oppression that the Turks employed—in addition to the land administrators—was the Greek Orthodox Church. By 1394, before the final conquest, the See of Turnovo had been subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, where it remained until 1870. Greek bishops replaced Bulgarians, as Greek liturgy replaced the Slavic. The patriarchate, in turn, was totally subordinate to the sultan. The Greek clergy destroyed Bulgarian books and banned Slavic liturgy. The Bulgarian language and all Slavic literature were forbidden. Greek became the language in all schools.

The hellenization of the Bulgarian church was used by the Turks as a means to negate the nationalism of the people and thus dominate them. The Turks attempted to some extent to convert the Bulgarians to Islam in order to assimilate them more fully. Although many Bulgarians fled to the mountains with the coming of the Turks, others stayed on and accepted the Muslim faith, often for purely opportunistic purposes. Those who did were generally placed in strategically significant positions; frequently, as a reward for their conversion, they paid no taxes to the state. The Bulgarian converts to Islam were called Pomaks (see ch. 4).

The plight of the peasants grew worse. Agricultural production dropped as their exploitation continued. Although landowners were not persecuted to the same degree as the peasantry, they were frequently displaced from the land. Turkish cattle breeders entered the country to settle on their lands. Lands were also taken to reward army commanders, provincial governors, and knights in the service of the sultan. Still other lands were given to immigrant Turkish peasants. [Pg 17]The only food that was not subject to requisition by the conquerors was pork, which was not allowed in the Muslim diet.

As the life of the Bulgarian countryside declined, so too did urban life. Bulgarians were expelled from most urban centers and replaced by Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and Turks. By the end of the sixteenth century two-thirds of Sofia's population was Turkish. Trade was virtually halted for a time, and, when resumed, it also was dominated by Greeks, Armenians, and Jews rather than Bulgarians. The towns themselves were in a state of deterioration. The crafts had declined, economic life was stagnant, and the Black Sea was closed to all foreign ships.

As life within Bulgaria declined, the Turks began to perceive the country as a springboard for further aggression against other territories. Although Bulgarian hopes rose briefly when it appeared that the Turks might be destroyed by their enemies, such hopes eventually were dashed when the Turks emerged victorious throughout a period of two centuries of conquest and aggression.

In the early years of Turkish domination, the Turks waged continuous war with Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Wallachia, Moldavia, and what remained of the Byzantine Empire. Bulgarian hopes of liberation were fueled by the Turkish defeat at the Battle of Ankara in 1402, when the Turkish army was defeated by the Tatars. Resistance was eventually crushed, however, and the Turks began to renew their conquests after capturing Salonica in 1430. In the Battle of Varna the Turks succeeded in capturing Constantinople itself.

After the defeat of Constantinople the Turks overran Serbia, Wallachia, Bosnia, and Albania. Their conquests expanded to include Mesopotamia, Syria, Arabia, and North Africa. In the sixteenth century Turkish conquests continued under Suleiman the Magnificent, who succeeded in capturing Serbia and Hungary in 1526. This triumphant expansion of the Turkish state caused Bulgarian dreams to be destroyed, although sporadic struggling within the country continued intermittently.


During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the first seeds of real resistance to Turkish rule were planted in Bulgaria. On the foreign front the Turks were constantly besieged by the Austrians and the Russians. By 1683 the Austrian army succeeded in liberating Hungary and Transylvania; they also were able to penetrate areas of Bulgaria and Macedonia. These victories over the Turks again sparked Bulgarian hopes.

During the same period the internal situation in Bulgaria continued to signal the eventual decline of Turkish power and the rise of a Bulgarian national spirit. Because of the increase in corruption and oppression by the Turks, the Bulgarians began to rebel openly. In the [Pg 18]1590s, the 1680s, and the 1730s significant local uprisings took place. Although these rebellions were not successful, they gave rise to the haiduk (forest outlaw) movement, which continued to carry out acts of rebellion against the Turkish overlords. The people praised their acts of daring and wrote folk songs detailing their adventures and exploits. In addition to the revolutionaries the chorbadzhi (squires), who were on the whole a progressive force, were able to gain some concessions from the Turks.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this latent nationalism grew swiftly under the influence of outside forces penetrating the country. The French Revolution—with its democratic ideals—had a widespread and vital impact on Bulgarian national sentiment. Western concepts and standards penetrated the country mainly by means of trade, an activity that Bulgarian traders realized could only be expanded when Turkish rule was terminated. In addition Bulgarian students studying in foreign universities as well as Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries brought back tales of Western life and ideals. At the same time, currents of Russian revolutionary thought, as well as contact with Polish refugees from the revolution of 1848, were sweeping Bulgaria. All these factors coalesced and spurred the rising tide of nationalism within the country.

During this period of the so-called Bulgarian National Revival, a cultural rebirth—which also stirred Bulgarian national sentiment—took place on the national scene. In 1762 Father Paisi, a Macedonian monk, wrote a treatise called The Slav-Bulgarian History that appealed to Bulgarians to recognize their national culture and to fight for their own land and beliefs. Although the book was not published until after his death, Father Paisi spread his credo by preaching his ideas in small villages and towns. His message carried weight with many Bulgarians, and his idealism promoted many to become politically active against their Turkish oppressors.

The Turks, during this period of growing Bulgarian nationalism, attempted to recoup their losses by effecting some moderate reforms. Although most of these acts came too late, they did succeed in enacting administrative, social, and financial legislation that improved the lot of the Bulgarians. Native leaders were consulted by their Turkish overseers, and in one case a Bulgarian governor was appointed. Provincial assemblies began to meet on a regular basis, and by 1876 it was determined by the Turks that some degree of self-rule should be granted the Bulgarians.

The Turks were by this period in an inevitable decline. Although Turkish rule extended over parts of three continents, the Turks continued to expand their conquests. Military expenses became a staggering burden. The Turkish economy was in an unfavorable position, and the Turks were beginning to lose battles to increasingly well trained European armies. The original Spartan life-style of the sultans [Pg 19]and army officers was becoming one of luxury and indulgence. All the signals for the fall of the Turks were in evidence.

As the movement toward national revolution grew up in the mid-nineteenth century in Bulgaria, an ideological schism separated the movement into two schools. The "moderates," led by a Bulgarian group in Constantinople, favored negotiations with the Turks. The "radicals" felt that such an approach would lead to inevitable failure. Although the radicals turned to the West—France, Great Britain, Italy, and Switzerland—for models of revolution and to Russia for practical assistance in freeing Bulgaria from the Turks, in fact they hoped to free the country from all foreign domination. Ironically, in light of Bulgaria's later history, one radical leader wrote, "If Russia comes to liberate, she will be met with great sympathy, but if she comes to rule, she will find many enemies."

The leaders of the radicals were Georgi Rakovsky and Vasil Levski. Rakovsky continued for twenty-five years to organize armed detachments along the borders of neighboring countries. Levski, for his part, realized that a social revolution as well as a national revolution was imperative for the true liberation of the Bulgarian people. He worked sub rosa in Bulgarian villages and organized a network of committees for the revolution, known as the Internal Secret Revolutionary Organization. In 1873 he was captured by the Turks and hanged.

By the early 1870s the seeds of revolution were sown as Bulgarians won some political victories over their conquerors. In 1870, primarily because of the activity of the Bulgarian priests, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was reestablished. Although the Bulgarian clergy was in large part responsible for this action, it was probably tolerated by the Turks because of their anger with the Greeks, who were then embroiled in a revolt in Crete. In 1872 the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee was formed in Bucharest; by 1875 this group became active in the uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina, uprisings that were not easily quelled by the Turks.

As Bulgarian revolutionary sentiments grew, the Bulgarians turned to Russia to help win freedom from the Turks. Although the motives of the Russians and the Bulgarians were not identical, both wanted to rid the Balkans of Turkish oppression. The Russians perceived the Ottoman Empire as a very dangerous rival that they hoped to annihilate, thus gaining control of Western European trade. The Bulgarians, although their motives were also pragmatic, felt a deep sense of kinship with the Russian people. The Russians, like the Bulgarians, were Slavs. Their religion was identical. Even their language was similar. Thus, they sensed a commonality not only of interests but also of cultures.

The precursor to the liberation in 1878 was an unsuccessful uprising in 1876. The Bulgarians, at this point, were ill prepared for [Pg 20]war, politically and strategically. Thousands of Bulgarians were killed in April of that year. Soon thereafter Turkish reprisals followed. Fifteen thousand Bulgarians were massacred in Plovdiv alone. The savagery of these reprisals was so brutal that Western public leaders spoke out in protest. The governments of the West, however, fearing an increased Russian penetration in the area, refused to act against the Turks.

Although the revolution of 1876 had met with failure, it had succeeded in loosening the Turkish grip on the country and in increasing the feeling of the Russians that the time to attack was imminent. Finally, after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877, the Russians invaded Bulgaria, liquidating the Turkish army by March 1878. In these battles for Bulgarian liberation, the Russians lost over 200,000 lives, a sacrifice the Bulgarians never failed to recognize.

The results of 1878 were mixed, and the outcome of the original peace treaty was reversed within five months of its signing. Bulgaria became an autonomous tributary of the Turkish sultan; complete independence was not established until 1908. The original peace treaty, the Treaty of San Stefano, signed on March 3, 1878, granted Bulgaria additional territories, including Thrace and the much-valued Macedonia. This treaty was reversed, primarily because of Western fear of Russian encroachment, by the Congress of Berlin; the Treaty of Berlin, signed on July 13, 1878, unlike the Treaty of San Stefano, delimited Bulgarian territories. The Bulgarians were forced to give Thrace and Macedonia back to the Turks. Bulgaria itself was carved into two separate entities: the principality of Bulgaria, including northern Bulgaria and Sofia, and eastern Rumelia, or southern Bulgaria.


Although the 1877-78 war freed Bulgaria from Turkish rule, the outcome of the Congress of Berlin once again denied to Bulgaria the land that it perceived to be rightfully Bulgarian, thus setting the tone for an irredentist foreign policy that lasted through World War II. Because the West, particularly Great Britain, played a significant role in carving up the Balkans, and Bulgaria in particular, in hopes of curbing Russian power, many historians speculate that Bulgaria's alliances with Germany in both World War I and World War II were products of irredentist sentiment that grew out of the Treaty of Berlin.

Bulgaria moved to recapture its lost territory only seven years after the Treaty of Berlin. In 1885 it annexed eastern Rumelia—or southern Bulgaria—by means of a military coup. The British were in favor of the annexation as it represented an obstacle to Russian ambitions in the Balkans; the Russians quite naturally were disturbed by the act. This was the first in a series of Bulgarian moves designed to reestablish earlier boundaries.

[Pg 21]The establishment of a Bulgarian government in 1878 was relatively easily accomplished, and that government achieved a certain degree of stability in the aftermath of Turkish rule. The Turnovo Constitution (1879)—originally drafted by the Russians but rewritten by Bulgarians—established an essentially advanced and democratic system. It set up a unicameral parliament, which was to be elected on the basis of universal suffrage; the parliament was to control the executive. The monarchy, which lasted from the 1880s until World War II, was established at this time under a Germany dynasty that was acceptable to the European powers. Although the first prince was forced to abdicate by the Russians, his successor established firm and advanced economic and administrative institutions in the country. Eventually, because of a crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country was able to declare itself an independent kingdom in 1908.

One historian has described the postliberation period as the "only prolonged period of peaceful development" for Bulgaria. After the liberation, land rose in value. Peasants were able to purchase land from the Turks, and agricultural production rose markedly. Modern industry grew up at a relatively rapid pace, although the country remained primarily agrarian. The state began to take steps in education and culture. All levels of education were expanded; students of higher education studied both in Bulgaria and abroad; and illiteracy, which was overwhelming at the period of liberation, was reduced to 76 percent by 1900 and to 54 percent by 1920. Science and the arts were actively encouraged, and literature flourished once again.

Financial burdens, however, escalated rapidly between 1886 and 1911. In 1911 the national debt was actually more than three times the size of the national budget. At the same time, as industry increased, two antagonistic groups developed: the urban middle class—composed of merchants and white-collar workers—and the poor, who were generally laborers or peasants. Working conditions in factories were nearly intolerable, causing factory workers to interest themselves in the cause of socialism, while on the farms the peasants began to organize a movement known as the Bulgarian Agrarian Union (also called the Agrarian Party), which was designed to offset the growing power of the urban groups. In 1891 the Social Democratic Party was established; this party later formed the base of the communist party in Bulgaria.

The Macedonian Issue

By the early twentieth century the country was once again embroiled in war; the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 impeded economic and social development in the country. Once again, as in the case of eastern Rumelia, irredentism was the Bulgarian motive for war. Both eastern Thrace and Macedonia, the lands ceded to Bulgaria by the Treaty of San Stefano, were still under Turkish rule. The lands had [Pg 22]not only large Bulgarian populations but also strategic and economic significance. Macedonia, more than Thrace, was of extreme importance to Bulgaria; Bulgarians believed the population of Macedonia to be composed almost exclusively of Bulgarians. The issue of Macedonia was, in fact, a focal point around which Bulgarian political life revolved after 1878, because that issue was seen by the Bulgarians as involving the territorial integrity of their nation.

Between the tenth and fourteenth centuries Macedonia was alternately occupied by the Bulgarians, the Serbs, and the Turks. At the time of liberation Macedonia was ceded to the Bulgarians by the Treaty of San Stefano, only to be returned to the Turks by the Treaty of Berlin. In 1893 the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) was founded. This terrorist organization, with the battle slogan "Liberty or Death for Macedonia," fought a continual underground war of terrorism against the Turks. In 1903 there was a major Macedonian uprising in which two factions participated. Although the predominant faction favored Bulgarian annexation of Macedonia, another group favored complete autonomy for Macedonia. In 1908, when King Ferdinand proclaimed Bulgaria completely independent, memories of the medieval Bulgarian empire, which included Macedonia, were rekindled.

The Balkan Wars

The tumultuous history of Macedonia set the stage for the two Balkan wars. In 1912, at the onset of the First Balkan War, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece formed an alliance to drive the Turks from Europe. Turkey, who was at war with Italy at the time, was weak and disunited. Macedonia and Thrace were hotbeds of internal disorder. In October 1912 Turkey declared war on Serbia and Bulgaria, a move that was countered by a Greek declaration of war on Turkey. In 1913 the Bulgarians succeeded in capturing Adrianople, and the Greeks captured Salonica, Crete, and Samos. Eventually, the Turks were badly defeated. But the question of Macedonia remained. Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria all laid claim to the land at the end of the first Balkan War. Eventually a compromise was reached: the northern section went to Serbia and the eastern section, to Bulgaria.

Despite this compromise, the Serbs and Greeks remained wary of the Bulgarians. In 1913 the Second Balkan War began, the Greeks, Montenegrins, Serbs, and Romanians joining forces with their previous enemy, the Turks, against their former ally, the Bulgarians. This rivalry had been fostered by both Austria and Russia. Eventually, the Bulgarians turned to the Russians for arbitration and finally signed a mutual defense treaty with Russia. When the Romanians crossed into Bulgaria, the Bulgarians—who were simultaneously fighting in Macedonia and were therefore weakened by fighting on two [Pg 23]fronts—were forced to surrender. As a result of this loss, when the peace treaty of Bucharest was signed in August 1913 and Macedonia was partitioned between Greece and Serbia, Bulgaria managed to retain only a tiny fragment in the eastern sector.

Macedonia, however, remained an issue for Bulgaria. In World War I Bulgaria succeeded in invading Macedonia. During the interwar period Macedonia was divided between Greece, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia retaining the largest portion of the land. In the 1923-34 period Macedonian terrorism plagued the country and wreaked havoc on Bulgarian political and social life. During World War II the Bulgarians invaded both Greek Macedonia and Yugoslav Macedonia once again. Although the Macedonians themselves were divided in their sentiments between loyalties to Greeks, Yugoslavs, and Bulgarians, the land eventually reverted to Yugoslavia during World War II. As an issue, however, it still burns in the minds of the Bulgarians. The Macedonian question has been aptly referred to as "that eternal Balkan sore spot of rival nationalism."


As was the case in the Balkan wars, Bulgaria's primary motivation for engagement in World War I was irredentism. Again the country was determined to regain the two lands that had escaped her grasp in the past: Macedonia and Thrace. Although Macedonia was prized for political and social reasons, Thrace represented a strategically more significant objective. In order to develop foreign trade, Bulgaria required an outlet to the sea; Thrace represented that outlet.

The domestic situation in the country before World War I was mixed. Although Bulgaria's army had been demobilized at the end of the Second Balkan War (1913) and economic conditions were rapidly improving, the mood of the monarchy and the middle class was one of vindictiveness and retaliation against those countries that had stripped Bulgaria of its territories. The country became divided between those who wanted closer relations with Russia and the Triple Entente and those who preferred an alliance with the Central Powers. As the war neared, the struggle between these camps intensified.

Bulgaria, of all the Balkan states, was the only one to join the Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria, in World War I. It was deeply ironic that Bulgaria chose to side with her former enemy and oppressor, Turkey, and against her former friend and protector, Russia. Again, the issue for Bulgaria was the Macedonian question. Serbia and Greece, which had triumphed over Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War, were allied with the entente powers. Bulgaria chose to fight against these enemies in order to regain Macedonia. Although the entente powers hoped to woo Bulgaria to their side, they refused—because of Serb and Greek pressures—to cede Macedonia to Bulgaria. The Central Powers, on the other hand, who were already at war with [Pg 24]Serbia, were willing to promise Macedonia to the Bulgarians in exchange for their collaboration.

In the early stages of the war Germany won victories in France and on the eastern front. Although the government then ruling Bulgaria was already inclined to join the Central Powers, these early successes made German promises even more appealing. In August 1915 a secret treaty of alliance was signed by Bulgaria and Germany, containing a clause that promised Serbian, Greek, and Romanian territories to the Bulgarians. Thus the quadripartite alliance was born, composed of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria.

By September 1915 Bulgarian troops were mobilized and began to deploy along the borders of Greece and Serbia. On October 1, 1915, Bulgaria declared war on Serbia and, with the assistance of Austrian and German troops, succeeded in defeating the Serbian army. At the same time the Bulgarian army began to advance on Macedonia. There the local population, a proportion of which was openly sympathetic to Bulgarian aspirations, joined in the fighting on the side of the Bulgarians. Although the Bulgarian army attempted to drive the entente forces from southern Macedonia, it met with failure. This defeat was followed by a period of prolonged trench warfare on the Balkan front. By 1916 Bulgaria was also at war with Romania and, with the help of German and Austrian units, managed a victory over the Romanians.

While the war dragged on, the internal political situation was rapidly deteriorating. The country was in a state of economic chaos, and the living conditions of laborers and peasants continued to decline. Farm production dropped quickly, resulting in famine and soaring prices. These dire conditions gave a strong impetus to the growing antiwar movement in the country. The movement was headed by the left-wing Socialists, who attempted to correlate the antiwar movement with socialist propaganda. The Russian Revolution of 1917 stirred some elements of the Bulgarian population who, like the Russian people, felt that their government failed to represent their interests and was unresponsive to their needs. There were open revolts in the towns and villages; underground activities were growing within the Bulgarian army itself.

By 1918 Bulgaria and the Central Powers were defeated, leaving Bulgaria in a worse position than before the war. Hopes of regaining Thrace and Macedonia were dashed, and the country was immeasurably weakened by external fighting and internal division. The people were frustrated and bitter. Although the war had stimulated Bulgaria's industry—there were 345 industrial enterprises in 1911 and 1,404 in 1924—it had been costly in other respects. Bulgaria was forced to pay both reparations and payments for the allied occupation that followed. Taxes rose, and the value of the currency declined. As a result, King Ferdinand was forced to abdicate in 1918, [Pg 25]shortly before the armistice was signed.

The Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine was signed on November 27, 1919, ending Bulgaria's role in the war and establishing her boundaries. Once more Bulgaria had entered a war on the losing side, and once more its irredentist ambitions had resulted in no territorial gains. At the end of the war Bulgaria lost Thrace to Greece—thus failing in her attempts to gain access to the sea—and a small area in the Rodopi (or Rhodope Mountains) and a portion of its western frontier to Yugoslavia. As a result of these losses, Bulgaria was left with a still greater sense of frustration and hostility toward its Balkan neighbors.


The period between the first and second world wars was one of political unrest and Macedonian terrorism. The country was in an almost untenable economic situation at the close of the war: prices skyrocketed, people died of starvation, and strikes were almost continuous. Out of this situation two extreme political groups grew up. On the extreme Right was a faction of the IMRO, which at that time demanded the annexation of Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia. On the Left was the Bulgarian Agrarian Union, the only party at the time more popular than the Communists.

When Ferdinand was forced to abdicate, he was succeeded by his son, Boris III. Real political power was, however, in the hands of Alexander Stambolisky, the leader of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union. He led the country as its prime minister from 1919 to 1923. When Stambolisky took power, the peasants formed 80 percent of the population. Stambolisky and the Bulgarian Agrarian Union were dedicated to improving the lot of these people; in his words "to raising the standards both economic and educational, of the desperately poor and depressed peasant class."

Stambolisky, on behalf of the peasant populism movement, made several sweeping reforms. He instituted various social reforms, spread education, and built roads. His strong dislike of the commercial and professional classes in the cities led him toward the objective of a peasant republic. When in power he instituted tax and land reforms and radically altered the legal system. His domestic policies were not popular with all strata of society; his foreign policies were even less popular. He favored reconciliation with Yugoslavia over the Macedonian issue. In 1923 he was overthrown by a group composed of IMRO, military, and other factions and was beheaded.

The murder of Stambolisky was followed by a communist attempt to foment revolution in the country. The leaders were Georgi Dimitrov and Vasil Kalarov, later leading figures in the Bulgarian communist state. The country was in a state of civil war, which was subsequently crushed by the right-wing political factions of the country. Thousands of Bulgarians were killed, and Dimitrov and Kalarov were exiled. [Pg 26]In 1925 the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary) was officially outlawed. Although Boris continued as monarch, the country was ruled by coalition governments and military dictatorships for a decade following Stambolisky's death.

From 1923 until the putsch of 1934 IMRO terrorism dominated the country. Bulgaria's position toward Macedonia was clear and unequivocal: it sought to annex Macedonia completely as it considered the land to be Bulgarian and the people to be Bulgarians. In the Bulgarian sector of Macedonia the Macedonians were given a high degree of latitude, some Macedonians even holding high offices in Bulgaria. In the Yugoslavian sectors of Macedonia, however, most Macedonians felt oppressed and restricted. As a result of this mixed status and treatment, there was a certain ambivalence in Macedonian sentiment, the IMRO terrorists favoring complete independence and self-rule. Among Macedonian patriots, two predominant factions grew up. The federalists favored an autonomous Macedonia—which could, if necessary, be allied with Yugoslavia and Bulgaria—and the Supremists sought to incorporate Macedonia within Bulgaria, with aspirations of dominating the entire Balkan area. The results of these divergent opinions were expressed in acts of violence and terrorism that wreaked havoc in Bulgaria and eventually culminated in federalist collaboration with the Ustashi—a group of Croat separatists—and the murder of King Alexander of Yugoslavia.

Macedonian terrorism was virtually ended by the putsch of 1934. The government, the People's Bloc, which was a coalition of four parties including the Bulgarian Agrarian Union was overthrown by the so-called Zveno—or link—group. The Zveno group was headed by Kimon Georgiev and was aided by the League of Reserve Officers. As soon as it seized power, Zveno suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. The king was left with only nominal powers. Although the group did succeed for the most part in ridding the country of Macedonian terrorism, its rule was overtly authoritarian. By 1935 the king, with the aid of the military, had regained his power and replaced the Zveno group with a more moderate government.

With the reestablishment of the monarchy, a royal dictatorship took power and ruled over Bulgaria until 1943, when Boris died. There were at this time no forces left to oppose the king, political parties were negligible, and only a shadow parliament existed. Ironically, the military, which had aided the Zveno in the overthrow of the king, now was an instrument of his control.

Foreign relations under Boris III before World War II were leading the country again inevitably into a war that would bring it to total defeat. In 1934, despite the suppression of IMRO by the newly formed government, Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey, as in the Second Balkan War, were once again wary of Bulgaria's irredentist ambitions. In that year the four powers signed the Balkan Pact, [Pg 27]from which Bulgaria naturally was excluded, in order to prevent Bulgarian encroachment in the area. Although Bulgaria and Yugoslavia later established a rapprochement in 1937, the potential of a Bulgarian annexation of Macedonia was still considered a threat by its neighbors.

During the 1930s, while Bulgaria was viewed with suspicion by its neighbors, it began to form new friendships with Germany and Italy. Boris had married the daughter of King Victor Emanuel of Italy, a country that had already become fascist, thus strengthening ties with that country. At the same time, Bulgaria began to solidify its ties with Germany, principally by means of trade. A new-founded prosperity was based almost exclusively on German trade, an arrangement that eventually weakened the country. Within a short period German agents were pouring into the country. Thus, Bulgaria was on one side alienated from its neighbors and on the other being drawn into the nazi-fascist camp.


Bulgaria's motives for entering World War II were once again based on irredentism, coupled with almost total economic dependence on Germany. Once more it hoped to regain the lands of Thrace and Macedonia, which were lost after the Treaty of San Stefano was reversed by the Congress of Berlin. The lesson of the two subsequent Balkan wars and World War I had fallen on deaf ears. Bulgaria was still estranged from its Balkan neighbors and once more was being courted by the former ally of World War I, Germany. Germany, again realizing Bulgaria's territorial aspirations, hoped to bribe the Bulgarian leadership with southern Dobrudzha, which was eventually ceded to Bulgaria in 1940.

In December 1941 Bulgaria placed herself squarely on the German side by declaring war on Great Britain and the United States and joining the Rome-Berlin Axis. This alignment, which derived primarily from Bulgaria's irredentist policy, was given further force by dislike of the British, who were held to blame by the Bulgarians for the loss of Macedonia to Yugoslavia and Greece.

Despite the declaration of war against Great Britain and the United States, Bulgaria refused throughout World War II to declare war on the Soviet Union. The Russians, unlike the British and Americans, were popular with the Bulgarian people. They were still remembered for their assistance to the Bulgarians in the past and were viewed by the people as their liberators from Turkish rule. Not only did Bulgaria refuse to declare war on its former liberator, but it also refused to make its army available to Adolf Hitler for his eastern campaign. When Germany declared war on Russia, Bulgaria continued to retain neutrality toward, and to maintain diplomatic relations with, the Soviet Union.

[Pg 28]In the early stages of the war, before Bulgaria had declared war on the Allies, it had already begun to regain some of the land lost during the Balkan wars and World War I. Southern Dobrudzha, which had been ceded to Romania in 1913, reverted to Bulgaria by August 1940. In the spring of 1941, supporting Germany against Yugoslavia and Greece, Bulgaria regained Macedonia and part of Greek Thrace. When Bulgaria was rewarded with these lands by the Nazis, Bulgarians perceived their gains as a "historical national unification." By 1941 Yugoslavia was overrun, and some of its territories were taken by Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Italy received Montenegro, Hungary took part of northern Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria gained, in addition to the much-prized Macedonia, the frontiers of southeastern Serbia. The Bulgarians at this point were once again approaching the frontiers that had been established by the Treaty of San Stefano.

Internally, the country was in relatively good condition during the early stages of the war. The economy, based primarily on active trade with the Germans, was booming. The Bulgarian people perceived the fighting as essentially a "paper war" and were generally apathetic regarding their role in the war. There was little suffering within Bulgarian boundaries and little expression of hatred toward Bulgaria's ostensible enemies. Despite Bulgaria's alliance with the Nazis and Fascists, within the country Jews were for the most part protected rather than persecuted.

By 1943, however, the war began to change for the Bulgarians. Slowly the Allies began to turn back German power. At this time Bulgaria was hit frequently by British and United States air raids. Because of Bulgaria's strategic significance and its declaration of war, albeit symbolic, against Great Britain and the United States, Sofia and other major Bulgarian cities became targets for American and British bombers. Sofia was reduced to little more than rubble at one point, and over 30,000 casualties were suffered by the Bulgarians.

In 1943 Boris died and was succeeded by his six-year-old son, Simeon. In fact, however, a three-man regency retained power, with Ivan Bagrianov as premier. The regency was less actively pro-Axis in orientation than was the late king; with its coming to power, thousands of political prisoners were released from jail, and all persecution of Jews was terminated.

By 1944, when Germany and its allies were clearly losing the war, the Bulgarian leaders sought to reverse the earlier decision of the king and to seek peace with the Allies as well as with the Greek and Yugoslav governments-in-exile. Despite sub rosa attempts to release itself from agreements with the Axis, Bulgaria was unable to extricate itself from the alliance. On August 22, 1944, the Bulgarian government publicly announced that it was ready for a peace agreement with the Allies.

The war was ended for Bulgaria when, on September 4, 1944, the [Pg 29]Soviets, after taking over Romania, entered Bulgaria. The exact sequence of events has been interpreted differently by various historians. There are, however, two major interpretations. One suggests that, once the Soviets had occupied Romania and declared war on Bulgaria, Bulgaria—under a hastily formed anti-Axis coalition government—immediately quit the pact with the Axis and declared war on its former ally, Germany. The other interpretation posits the theory that, on August 26, the Bulgarian government had declared itself neutral, thus withdrawing from the war. At this time it ordered German troops on its soil to disarm. When Soviet troops arrived in Bulgaria, they found this so-called neutrality unacceptable and insisted on a Bulgarian declaration of war against Germany. This declaration was promptly carried out on the eve of the day that it was requested.

When the Soviets occupied the country in September 1944, the government of the so-called Fatherland Front (Otechestven Front) seized power from the existing government within five days of the occupation. On September 9, 1944, the Fatherland Front—under the leadership of Georgiev—officially took control of the country on what was then termed an interim basis. On October 28, 1944, an armistice was signed between Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, which stated that all territories gained by Bulgaria since 1941 would be surrendered. Only southern Dobrudzha, taken from Romania in 1940, was to be retained. The agreement also established the Allied Control Commission in Sofia under direct Soviet control.

The results of the war for Bulgaria were mixed. In terms of financial burdens Bulgaria's position was relatively favorable compared with that of other countries on the losing side. In terms of territorial losses, which resulted in a legacy of bitterness and continued irredentism, its position was poor. As Bulgaria had suffered over 30,000 casualties in the war, the Allies imposed relatively light peace terms. The Soviet Union extracted no reparations from Bulgaria, despite the fact that reparations were demanded from Germany, Hungary, and Romania. Yugoslavia also canceled Bulgaria's debts. Overall war damages to the country itself were generally moderate.

In terms of losses, however, Bulgaria not only lost most of the territories it had regained at the beginning of the war but also ultimately lost its constitutional monarchy and became a Soviet satellite. Although it was allowed to retain southern Dobrudzha, all the territories that were of significance to Bulgaria's sense of nationhood were gone. Macedonia reverted to Yugoslavia, and Thrace to Greece. The Treaty of Paris, signed in February 1947, confirmed Bulgaria's pre-1941 boundaries. Not only had Bulgaria lost these prized territories, but her sovereignty as a nation was severely curtailed by the Soviet military occupation. Both the armistice agreement of September 1944 and the British-Soviet agreement of October of that [Pg 30]year recognized Soviet dominance in the country. Although this power over the country was not expected by the Western powers to endure indefinitely, this illusion was dispelled as Bulgaria soon succumbed completely to Soviet influence.


Growth of the Communist Party

In 1891 the Social Democratic Party was founded; the Communist party was eventually an offshoot of this movement. By 1903 the Social Democrats had begun to split into what were known as the "broad" and "narrow" factions. The broad faction retained the ideology of social democracy, but the narrow faction became the Bulgarian counterpart of the Russian Bolsheviks; its leader was Dimiter Blagoev, the so-called father of Bulgarian communism. In 1919 the narrow faction split off from the Second Socialist International and assumed the name Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP). Although the party had great prestige abroad, it failed to enjoy domestic popularity. The most popular party at the time—and that favored by the peasant class, which was predominant in this still-agrarian society—was the Bulgarian Agrarian Union. The BKP, on the other hand, was composed almost exclusively of intellectuals and students and held little appeal for the working and peasant classes.

In 1923 there was an unsuccessful attempt by the Communists to bring the country to revolution. When this uprising was quelled, the Communists turned to terrorism in order to gain their goals, and in 1925 a plot to assassinate King Boris was formulated. Once again the Communists met with failure, as the king not only lived but grew more powerful. In the last half of the 1920s the party faded from the scene, but by the early 1930s it was again revived and grew in popularity.

During the late 1930s the party went underground as the king increased his power. In 1939 the Communists reappeared and merged with the left-wing Workers Party; in the 1939 elections the party doubled its representation and took on an air of greater respectability. In 1941, while the war was under way, the Communists realized that Bulgaria was falling into the German camp. Although they were powerless to stop this alliance, their activity in evoking pro-Soviet sentiment was successful to the extent that—coupled with the basically favorable sentiments of the Bulgarian people toward the Russians—it prevented the monarchy from declaring war against the Soviet Union.

Once the Germans began to invade the Soviet Union itself, the Bulgarian Communists committed themselves to a policy of armed resistance, known as the partisan movement. Historians dispute the extent of partisan activity; some state that it did not become active until the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in 1943, and others claim that [Pg 31]the movement was active from the onset of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

In 1942, on the initiative of Dimitrov, the Fatherland Front was established. The organization was essentially a coalition, composed of members of the Workers Party, the Bulgarian Agrarian Union, the Social Democratic Party and the BKP. Its purpose was to overthrow Boris and rid the country of the Germans, simultaneously forming a new government that could more adequately meet the needs of the workers and the peasants.

In 1943 the National Committee of the Fatherland Front was formed, and this committee became the vehicle for the communist takeover in 1944. In the same year the so-called National Liberation Army, composed of partisans and certain units of the Bulgarian army who had joined forces with them, was established. In the fall of 1944 there were approximately 18,000 people in the National Liberation Army, augmented by some 200,000 people who sheltered and assisted them.

Before 1944, however, the Communists were still not widely popular. The apathy of a large portion of the population was due primarily to the fact that the country had remained relatively untouched by the war; but, as the country was not actually at war with the Soviet Union, little rationale was provided to the Soviet-backed Communists in their attempts to enlist the support of the partisans. The Bulgarian army and police were active in hunting down the known Communists. All of these factors precluded the possibility of the country becoming totally committed to either the communist cause or armed resistance. By 1944, however, when Soviet troops entered Romania, activity became widespread within Bulgaria. In August 1944 Romania completely capitulated. By early September the Soviet Union declared war on the Bulgarian government, an act more symbolic than real, as Soviet armies met no Bulgarian resistance. On September 9, 1944, the Fatherland Front was installed, and the Communists were firmly entrenched in the country.

Development Since World War II

At the time of the Fatherland Front takeover in Bulgaria the Soviets, with the assistance of the partisans and units of the National Liberation Army, occupied many Bulgarian towns and cities. It is said that they were received by the people with gifts of bread and salt, a traditional Bulgarian gift of welcome (see ch. 7). At the same time, on the political front, the Soviets and their Bulgarian collaborators took over the key ministries in the capital city and arrested members of the government.

The Fatherland Front—a coalition composed at that time of Communists, members of the left wing of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union, members of the left wing of the Social Democratic Party, and the [Pg 32]Zveno group—was led by Georgiev as the new premier. Dimitrov and Kalarov returned from Moscow, where they had been in exile since 1925, to assist the new government in its takeover. The Communists proceeded to rid the coalition of certain opposing elements within its ranks. Nikolai Petkov of the Peasant Union and Kosta Lulchev of the Social Democratic Party were temporarily retired from the coalition. Large-scale purges were initiated against German collaborators and sympathizers; many thousands were either executed or imprisoned by the Communists.

When plans for elections were made in 1945, both Great Britain and the United States made a strong bid for the holding of popular elections. Their hopes were temporarily defeated when, on November 18, 1945, communist-controlled elections were held. The Fatherland Front won a decided victory, eventually resulting in Georgiev's formal installation as premier. His tenure in office was brief, and he was quickly succeeded by Dimitrov. At this point Great Britain and the United States protested, insisting that the Communists broaden their governmental base. Thus, although the two leading figures of the BKP, Dimitrov and Kalarov, were installed eventually as premier and president, respectively, Petkov and Lulchev were allowed to take over control of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice, two vital organs of the government.

By 1946, however, the Communists had whittled down all opposition. In July 1946 control over the army had been transferred from noncommunist members of the ostensible coalition government to exclusively communist control. At this time 2,000 so-called reactionary army officers were dismissed. A plebiscite held in September abolished the monarchy, declared Bulgaria a republic, and gave all power to Dimitrov as premier. He officially took the title on November 4, 1946, and held it until his death in 1949. When Dimitrov took power, any opposition that remained was quickly eliminated. Once the United States had ratified the Bulgarian Peace Treaty—a moment for which the Communists waited anxiously in order to rid themselves of all Western control over Bulgarian affairs of state—Petkov was summarily arrested and executed. His party, the Peasant Union, had been dissolved one month before his death.

On December 4, 1947, a new constitution was adopted. It was called, after the premier, the Dimitrov Constitution and was modeled on the Soviet Constitution of 1936 (see ch. 8). One historian claims that, at its first drafting, it closely resembled the Turnovo Constitution of the late 1800s but was later amended to parallel more closely the constitution of the Soviet Union. The Dimitrov Constitution created the National Assembly as a legislative body. In fact, however, laws were proposed by the Council of Ministers and passed pro forma by the National Assembly. The constitution was approved by the National Assembly in 1947. It defined collective ownership of production, [Pg 33]stated that the regime held the power to nationalize any and all enterprises, and declared that private property was subject to restrictions and expropriation by the state.

By 1948 the small forces that continued to oppose the Communists were finally eliminated. Many opposition Socialists and their leader, Lulchev, were arrested, and the Socialist Party was abolished. The only remaining Socialist party—the Fatherland Front Socialists—was forced to merge with the Communists in August 1948. Thus, absolute communist control was achieved within four years of the seizure of power.

Bulgaria underwent a series of rapid changes in the early years as a communist state. Agricultural collectivization—initiated in 1946—was begun in the form of cooperative farming. By the end of 1947 nationalization of banks, industry, and mines was well under way. Nationalization was not a new phenomenon for the country, as railroads, ports, and mines had been under state control since 1878, but it was greatly extended by the Communists (see ch. 13; ch. 14).

Religion was viewed by the Communists as a means for manipulating and indoctrinating the people, much as it had been during the periods of Byzantine and Turkish rule. Since its founding in the ninth century, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had claimed most of the population as members. The Communists perceived a dual purpose in their cooptation of this institution. On the one hand, by patronizing the Bulgarian church, they believed that they would receive support from its members. On the other hand, they sought to unify the churches by placing the Bulgarian Orthodox Church under close control of the Russian Orthodox Church. Therefore, the regime reestablished the Bulgarian patriarchate; the patriarch, in turn, required all church members to support governmental policies.

Minority religions were treated as separate entities, although all of them had to register with the Committee for Religious Affairs, a body attached to the Council of Ministers. The leadership of all churches was considered responsible ultimately to the state. The churches became financially dependent upon the government as all church funds were in the hands of the bureaucracy. A certain percentage of Muslims—who constituted the largest minority religion—were expelled from the country. Those Muslims who remained were organized into small communities, and their religious leader, the grand mufti, was allowed to retain his position as long as he remained subservient to the state.

As far as other minority religions were concerned, their churches were, for the most part, closed, and their leaders were either harassed or executed. Roman Catholic churches were closed, the church hierarchy was abolished, and in 1952 forty leading Catholics were tried and sentenced to death. The Protestants were allowed slightly more latitude. Although all Protestant schools were immediately closed, [Pg 34]five Protestant denominations were allowed to merge into the United Evangelical Church. In 1949, however, fifteen Protestant pastors were executed. Some Jews were allowed to emigrate to Israel in the early period of communist rule, but in Bulgaria the grand rabbi, like the Moslem grand mufti, was rendered completely subordinate to the state.

In 1949 Dimitrov died and was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Vulko Chervenkov, known as the Stalin of Bulgaria, who controlled the government from 1950 until 1956. His was a one-man rule, patterned completely on the rule of Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. He was both the premier and the First Secretary for the six years of his rule. There was an increase in industrial production under Chervenkov. Production plans, however, appeared to be conceived more in the light of Soviet five-year plans than with regard to Bulgaria's economic needs. Agriculture was almost completely collectivized, although production goals were not achieved, and the standard of living declined appreciably under Chervenkov's rule.

In foreign policy Bulgaria under Chervenkov continued to follow the Soviet example. International communism dominated all Bulgaria's foreign policies. In the early 1950s Bulgaria supported the abortive communist uprising in Greece. Chervenkov attempted to rid the country of all Western influence and severed diplomatic relations with the United States in 1950. After Chervenkov's term relations were reestablished in 1960 and promoted from legation to embassy status in 1966. Again, following the example of the Soviet Union, which was then on strained terms with the nationalistic Yugoslavs, Chervenkov purged 100,000 nationalists from the party and executed Traicho Kostov, the deputy premier, on the grounds that he was a Titoist. Because of Bulgaria's antisocial behavior in the world community, the country was excluded from the United Nations until 1955.

Although Stalin died in 1953, Chervenkov retained his office as premier until 1956 but held only nominal powers. He was ultimately purged in 1962. Chervenkov, in the post-Stalin period, was openly charged with supporting the personality cult policies of Stalin. After Stalin's death there was a degree of political relaxation under a policy known as the New Course. Police terrorism abated, and there was greater freedom of movement in the society as a whole. Travel abroad was tolerated to a greater degree, and an increased interest in the welfare of the people was manifested. The government actively courted the peasants in order to win them over to its policy of collectivization. The working classes, office workers, and even artisans were given more latitude by the government. On the foreign front, following the example of Nikita Khrushchev, who sought reconciliation with Tito, and despite Bulgaria's reluctance over the still-fiery Macedonian issue, Bulgaria made some efforts at reconciliation with Yugoslavia. In order to establish better relations both with the Yugoslavs and with the [Pg 35]Bulgarian nationalists, Kostov was posthumously rehabilitated in 1956.

In 1954 Chervenkov gave up his title as first secretary of the party, thus setting a new precedent for separation of party and state posts and dispelling the concept of one-man rule. Although Chervenkov retained his title as premier temporarily, Todor Zhivkov became the first secretary. Shortly thereafter, Chervenkov was replaced as premier by Anton Yugov. As Zhivkov, despite his backing by Khrushchev, was not firmly in control of the party, his takeover was followed by widespread purges.

Zhivkov's rule, like that of his predecessor, emulated the Soviet model. Unlike Chervenkov, however, Zhivkov based his government on the principle of collective leadership. In the early years of his rule he based his foreign policy on allegiance to the Soviet Union. He strongly supported the Soviets in their border conflicts with the People's Republic of China (PRC). Bulgaria, despite basic sentiments concerning Macedonia, still attempted to renew its friendship with Yugoslavia, again following the Khrushchev example.

In 1962 Zhivkov purged the party of both Chervenkov and Yugov and made himself premier as well as first secretary, thus reestablishing the principle of unity of rule (see ch. 9). At the same time, this move increased Zhivkov's control over the party. Internal problems continued to plague the Zhivkov government. There were, in the 1960s, severe shortages of food, housing, and consumer goods.

Bulgaria's foreign policy under Zhivkov, however, continued on an even, strongly Soviet, keel. Bulgaria's foreign policy has been assessed by some observers as "a carbon copy of Moscow's." Bulgaria was, and is, considered to be the most reliable partner of the Soviet Union in the Balkans. In contrast, Albania has supported the PRC, Romania has pressed its case for independence, and Yugoslavia has essentially followed a nationalistic policy.

Bulgaria's relations with Greece, which had been basically negative for twenty years, became more positive in 1964 when trade, air traffic, communications, and tourist agreements were signed. Because of the issue of Macedonia, relations with Yugoslavia were, for the most part, cool, although Zhivkov attempted to improve them from time to time. Relations with the United States remained cool but correct.

In 1965, shortly after Khrushchev's ouster in the Soviet Union, there was an attempted coup against Zhivkov. The government tried in vain to silence the story but, when pressed, stated that the conspirators in the plot were Maoists, alienated by Bulgaria's anti-PRC policies. As the coup was attempted only five months after Khrushchev's removal from office, Zhivkov—whose power had been based to a large extent on Khrushchev's support—was in a highly vulnerable position. For this reason many attributed the conspiracy to those opposed to Zhivkov's government itself and particularly those opposed to its subservience to the Soviet Union. The conspirators [Pg 36]included Bulgarian Communists, army officers, and World War II partisans. The discovery of this plot resulted in purges, the suicide of one of the leading conspirators, and the reorganization of the Ministry of the Interior and the transfer of its security functions to the new Committee of State Security, which fell directly under Zhivkov's personal control.

[Pg 37]



Bulgaria occupies 42,800 square miles of the Balkan Peninsula, and its 1973 population was estimated at 8.7 million (see fig. 1). It is a member of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact), together with five other Eastern European countries to its north and northwest and the Soviet Union. Bulgaria's location is such that its natural features are combinations of those found in the western Soviet Union and in southern Europe. Its climate is transitional between that of the Mediterranean countries and that of north-central Europe. The blend of the various geographic influences is unique, however, and gives the country a degree of individuality that is not anticipated until it is explored in some detail.

It is a land of unusual scenic beauty, having picturesque mountains, wooded hills, beautiful valleys, grain-producing plains, and a seacoast that has both rocky cliffs and long sandy beaches. Soil and climate are adequate to permit production of a variety of crops. Although only a few mineral resources are present in quantity or in good quality ores, the country has a number of them. Large quantities of brown coal and lignite are available, but resources of the better fuels are limited.

The people of the country have been influenced by its location, which is close to the point of contact between Europe and the Orient. The area had been overrun by so many conquerors and occupied for so long that only since liberation in 1878 have a majority of the peasants dared come out of the hills to farm the better land of the plains and valleys.

The country fared poorly in the distribution of the spoils after the First Balkan War in 1912. It was then on the losing side of the Second Balkan War in 1913 and of the two great wars since. In spite of this, its boundaries contain most of the Bulgarian people in the area, and only some 10 to 15 percent of the population within its borders is not ethnically Bulgarian. It has until recently been predominantly agricultural. Industrialization was undertaken late, and it was not until 1969 that the urban population equaled that of the rural areas (see ch. 2).



Alternating bands of high and low terrain extend generally east to west across the country. The four most prominent of these from [Pg 38]north to south are the Danubian plateau, the Stara Planina (Old Mountain), or Balkan Mountains, the central Thracian Plain, and the Rodopi (or Rhodope Mountains). The western part of the country, however, consists almost entirely of higher land, and the individual mountain ranges in the east tend to taper into hills and gentle uplands as they approach the Black Sea (see fig. 2).

The Danubian plateau, also called a plain or a tableland, extends from the Yugoslav border to the Black Sea. It encompasses the area between the Danube River, which forms most of the country's northern border, and the Stara Planina to the south. The plateau rises from cliffs along the river, which are typically 300 to 600 feet high, and abuts against the mountains at elevations on the order of 1,200 to 1,500 feet. The region slopes gently but perceptibly from the river southward to the mountains. The western portion is lower and more dissected; in the east it becomes regular but somewhat higher, better resembling a plateau. Bulgarians name local areas within it, but they do not name the region as a whole. It is a fertile area with undulating hills and is the granary of the country.

The southern edge of the Danubian plateau blends into the foothills of the Stara Planina, the Bulgarian extension of the Carpathian Mountains. The Carpathians resemble a reversed S as they run eastward from Czechoslovakia across the northern portion of Romania, swinging southward to the middle of that country, where they run westward and cross Romania as the Transylvanian Alps. At a famous gorge of the Danube River known as the Iron Gate, which forms part of the Romania-Yugoslavia border, the Carpathians again sweep eastward, becoming Bulgaria's Stara Planina range.

Considered in its local context, the Stara Planina originates at the Timok Valley in Yugoslavia, continues southeastward as it becomes the northern boundary of the Sofia Basin, and then turns more directly eastward to terminate at Cape Emine on the Black Sea. It is some 370 miles in length, and some twelve to thirty miles in width. It retains its height well into the central part of the country, where Botev Peak, its highest point, rises to about 7,800 feet. The range is still apparent until its rocky cliffs fall into the Black Sea. Over most of its length, its ridge is the divide between drainage to the Danube River and to the Aegean Sea. In the east small areas drain directly to the Black Sea.

Sometimes considered a part of the foothills of the Stara Planina, but separated from the main range by a long geological trench that contains the Valley of Roses, is the Sredna Gora (Middle Forest). The Sredna Gora is a ridge running almost precisely east to west, about 100 miles long. Its elevations run to only a little more than 5,000 feet, but it is narrow and achieves an impression of greater height.

The southern slopes of the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora give way to the Thracian Plain. The plain is roughly triangular in shape, originating at a point east of the mountains that ring the Sofia Basin and broadening as it proceeds eastward to the Black Sea. It encompasses the Maritsa River basin and the lowlands that extend from it to the Black Sea. As is the case with the Danubian plateau, a great deal of this area is not a plain in strict terms. Most of its terrain is moderate enough to allow cultivation, but there are variations greater than those of a typical plain.

[Pg 39]
Figure 2. Topography of Bulgaria

Figure 2. Topography of Bulgaria

[Pg 40]The Rodopi occupies the area between the Thracian Plain and the Greek border. This range is commonly described as including the Rila mountain range south of Sophia and the Pirin range in the southwestern corner of the country. As such, the Rodopi is the most outstanding topographic feature, not only of the country, but also of the entire Balkan Peninsula. The Rila contains Mount Musala—called Mount Stalin for a few years—whose 9,500-foot peak is the highest in the Balkans. About a dozen other peaks in the Rila are over 9,000 feet. They feature a few bare rocks and remote lakes above the tree line, but the lower peaks are covered with Alpine meadows, and the general aspect of the range is one of green beauty.

The Vitosha range is an outlier of the Rila. A symmetrical, 7,500-foot high, isolated peak in the range is a landmark on the outskirts of Sofia. Snow covers its conical summit most of the year, and its steep sides are forested.

The Pirin is characterized by rocky peaks and stony slopes. An impression of the landscape is provided by a local legend, which says that when the earth was being created God was flying over the peninsula with a bag of huge boulders. The rocks were too heavy for the bag, and it broke over southwestern Bulgaria.

Some Bulgarian geographers refer to the western Rodopi and the Pirin as the Thracian-Macedonian massif. In this context, the Rodopi includes only the mountains south of the Maritsa River basin. There is some basis for such a division. The Rila is largely volcanic in origin. The Pirin was formed at a different time by fracturing of the earth's crust. The uplands east of the Maritsa River are not of the same stature as the major ranges.

Sizable areas in the western and central Stara Planina and smaller areas in the Pirin and in Dobrudzha have extensive layers of limestone. There are some 2,000 caves in these deposits. The public has become more interested in the caves during the past three or four decades, but only about 400 of them have been completely explored and charted.

To the east of the higher Rodopi and east of the Maritsa River are the Sakar and Strandzha mountains. They extend the length of the Rodopi along the Turkish border to the Black Sea but are themselves comparatively insignificant. At one point they have a spot elevation of about 2,800 feet, but they rarely exceed 1,500 feet elsewhere.

Formation of the Balkan landmasses involved a number of earth crust foldings and volcanic actions that either dammed rivers or forced them into new courses. The flat basins that occur throughout the [Pg 41]country were created when river waters receded from the temporary lakes that existed while the rivers were cutting their new channels. The largest of these is the Sofia Basin, which includes the city and the area about fifteen miles wide and sixty miles long to its northwest and southeast. Other valleys between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora ranges contain a series of smaller basins, and similar ones occur at intervals in the valleys of a number of the larger rivers.


From a drainage standpoint, the country is divided into two nearly equal parts. The slightly larger one drains to the Black Sea, the other to the Aegean. The northern watershed of the Stara Planina, all of the Danubian plateau, and the thirty to fifty miles inland from the coastline drain to the Black Sea. The Thracian Plain and most of the higher lands of the south and southwest drain to the Aegean Sea. Although only the Danube is navigable, many of the other rivers and streams have a high potential for the production of hydroelectric power and are sources of irrigation water. Many are already being exploited.

Insignificant when compared with the watersheds that drain to the seas, about 125 square miles of the country drain into a few small salt lakes that have no outflowing water. The largest such lake has a surface area of 2.5 square miles.

By far the greater part of the country that drains to the Black Sea does so through the Danube. Most of its major tributaries in the country (from west to east, the Ogosta, Iskur, Vit, Osum, Yantra, and Lom) carry more water than do the combination of the Provadiyska, Kamchiya, Fakiyska, and Veleka rivers, all of which flow directly into the Black Sea. Of the Danube's Bulgarian tributaries, all but the Iskur rise in the Stara Planina. The Iskur rises in the Rila and flows northward through a narrow basin. Territory not far from the river on both sides of it drains in the opposite direction, to the south. The Iskur passes through Sofia's eastern suburbs and cuts a valley through the Stara Planina on its way to join the Danube.

The Iskur and the other of the Danube's north-flowing tributaries have cut deep valleys through the Danubian plateau. The eastern banks tend to rise sharply from the rivers; the western parts of the valleys may have broad fields with alluvial soils. The peculiar, though consistent, pattern is caused by forces resulting from the earth's rotation; these forces give the water a motion that tends to undercut the right banks of the streams. Some of these rivers are sizable streams, but the Danube gets only a little more than 4 percent of its total volume from its Bulgarian tributaries. As it flows along the northern border, the Danube averages one to 1.5 miles in width. Its highest water levels are usually reached during June floods, and in normal seasons it is frozen over for about forty days.

Several major rivers flow directly to the Aegean Sea, although the [Pg 42]Maritsa with its tributaries is by far the largest. The Maritsa drains all of the western Thracian Plain, all of the Sredna Gora, the southern slopes of the Stara Planina, and the northern slopes of the eastern Rodopi. Other than the Maritsa, the Struma in the west and the Mesta (which separates the Pirin from the main Rodopi ranges) are the two largest of the rivers that rise in Bulgaria and flow to the Aegean. Most of these streams fall swiftly from the mountains and have cut deep, scenic gorges. The Struma and Mesta reach the sea through Greece. The Maritsa forms most of the Greek-Turkish border after it leaves Bulgaria.

About 3,750 square miles of agricultural land have access to irrigation waters. Dams provide the water for about one-half of the acreage; diversions from rivers and streams serve about one-third; and water pumped from the ground and from streams accounts for the remainder.

Of the dams, ninety-two are termed large state dams. Their combined capacity is three times that of some 2,000 smaller dams. The sources of four large rivers—the Maritsa, Iskur, Mesta, and Rilska (a major tributary of the Struma)—are within a few miles of each other in the high Rila. Water from the upper courses of these and several other streams supplies the Sofia area with both water and electricity, and they have a potential for further development. There are major dams on the Tundzha, Iskur, Rositsa, and Struma rivers. The Danube is too massive a stream to harness, and damming the Maritsa along most of its course would flood too much valuable land. The rivers flowing north across the Danubian plateau also tend to be overly difficult to use in the areas where they are most needed.

The Vucha River, flowing from the Rodopi into the Maritsa River, is often used to illustrate how rivers have been effectively harnessed to provide a variety of benefits. Its cascade system of hydroelectric development employs six dams having the capacity to generate over 600,000 kilowatts of electricity. The water they back up serves the municipal water systems in Plovdiv and a number of other towns in its vicinity, and the dams provide irrigation water for nearly 250,000 acres of cropland. The reservoirs themselves are being developed as recreational areas and mountain resorts.

Where a stream is difficult to dam or to divert, water is pumped from it. This has been feasible only since about 1950, when low-cost diesel engines and sufficient hydroelectric power became available from newly constructed dams on other streams. About eighty-five huge pumping stations have been set up along the Danube River, which furnishes about three-quarters of the water acquired by this method; and in 1970 there were about 1,200 lesser stations operating on smaller streams, most of them on the Thracian Plain.


For so small an area, the climate varies widely and is unusually [Pg 43]complex. Depending upon the depth to which they study the area, climatologists list six or more climatic subzones. The country lies on the line of transition between the strongly contrasting Eastern European continental and the Mediterranean climatic zones, and its mountains and valleys are local factors that act as barriers or channels to the air masses, contributing to sharp contrasts in weather over relatively short distances. The Black Sea, although too small to be a primary influence over much of the country's weather, also affects the immediate area along its coastline.

In general, continental systems prevail in the north. They are characterized by hot summers, cold winters, and precipitation well distributed throughout the year, a major portion of it in early summer thunderstorms. The Mediterranean climate that is influential most of the time in the south has mild, damp winters but hot, dry, rain-free summers. The Stara Planina marks the lower limits of the area in which continental air masses circulate freely in typical circumstances. In the area between them and the Danube River there is an extension of the climate that is common to east-central Europe and adjoining regions of the Soviet Union.

In the same fashion, the Rodopi marks the northern limits of domination by Mediterranean weather systems. The southern slopes of these mountains are sufficiently mild to merit the region's being called the Green Greece or Bulgarian California.

The area in between, which includes the Thracian Plain, is influenced by both types of climate, but more of the time by continental systems. The result is a plains climate resembling that of the corn belt in the United States, which is characterized by long summers and high humidity. The climate is generally more severe than that of Spain and the portions of Italy, France, and Soviet Georgia that are in the same latitude. Because it is a transitional area and the Mediterranean systems may prevail for most of some seasons or retreat from the scene altogether in other seasons, average temperatures and precipitation are erratic and may vary widely from year to year.

Precipitation over the country averages about twenty-five inches a year and, when it is distributed normally throughout the seasons, it is satisfactory for most agricultural crops. Dobrudzha, in the northeast, the Black Sea coastal area, and parts of the Thracian Plain usually receive less than twenty inches. The remainder of the Thracian Plain and the Danubian plateau get less than the country average. Higher elevations are the most generously watered, in some places receiving forty inches or more.

Although a low figure of 7.6 inches was recorded in Dobrudzha for one year and the normal precipitation is marginal, both Dobrudzha and the Danubian plateau are in the continental climate zone and usually receive most of their rainfall during crop-growing seasons. The Thracian Plain, however, has frequent seasons when it is under [Pg 44]Mediterranean influences and, when this is the case, it may experience prolonged summer droughts. Irrigation is, therefore, necessary for dependable agricultural production.

A few sheltered pockets in the higher mountains may remain covered with snow all year, and much of the other higher land remains white well into springtime. Lower elevations are snow covered an average of twenty-five to thirty days a year. Average cloudiness is about 55 percent, and average relative humidity is as high as 70 to 75 percent.

The many valley basins throughout the uplands frequently have temperature inversions resulting in stagnant air. The Sofia area, for example, is occasionally troubled by smog. The city's elevation of about 1,800 feet, however, tends to moderate summer temperatures and to relieve the oppressive quality of the high humidity. It is also sheltered from the northern European winds by the mountains that ring the basin. Its temperatures in January average about 29°F, and in August they average about 70°F. Its rainfall is near the country average, and the overall result of the several contributing features is a rather unexpectedly pleasant climate.

The climate of the coast is moderated by the Black Sea, but there are many windy days and violent local storms during the winter. The area along the Danube River experiences bitterly cold winters, and sheltered valleys opening to the south along the Greek and Turkish borders may, in contrast, be as mild as though they were on the Mediterranean or Aegean coasts. The so-called Black Wind, a local phenomenon similar to the African sirocco, consists of hard-blowing, hot, very dry air and wreaks havoc on crops. It gets its name from the quantities of dust it carries, which often darken the skies.

Regions in the Rodopi and the higher elevations around Sofia feature sun and snow in a pleasant combination for about four months a year. Several places have good and reasonably dependable skiing and are being developed into holiday resorts.


Fine, dark chernozem (black earth) soils, rich in loess and humus, occur over a considerable portion of the northern Danubian plateau. They are fertile, easy to work, and compare with the best soils in Europe. Away from the river, approaching the mountains, there is a broader area that is basically similar, but the subsoils are more porous and have allowed the humus and loess to leach downward from the surface. The resulting gray soil no longer rates among the finest, but it yields good crops in some areas and, where it is less satisfactory, the land is forested.

The Thracian Plain has comparatively little of the finest soils, but it has much soil that is more than adequate to produce reasonably good crops. The best on the plain is locally called smolnitsa. It is basically a chernozem, but it is less fully matured and coarser than the [Pg 45]darker variety along the Danube. The plain also features fairly extensive areas of good brown and brown forest soils. Meadow soils occur in large areas in the vicinity of Plovdiv. Some are irrigated and cultivated.

Meadow and layered podzol (gray forest) soils occur in most of the higher elevations throughout the country. Intermediate elevations usually have brown forest soils, some of which are excellent. The Maritsa and Tundzha and the major rivers that flow into the Danube have wide valleys with alluvial soils. They may be coarse, but most of them are fertile, drain well, and are extensively cultivated.


Both the natural vegetation and the cultivated crops that have replaced it on all areas that could be put to agricultural use reflect the transitional climate of the country. North of the Stara Planina the original flora was a continuation of that on the Russian steppe. The steppe influence was greatest in the east, giving way to deciduous forests farther to the west.

Lands south of the mountains, sheltered from the colder extremes of the continental weather systems, have been able to support plant life that could not exist on the steppe. Areas along the Black Sea coast and in valleys of the Rodopi that open to the south experience further moderation. Many Mediterranean and subtropical species have existed in them naturally, and others introduced by man have thrived.

What remains of the original vegetation on the Danubian plateau is found mainly along the river, where the land has been difficult to cultivate. It includes brush grass, reeds, and licorice. The last two have commercial value. Most of the original lowland deciduous forests have been removed, and grain flourishes on the level expanses where the soils are favorable. Other food and fodder crops are grown to satisfy local requirements. The foothills of the Stara Planina are dotted with orchards; plums are the most prevalent fruit in these northern areas.

The depression, or geological trench, between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora ranges, which is at the near center point of the country and contains the upper valleys of the Tundzha, Stryama, and Topolnitsa rivers, is sheltered and very humid and is ideal for the raising of roses. One in particular, Rosa Alba, has become known as Bulgaria's gold. Its flower is not an especially lovely variety, but it is extremely rich in the rose oil that is the basic fragrance in many perfumes and a flavor in certain liqueurs. Fields of them flourish in the Kazanluk area, the so-called Valley of Roses.

The Thracian Plain, between the Sredna Gora and the Rodopi, originally featured a mixture of midlatitude forest and Mediterranean flora. The forests have been removed from the level lands and have been replaced by a diversification of crops, including truck vegetables, [Pg 46]fruit orchards, strawberries, raspberries, vineyards, tobacco, and cotton. The plain also produces a variety of herbs and medicine derivatives. Digitalis is produced from foxgloves; menthol, from peppermint; opium, from a species of poppy; linseed oil, from flaxseed; laxatives, from iris and rhubarb; and castor oil, from the castor bean. All of them are grown on this plain.

Where the plain touches the Black Sea, varieties of tropical or subtropical vegetation appear. Vegetation is dense along the Kamchiya River and on the banks of a few of the smaller streams as they approach the sea. Reeds, lianas, exotic flowers, and huge old trees that grow nowhere else in the country flourish in this region.

In the southern Rodopi, where a few of the river valleys—those of the Struma, Mesta, and Maritsa, for example—open to the south, the vegetation is typically Mediterranean. Natural species include the Mediterranean scrubby underbrush, maquis, and an assortment of flowering plants and shrubs. Vineyards and subtropical fruit grow well in these valleys. Such areas produce the country's peaches, figs, and peanuts.

Mountainous regions feature Alpine meadows and pastures above the tree line, where the terrain permits, and conifer forests immediately below the tree line. Deciduous trees are native to all of the uplands of the country with tolerable elevations. Beech predominates at intermediate elevations, particularly on northern slopes, and oak, on the lower foothills. There are dense elm, oak, and ash forests at lower elevations in the Kamchiya River valley where it descends from the eastern part of the Stara Planina. Scrub and brush prevail at all upland elevations where terrain and soil conditions are poor or where the original forest has been removed and has not been replaced.

The Stara Planina has grassy meadowland and pastures on rounded summits and higher slopes. In the springtime these higher lands may also be brilliant with wild flowers and flowering shrubs. Cherry laurel, for example, grows wild over wide areas. The meadows usually give way to beech and to other mixed deciduous forests at lower elevations. Mixed forests may contain varieties of oak, chestnut, hornbeam, elm, and ash.

The most valuable forests are in the Rodopi, although many of them are interspersed among inaccessible craggy hills. A majority of the country's conifers, both the natural forest and those that have been planted in preference to the slower growing deciduous, are in the higher Rodopi, including the Rila and the Pirin. The most common of the conifers are pine and fir. At elevations beneath those dominated by the conifers, the mixture of broad-leaved deciduous trees is similar to that of the Stara Planina. Of the forest area, only about one-half has tall timber. Scrub on the remainder, however, serves to stabilize the soil of the forest lands against erosion and to slow the runoff of water. The rare and exotic edelweiss can be found on the higher slopes of the Pirin.

[Pg 47]Wildlife

The clearing of forestland and the increase in human population have driven most of the larger wildlife from their natural habitats, except in the higher and more rugged terrain. Of the larger species, some bears, wild boars, wild goats, wolves, elk, and several species of deer continue to exist naturally. Foxes, wildcats, polecats, squirrels and other rodents, and hare—better able to adjust to existing conditions—are also surviving.

Quail, turtledoves, wild fowl, and other game birds are hunted in restricted seasons. Hunting seasons are also provided for some of the deer species; the seasons usually last between two and four months, depending upon the need to protect the animal, between the months of August and February. There are bounties on wolves and foxes. Wildcats, falcons, and hawks are also considered harmful and may be killed at any time. The polecat—in Europe the Mustela putorius, a fetid-smelling member of the weasel and otter family—is a bloodthirsty, insatiable hunter that terrorizes poultry. It also may be exterminated.

The many caves in limestone-dominated regions have given rise to various types of blind fauna. The largest of them are crabs, but most are insects, including mosquitoes, butterflies, spiders, locusts, and common flies. Although they are blind, exposure to light is usually fatal to such species.

Rivers contain several kinds of freshwater fish, the most plentiful of which are sturgeon, whitefish, and European carp. Mackerel account for the largest percentage of fish taken from the Black Sea. There are no sharks or other dangerous fish in these waters, but a rare Black Sea seal breeds along the rocky coast north of Varna.

Mineral Resources

The country's mountains contain a variety of metallic and nonmetallic minerals. A few are of good quality, but most of these occur in very small quantities. Iron and coal, which are basic to a metallurgical industry, are mined, but neither of them is of the proper variety or quality nor are they available in adequate quantities to be used economically.

Largest deposits of iron ore occur in the far western Stara Planina and the Strandzha mountain range. There are smaller deposits in the vicinity of Burgas, along the Black Sea coast, and near Sofia to the north and west of the city. Estimated reserves total in excess of 10 million tons.

Coal has been located in some twenty small deposits. There is an anthracite basin in the Stara Planina twenty miles north of Sofia and another in the extreme northwest end of the range. Bituminous coal occurs in a larger basin in the central Stara Planina, but brown coals and lignite are much more abundant.

Copper, lead, and zinc are mined in quantities that exceed domestic [Pg 48]requirements. Bulgaria ranks high in the production of them among the eastern and southeastern European countries and exports small amounts of them. Among the other metallic ores, Bulgaria has three of the more important alloying metals—manganese, molybdenum, and chromium—but the manganese is of poor quality. Uranium has been discovered in several deposits near Sofia and is being extracted from one or more of them. Gold occurs in a number of locations but in small quantities.

Of the fuels, coal is by far the most abundant and most important to the economy. The search for oil and natural gas resources was intensive in the early post-World War II years, and what were hoped to be valuable fields were discovered in the early 1960s. Production, however, reached a peak in the latter part of that decade. If it becomes economic to exploit them, there are oil-bearing shales west of Sofia and in the northwestern region of the country. The extent of these shales appears to be limited, but their potential is believed to be considerably greater than that of the oil-bearing formations where the crude product is extracted by pumping.

Other minerals extracted include salt, kaolin, chalk, talc, asbestos, gypsum, mica, fluorite, quartzite, antimony, lime, sandstone, slate, and pyrites. The pyrites are plentiful and produce exportable quantities of sulfur and sulfur products. Fuel resources tend to be concentrated in basins and on lower lands; most other resources, both metal and nonmetal, are more frequently found in the Rodopi, the western Stara Planina, and in the other western highlands.

Mineral waters are locally considered to be an important resource. The country boasts some 500 mineral springs, about one-half of which are warm or hot. Their mineral content varies, as does the concentration of the chemicals. The stronger of those considered medicinal are used for drinking only. The milder are used for drinking and bathing. Sofia has active hot springs that have been in use and have attracted people to the area for centuries. Its first settlement was built around such a spring.



Bulgaria has had nearly a century of modern independence, during which its borders have invariably been imposed upon it by others. This has been the case partly because the Balkan Peninsula was for many years a pawn in the balance-of-power politics of the more powerful European nations and also because Bulgaria has been on the losing side in three of its four major wars. It even fared badly at the peace table after the only war in which it emerged victorious (see ch. 2).

In spite of these circumstances, the country has boundaries that have many natural physical characteristics and that have imposed no [Pg 49]serious economic hardship on any significant group of people. They also contain a large percentage of the Bulgarian people, although numerous population resettlement movements have contributed to this end. None of its borders are officially disputed.

The total boundary of Bulgaria is about 1,415 miles long. Rivers account for about 425 miles of it, the Black Sea coast for 248 miles, and a great portion of the remainder adheres to ridges in high terrain.

The western and northern boundaries are shared with Yugoslavia and Romania, respectively, and the Black Sea coastline constitutes the entire eastern border. The southern boundary is shared with Greece and Turkey.

Nationalists have territorial ambitions stemming from the size of the Middle Ages Bulgarian empire that encompassed about one-half of the Balkan Peninsula but, in the local political climate that has existed since World War II, such ambitions are not seriously considered.

The post-World War I boundaries were established in rough detail by the Treaty of Peace between the Allied and associated powers and Bulgaria, signed in 1919 at Neuilly-sur-Seine. They were demarcated by international commissions between 1919 and 1922, formalized by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, and reconfirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1947.

During World War II, again as an ally of Germany, Bulgaria briefly reacquired the coveted portions of Macedonia and Thrace, but the interwar boundaries were restored without much deliberation in 1947 with the agreement of the Soviet Union as well as all of the other major victorious allies. Small deviations from the borders established in the early 1920s have been made for local reasons, but none of them have been of national significance.

The 335-mile border with Yugoslavia was drawn in an attempt to follow the high ridges separating the watersheds of the Morava and Vardar river valleys in Yugoslavia from those of the Iskur and Struma valleys in Bulgaria. The border starts in the north at the junction of the Timok River and the Danube, but it follows the river for only about ten miles. Leaving the Timok (with a few exceptions when it must cross river valleys), it remains on high ground until it reaches the tripoint with Greece. Although nationalist Bulgarians continue to feel that Bulgaria's share of Macedonia—which it shares with both Yugoslavia and Greece—is less than just, there are no overt official disputes of the boundary.

The border with Greece is 307 miles long—all but forty-nine miles of which are overland. The major portion of it follows higher elevations and ridges in the Rodopi. East of the Struma and Mesta river valleys, insofar as it is feasible, the border is at the dividing line between the Maritsa River basin and those of the streams that flow southward to the Aegean Sea.

Following an official visit by the Greek foreign minister to Sofia in [Pg 50]1946, the Bulgarian premier stated that "all territorial claims [between Greece and Bulgaria] are excluded forever." This statement indicates that boundary frictions that had persisted for many years were officially eliminated at that time, and as of 1973 the border was not disputed.

The Turkish border is 149 miles long. It follows small rivers and streams for more than 40 percent of its length, but neither they nor the overland sections constitute physical boundaries or barriers of any consequence.

The Romanian border follows the Danube River for about 290 miles from the northwestern corner of the country to the city of Silistra and then cuts to the east-southeast for about eighty-five miles across the old province of Dobrudzha. The Danube, with steep bluffs on the Bulgarian side and a wide area of swamps and marshes along much of the Romanian, is one of the better natural river boundaries in Europe. Most of the river islands that might be expected to bridge the gap between the countries are damp and covered with marsh vegetation. They are subject to regular inundation by floodwaters and, therefore, are uninhabited. The line across Dobrudzha is arbitrary and has been redrawn on several occasions. The population of the area that has changed hands is mixed, but most of those who have strong national preferences have been resettled in the country of their choice.

A joint resolution adopted between Bulgaria and Romania in April 1971 allowed somewhat easier transit of their border. A passport was still required, but residents of the twelve-mile-wide zone on each side of the border became able to make one crossing each month without a visa. Each visit was limited to six days, and the destination and residence to be visited were subject to the approval of local police. The agreement made no changes in custom regulations and was not, therefore, intended to change trade relations between the countries.

Political Subdivisions

The country is subdivided into twenty-eight okruzi (sing., okrug), which are usually translated as districts, and has some 200 towns and cities and approximately 5,500 villages or settlements. The cities and larger towns are subdivided into rayoni (sing., rayon), and the smaller villages are grouped together into obshtini (sing., obshtina). The rayoni and obshtini are the urban boroughs and village communes that are the smallest units of local government, that is, those that have people's councils (see fig. 3).

The twenty-eight okruzi include one for the city of Sofia and its immediate vicinity as well as one for a larger Sofia district. Each okrug is named for the city that is its administrative center. They have areas ranging from 794 to 2,916 square miles and populations of about 130,000 to about 650,000.

[Pg 51]
Figure 3. Political Subdivisions of Bulgaria, 1973

Figure 3. Political Subdivisions of Bulgaria, 1973

[Pg 52]The number of okruzi has been changed only at times of major governmental reorganization, the most recent of which was in 1959. The obshtini, on the other hand, are in a state of relatively constant change. Cities grow, towns become cities, new enterprises are set up and attract population, and other factors affect the need for local administration. Since the reorganization of 1959, when the obshtini were reduced by nearly one-half—from about 1,950 to just over 1,000—their number has tended to grow again. By the late 1960s there were about 1,150 of them.


The Bulgarians, who were mounted archers from the steppes of central Asia, rode into the area between the Danube River and the Stara Planina in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. They interbred with the Slavs and adopted a Slavic language and many Slavic customs, but they retained enough individuality to remain readily identifiable. In spite of horrifying defeats and treatment at the hands of Byzantines and Ottomans, they were in the land to stay and never relinquished their title to a share of the peninsula.

For several centuries before their independence from the Turks, the people preferred to live in the hills, motivated by the sheer necessity of having to escape the notice of their oppressive occupiers. They returned to the fertile plains and valleys in large numbers only after independence in 1878. Since 1945 there has been a major movement of people to the cities as the country has become industrialized, and there has been a lesser movement of the rural population resulting from the collectivization of agricultural lands.

Each major movement has brought about some improvement over the conditions of the period that preceded it. Settlement in the back hills was particularly necessary during the last years of Turkish control, when the Ottoman Empire was in decline and its local controls and taxation became increasingly oppressive. To avoid attracting attention to themselves, the people settled into small hamlets and built their homes as bare and unattractive as possible.

With independence life on the plains was safer and easier. For a time there was plenty of good land available but, as the population grew, inevitably the land became occupied, and the size of individual landholdings decreased. Between the turn of the century and the mid-1980s, for example, the average landholding decreased from 18.2 to 12.2 acres, a size that was agriculturally uneconomic and that overpopulated the rural areas. People remained poor and, although it was no longer necessary to keep them plain, peasant homes amounted to little more than small, bare, essential shelter.

Under the communist government, the first near-complete collectivization program served to increase the size of farmland units in collective and state farms to an average of about 10,000 acres each. In 1970, [Pg 53]with an average of less than 1,100 fully employed farmers at each of the larger units, the ratio of farmers to acres of arable land had fallen sharply. In 1973 the agricultural lands were again recombined, this time into about 170 units called agroindustrial complexes. The rural population is still, however, for the most part clustered in unplanned, nucleated villages or hamlets. Long, single-street villages are rare. Many villages are situated in valleys for shelter from cold winter winds. A gradual movement to housing at the agroindustrial centers will undoubtedly take place, but there was no indication in 1973 that the movement would be a rapid one or that the government intended to make it a matter of urgent priority.

Post-World War II emphasis on educational and cultural pursuits and rural development has made more community life and more amenities available to the rural areas. Dwelling space remains meager, with only a little more than 500 feet of floorspace per dwelling. By 1970 central water supplies were available to over 90 percent of the population, but fewer than one half of the dwellings had individual service. Nearly all dwellings have electricity.

Bulgaria has been primarily agricultural and has been overrun, pillaged, and occupied by so many conquerors that its cities have suffered, and their inhabitants have had less opportunity than have those in most European countries to develop a culture. There are relatively few cities with noteworthy associations with the country's past. There are, however, a few notable exceptions, and some of their histories antedate the introduction of the Bulgar people into the region. There are others that, if not altogether new, have had rapid and well-planned growth during the country's recent history. Modern city growth has been accompanied by the construction of large numbers of apartment houses, many of them built as rapidly as possible to recover space destroyed during World War II and to accommodate the heavy influx of people to urban areas.

Sofia was founded by the Thracians and has had a continuous history of some importance for 2,000 years. No trace of its original founders remains in the city, although it retained its Thracian name, Serdica, while it was a part of the Roman Empire. It is situated in a sheltered basin at the base of the Vitosha range, a location that has been both strategically and esthetically desirable. Long-established communications routes cross at the city. The most traveled and most famous is that from Belgrade to Istanbul. It is Sofia's main street for that portion of its route. At the city it crosses the north-south route from the Aegean Sea to the Danube River that uses the Struma and Iskur river valleys. Some of the other routes that radiate from the city, particularly those to the Black Sea coastal cities, are of more local importance than the international routes. Sofia's pleasant climate, plus its strategic location, made the city a contender in the selection of a capital for Rome in Emperor Constantine's reign. Its hot springs were an added [Pg 54]attraction to the Romans, and their baths remain.

Sofia was a thriving city under the Romans. Attila the Hun destroyed it in the fifth century A.D., but it was rebuilt in the sixth and seventh centuries, when its population grew to about 40,000. It declined again under the Ottomans, and in 1878, when it was liberated, it had only some 15,000-20,000 inhabitants. It has grown rapidly since becoming the capital of the modern state.

Sofia is the city's fourth name. Saint Sophia's sixth-century church occupies the highest land in the city and is one of the most famous of its landmarks, although the city was named for her several centuries after the church was built. As the capital, the city has most of the nation's administration and has become the educational and cultural center of the country. It retains much charm and beauty, in spite of its rapid growth. From its hundreds of small parks and thousands of trees, it claims the right to call itself the garden city.

Plovdiv is the second most important city. It is older than Sofia, having been established in the fourth century B.C. by Philip of Macedon; it was first named Philippopolis after him. On the plain and astride the route from Belgrade to Istanbul, it has been exposed to all who have passed that way, for good or ill, and this is reflected in its violent history. It has been captured and devastated in turn by Greeks, Romans, Goths, Huns, and Turks. It was also ravished on four different occasions by Christian armies during the Crusades.

Plovdiv has continued to be an important commercial city, having more rail lines radiating from it than Sofia. It also has a university and some of the country's most important museums and art treasures. The old town center is typically Macedonian and, although it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1928, part of it has been termed a national monument, to be reworked only for its restoration.

Veliko Turnovo, situated astride a mountain stream on the northern slopes of the central Stara Planina, was the fortress capital of the medieval Second Bulgarian Kingdom. It was also the site of the first constituent assembly held as the country was liberated from the Turks, and the Turnovo Constitution was adopted there in 1879. It remains an artistic and cultural center, and some of its fine examples of Bulgarian renaissance architecture have survived.

Varna and Burgas are the chief Black Sea ports, and Ruse is the only major Bulgarian port on the Danube River. Burgas is a young city, growing to most of its size in the late 1800s, and it was a more important port than Varna until the 1950s. Varna, however, attracted the naval academy, has become the naval base, and has acquired most of the shipbuilding industry. Ruse has also grown rapidly. In addition to its river trade, the first bridge across the river between Bulgaria and Romania was built just north of the city.

A number of new towns have been built since World War II, in some cases from the ground up. These include some at industrial complexes, [Pg 55]others at resorts. Madan is a new mining center in the Rodopi; Dimitrovgrad is a new industrial town on the Maritsa River; and there are several mountain and seaside resort cities. Zlatni Pyassutsi (Golden Sands), opened in 1956, is one of a group of Black Sea resort cities that, upon opening, could accommodate tens of thousands of holiday vacationers.



In spite of its three most recent wars, comparatively few Bulgarians live outside the country in the areas adjacent to its boundaries. Bulgarian sources estimate the total number of Bulgarians abroad at approximately 1 million. Many of these are in Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia and are, in fact, Macedonians who may or may not prefer to be called Bulgarians. Other Bulgarians are in Greek Thrace, and a few are in Romanian Dobrudzha and in Soviet Bessarabia. A scattering are settled in other Eastern European countries, Australia, and North and South America. There are only a few in the United States.

When The Macedonians and Gypsies in the country—whom Bulgarian official sources include as fully integrated into the Bulgarian population—are not counted separately, Bulgarians constitute about 91 percent of the population. The approximately 700,000 Turks out-number all other non-Bulgarians in the population by a large margin. Small numbers of Greeks, Romanians, Armenians, and Jews make up a total of only about 1 percent (see ch. 4).

In the absence of official statistics, the number of Macedonians and Gypsies are impossible to estimate accurately. It is probable that there are a few more Gypsies than Macedonians and that they total about 5 percent of the population. Pomaks (Muslim Bulgarians), who tend to live separately, have been persecuted on occasion and have represented a social problem. Some authorities have listed them as a separate ethnic group but, with diminishing emphasis on religion, local authorities attempt to make no distinctions between them and the rest of the population.

Bulgaria is one of an extremely few countries in the world where the males in the population have outnumbered the females over a considerable portion of its modern history. This has been a phenomenon that could not be adequately explained by events or circumstances; but of nine censuses taken between 1887 and 1965, only in those taken in 1920 and 1947 did the females constitute a majority. These two years following the great wars were undoubtedly atypical in that, although Bulgaria did not suffer great manpower losses from war casualties, the males were probably more mobile, and many of them may not have returned to the country or, in the immediate aftermath of the wars, may not yet have settled down (see table 1).

[Pg 56]Table 1. Bulgaria, Population by Age and Sex, 1973 Estimate

  Number of People        
  in Age Group Percentage of Male Female Females per
Age Group (in thousands) Total Population (in thousands) 100 Males
Under 5    676     7.8    348    328   94
5-9    609     7.0    313    296   94
10-14    647     7.5    331    316   95
15-19    665     7.7    340    325   96
20-24    703     8.1    357    346   97
25-29    629     7.3    317    312   98
30-34    558     6.4    280    278   99
35-39    616     7.1    310    306   99
40-44    649     7.5    327    322   98
45-49    668     7.7    334    334 100
50-54    467     5.4    231    236 102
55-59    421     4.9    210    211 100
60-64    460     5.3    225    235 104
65-69    372     4.3    178    194 109
70-74    264     3.0    122    142 116
75 year                 
    and over    263     3.0    110    153 139
TOTAL 8,667 100.0 4,333 4,334   100*
* Overall ratio for total population.
Source: Adapted from Godfrey Baldwin, (ed.), International Population Reports, (U.S. Department of Commerce, Series P-91, No. 18), Washington, 1969.

The male majority, however, narrowed and has apparently evaporated for the foreseeable future. The reversal reflects a change in life expectancy statistics. Around the turn of the century average life expectancy was forty years, and females are estimated to have outlived males by less than six months. Seventy years later, average life expectancy had increased by twenty-five years, but females were outliving males by an average of about four years. Projected from the 1965 census and from vital statistics information accumulated since that time, numerical equality between the sexes came about in the late 1960s, and in mid-1973 it was estimated that females outnumbered males by the small majority of 4.334 million to 4.333 million.

Another exceptional feature of the Bulgarian population is the unusual number of very old people. Nearly 1 percent of the population in 1970 was eighty years old or older, and more than 500 people were centenarians. Of these, three-fifths were women.

People in rural areas, after having long outnumbered those in cities and towns, became the minority in 1969. More than four-fifths of the population was rural at the time of independence in 1878, and more than three-quarters was still rural in 1947. The movement to the towns accelerated with the post-World War II industrialization. Towns that attracted industries have grown by factors of five or more since 1920, and by far the most dramatic growth has occurred since 1947.

[Pg 57]With 8.7 million people occupying 42,800 square miles in 1972, the average population density for the country was 203 persons per square mile. Regions where the densities were highest include the Sofia Basin and the southwestern portion of the Thracian Plain. The population was more dense than average in the western and central portion of the Danubian plateau, in the lower eastern Rodopi, and in the vicinities of Varna and Burgas on the Black Sea coast. It was least dense in the higher mountains, particularly in the high western Rodopi, the Pirin and the Rila, and along the narrow high ridge of the Stara Planina.


Warfare that was endemic to the Balkan Peninsula throughout much of its early history, exploitation by the Ottomans, and living conditions that contributed to a short life expectancy served to hold down the population of the area before independence. Since 1878, although the country has participated in four wars and most migratory movements have been at Bulgaria's expense, the population has tripled.

Growth has been comparatively steady during the century of independence. Its rate has fluctuated but not widely. Until 1910 it was high. It dropped during the 1910-20 decade, which included the Balkan wars and World War I. The period of greatest growth occurred between the great wars, and the three decades since 1941 have been the periods of least growth.

Vital statistics supplied by the Bulgarian government to the United Nations in 1972 indicated an annual growth rate of 0.7 percent. This was based on 16.3 births per each 1,000 of the population, as against 9.1 deaths. Infant mortality, included in the overall death rate, was 27.3 deaths during the first year for each 1,000 live births. In early 1973 the government was alarmed at an apparent change in the statistical trend. Complete information for 1971 showed that, instead of 16.3 births per 1,000, the actual figure was 15.9. Indications were that in 1972 it was dropping to 15.4.

Internal migrations since 1878 have consisted largely of the initial movement of the rural population from the hills to the plains and the later movement of people from the rural areas to the towns. External migrations have been more complex. The earliest occurred in the aftermath of the liberation; later ones have resulted from the animosities and territorial changes associated with the various wars in which the country has been involved.

Having occupied the territory, Turks left in wholesale numbers when they lost control of it. More of them departed during the Balkan wars. Large groups emigrated in the 1920s and 1930s, and more were forced to leave after World War II. Estimates as to the numbers involved in each move vary widely; the two largest after 1880 were those in the 1920s and after World War II, and the total in all emigrations of Turks probably equals or exceeds the 700,000 that remain in the country. [Pg 58]Natural population increases have been such that, over the long term, the actual number of Turks in the country has changed relatively little.

There have been smaller population exchanges with each of the other neighbors. In the mid-1920s about 250,000 Bulgarians moved from Greek Thrace into Bulgaria, and about 40,000 Greeks left Bulgaria for Greece. After 1940, when southern Dobrudzha was annexed from Romania, some 110,000 Romanians were exchanged for about 62,000 Bulgarians. Macedonians, also in considerable numbers, have chosen between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, requiring many of them to move.

The Jewish people, faring much better in Bulgaria during World War II than they did in Adolph Hitler's Germany or in most of the countries overrun by the Germans, have nonetheless emigrated to Israel in large numbers. Before that war there were about 50,000 of them in the country, but 90 percent or more of them emigrated during the early postwar years.

All of the major emigrations were completed before 1960. There appear to be no reasons why others of similar proportions should occur in the foreseeable future.

Working Force

In mid-1972 there were 5.8 million people in the working-age group (fifteen to sixty-four years), although the legal retirement age in most employment situations is sixty or sixty-five for males and five years younger for females. About 4.4 million—just over one-half of the total population and three-quarters of those of working age—constituted the labor force. Population projections indicate that in the ten-year period after 1972 the working-age group will increase by 0.3 million, but a large percentage of the increase will be in the segment of the group aged fifty to sixty-four.

About 95 percent of the males between twenty-five and sixty-four years of age are economically active. The percentage of economically active females is lower, but they have constituted over 40 percent of the labor force. About 36.5 percent of the economically active are employed in agricultural fields; of the remaining 63.5 percent, about one-half are employed in industry. The others are in various service, administrative, or other miscellaneous activities.

Because the country was late in emerging from a predominantly agricultural economy, its working force has had little technological experience. Since World War II, however, schools have been increasingly oriented to train young people to become technologically competent, and some success in this direction has been achieved. Whether or not the working force is being used as effectively as is possible under the circumstances is being debated, but the government finds a decrease in the birthrate and its possible limiting effect on industrial production a cause for considerable concern.



The first railroad built in the country was constructed by the British in 1866 and connected Ruse on the Danube River with Varna on the Black Sea. The famous and romantic Orient Express and the Berlin-to-Baghdad route have used a common line through Bulgaria, entering the country from Belgrade. The route crosses the western mountains at the Dragoman Pass, continues through Sofia, Plovdiv, and down the Maritsa River valley to Edirne and Istanbul in Turkey.

The rail network consists of about 3,775 miles of track, about 2,620 of which were being operated in 1970. Of the portion in use, about 2,470 miles were standard gauge, and 150 were narrow gauge. Approximately 135 miles were double track, and a little more than 500 had been electrified. Because of the terrain, the system has a large number of bridges and tunnels and has been constructed with tighter curves and steeper gradients than are allowed when terrain features are less extreme. Most of the some 1,600 bridges are short, but at Ruse, where the Danube is crossed, the river is 1-½ miles wide. Most of the approximately 175 tunnels are also short. One is 3-½ miles in length, but they total only about thirty miles (see fig. 4).

Route mileage is adequate to meet the requirements of the country. It will probably not be expanded further; shorter spurs become uneconomic and are abandoned as motor transport takes over short-haul traffic. Programmed modernization includes improving roadbeds, ties, and track to achieve a higher load-bearing capacity. Quantity installation of continuously welded rail is also underway, and the busiest of the lines are being electrified.

Although the system is adequate, performs its services reasonably well, and continues to be the backbone of domestic transport, it suffers in bare statistical comparisons with the other carriers. Highway transport may carry a cargo to the rail station and get credit for a second shipment when it moves the same goods from the train to its final destination. Trucks also carry local freight more directly and much more simply than railroads for short hauls. Ton mileage statistics of the merchant marine are similarly misleading. Although the railroads remain by far the most important domestic carrier, their share of total cargo carried and their share of ton mileage continues to decrease (see table 2).

The railroads also continue to give way to motor vehicles in numbers of passengers carried. Between 1960 and 1970 the situation changed radically; on the earlier date the railroads carried more passengers than buses did, but a decade later they carried hardly more than one-third as many. In long-distance passenger travel, the railroads remained the major carrier by a narrow margin in 1970, although the difference was narrowing.

[Pg 60]
Figure 4. Communications Systems of Bulgaria, 1973

Figure 4. Communications Systems of Bulgaria, 1973

[Pg 61]Table 2. Use of Transportation Facilities in Bulgaria, 1960 and 1970

  Total Freight¹ Ton Miles²
Cargo Traffic: 1960 1970 1960 1970
Railroads   38.4       68.2     4,360      8,650
Motor transport 128.3     492.8     1,270      4,940
Seaborne shipping     1.1       14.5     1,530    24,375
Inland waterways     1.6         3.7        384      1,145
Air transport     0.007     0.083        0.2          9
  Total Passengers² Passenger Miles²
Passenger Traffic: 1960 1970 1960 1970
Railroads   79.0     106.1     2,260      3,890
Motor transport   72.6     282.0³   1,020        3,740³
Seaborne shipping     0.6         0.6          12           17
Inland waterways     0.8         0.3          29           19
Air transport     0.2         1.1          56         750
¹ In million tons.
² In millions.
³ 1969 information.
Source: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook, 1971, Sofia, 1971.

Conversion from steam to diesel and electric locomotives is proceeding rapidly. As late as 1962 the country had no diesel locomotives and only a few passenger-carrying electric trains. By 1972, about 80 percent of the freight and a larger proportion of passenger traffic were carried on diesel or electric trains. Steam locomotives will probably have been replaced completely by 1978.


Construction is expensive, engineering problems are frequently challenging, and the roads are difficult to maintain on the mountainous terrain, with its many narrow and steep gorges. Ice and snow close most routes at times during the winter months. Spring thaws and floods damage the best roads and make the poorer roads impassable for considerable periods. Of the approximately 21,000 miles of roadway, about 8,000 are paved, another 8,000 have surfaces hardened with stone or gravel, but nearly 5,000 remain dirt surfaced.


The 290 miles of the Danube River that flow along the northern border are navigable. Other streams are too short, too shallow, or have too great gradients to use or to allow development as waterways. The fact that the Danube leaves the country to exit into the Black Sea from [Pg 62]Romania limits its potential as an avenue to seagoing trade, and the fact that it flows along the country's periphery keeps it from being the central feature that it is, for example, in Hungary. Bulgaria's entire portion of the river is, however, downstream from the Iron Gate and thus can handle 2,500-ton vessels. There are no locks or dams in this area and, although it freezes for a short time in the winter and floods during the spring, it is usable for an average of about 300 days per year.

The Black Sea is more commercially significant to Bulgaria. Burgas and Varna are thriving ports. Burgas has been a busy port for a longer time, but Varna has developed rapidly and by 1970 had surpassed Burgas as the major port and had become the center of maritime industry in the country. Between 1971 and 1975, for example, the city expects to produce 23,000-ton and 38,000-ton dry cargo ships in series production and to build one, and possibly more, 80,000-ton tankers.

By 1970 inland waterways—which consisted exclusively of the Danube River—were carrying only about 0.6 percent of the country's freight cargo. Because the distances that the average cargo was transported exceeded those of rail or road transport, however, they accounted for about 2.5 percent of the total ton mileage. Seaborne shipping carried about 2.5 percent of the total cargo weight but, because of the far greater shipping distances, it accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total ton mileage. Traffic transported by inland waterway remained relatively constant during the late 1960s and early 1970s; traffic carried on seagoing vessels was increasing rapidly.

United Nations reports in 1971 credited Bulgaria with the fastest developing shipbuilding industry in the world. The pronouncement is less meaningful than it might appear, however, because the industry started from very little. Moreover, a major portion of the products are for export, and much of the industry's local impact is as a production, rather than as a transportation, enterprise. Nonetheless, the country's capability for sea shipment increased by more than five times during the 1960s. There are no large passenger vessels in the fleet, but several hydrofoils, some having capacities to carry more than 100 passengers, operate between the Danube River ports.

By 1972 the merchant marine consisted of more than 100 ships, having a total of nearly 1 million deadweight tons. It has increased at an average rate of about 6 percent a year between 1967 and 1971, the rates of increase accelerating in the latter part of the period.


Civil aviation was carried on by Bulgarian Civil Air Transport before 1970, when that entity was reorganized as Balkan-Bulgarian Airlines (BALKAN). Its airplanes, all of Soviet manufacture, are identified by BALKAN inset within a five-pointed star that is elongated to give [Pg 63]the impression of flight. BALKAN operates under the Ministry of Transport.

Sofia is the center of all the air operations. International routes stop at the capitals of the six other Warsaw Pact countries and at sixteen other cities in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The 1973 scheduled flights also connected Sofia with eleven other cities within Bulgaria, most of them on a daily basis.

Percentages of total cargo and passenger traffic carried by air are insignificant, and the rates of increase in the utilization of air transportation have been erratic. Air cargo shipments, for example, increased by a factor of seven between 1960 and 1967 but increased little the following year and decreased for the remainder of the decade.

[Pg 64]

[Pg 65]



In 1878 Bulgaria emerged from Turkish rule as a homogeneous, egalitarian peasant society centered in the family and the community. Through the introduction of foreign economic and social ideas and institutions, the society gradually changed during the period between the two world wars. At the time of World War II Bulgaria actually had two social systems: the traditional peasant society, changing but still focused on the family and the community, and a growing urban society that focused on the economy and the state. When the Communists took power in 1944, they set out to destroy the old social order and replace it with one that would reflect communist ideology. The resulting changes have been far reaching and basic. The traditional economic and value base has been destroyed by the elimination of private property. Social distinctions were introduced and magnified where none or few existed. Traditional institutions, such as the church and the family, were weakened; and new institutions, such as mass organizations, were introduced to take their place. Many segments of the population benefited materially from changes that opened new opportunities for education and social advancement; however, the price paid for these benefits was the loss of such important motivating forces as freedom of choice, independence of action, and the right to own income-producing property.

By the early 1970s the rate of change was slowing down, and the society was settling into a discernible pattern. Some aspects of the old social order seem to have survived, providing a continuity between the old and the new. The changes that continue to affect the society are more the result of economic growth than of social engineering.


The Bulgarian population is homogeneous in both ethnic and religious composition. Approximately 85 percent is Bulgarian, and some 90 percent adheres at least nominally to the Eastern Orthodox faith. The most significant ethnic minorities are the Turks, who number about 700,000, or 8 percent of the population; the Gypsies, estimated at 200,000, or 2.5 percent of the population; and the Macedonians, who also number approximately 200,000. The remainder are Greeks, Romanians, Armenians, and Jews.

The Turkish minority, once considerably more substantial in size, [Pg 66]dates back to the centuries of Turkish rule (see ch. 2). A steady emigration of Turks from Bulgaria to Turkey after World War I and the expulsion of some 150,000 in the 1950-51 period reduced their number. Most of the remaining Turks are tobacco growers or artisans, who live in rural areas in the eastern third of the country and along the Danube River. Their traditional peasant conservatism, bolstered by their Islamic faith, has made them less willing to adapt to the contemporary social order than the rest of the population. A majority would like to emigrate to Turkey, but the Bulgarian government has been unwilling to let them go because the country cannot afford such a population loss.

Turkey, for its part, could not absorb the Bulgarian Turks without seriously endangering its own economy and therefore has not encouraged their desires. By agreement between the two governments, about 30,000 close relatives of Turks who left Bulgaria in the 1950-51 period will be allowed to emigrate during the 1970s. The majority of Bulgarian Turks, however, have little hope of leaving in the foreseeable future. In spite of the desire of its members to leave the country, the Turkish minority has posed no serious problem to the Bulgarian government. The government has made an effort to integrate the minority into national life, at the same time preserving its cultural distinctions, which are guaranteed by the constitution.

Gypsies are not considered a national minority by the state, although they consider themselves such. Strongly attached to their nomadic way of life, the Gypsies have been reluctant to settle in a permanent place and to integrate themselves into the national society. They continue to follow their traditional occupations as musicians, tinsmiths, and horsemen.

The existence of a Macedonian minority has been disputed over many decades by Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Bulgaria has consistently claimed that Macedonians are ethnically Bulgarians, that their language is a dialect of Bulgarian, and that their land is a part of Bulgaria. Yugoslavia, on the other hand, has given legal recognition to a Macedonian nationality by establishing the People's Republic of Macedonia and by designating the Macedonian language one of the official languages of the federal republic (see ch. 2; ch. 10).

The vast majority of Bulgarians have been born into the Bulgarian Orthodox Church ever since the ninth century, when Boris I adopted Christianity for his people. Until World War II a person had no legal existence without a baptismal certificate from the church. In keeping with Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is an independent national church. It is inseparably linked with Bulgarian nationhood in the minds of most Bulgarians because of the role it played in preserving a national consciousness during the centuries of Turkish rule and in spearheading a national revival in the nineteenth century (see ch. 2).

A tradition of religious freedom and tolerance allowed religious [Pg 67]minorities to exist without friction. Even during World War II the Jews in Bulgaria suffered little persecution in comparison with those in other parts of Eastern Europe. No census of religious affiliation has been taken since the Communists took power; however, according to various estimates in 1965 there were about 750,000 Muslims; 26,000 Protestants; 32,000 Roman Catholics; and between 3,000 and 7,000 Jews. The Muslim population included most Turks and some 50,000 Pomaks (Bulgarians who converted to Islam during Turkish rule) living in the rugged Rodopi mountain range.

Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, but churches are subject to strict governmental control. Formal religious education is restricted to the training of priests. Children, however, continue to be instructed in the rudiments of faith and ritual by their families. Despite government efforts to secularize the milestones in the life cycle, a large percentage of Bulgarians continue to regard the priest as an essential officiant at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Churchgoing and the strict fasts prescribed by the Eastern Orthodox church have not been carefully observed by most Bulgarians since the 1930s; nevertheless, the people often exhibit strong religious feelings tempered by traditional beliefs in the powers of nature, the evil eye, and other forces. A survey conducted by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in the mid-1960s classified 35.5 percent of those surveyed as religious and 64.4 percent as nonreligious. The criteria used to determine whether a person was religious or not was either a verbal expression of religious conviction or regular attendance at church services and regular prayer.


Until the time of World War I Bulgarian society was frequently characterized as familistic, that is, personal interests and prerogatives of an individual were subordinated to the values and demands of the family. The family was the focal unit in society; it was the chief training ground for the young and played the leading part in molding the individual into the accepted pattern. The family was the center of economic life also, particularly for the peasants, who lived relatively self-sufficient lives. Relations with other social units and institutions were carried out through the family rather than by the individual. An individual had no standing in society apart from that of his family, and individual behavior and prestige reflected on the family as a whole. Individualism, therefore, was discouraged by constant pressure from the family to conform to custom and tradition.

The traditional family was patriarchal and strongly authoritarian. It reflected many features characteristic of the zadruga, the extended family that formed the basis of social organization of the South Slavs, including the Bulgarians, until its gradual decline in the late nineteenth century. A zadruga consisted of the male offspring of the same parents and perhaps grandparents, with their wives and children, [Pg 68]living together and jointly owning and working the ancestral lands. The group was ruled by the elected head, usually the oldest and most capable male, who was responsible for directing the work, for settling disputes, and generally for providing for the well-being of the zadruga as a whole and for each of its members.

By law and by custom, even after the passing of the zadruga as a social institution, authority over all matters concerning the family rested with the father. In the village married sons with their wives and children and unmarried children all tended to live under the father's roof until his death, at which time the oldest son took over the family homestead, and the others built their own houses nearby. The authority of the patriarch rested, in no small measure, on his ownership and control of the means of livelihood of the family. Sons submitted to their father's will in order to inherit their fair shares of the patrimony.

Close family relations were maintained not only with blood relatives but with relatives by marriage and with godparents. The bond between two families also related by marriage was as close, formally, as the bond with blood relatives; it included not only the parents of the married couple but also the brothers and sisters. For that reason parents took great interest in their children's choice of mates. Similarly, the bond between godparents and the family of the godchild was considered as close as that of blood kin. The strong relationship between the two families was developed partly because the same family usually provided the godparents for another family for generations. Reciprocity of godparenthood, however, was not allowed because a family tie was established with the first christening. Members of families who were related through godparenthood or through marriage could not marry because that would have been tantamount to incest.

Age and sex determined the individual's role within the family and his relations with other members. Men occupied a superior position, and women were expected to show deference to their husbands and to older male relatives. A frequently cited image of Bulgaria at that time was the man riding a horse or donkey empty-handed while his wife walked behind carrying a heavy load. The position and influence of the wife, however, was far greater than this image implies. Few husbands made decisions or took action affecting the family without prior consultation with their wives.

Age was respected because it represented the accumulation of wisdom and experience. This greater wisdom and experience also gave the older members of the family authority over the younger ones. Children were highly valued as tokens of successful marriages and as economic assets, but they were not fussed over. Although they were expected to take their places as active members of the family at a relatively early age by performing light household tasks, running errands, and tending animals, they were also given considerable freedom to play. Until they [Pg 69]reached maturity, children were expected to do what they were told by their parents or by other adults without question.

This traditional family system provided for great stability. Each member knew his place in society and knew what was expected of him, and he generally felt secure and satisfied.

The gradual industrialization and urbanization that took place between the two world wars slowly introduced changes into the traditional family system—at first among the urban population and eventually among the peasantry. Most notable among the changes was the shift toward the nuclear family unit and the disappearance of the extended family household. This reduced the authority of the father over his adult children, who now formed an independent economic and social unit. It also gave greater freedom to young people in choosing their mates and, thereby, in their relations with each other. Within the nuclear family the relationship between husband and wife became a more egalitarian one. Relations between parents and children also became less authoritarian, although the father's relations to his children continued to be rather formal.

The changes in family life and in the role of the family in society that began to take place between the two world wars accelerated during World War II in keeping with the rapid rate of economic change. The greatest assault on the traditional system, however, came in the second half of the 1940s and early 1950s when the new communist government set out to revamp Bulgarian society. The already dying patriarchal system was dealt its final blow with the elimination of inheritance through nationalization of industry and commerce and collectivization of agriculture. After the patrimony had been eliminated, a major incentive for submission to the patriarch had disappeared.

Another factor that contributed to the end of the patriarchal family and to the end of parental authoritarianism was the government's appeal to youth's desire for independence. Young people are taught to believe that they are the foundation of the new Bulgaria and that their elders' traditional ways are outmoded and should be discarded. In this way a generation gap has been created, and youths wanting to escape parental influence can count on the state for support. Their escape has been facilitated through the expansion of educational facilities, the expansion of employment opportunities resulting from economic and bureaucratic expansion, and by the many youth organizations and youth activities—all of which enable young people to spend much time away from home and act independently of their parents.

The role of women, which had begun to change in the 1930s, was greatly altered under the influence of ideology and of economic realities. In social doctrine and law, women are considered equal to men and are continually urged to demand their rights in the home and in the community. They have also gained considerable independence of movement through the expanded employment opportunities available [Pg 70]to them in a developing economy. In 1968, 80 percent of employable women worked outside the home. A large percentage of them worked because of the necessity to supplement the family income rather than through choice; nevertheless, the fact that they do work outside the home has altered the pattern of family life and the relationships of family members. Working mothers must leave their young children in state-operated nurseries or with relatives and thereby relinquish much of their influence in molding the children into adults. Evidence indicates that few mothers like to leave young children in nurseries, preferring to leave them in the care of trusted relatives or friends. Fathers appear to be playing a greater role in the raising of children than they did in the traditional family.

Housekeeping is still considered to be entirely or predominantly the responsibility of women, whether they work or not. The working woman spends much time every day after work standing in line at food markets and other stores, buying the daily necessities. Household appliances and convenience foods are scarce luxuries; therefore, housekeeping is a time-consuming and tiring activity. Even peasant women must take care of their households and children after putting in the required hours in cooperative labor, whereas formerly they could fit their field work in and around their other responsibilities.

As a consequence of these changes, the traditional roles of family members have been altered. The dominance of the head of the family has given way to a greater distribution of decisionmaking and a greater independence on the part of other family members. As family members spend less time together, the emphasis in daily life is shifted from the family to the outside world. Persons come to be looked at more as individuals than as members of a certain family. Individuality and personal achievement become as important as family background in determining the status of an individual and his nuclear family. Similarly, individual action or personal status no longer reflects on the larger family.

In the eyes of the state, marriage is a secular matter governed by civil law. Religious ceremonies are permitted but must be preceded by a civil marriage. The minimum age for marriage without parental consent or special permission from the local authorities is eighteen for both men and women. The urban marriage rate in the 1960s was considerably higher than the rural one, reflecting the higher percentage of young people living in urban centers. Men generally marry between twenty and thirty years of age, and women, between fifteen and twenty-five. The law assigns equal rights and obligations to both partners in a marriage. Divorce is relatively easy to obtain and no longer carries the social stigma of former times; the divorce rate in the early 1970s was average for Eastern Europe.

Despite changing patterns of family life, most observers find that the cohesive force of the extended family continues to be a factor in [Pg 71]contemporary society. In many cases the cohesiveness is perpetuated or even strengthened by modern phenomena, such as the chronic housing shortage and the need for grandparents or other relatives to care for the children of working mothers. The housing shortage has revived the traditional system of several generations of a family sharing the same roof. The pressures of change and the burdens of daily life hold families together, and the traditional sense of family loyalty also seems to survive. Members of such extended families assist each other in finding employment, in gaining admission to special schools, or in obtaining scarce items of food or clothing.


Before World War II Bulgaria had a basically egalitarian peasant society with a simple social structure. A rural-urban division was more significant than class distinctions, which were just beginning to emerge. The Bulgarian nobility of the Middle Ages had been destroyed under Turkish rule and was not restored with the return to monarchy; the small middle class of merchants, industrialists, bureaucrats, and professionals had come into existence since independence in 1878 and lacked tradition; an urban working class was just emerging. Few Bulgarians were more than one or two generations removed from their peasant ancestors, which gave most people a common background.

The rural-urban differentiation was socially significant in that it formed what amounted to two social systems with differing values, controls, and institutions. The rural society focused on the family and the community; its outlook was parochial. The urban society focused on commerce, industry, and government; its outlook was national and often international, and it was subject to continuous influences from abroad. The two systems, however, were closely interrelated because most urban dwellers had their roots in the village and because both the economy and the government depended heavily on the peasant as a supporter and as a client.

The narrower focus of rural society provided few opportunities for choice, and custom over the years set a pattern that was accepted as a matter of course. Social standing depended to a large extent on how well an individual performed within the established pattern, and the gradations were very slight. The wider focus of urban society, on the other hand, offered far greater opportunity for choice and freedom of action. This made for greater differentiation between individuals than was possible in the village.

The greater freedom and the opportunity for economic and social advancement offered by the urban society were most noticeable in the social contrast between the urban worker and his peasant relatives. Although most workers had a very low standard of living, they considered themselves emancipated from the restrictions of rural society and, therefore, better off. When they returned to the village to visit [Pg 72]relatives, they were looked up to as persons who had enlarged their horizons and bettered their lot in life.

The social contrast between the educated urban intelligentsia—white-collar workers and professionals with a secondary or a higher education—and the peasant was even greater. Some members of the intelligentsia maintained a romanticized attachment to their village origins, but most of them tried to build up their own status by disparaging the rural population. Even the village schoolteacher and rural physician were seen as unsophisticated country bumpkins, although they had the same education as their city counterparts.

The urban intelligentsia saw itself and was seen by others as the top group in society, just below the royal family, which occupied the apex of the social pyramid. The top level of the intelligentsia, that is, the leaders in the political, economic, and cultural spheres, became a small entourage surrounding the king and thereby gained additional prestige and power. The economic position of most of the intelligentsia, however, was very precarious because there was an oversupply of graduates for whom government employment was virtually the only outlet. Those who had an official position held on to it against all odds. Others, who could not find employment appropriate to their presumed qualifications, sat around cafés waiting for openings rather than returning to their home villages to put their education to use there.

The peasant, for his part, was distrustful of the city and of city ways. He did not feel inferior—even to the intelligentsia whose education he greatly admired. The peasant took pride in his land, in his self-sufficiency, and in his adherence to custom and tradition. He was conscious of belonging to the large mass of peasantry that shared his point of view, his way of life, and his strong sense of tradition. Differences in wealth and economic independence were recognized among peasant families but did not affect their relationships, which were basically egalitarian.

The village, town, and city in pre-World War II Bulgaria each had its somewhat different social structure. Village structure distinguished between peasants, artisans, and intelligentsia. Innkeepers and storekeepers were sometimes identified with the artisans but more frequently with the peasants because they were usually peasants who had sold their land to engage in commerce. Artisans, on the other hand, underwent special training to prepare them for their calling. These special skills and the fact that artisans did not have to toil long hours in the sun or rain put them in a higher social category than peasants. The elite group was the village intelligentsia—the teacher, doctor, priest, mayor, and other officials who had more than an elementary education. Their prestige derived from their education, and their power derived from their positions. Through their ties to the wider world, the village intelligentsia bridged the gap between rural and urban societies.

The social structure of towns distinguished between artisans, merchants, and intelligentsia. In the preindustrial Bulgaria of the 1930s, [Pg 73]the artisans and peasants together formed the backbone of the economy. The guild system of progression from apprentice to masterworkman still prevailed and fostered social distinctions among the artisan group. Merchants occupied a higher rung on the social ladder than did artisans, primarily because they did no manual work to earn a living. The distinction, however, was not great, and members of the two groups generally associated with each other. The elite group in town, as in the village, was the intelligentsia. Because towns were usually government administrative centers and, often, garrison posts, the intelligentsia was often quite numerous. It included all the white-collar workers, professionals, and army officers. The town intelligentsia was a self-contained group whose members mostly associated only with each other. Within the group, however, distinction was made on the basis of education and rank in the government hierarchy.

The city social structure resembled that of the towns but had additional strata reflecting the wider range of economic activity found in the city. The most economically and socially disadvantaged were the workers, including industrial and domestic workers. Just above them were petty government employees, such as janitors, messengers, and railroad men, whose standard of living was extremely low but who could look forward to a secure old age with a government pension and who took pride in being civil servants. Above these lowest groups were the artisans, shopkeepers and merchants, and the intelligentsia, as in the social structure of towns. A few industrialists ranked among the highest because of their economic power, but even they paid respect to university professors for their intellect and to higher government officials for the status and power connected with their offices.

When the Communists took power in 1944 they set out to destroy the old social system and replace it with one based on Marxist-Leninist ideology. The period of so-called socialist reconstruction that followed resulted in a general leveling of social strata through the demotion of formerly privileged groups and the promotion of formerly underprivileged groups. Persons of peasant or worker origin received preferential treatment in the allocation of housing and of other necessities of life that were in short supply, in the appointment to jobs, and in access to higher education. At the same time persons of middle-class or upper class background were deprived of their housing, removed from key jobs, and denied educational opportunities for their children through a discriminatory quota system at secondary and higher schools. A policy of equalization of incomes made little distinction between different levels of education or skill, thus eliminating material rewards as a basis for social stratification. The small political and economic elite that had developed from the peasant society before 1944 was decimated and replaced by a group of party stalwarts, most of them from lower class or middle-class background, who rose rapidly to the top positions of administrative and political power and became the new ruling elite. [Pg 74]Membership in the Bulgarian Communist Party and complete loyalty to the leadership were the main criteria for occupying any position of responsibility.

The peasants appreciated some of the material benefits granted by the new government, such as educational opportunities for their children and expanded industrial employment that offered new outlets for underemployed rural youth. As a whole, however, the peasantry bitterly resented being grouped with workers in the ideological frame of reference of the new leaders. To the peasant, landless workers who lacked tradition and security occupied a lower social position than he, and he saw this grouping together as a debasement of his own status. The blow to his pride and to his traditional position in society was complete when collectivization deprived him of his precious land. Were it not for the private farm plot, which allows the peasant to continue on a very small scale his cherished way of life and thereby perpetuate his values, the cooperative peasant would be little more than an agricultural worker.

In the restructured Bulgarian society the peasantry, encompassing roughly 30 percent of the population, forms the bottom of the social pyramid. Although it derives some benefits from the educational, health, and welfare services instituted by the government, the peasantry is the forgotten and most disadvantaged segment of the population. Peasants continue to work hard and long for very meager rewards, and they no longer have the pride and satisfaction of owning their own land and of being independent.

The next social stratum, the industrial working class, has been the object of much glorification by the regime and has benefited most by the social measures passed since 1944. In terms of their standard of living and their social status, workers occupy the lowest level of urban society; however, the educational benefits available to them and the growing job market offer prospects for betterment and advancement. The group has grown more rapidly than any other social class as a result of the crash industrialization program and constitute between 40 and 50 percent of the population, as compared to about 29 percent in the mid-1950s. Most members of the working class are peasants who have left the village to find a better life in the growing cities and towns. Some workers are members of the former middle or upper classes who have been demoted by the new social order. Many members of the small prewar working class were propelled upward out of the working class into managerial and administrative positions of industry.

Within the working class differentiation is made according to education and skill, which is reflected in income and prestige. Skilled workers are still in relatively short supply; therefore, they command considerably higher wages and are likely to receive special housing and other privileges and inducements from employers. The higher [Pg 75]standard of living that these material advantages can provide and the higher level of education required to be skilled workers enhance their prestige in relation to the semiskilled and unskilled workers. Workers in certain industries, such as mining and heavy industry, are favored regardless of their level of skill. They benefit from the special status assigned to these industries in the overall economic plan.

The middle level of contemporary society encompasses all persons in nonmanual occupations who are not members of the ruling elite. It includes administrators, managers, professionals, technicians, and all categories of white-collar personnel. Next to the working class, this has been the fastest growing social group. As a result, most of its members are relatively young, and their social origins represent the entire spectrum of precommunist society. Within the middle class further differentiation is made in terms of income and prestige between persons in the upper levels of management and the professions, who have a higher education and those in the lower levels of technical and white-collar employment, who have only a secondary education. The group as a whole probably constitutes almost 20 percent of the population. The relative size of the upper and lower levels was not known, although the lower level was probably larger.

At the top of the social pyramid is the small ruling elite composed of the top leadership of the party, government, security forces, mass organizations, and the various branches of the economy. The ruling elite also includes members of the cultural and intellectual elite who, by virtue of their political loyalty and willingness to serve the regime, share in the privileges usually reserved to the top leadership. By lending their talents to the party cause, however, these individuals often lose some of the prestige and deference traditionally enjoyed by the intellectual elite. The main criterion for membership in the ruling elite is power derived from approved ideological orientation and political manipulation. Most members come from peasant or worker families and are veterans of the communist movement of the interwar period. Membership in the ruling elite is accompanied by considerable insecurity because it is highly dependent on political loyalty and correct interpretation of ideology. A change in official policy can deprive a member of his status and of all his privileges.

Since the end of World War II, Bulgarian society has been extremely mobile. Industrialization and socialization of the economy have created thousands of new blue- and white-collar jobs. The attendant increase in educational opportunities has made it possible for individuals to gain the skill and background required to fill these jobs and, thereby, move up the social ladder. This mobility has been aided by the government's determined effort to reshuffle society by improving the social status and opportunities of the formerly underprivileged groups and by denying them to the formerly privileged ones. Because education has traditionally been the main determinant of status, social mobility [Pg 76]has been directed by the state through strict control over educational opportunities. Preference in admission to higher education has been given to children of peasants and workers, children of long-standing party members and children of persons killed in the resistance against the Germans in World War II (see ch. 6). The political orientation of the student himself and his membership in mass organizations such as the youth union are also important factors in determining his admission to an institution of higher learning.

In the late 1960s there was some evidence that social mobility was slowing down and that the society was beginning to stabilize into self-perpetuating social groups. With the slowing of economic growth the number of job openings in the higher levels has been reduced, and the intelligentsia can satisfy from its own ranks most of the demand for professional and managerial personnel. The social mix of students in higher education in the late 1960s was far from representative of the population as a whole—only about 39 percent of the students were from peasant or worker families, although these groups constituted about 78 percent of the population. In spite of all their admission advantages, children of lower income families have not been able to compete effectively with those of higher income background. Given education as a main channel of mobility, disadvantage in educational opportunities means lower possibility for social advancement. Political loyalty, however, can still override all other considerations and propel a person up the social ladder. Membership in the party, therefore, continues to afford considerable advantage.


Bulgarians are not by nature joiners. Formal organizations were of little significance in national life before the 1940s. Although a wide variety of groups existed, mostly in the towns and cities, membership was generally small and was based on strictly utilitarian considerations. Individuals joined to derive the benefits provided by the organization, such as easy credit, professional standing, use of libraries and other cultural facilities, or use of sports facilities. Few members were actively involved in the operation or the activities of the organizations to which they belonged.

Banding together for a common purpose, however, was far from alien to Bulgarian culture; but social organizations and informal groupings that emerged from such banding together usually were based on kinship or on close personal ties. The most important formal traditional organization was the zadruga (see The Family, this ch.). In a less formal vein, wool-cording and spinning bees were important features of rural social life before collectivization. In fact, many agricultural activities, such as hoeing and harvesting, were undertaken by groups of friends and relatives who joined together to take turns working on each other's land. This joining together for the [Pg 77]accomplishment of necessary tasks served an important social, as well as economic, function. While working together in such groups, individuals exchanged ideas, passed on information and, thereby, either reinforced each other's traditional values and mores or helped develop new ones.

The cooperative farm of contemporary Bulgaria tries to derive the same economic advantages from cooperation as did the traditional work groups. The traditional groups, however, were based on a voluntary joining together of friends and relatives, whereas the grouping on the cooperative farm is forced and impersonal. The spirit of reciprocity, which was so important in the former work groups, has also been lost on the cooperative farm, where the peasant works land that, in his eyes, does not belong to him but to an impersonal entity.

In keeping with communist practice, the government and the Bulgarian Communist Party have introduced a network of mass organizations designed to serve specific interest groups. Most prominent among them are the trade unions, the youth organizations, the women's organizations, and other member organizations of the Fatherland Front (see ch. 9). Some, such as sports clubs, discussion groups, and cultural clubs of various kinds, are organized on community or enterprise bases. Intended to cater to specific interests of individuals, these groups attempt to attract a large percentage of the population into formal organizations that can be used to promote desired norms and values or undertake specific activities. Major emphasis is placed on collectivism, that is, working together as a group rather than as individuals. Structurally, the organizations are usually divided into small groups that are intended to act as focal social units. These units engage the attention and loyalty of an individual and then act on his behalf in relation to other social units or larger institutions, much as the family did in traditional Bulgarian society. The political purpose of the mass organizations, however, makes them unattractive to most Bulgarians who have never had much interest in organizational activities. As a result, membership in most has been far below desired levels. As was the case with earlier organizations, Bulgarians join them in order to derive the benefits that they afford. Membership in a youth organization or in a trade union, for instance, is often required to gain admission to a school or to obtain a job.

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After a period of austerity during which the population's needs were neglected in favor of rapid industrialization, the standard of living of Bulgarians began to improve in the early 1960s as more goods and services became available. The physical well-being of most of the population has been improving steadily since the end of World War II. Morbidity has declined noticeably, and declines in the overall death rate and in the infant mortality rate have resulted in increased life expectancy. Electricity and water supplies have become available even in remote rural areas. In comparison with other Eastern European countries, however, and particularly in comparison with Western Europe, the standard of living in Bulgaria in 1973 was low.

Increasing exposure to living conditions in the rest of Europe and growing incomes of most Bulgarians created pressures to improve their own quality of life. In December 1972 the country's leadership proposed an extensive program for improving the standard of living and satisfying the rising expectations of the population over the next ten years (see ch. 12). An important element of the program is the elimination of the continuing disparity in living conditions of the rural and urban populations.

In keeping with the socialist ideology of the state, the population is entitled to free health care and an extensive system of social benefits. Although these have greatly benefited the population in terms of their physical and material well-being, their bureaucratic and inefficient administration has been a source of considerable frustration and dissatisfaction.


Death and Morbidity

Life expectancy at birth in the late 1960s was about sixty-nine years for males and seventy-three for females. This was a 35-percent increase over pre-World War II figures. Although Bulgarians have had a reputation for longevity, which has been attributed to their diet, a high infant mortality rate and a high incidence of morbidity had combined until the mid-1950s to keep the life expectancy relatively low. Those who survived to middle age tended to become octogenarians or older; but they were in a minority. Proportionately, however, there were [Pg 80]more older people in Bulgaria than in most other countries in the world.

The increase in life expectancy since World War II has been brought about by a drop in the death rate from 12.2 per 1,000 in 1939 to seven per 1,000 in 1970 for the urban population and from 13.7 per 1,000 in 1939 to 11.4 per 1,000 in 1970 for the rural population. During the same period, infant mortality dropped from 139 per 1,000 live births to twenty-seven per 1,000 live births. In the late 1960s the incidence of infant mortality was 39 percent higher among rural infants than among urban ones. More than one-half of the deaths of children under one year of age were the result of pneumonia. The second major cause of infant mortality was birth trauma, despite the fact that 98 percent of the births took place in a public health facility under medical supervision.

The three major causes of death in 1970 were diseases of the heart and circulatory system, which accounted for 252 per 1,000 deaths; cerebrovascular diseases, which accounted for 206 per 1,000 deaths; and cancer, which accounted for 146 per 1,000 deaths. A program of systematic treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, which were once widespread, has either brought them under control or eradicated them completely. The law requires that all cases of contagious diseases be registered with the public health service. In 1971 the greatest incidence was reported for influenza, mumps, chicken pox, dysentery, infectious hepatitis, and measles.

The Public Health Service

The public health service, modeled after that of the Soviet Union, is based on the premise that the state has the responsibility to provide free health care for the population and that such care should be uniform and readily available. The health service is financed by the state, supervised by the Ministry of Public Health, and administered by the public health departments of the district people's councils. Free health care is available to all citizens; medicine required for outpatient treatment, however, must be paid for by the patient.

The cornerstone of the health service is the polyclinic, which provides general and specialized outpatient aid and consultation. Polyclinics may be attached to a hospital or may be independent units serving a designated geographic area. A separate network of polyclinics is attached to industrial mining, transport, and construction enterprises to serve their workers. Each polyclinic is divided into departments for the various specialties in medicine, and each department is staffed by one or more doctors and auxiliary personnel. Not all polyclinics, however, have departments for all the major fields of medicine; many have only sections for internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and surgery. Patients needing consultation or treatment by other specialists are referred to the nearest hospital.

The health care provided by the polyclinic was under serious attack [Pg 81]in the early 1970s both from the doctors who work there and from the patients. The main problem seemed to be overburdening and inefficiency imposed by the system of health care. One polyclinic in Sofia, for example, was responsible for the health care of 70,000 inhabitants of its area. Its physicians gave routine examinations to prospective students and job applicants, certified the legitimacy of claims for sick leave, and diagnosed and treated all complaints from the common cold to the most serious illness. During four hours each day, patients were seen on a first-come-first-served basis, except in emergencies. Waiting rooms were jammed, and people often waited for hours without seeing a doctor because the allotted time for office consultations had expired before their turn came.

Studies have indicated that one physician sees an average of thirty to forty patients in the four-hour period of office consultations, and then one-half again as many in a three-hour period of house calls, which often cover a wide geographic area. The average consultation between doctor and patient is six minutes, a time much too short for proper diagnosis. The result has been frequently wrong diagnosis and wrong or inadequate treatment.

A survey of polyclinic physicians conducted in 1970 revealed that over 50 percent of those surveyed considered the outpatient treatment provided by the polyclinic to be ineffective. They blamed poor organization and procedure in handling patients' needs, which resulted in the inefficient use of physicians' time, overloading of physicians, and shortage of drugs and equipment needed for complex treatment. More than two-thirds of the physicians questioned indicated that they would prefer to practice at a hospital or other medical unit and that they planned to leave the polyclinic as soon as another opportunity was available. The physicians recommended that their work schedule and method of handling patients be revised to make the system more efficient; that social workers be assigned to polyclinics to handle some of the patients' social problems that aggravated their medical problems; that polyclinic doctors be given more specialized training in rapid diagnosis and other skills required by them and not by hospital physicians; and that the remuneration of polyclinic physicians be brought in line with their arduous assignment.

The patient's response to the inadequacy and inefficiency of polyclinic health care has been to seek out a physician with a private practice and pay the necessary fee. Approximately one-fourth of the polyclinic physicians have a private practice during nonduty hours, as do almost all specialists. By consulting a private physician rather than the free polyclinic, the patient can choose his own doctor and establish a personal relationship with him, hoping to develop confidence and receive more effective treatment.

The outpatient work of the polyclinics is supplemented by a network of special dispensaries that provide long-term care for persons [Pg 82]suffering from tuberculosis, venereal disease, tumors and psychoneurotic disturbances. The sixty-one dispensaries in 1971 also had a total of 3,670 beds for inpatient care.

A network of hospitals provides inpatient treatment and specialized diagnostic and clinical facilities. All hospitals are also teaching centers for physicians, nurses, and auxiliary medical personnel. In 1971 there were 195 hospitals throughout the country, at least one in each district. Certain districts, however, were inadequately equipped with hospital facilities. The total number of beds was 57,053, or 7.6 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. One hundred and fifty-four of the hospitals, with a total of 47,839 beds, were general hospitals. There were also fifteen special tuberculosis hospitals and fifteen psychoneurological hospitals with a total of slightly over 3,000 beds in each category; five pediatric hospitals with a total of 480 beds; four obstetric and gynecological hospitals with a total of 740 beds; one hospital for infectious diseases; and one for orthopedic and plastic surgery. In addition to these district-supported hospitals, the central government operated six hospitals with a total bed capacity of 1,036 in connection with the special medical research institutes. Extended care and physical therapy for patients suffering from chronic ailments were offered by 182 sanatoriums and health spas with a total bed capacity of 16,104.

The Sixth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) envisages increasing the number of hospital beds to 8.4 per 1,000 inhabitants and focusing on those areas of the country that are underserved. An increase in operating funds for the hospitals is to be channeled mostly into improving plant and equipment. Although most hospitals suffer from poor or outmoded plant and equipment, they also suffer seriously from a shortage of staff, particularly of nurses and auxiliary medical personnel. The plan states specifically that alleviation of that shortage will have to be delayed.

In 1971 the country had a total of 16,183 physicians, 1.9 for every 1,000 inhabitants. The number of physicians had more than doubled in the twenty years since 1952; most of them, therefore, were between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five. The number of other medical personnel had expanded along the same lines. In 1971 there were 2,464 pharmacists; 26,381 nurses; 6,016 midwives; and 5,012 feldshers. Feldshers are paramedics trained to perform a variety of medical functions, including simple surgery, in the absence of a fully qualified physician. Many rural health centers are in the charge of feldshers and receive periodic visits from specialized physicians.

Physicians and auxiliary medical personnel are all employed by the state in the national health service. They are classed as nonproductive workers, therefore their salary scales are lower than those for productive workers. This has been causing a great deal of dissatisfaction and is the principal reason for the serious shortage of medical personnel. One Bulgarian newspaper in 1971 reported the case of a hospital administrator trying to recruit women streetcleaners to fill the many [Pg 83]vacancies for nurses and aides in the hospital. The streetcleaners refused because their wages and working conditions were better than those for the more highly skilled positions in the hospital.


Cost of Living

Incomes and retail prices are controlled by the government and set in accordance with the overall economic plan. The cost of living, therefore, is also controlled and has been relatively stable. Several increases in the minimum wage during the 1960s were paralleled by price increases for some of the essential commodities and services. In 1973 the minimum monthly wage was raised to 80 leva per month (for value of the lev—see Glossary), and basic wages for the lowest categories of workers and employees were also raised to bring them into line with wages in comparable kinds of work. At the same time, prices of certain foods were reduced, whereas prices of some other essential goods were raised.

Although the incomes of most Bulgarians have generally kept pace with the rise in the cost of living, a chronic scarcity of consumer goods and services and periodic food shortages have forced a comparatively low standard of living on the population. As in other communist countries, the consumer industry has been neglected in favor of other branches of the economy. Even after the government began to place greater emphasis on the production of consumer goods in the 1960s, rising demand outstripped production capabilities. Even the basic needs of the population often could not be met because of poor planning or the inflexibility of the central planning system, which does not react effectively to changing market conditions. It is not uncommon to have excessive inventories of certain sizes of clothing or footwear while other sizes are in short supply. Retail outlets are either unwilling or unable to replenish their supplies of missing sizes until the overall stock of the item is almost depleted, regardless of consumer demand.

The government has for some time indicated concern over the low standard of living in Bulgaria as compared with other Eastern European countries. One of the aims of the Sixth Five-Year Plan is to increase production of consumer goods and meet the needs and rising demands of the population. Limited production capacity, however, and shortages of certain raw materials will seriously restrict the extent of possible improvements.

In December 1972 the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party held a special plenum on improving the standard of living of the people. This unprecedented move showed the importance that the leadership was attaching to this subject. In an extensive report to the plenum, party chief Todor Zhivkov presented a far-reaching program [Pg 84]of steps to be taken, starting in 1973, to improve the standard of living. To implement the decisions of the plenum over the long run, the Commission on the Living Standard was established under prominent Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary) leadership.

As envisaged by the plenum, the standard of living will be raised by pursuing a three-pronged policy: gradually increasing wages; keeping prices stable; and making available an adequate supply of consumer goods and services, including luxury goods and services to satisfy the demand of those who are willing to pay the higher price. In the past, luxury goods and services have been considered superfluous and undesirable in an egalitarian socialist country. Higher incomes and exposure to the living standards in other Eastern European and Western European countries, however, have created pressure for more than just the satisfaction of basic needs. According to some government officials, Bulgarians are no longer satisfied with just any washing machine or electric appliance; they want the latest automatic model and are willing to pay for it.

In the program for increasing wages, special attention will be paid to narrowing the gap between incomes of cooperative peasants and those of workers. In the mid-1950s a cooperative peasant's income was only 60 percent of a worker's income. By 1971 the peasant's income had increased to 85 percent of that of a worker, but this amount was still considered too low by the government. To accelerate the growth of peasants' incomes, a nontaxable minimum income was to be introduced in 1973, and the same system of income tax was to cover both peasants and workers. The system of remuneration on cooperative farms was to be made the same as that on state farms, where agricultural workers are classed as workers, not as farmers. Fringe benefits, such as pensions and supplements for children, were also to be brought into line with those of workers by 1975.


According to official figures, consumption has grown steadily since the early 1960s, in spite of continued shortages of some goods. As incomes rose and consumer goods and services became more readily available, a greater percentage of household budgets was being spent on them. All segments of the population spent a greater share of their income in 1971 on household equipment and on cultural and educational pursuits, which included such durable goods as household appliances and radios and television sets, than they did in 1962. Changes in proportionate expenditures for other nonessentials during the 1960s reflected the income differences and taste preferences of the different social categories as well as their rural or urban residence.

The largest share of consumer expenditures in 1971 went for food, ranging from 42.5 percent of total expenditures for peasants to 38.8 [Pg 85]percent of total expenditures for white-collar workers (see table 3). In calculating expenditures for food, the value of food production for personal consumption was included. The relative share of expenditures on food has been dropping since 1962. At the same time, the quality of the diet for all population groups has improved.

Table 3. Bulgaria, Percentage Distribution of Household Expenditures by Population Group,
1962 and 1971

  Blue Collar White Collar Co-op Farm Member
Item 1962 1971 1962 1971 1962 1971
Food   46.0   42.3   44.6   38.8   46.3   42.5
Alcoholic beverages     2.9     3.4     2.1     2.1     6.3     5.1
Tobacco     2.3     1.7     1.9     1.5     1.3     1.3
Clothing   13.6   11.4   14.7   11.3   13.6   10.3
Housing     9.9     8.7     7.9   11.4     9.6     8.8
Household furnishings     3.5     5.3     4.0     5.3     4.0     5.0
Culture and            
    entertainment     4.3     5.3     6.0     7.8     2.8     5.4
Health and hygiene     1.2     1.8     1.6     2.3     1.0     1.7
Communication and            
    transportation     2.7     2.8     3.3     3.4     1.5     1.7
Taxes and fees     5.4     6.2     6.2     7.0     1.3     2.0
Other     8.2   11.1     7.7     9.1   12.3   16.2
    TOTAL 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Source: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook, 1972, Sofia, 1972, p. 412.

Relative expenditures on clothing were roughly the same for all population groups, although peasants spent a somewhat smaller proportion of their budget than families influenced by urban life-styles. The share of the budget spent on clothing has dropped since 1962.

The relative share of expenditures for housing went down between 1962 and 1971 for the two lower income groups, who spent almost the same proportion of their budget for that purpose. The higher income white-collar group, however, spent over 3 percent more on housing in 1971 than it did in 1962. This group has been investing in its own private housing rather than living in state- or industry-supplied housing. Expenditures for household furnishings and equipment were approximately the same for all segments of the population in 1971. They occupied a greater share of the household budget than in 1962, particularly among blue-collar workers.

In addition to devoting a considerably higher portion of their budget to housing than other social groups, white-collar workers also devote more of their budget to culture and entertainment and to health and hygiene. This is clearly a reflection of more sophisticated tastes and a higher standard of living. The life-style of this group includes regular attendance at the theater, operas, and concerts; the purchase of [Pg 86]books and records; and a higher education for their children. This, also, is the group that prefers to consult a private physician, who sets his own rates, rather than to use the free public clinic.

Relative expenditures for communication and transportation services have remained stable over the years. They vary by population group, consuming a greater portion of the budget as one rises on the social ladder. The proportionately higher expenditures of blue- and white-collar workers are probably due to the expense of commuting to and from a job. The even higher share of such expenditures in the budgets of white-collar workers is attributable to private telephones and travel.

The greatest variation in consumption patterns between the different population groups is evident in the proportion of expenditures devoted to other than the enumerated categories. Although there is no indication in the statistical material as to what kind of expenditures are included, this entry must certainly include expenses incurred in the cultivation of private plots and the raising of animals in the private sector for domestic consumption and expenses incurred in providing private services. Therefore, these expenditures take a high share of the total expenditures of peasants and workers.

Despite expanding consumption, neither the government nor the population is satisfied with the supply and quality of the goods and services available. Some items, such as meat, housewares, furniture, building materials, and various kinds of clothing and knitwear, are in chronic short supply. Other items, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, are subject to periodic shortages. In addition, the quality and selection of many goods do not meet the desired levels. An official document published in 1972 decried the common practice of producing high-quality goods for export and lower quality goods for the domestic market. The same document also called for changing export priorities so that the domestic needs could be met before scarce goods were exported.

Another factor limiting the satisfaction of demands for goods and services has been the small size and inefficiency of the domestic trade network and of the service industry. Retail outlets are state owned and have received very low priority in the allocation of funds. As a result, they are too few in number and are seriously understaffed, making shopping a time-consuming and frustrating activity. Stores are reluctant to stock new styles in response to consumer demands until their old stocks have been almost completely depleted. High-quality and specialty items are usually available only from private craftsmen at very high prices.

Private craftsmen and artisans provide virtually the only service network in the country. The service sector of the economy has been considered as nonessential and therefore has been neglected by the state (see ch. 12). In order to fill the gap thus created, the government [Pg 87]started in the mid-1960s to encourage private individuals to provide the needed services. Many of these people are regularly employed artisans and craftsmen in industry who provide specialized services during their spare time. Others are pensioners or unemployed. Because they are in great demand, they can set their own prices, and many are in the highest income groups. The government has attempted to keep their earnings under control through taxes and has restricted their activities by other administrative measures, but it has made no effort to eliminate their services.

In the report issued by the special plenum on living conditions held by the Central Committee in December 1972, a comparison was made of actual consumption in 1970, desired consumption levels during the next decade, and consumption standards developed by government scientific institutes. In most cases the actual levels were far below the standards (see table 4).

Table 4. Bulgaria, Actual and Desired Annual Consumption Levels

Item Measure Consumption Levels
Desired Scientific Norms*
1975 1980
Meat and meat products pounds per capita   91.3 121.3 165.4 176.4
Fish do   12.1   17.6   22.0   22.0
Milk and milk products do 335.4 432.2 551.3 573.3
Vegetable oils do   27.6   30.6   30.9   28.7
Flour and flour products do 376.1 401.3 330.7 221.0
Sugar do   72.5   81.6   79.4   70.6
Vegetables do 196.0 299.9 352.8 396.9
Fruits do 326.8 394.7 442.0 442.0
Eggs number per capita 122.0 159.0 250.0 265.0
Cotton fabrics feet per capita   72.8   81.0 108.2 118.0
Wool fabrics do   12.5   15.4   19.7   23.0
Shoes pairs per capita     1.7     2.1     3.0     4.0
Radio sets per 100 households 100.8 104.0 110.0 130.0
Television sets do   42.0   53.0   80.0 105.0
Telephones do     7.0     9.6   10.0   50.0
Washing machines do   50.0   50.0   60.0   70.0
Refrigerators do   29.0   59.0   90.0 100.0
Automobiles do     6.0   13.5   30.0   40.0
* As determined by research institutes of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Source: Adapted from U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Technical Services, Joint Publications Research Service—JPRS (Washington), Translations on Eastern Europe: Political, Sociological, and Military Affairs, "Statistics on Rising Living Standard Given," (JPRS 58,480, No. 851, 1973).


In common with other Eastern European countries, Bulgaria has suffered a serious urban housing shortage since World War II, [Pg 88]although large reserves have existed in rural housing. Great numbers of workers have left the villages over the years to find employment in the rapidly expanding industrial centers, but housing construction has not kept pace with this migration. During the early years of communist rule, priority in the allocation of scarce building materials and funds was given to the building of new plants and other industrial installations rather than to new housing. In the 1960s only between 3 and 6 percent of the gross national income was invested in housing construction as compared with 20 percent or more in most Western European countries. Bulgaria has had the lowest housing investment among the communist countries of Eastern Europe.

In 1970 the Politburo and the Council of Ministers adopted a special program for the solution of the housing problem within the next ten to fifteen years. The program stated that the aim of the BKP was to enable every family to have its own apartment, and every member of the family his own room. In 1972 there were some 250,000 more urban families than there were housing units.

Aggravating the housing shortage in the early 1970s was an accelerating deterioration of old buildings. Money and materials for maintenance of existing structures have been even scarcer than for new buildings. In addition, many of the postwar apartment buildings were put up hastily, using inferior materials and workmanship, and soon turned into crumbling slums.

In order to spur housing construction without imposing too great a burden on the state budget, the government was forced to abandon its intention of providing low-rent housing for everyone. Instead, it has encouraged the population to invest in its own housing. As a result, special savings accounts for the purchase of private housing have grown at a more rapid rate than regular savings accounts. During the 1968-70 period approximately one-third of the new housing units made available were financed entirely by state funds, another one-third were financed entirely by private funds, and the last one-third were financed by private funds with the aid of loans from state sources. State enterprises are instructed to grant their employees interest-free, fifteen-year mortgages for the purchase of an apartment or house. Up to 4,000 leva can be borrowed for this purpose in urban areas and up to 3,000 leva in rural areas. This, however, covers less than one-half of the cost of a two-room apartment.

Although the increasing reliance on tenant-financed housing is helping to reduce the overall housing shortage, it has meant that most new housing units are built for the higher income groups. Cooperative apartments and private houses require a substantial initial investment and the assumption of a mortgage, which are beyond the means of most blue-collar and low-income white-collar workers. These groups continue to rely on state-financed or industry-financed low-rent housing, which usually has long waiting lists of prospective tenants. [Pg 89]In order to free more of the low-rent housing for those who cannot pay for a private home, persons owning a second home or intending to build one are being asked to vacate their state-supplied housing.

In 1973 the per capita area of usable housing space was 124 square feet. New dwelling units constructed under the Sixth Five-Year Plan were to have an average of 857 square feet each; those constructed during the following Seventh Five-Year Plan (1976-80) will have an average of 911 square feet each. Inasmuch as possible, all new housing units constructed before 1975 will be equipped with running water, electricity, sewage disposal facilities, and central heat. After 1976 such amenities will be mandatory. In the mid-1960s, the latest date available, 30.7 percent of all housing units had running water, 94.7 percent had electricity, 32.7 percent had sewage disposal facilities, and 1.5 percent had central heat. The availability of these amenities in housing units varied a great deal among the different social groups of the population (see table 5).

Table 5. Bulgaria, Percentage of Housing Units Equipped with Various Amenities,
December 1965

  Running Water Electricity Sewage Disposal Facilities Central Heat
Households: 29.0 95.2 32.7 0.8
    Blue collar 29.0 95.2 32.7 0.8
    White collar 72.6 99.3 73.0 4.9
    Cooperative farm   6.5 91.6   7.2 0.0
    Cooperative artisan 37.1 98.4 40.2 0.2
    Other 54.0 96.5 56.7 2.9
ALL HOUSING 30.7 94.7 32.7 1.4
Source: Adapted from U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Technical Services, Joint Publications Research Service—JPRS (Washington), Translations on Eastern Europe: Political, Sociological, and Military Affairs, "Aspects of Standard of Living Analyzed," (JPRS 48,717, No. 126, 1969).


In addition to receiving free medical care, all citizens are entitled to a variety of social benefits, including sickness and disability pay, pensions, maternity benefits, and family allowances. Most of these are administered by the trade unions, but pensions are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance. They are financed by the central government and by contributions from the employers based on a percentage of gross salaries and wages paid.

All workers are entitled to paid sick leave after three months' service. In the case of accidents at work, there is no waiting period. Lump-sum compensation for temporary disablement because of an accident at work ranges in amount, depending on severity of injury [Pg 90]and length of service. During the period of disablement, the worker is entitled to benefits ranging from 30 to 100 percent of his wage, depending on the severity of the disablement and on his income. Prolonged or permanent disability entitles the worker to a pension.

Old-age pensions are based on the years of service and kind of work performed. The pensionable age is fifty-five for women and sixty for men, but earlier retirement is possible for certain categories of work. Pension payments range from 55 to 80 percent of wages based on a scale covering the last five years of employment or, in some cases, three out of the last five years. Higher rates are paid for work years past the usual retirement age. Pensions are payable to dependents after the death of the pensioner. Dependents also receive life insurance payments. Cooperative farm members are entitled to pensions after twenty years of work for women and twenty-five years of work for men provided they worked 100 to 135 days each year. In 1972 it was suggested that 200 to 250 days of work per year should be required for pensions in exchange for higher pension payments to cooperative farm members.

Pensions are collectible even if a person continues working. This system was criticized by Zhivkov in late 1972. He suggested that persons who continued to work after being eligible for a pension should be encouraged to do so without drawing a pension but should, instead, accumulate additional increments to their pension for each year worked.

In addition to old-age pensions there are pensions for special merit payable to persons who have made an exceptional contribution to national life and national pensions payable to fighters against fascism and capitalism. All minimum pension payments were increased in 1972.

Under new provisions announced in March 1973, employed women will be entitled to four months of fully paid maternity leave and six months of leave at minimum wages for the first child; five and seven months, respectively, for the second child; six and eight months for the third child; and four and six months for each subsequent child. Mothers who are students or who do not work for some valid reason will receive minimum wages for corresponding periods. Mothers of children under the age of ten are entitled to special annual leave. All mothers receive a cash payment at the birth of a child; the payments are sharply differentiated to encourage larger families. In early 1973 the payments were 20 leva for the first child, 200 leva for the second child, and 500 leva for the third child. It was planned, however to raise these payments to 100 leva, 250 leva, and 500 leva, respectively.

Another inducement for larger families is a system of monthly family allowance payments for children up to the age of sixteen or until they complete secondary school. Allowances are payable to all families regardless of whether or not the parents work. A variety of other social assistance benefits are available to indigents, persons [Pg 91]disabled from childhood, orphans, and the aged with no income.


In 1973 the country was in the process of shifting from a forty-six-hour, six-day workweek to a 42.5-hour, five-day workweek. The transition was being carried out district by district according to a set schedule. It was to be completed by 1975. Persons working in agriculture, education, and the health service, however, were to continue to work their forty-six hour workweek, except where the actual work involved was adaptable to a reduced workweek.

The reduction in working hours had been a much debated subject for several years. It was first promised by the government in 1968, but its implementation has been slow because it is predicated on the same level of productivity and output by each enterprise as before implementation. Pressure for reduced working hours has been strong because most Bulgarians have very little time for genuine leisure in their daily life.

The lack of time for genuine leisure is the result not only of long working hours but also of an inadequate trade and service network, a shortage of time-saving household equipment, and an excessive bureaucracy. All the daily chores, such as housekeeping, shopping, and attending to other personal or family matters, are time consuming and cumbersome. Studies have shown that all persons over the age of six devote an average of four hours out of every twenty-four to housework alone. The national leadership feels this is excessive and has proposed measures to develop the service sector.

The favorite leisure-time activity of young and old, urban and rural Bulgarians is to get together with friends for informal socializing. Men congregate at the neighborhood tavern or their favorite café to drink plum brandy or wine, play cards, and talk about the latest news. Women gather to gossip at each other's homes, at the village pump, or at the neighborhood playground or park. The evening promenade is an important diversion for all ages and social groups. Walking back and forth at some designated public thoroughfare in small groups of friends or relatives, people greet each other and exchange pleasantries.

Sports are a major form of recreation for young people. Soccer is the national sport, and the matches of major teams are followed with great interest. Hiking and picnic excursions are popular among city dwellers who like to get out into the country to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of nature. In towns and cities, the theater, operas, concerts, and other cultural activities are popular leisure-time diversions. The cinema is extremely popular in both town and village, although increasing television viewing has been reducing cinema audiences.

In addition to sports, young people spend much of their leisure time listening to popular music and also dancing. In fact, they are periodically reprimanded by the BKP leadership for spending too much of their time in leisure activities and not enough in socially useful work.

[Pg 92]

[Pg 93]



The educational system in Bulgaria, as in the Balkans generally, began to develop in a real sense only in the nineteenth century, principally because Bulgaria had been under Turkish rule for 500 years. As education was of little concern to the Turks and an educated Bulgarian population would only represent a threat to their regime, the advancement of a formal educational system was either openly repressed or neglected by the Turks. As a result, the literacy rate in Bulgaria was one of the lowest in Europe at the time of liberation in 1878. During the six decades between liberation and World War II, the educational system had made great progress in providing basic education to young people, but there remained a hard core of illiterates in the adult population. After the Communists took over in 1944, a massive drive in adult education virtually eliminated the problem of illiteracy within a decade.

The educational system under the Communists was essentially patterned on that of the Soviet Union, and the desire on the part of Bulgarian authorities to stay within that pattern brought about a general cautiousness as they restructured the system to make it coincide with the newly imposed ideology. Although educational reforms have been enacted with great frequency, they have often dealt with matters of form rather than of substance. The basic adherence to Soviet guidelines has remained intact throughout the years of communist rule.

As in most Eastern European countries, the major objectives of the Bulgarian educational system have been premised on both ideological issues and the demands of the national economy. One of the primary goals of the system—both stated and implicit—is the production of the ideal communist citizen who will work for the realization of "socialist construction" and the betterment of the socialist society. A second major premise of the system is that the demands of the economy must be met; this goal is to be achieved by educating skilled personnel to fill the specific needs of its various sectors. Because of the trend toward industrialization that obtains in all communist countries, a corollary policy is that the study of science and technology must be emphasized over the study of the humanities.

According to established principles, therefore, certain policies are carried out in the process of education. People of worker or peasant [Pg 94]origin, who the Communists perceive as having been deprived of their basic rights to an education in the past, are allowed to enter the higher levels of the educational system without the usual prerequisite examination if the necessary places are available. They generally represent between 30 and 40 percent of the total higher education population as compared with 80 percent of the population as a whole.

Certain communist principles form the backbone of the curriculum. Work is perceived to be an integral part of education as are directed extracurricular activities, and a sizable percentage of formal education is allotted for practical and vocational training. Religious education, which was a legacy from the past, has been dismissed as superstitious and archaic, and virtually all religious schools have been banned. The curriculum from the earliest years of schooling to the upper levels of higher education is filled with such courses as Marxism-Leninism, the history of the communist party of the Soviet Union, and the history of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary).

Under the many and varied educational reforms legislated under the Communists, the pendulum has swung between relative emphasis on science and technology on the one hand and the humanities on the other. Although overall emphasis has always been on the sciences, that emphasis has increased and decreased at various times since the communist takeover. Between 1944 and 1948, for example, there was little overall emphasis on technology in the curriculum. Between 1948 and 1967, however, these subjects were emphasized to a large degree. Beginning in 1967 some weight was again placed on the humanities. As of 1973 there had been some manifestation of rededication to technology and science, but the latest proposed reform regarding secondary education represented a desire on the part of the government to fuse general education—which of course includes the humanities—and specialized training into one system.

In mid-1973 problems inherent in the educational system of Bulgaria continued to exist. One of the most serious was the inadequacy of funds for education generally but particularly for higher education where the need was the greatest. Another problem was that of overcrowding. Although there was virtually no problem of teacher shortage, there were far too many students in proportion to the number of schools. A third problem lay in the area of foreign student exchange where relatively few foreign students studied in Bulgarian universities and institutes and few Bulgarian students were allowed to study abroad. Another problem on the higher educational level was the discrepancy between students' preference regarding their fields of specialization and government dictates in this area. Although many students at the university level were interested in the arts and social sciences, the government, feeling the weight of the economy's demands, very often preempted their choices and allocated many more places to the sciences than to the arts. The most serious problem, however, in terms of higher [Pg 95]education, was that owing to a shortage of places at the university level only 20 percent of the secondary students who applied for admission were accepted. This shortage of places in higher education, coupled with the fact that extremely few Bulgarian students were permitted to study abroad, meant that a large proportion of potential students capable of serious work were turned away from higher education altogether.


Until the late eighteenth century education made virtually no progress in the country. Although schools did exist during the period of Turkish rule, the Turks had no interest in furthering education among their subjects, except insofar as it would benefit themselves. From the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries education remained at a standstill. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Turks allowed the Greek Orthodox Church to become predominant among Christians in the area, and an intense hellenization campaign ensued with the seeming purpose of assimilating the Bulgarians as a people into the Greek society that surrounded them. The campaign, which was particularly virulent in the 1750s, was successful in the schools, and the Bulgarian language and customs were supplanted by those of the Greek.

By the late eighteenth century, however, a national revival grew in force, stimulated in large part by Father Paisi, a monk who wrote the first Bulgarian history, The Slav-Bulgarian History. This work and Father Paisi's teachings provided an incentive for the development of education in the country. From 1762 until liberation from Turkish rule in 1878, education made great strides. As the churches began to throw off the domination of the Greek Orthodox Church, more church schools staffed by monks and priests were established within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church framework.

Although the Greek educational system still predominated in the early part of the nineteenth century, complemented by a rising move toward the establishment of Bulgarian Orthodox Church schools, a movement toward secular education was initiated at this time. Secular subjects were introduced in the church schools, and communal schools were established. By 1834 the first primer in Bulgarian was written, based on a western European model, which established the basis for secondary education. In 1835 a wealthy merchant founded the first Bulgarian high school, and within the next ten years some fifty schools had been established.

At the time of liberation, however, over 90 percent of the population over school age was still illiterate. Only a small proportion—some 30 percent—of school-age children, those from seven to fourteen years of age, were actually attending schools. After the Turnovo Constitution (1879), however, which was enacted shortly after liberation, the [Pg 96]educational system was revitalized (see ch. 8). Elementary education was made both free and compulsory. The state, the monarchy, and private individuals contributed to the goal of making education as nearly universal as possible.

In 1879 the three-year compulsory elementary school was introduced. By 1880 the period of compulsory education had been extended to four years. In 1888 the University of Sofia was founded. The university initially had seven faculties: history and philosophy; physics and mathematics; law; medicine; agronomy; theology; and veterinary medicine.

In 1910 the school system, which covered a twelve-year period, consisted of a four-year elementary school for children aged seven to eleven, a three-year progymnasium for children from eleven to fourteen, and a five-year gymnasium for children from fourteen to eighteen. This system continued with only slight modification until the Communists took over in 1944. Also by 1910 both professional and vocational schools had been established providing a relatively high quality of education in such fields as agriculture, engineering, theology, commerce, art, and music. Although there were many students of higher education at the University of Sofia, about 10,000 students annually attended foreign universities, principally in Austria and Germany.

By the end of World War I, many villages that had more than twenty families had their own primary school. Larger settlements in more urban areas often had their own progymnasia and gymnasiums. In towns that had 20,000 or more citizens, there were kindergartens for children from three to seven years of age. Both religious and linguistic minorities had their own schools, which functioned within the public school system. Foreign schools coexisted with the public school system. Although the curricula of the foreign schools were similar to those of the public secondary schools, subjects were taught in western European languages, forming a link between Bulgaria and the West.

By 1921 a three-tiered system of education—consisting of the four-year elementary school, the three-year progymnasium, and the five-year gymnasium—became officially compulsory in the first two stages. Many children failed to attend school, however, and many villages, despite the official policy, were without school facilities. The entire educational system was controlled by the government through the Ministry of Public Education, which regulated the contents of texts and courses and the administration of exams. The model for the educational system was essentially European, with a particularly strong emphasis on German and Russian patterns.

In 1921 the Law of Public Instruction brought an increase in emphasis on vocational training. Orders were issued to bring about a transition to "vocational education and respect for labor." Eventually, schoolchildren were forced to spend two weeks of their studies in [Pg 97]"compulsory labor," a concept that was the precursor of the Bulgarian communist philosophy of the integration of work with education. During this period the students worked in such projects as cleaning school facilities, binding texts, and cultivating school gardens.

In 1934 a so-called modern school was established to give the student an alternative to the academically and socially elitist gymnasium, but there were still a number of deficiencies in the Bulgarian educational system. The literacy rate had greatly increased, but between 20 and 30 percent of the population was still illiterate. Although schooling was officially compulsory, it was in fact inaccessible in smaller villages, and many school-age children were not able to attend. Humanities were emphasized to the virtual exclusion of technical-vocational subjects, which were developed to only a very slight degree. Only one of five secondary students studied technical subjects. Adult education was virtually nonexistent.

In 1937 there were eight institutions of higher education in addition to the University of Sofia, the country's leading educational facility. Six of these—the Free University, the Academy of Art, the Academy of Music, the Military Academy, the Theological Seminary, and the School of Physical Education—were also located in Sofia. The remaining two were business schools located in Varna and Svishtov. A large number of Bulgarian students also chose to continue their education abroad. One of the major problems at the time concerned the absorption of graduates into the various fields for which they were eligible. The country was still predominantly agricultural, and there were simply too few positions available for the annual influx of graduates, a situation that caused alienation and disaffection.


When the Communists came to power in 1944 they were determined to change the system of education in Bulgaria. Not only did they seek to eradicate certain elements—such as religion and social elitism—from the educational system, but they also were determined to make education universal and, insofar as possible, to create an entirely literate society. As the educational system developed under communist tutelage, however, governmental statements on the subject displayed an increasing tendency to link the system with ideology and principles to the point where the ultimate goal was the creation of the ideal Communist.

When the 1947 Constitution was formulated, it established universality and state control over the school system as the two main policies of education. It stated: "Every citizen has the right to education. Education is secular, democratic and progressive in spirit. Ethnic minorities have the right to instruction in their mother tongue; they also have the right to develop their national culture, although study of the Bulgarian language is compulsory.... Schools belong to the [Pg 98]State. Private schools can be established only by the passage of a law; such schools are placed under State control...."

Statements in subsequent constitutions indicated an increased emphasis on the socialist content of education and its close ties with the Soviet model on which it was based. In 1949 the government issued a statement declaring that education would be "in the spirit of socialism, proletarian internationalism, and indissoluble brotherly friendship with the Soviet Union." Two years later the government stated that "the people's school is a powerful weapon in the hands of the Communist Party and the people's democratic state for education and Communist indoctrination of the people." In the present-day period both Todor Zhivkov, who is the first secretary of the party, and the minister of national education (formerly known as the minister of public education) have reinforced the purpose and function of education in a socialist society. In 1966 the minister of national education stated: "The work of the school, its major and minor tasks—everything for which it exists—must be subordinated to its fundamental objective: training and educating the new man of communist society."

Certain distinctive principles form the basis for communist policies of education in Bulgaria. Chief among these is the close patterning of the system on the Soviet model. For this reason Bulgaria tends to be somewhat cautious in its approach to education and reluctant to make sweeping reforms unless the Soviets provide a model for change.

The principle of a universally accessible system of education has top priority, and in fact the near-universal nature of education in Bulgaria has brought about almost complete literacy. Whereas before 1944 many Bulgarians had never attended school, in mid-1973 almost every Bulgarian was able to attend some form of school. In some areas of the educational system, particularly in institutions of higher education, the number of students has increased as much as eightfold.

Another principle of communist education in Bulgaria is the concept of socially useful work, which must be performed by all students at all levels of education. The principle of work in education is initiated at the very lowest levels of the system; it progresses into increasingly longer periods as the student advances in the school system. In the higher grades, students work for significant periods of time in agriculture, industry, and construction. In the higher levels of education the student must sign a document that obligates him to accept a working assignment, which should be related to his field of specialization, for a period of three to five years.

Another facet of the system is the eradication of old values and their replacement with new socialist values (see ch. 4). One of the first tasks of Bulgarian educators was to eliminate religious teachings and practices in the schools. Religion, as a subject, was eliminated in the early years as was the history of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Students are taught that atheism is both reasonable and scientific; [Pg 99]religion is dismissed as a relic of a superstitious and undesirable past. By the same token, students are indoctrinated strongly by teachers, directors of extracurricular activities, and colleagues to revere and swear allegiance to the government.

Another guiding principle of the educational system in Bulgaria, which was initiated at the time of the takeover and still obtained to some degree in 1973, is the concept that sons and daughters of the worker and peasant classes should be favored in terms of their preference of access to education, particularly at the higher levels. This policy was clearly motivated by a desire to compensate for the exclusion of this class from such institutions in the past. In the early communist years institutions of higher education charged tuition, but children of the worker-peasant classes were exempted. By 1954 this class constituted 20 percent of the higher education population, a figure that by 1970 had risen to 78 percent. In 1973 the government was still maintaining a preferential clause for these students in higher education and reserved 10 percent of the places in such institutions for them.

Another principle of the educational system is the promotion of technical or vocational education and the simultaneous downgrading of the humanities. Academic studies were quantitatively reduced in order to place greater emphasis on practical work. When a student has completed his formal education in the school system, he will have at the time spent at least one-third of his school hours working on a farm, in a factory, or at some other enterprise. In the curriculum itself technical subjects are given a place of greater importance than the humanities. Although studies have indicated that a great many students seeking admission to institutions of higher education aspire to the study of the humanities, governmental policies have limited the number of places available in these areas in order to train technical-vocational specialists to meet the needs of the economy (see ch. 12).

The last important principle of Bulgarian education is the nationalization and secularization of the school system. When the Communists took power in the 1940s, they quickly closed all foreign and private schools with the exception of schools for the children of Soviet officials and diplomats. Schools of ethnic minorities fell under the aegis of the government and thereby lost all autonomy. Ironically, in 1973 the only private school that existed was related to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. As the church is subservient to and dependent upon the state, however, the existence of such a school undoubtedly represented little threat to the government.


Between the years 1944 and 1948 the Communists set about eradicating the prewar educational system. By 1947, when the constitution (also called the Dimitrov Constitution) was enacted, all prewar [Pg 100]textbooks had been replaced by communist texts; all schoolteachers and university professors who were considered reactionary or fascist had been replaced by persons loyal to the Fatherland Front (Otechestven Front) government; and all institutions of higher education had been opened to workers and their children, whereas students thought to have fascist or reactionary tendencies were denied admittance.

The Dimitrov Constitution stipulated further that all schools, including those that had previously been private, would be the property of the state; that all foreign schools would be closed for the academic year 1948-49; and that religious schools would be discontinued. Ironically, the only denominational schools that were allowed to continue were those that trained priests, but these schools had to have special permission from the state in order to continue their operations.

In 1948 and 1949 another series of reforms was initiated, which, although less sweeping than the original reforms, tended to pattern the Bulgarian school system more closely on that of the Soviet Union. In August 1949 a joint resolution of the BKP Central Committee and the Council of Ministers declared that education would be carried out in the spirit of socialism, based both on the teachings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and on Bulgarian friendship with the Soviet Union. The ideological studies introduced into the curriculum consisted of the fundamental principles of Marx and Lenin, the history of the communist party of the Soviet Union, and the history of the BKP. All of these subjects became obligatory from kindergarten.

The second initiative in the 1948-49 reforms was the declaration that all universities and institutions of higher education as well as the Academy of Sciences were no longer autonomous. A third reform during this period was the reduction from five to four years of the gymnasium, which in turn reduced the total schooling from twelve to eleven years. The fourth reform was the redesigning of polytechnic education to greatly increase the number of trained graduates to fill the rapidly escalating demands of the economy.

In statistical terms the results of the various communist reforms were mixed. Although the number of primary and secondary schools increased slightly overall from 1938 to 1948, there was hardly any appreciable growth in primary schools, whereas secondary schools nearly doubled. The number of students, similarly, barely changed in the same ten-year period; the number of primary students actually declined, but the number of secondary students grew appreciably (see table 6; table 7).

Higher education, on the other hand, made great strides after the communist takeover as the number of universities and other institutions of higher education increased by one-third. Despite the emphasis on technical and vocational education, such schools dropped in terms of facilities, students, and teachers during the early communist years. The number of teachers of polytechnic subjects also declined during the period (see table 8).

[Pg 101]Table 6. Number of Schools in Bulgaria, Selected Years, 1938-70

Level 1938/39 1948/49 1960/61 1970/71
Kindergarten    254 n.a. 6,570 8,037
Primary 7,291 7,872 * *
Secondary    133    253    *        *    
    Total primary-secondary 7,424 8,125 5,877 4,197
Vocational technical n.a. n.a.    236    132
Secondary vocational n.a. n.a.        0    190
Technical   n.a.     n.a.      231    246
    Total technical    384    159    467    568
Teacher training        5 n.a      18      20
Higher education      12      19      20      26
n.a.—not available.
* In 1960 the primary and secondary levels were unified under one system.

Table 7. Number of Students in Bulgaria, Selected School Years, 1938-70

Level 1938/39 1948/49 1960/61 1970/71
Kindergarten      12,859
Primary    955,330    928,934 * *
Secondary      73,561    129,396        *               *       
    Total primary-secondary 1,028,891 1,058,330 1,212,383 1,154,630
Vocational technical n.a. n.a.      42,123      47,253
Secondary vocational n.a. n.a.               0      83,038
Technical      n.a.           n.a.           93,944    152,919
    Total technical      46,925      31,826    136,067    283,210
Teacher training           401 n.a.        4,203        6,921
Higher education      11,443      29,639      54,965      89,331
n.a.—not available.
* In 1960 the primary and secondary levels were unified under one system.

The next reforms occurred in 1957 and in 1958 and placed a much stronger emphasis on technical-vocational training, while the years of total schooling were again increased. The period of secondary schooling consisted of a five-year program rather than the previous four, thus extending the entire period of education to twelve years. The network of professional schools was expanded significantly, and teacher training was upgraded and given new emphasis. In 1958 there were specialized professional schools with approximately 64,000 students studying various aspects of industry and agriculture. At approximately the same time there were twenty-two pedagogical schools with an enrollment of 8,989 students.

[Pg 102]

Table 8. Number of Teachers in Bulgaria, Selected School Years, 1938-70

Level 1938/39 1948/49 1960/61 1970/71
Kindergarten      286 n.a. 11,873 18,185
Primary 24,830 34,000 * *
Secondary   2,874   4,893      *          *    
    Total primary-secondary 27,704 38,893 51,067 54,068
Vocational technical n.a. n.a.   2,835   2,734
Secondary vocational n.a. n.a.          0   5,720
Technical    n.a.       n.a.      5,307   9,045
    Total technical   2,487   1,109   8,142 17,499
Teacher training        50 n.a.      251      406
Higher education      588   1,169   3,883   7,125
n.a.—not available.
* In 1960 the primary and secondary levels were unified under one system.

The concept of practical work as an integral part of the curriculum was again emphasized, and the scope of vocational training grew enormously as vocational and technical schools increased threefold. Although all students had to perform certain tasks as part of their basic education, the 1957-58 reforms dictated that graduates of higher technical and agricultural institutions had to perform one year of practical work before graduation. As the concept of polytechnical education became widespread at the secondary level, practical work consumed up to one-third of the total hours of education. Although experimental vocational training was introduced into the curricula of some gymnasiums in this period, other gymnasiums, particularly in the rural areas, required students to spend several hours weekly in formal vocational studies.

In the same 1957-58 period a number of broad, rather than structural, reforms were initiated. Schools for ethnic minorities were established in which, despite the fact that study of the Bulgarian language was compulsory, teaching was performed in the language of the minority group. All schools of general education became officially coeducational, and evening classes for workers were initiated. At the same time, although there already had been some financial assistance, scholarships were presented on a wide scale. In the 1957-58 academic year 46 percent of all students in institutions of higher education received stipends from the government. Although there were few scholarships given to gymnasium students, with the exception of Turkish students who were considered the least educated group, students in professional schools and technical colleges were the recipients of a large number of governmental stipends.

The reforms of 1959 were of more lasting significance than were the 1957-58 reforms. Unlike the latter reforms, which represented a slight deviation from the Soviet educational model, the 1959 reforms returned the Bulgarian system once more to the original Soviet pattern. In 1958 Nikita Khrushchev wrote a treatise called "Strengthening the [Pg 103]Ties Between School and Life" in which he demanded a close integration of the educational system and the economy. Shortly thereafter, Zhivkov declared that the 1957-58 school reforms in his own country were inadequate and asked for a basic reorganization of the entire school system. In July 1959 a basic law, reorganizing the entire school system, was passed.

This law was entitled "Law on Establishing a Closer Link Between Education and Practical Life and on Furthering the Development of Public Education in the People's Republic of Bulgaria." Its stated objectives were: "To prepare youth for life by combining education and instruction with practical and production work" and "to imbue the young people with a love of work and a spirit of patriotism and international solidarity." The law proposed the introduction of polytechnic studies on an unprecedented scale in order to provide skilled workers for agriculture and industry. Although the main objective was to meet the demands of the economy, it was hoped that the new emphasis on technical subjects would break down the exclusiveness of the educated classes, while socializing the younger generation in communist ideological terms.

In practical terms the 1959 reforms introduced a unified twelve-year so-called secondary school—despite the fact that it included the elementary grades as well—called the medium polytechnical school, which totally replaced the existing five-year basic school and the four-year medium school or gymnasium. The medium polytechnical school was divided into an eight-year elementary course and a four-year upper course. After completing the basic school the student was faced with four alternatives. He could enter: the upper course, which provided general education plus specialization in an area of production; a medium professional school or technicum, which provided a specialized education; a professional technical college, which prepared him for production in the economy; or the so-called miscellaneous training, which included courses organized by plants, factories, and cooperatives.

At the same time the new law provided for the improvement of teacher training. All teachers who taught in the fifth level or above were required to have a university education or its equivalent. Teachers who taught in kindergartens or the first to fourth levels were required to take a three-year course after the obligatory twelve-year course of schooling.

The reforms were later criticized, however, on much more far-reaching grounds. Some felt that technical specialization was stressed to such an extreme that the liberal arts were altogether ignored. Some complained that, although students were overburdened with superfluous details of overspecialized subjects, teachers were still basically unprepared to teach these subjects. Others felt that there was a lack of correlation between the work that the student had to perform and his or her area of expertise. Still others realized that [Pg 104]there was a basic clash between the managers who supervised the worker-students and the students themselves.

Despite much criticism about the reforms, in terms of bare statistics they were successful in greatly increasing the emphasis on technical-vocational training. Although the number of primary and secondary students remained approximately at the same level and the number of primary and secondary schools declined drastically, there was a tremendous increase in technical-vocational schools, students, and teachers.

In 1967 there was another wave of educational reform in Bulgaria, as well as in all of Eastern Europe, that once again changed the direction of education. Although most Eastern European countries began to deemphasize polytechnic instruction, Bulgaria's course was more cautious and ambivalent. On the one hand, Bulgarian educators stated that the time allotted for practical training would be increased, while on the other hand, efforts were made to reintroduce the humanities into the curriculum. In the last three grades of the upper course, the curriculum was divided into two branches: natural science and mathematics, and the humanities. The number of general education subjects was gradually increased, and there was renewed emphasis on foreign languages and the social sciences.

By 1969, however, authorities once again perceived certain problems in the educational system and proposed counteracting reforms. One problem was the relative cost of higher education, which was expanding, as compared to the cost of primary education, which was both cheaper and contracting. A second problem was the question of the availability of trained persons for the national economy because of the long periods of schooling then required. It was argued that by the time a young man had completed his education and his military training, he was twenty-five or twenty-six years old. A third problem was the intense competition for places in higher education and other postsecondary institutions. In 1969 approximately 70,000 to 75,000 students leaving secondary schools competed with each other for 20,000 places at the university level. A fourth problem was whether the polytechnic school should place primary emphasis on trade specialization or on academic subjects.

In the same year serious thought was given to the solution of these problems, and tentative measures were proposed. The major thrust of these proposals was to enable students to meet the needs of the economy by shortening the period of overall education. It was proposed that a unified polytechnic school, which would fuse general and professional elements of education, would replace the current, professionally oriented polytechnic school. At the same time children would enter school at the age of six, instead of the customary seven. The secondary polytechnic school would be a ten-year instead of a twelve-year course, allowing students to graduate at the age of sixteen. Most courses in [Pg 105]higher education would be reduced from five to four years, enabling students to complete all levels of education by the age of twenty rather than twenty-five.

The reforms would perhaps have a greater impact on the secondary system than the other levels, as they envisioned a completely unified secondary school system in which professional and general education would be fused. Specialization in liberal arts, mathematics and economics, chemistry and biology, social sciences, and foreign languages would be offered.

In 1972 these reforms were officially proposed and passed by the Council of Ministers. It was anticipated that they would be carried out over the next ten to fifteen years. Although the concept of fusing general and professional education in the new unified secondary polytechnic school was not universally popular, the reform embodying this concept was passed primarily because of the influence of one of its strongest proponents, Zhivkov.

Other reforms proposed in 1972 dealt with the specific levels of the educational system and with monetary necessities to fulfill these expectations. As it was expected that by 1975 approximately 76 percent of children from three to seven years of age would be in kindergartens, the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) emphasized the development of a huge network of kindergartens. By 1975, 85 percent of the students attending primary school were expected to go on to the secondary level, and plans were made to increase the construction of boarding and semiboarding schools to accommodate these students. Secondary education was to be made compulsory in order, in Zhivkov's words, "to give every young man and girl the opportunity not only of acquiring scientific knowledge of nature and society and the necessary general culture and polytechnical education, but also of acquiring certain production and technical habits and skills, of preparing themselves for socially useful work."

The main emphasis in the 1972 reforms, however, was on higher education. It was anticipated that there would be some 120,000 students in higher education by 1975. Of this number it was expected that 65,000—or approximately half—would be specialists. Of the 65,000 specialists, half would be engaged in science and technology. Therefore, in 1972 plans were being formulated for the construction of new buildings at many of the major institutions of higher education.

In order to fulfill these structural changes, it was decided that both increased expenditures and additional places for students were needed. During the Fifth Five-Year Plan (1966-70), about 300 million leva (for value of the lev—see Glossary) had been expended on education. In the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) 500 million leva were to be allocated. In addition, 30,000 more places were to be provided at the preschool level, 28,000 more accommodations at hostels, and 4,500 classrooms at all levels.


Figures vary to some degree, but at the time of liberation in 1878 between 85 and 90 percent of the Bulgarian population was illiterate. By the early twentieth century, however, Bulgaria had achieved the highest literacy rate in the Balkans. Although some scholars stated that only some 31 percent of the population over school age was literate, by 1920 nearly 50 percent of the population over school age was literate. By 1934 only 31.6 percent of the population over school age was still illiterate, and by 1940 this figure was reduced to between 20 and 25 percent.

After the Communists took power in the country, literacy increased at a rapid pace. In 1956 only 17.6 percent of the population over twenty-five was illiterate, and by 1965 only 8.6 percent was illiterate. In 1973, although total literacy for people under fifty years of age was claimed by the government, the rate of literacy of this group was probably somewhere between 90 and 100 percent.

Of the illiterate population in 1965, approximately three-fourths were women and only one-fourth were men, reflecting the recency of the emancipation of women in Bulgaria. Of ethnic groups, the Gypsies have both the lowest levels of literacy and of education, whereas the Turks have a significantly higher literacy rate. Jews, Czechs, Greeks, and Russians all have a relatively high literacy level. In 1965 there were three times as many illiterates in rural areas as in urban. Also, illiteracy in Bulgaria was much more common among the older generation than among the young. In 1965, of the population over 60 years of age, approximately one-third was illiterate, whereas only a very small percentage of the working-age group was illiterate. The government seemed relatively unconcerned about the problem of illiteracy among the older people, as an official stated: "The high illiteracy rate among the older population does not present a problem since this is the population above the working age and this group is not crucial to our economic life."


Administration and Finance

The 1947 constitution established both the Ministry of Education and the Committee for Science, Art, and Culture, which held ministry status. In 1954 the Law on Public Education increased the authority of the Ministry of Education; all general and vocational schools fell under its jurisdiction at that time. In February 1954 the Ministry of Culture was established. It replaced the Committee for Science, Art, and Culture and oversaw, in broad terms, the curricula at all levels of education, including correspondence courses.

In 1973 the executive branch dealing with the legal aspects of education was the Council of Ministers, and the Ministry of National Education dealt with all administrative matters. The minister of national [Pg 107]education is a member of the Presidium of the National Assembly as well as of the BKP Central Committee. Similarly, the assistant ministers of education hold high offices in the party structure. In this way the party not only supports educational legislation but also originates it.

The Ministry of National Education has four principal tasks to perform. Its primary duty is to direct and control the educational system in accordance with the policies of the party and the government. It both formulates and approves basic documents of the educational system, such as the curricula, the school regulations, and methods. It arranges for the publication of all school textbooks and supervises the work of the people's councils at the local level.

The minister of national education is assisted by three vice ministers who are appointed by the National Assembly and who head three broad departments: the Department of General Education, the Department of Vocational Training, and the Department of Higher Education. Also within the Ministry of National Education are the following sub-sections: Marxism-Leninism, physical culture, economic planning, finance, employment, teaching materials, and cultural relations.

At the regional level the district people's councils have responsibility for organization and instruction in all educational institutions with the exception of schools of art, intermediate schools, and institutions of higher education. Each council is under the authority of its executive committee as well as the Ministry of National Education. The Education Section of the council performs the routine tasks affecting the educational system. The Ministry of National Education supervises these education sections and assists them when necessary. They are also assisted by various advisory committees.

Education in Bulgaria is generally financed by the state budget. Schools that are deemed to have national importance are financed by the national budget, whereas schools that have only local significance are financed by the people's councils at the local level. Since 1964 the expenses of many vocational training schools have been financed by various related ministries, factories, and enterprises. These organizations have played an increasing role in the financing of the schools since that date.

The only available figures dealing with the financing of education are those on higher education. As Bulgaria is considerably behind most European countries in terms of the financing of education, there is very little public discussion of the issue. Sofia, the capital city, has one of the most severe financial problems. In 1966 only 3.2 percent of the total city budget was spent on matters relating to education. Generally, financial figures for education are categorized with those for science and culture so that it is nearly impossible to separate those figures that deal specifically with education. In recent years educational reformers have requested greater sums for education than were allocated in the past.

[Pg 108]Bulgaria's budget for education fluctuated between 133 million leva in 1960 and 491 million leva in 1971. The proportion of the total budget allocated for education, however, actually decreased over the last eight years of the period. In 1960 education represented 5.9 percent of the total budget; in 1964, 9 percent; in 1967, 8.4 percent; and in 1971, only 8.3 percent. The percentage of the Bulgarian gross national product (GNP) earmarked for education in 1972 was inferior to that of some other European and Asian countries. The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) spent 5.9 percent on education; the Soviet Union, 5.8 percent; Japan, 5.3 percent; Poland, 4.8 percent; Great Britain, 4.3 percent; France, 3.2 percent; and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), 3 percent. Bulgaria allocated only 0.5 percent of its total GNP to the field of education.

Preschool Education

Before the Communists took power in 1944 kindergartens were considered to be an unimportant factor in education. In 1921 there were only twenty-four kindergartens in the entire country.

The Communists made a real effort to establish a far-reaching network of kindergartens, which in the late 1940s included three types: the half day, all day, and seasonal. No tuition was required for the half day kindergarten, and tuition varied—depending on the income of the family—for the other two types.

Half day kindergartens accepted children after six years of age, preparing them for admission to elementary schools. All day kindergartens, which were located in large towns and industrial areas, cared for children, aged three to seven, of working mothers. Seasonal kindergartens were established in rural areas for the children of mothers whose work was seasonal. These schools operated from two to ten months per year and also accepted children from three to seven years of age.

In mid-1973 there were crèches for children from infancy to three years of age. Children from three to seven attended kindergarten. Although attendance was voluntary, it was believed that over 60 percent of the preschool-age children were enrolled in crèches or kindergartens. Approximately 50 percent of the children in elementary school have had their preschool education in the half day kindergartens. There were five types of kindergartens in Bulgaria: the half day, the all day, the seasonal, the kindergarten sanatoriums and the auxiliary kindergarten. Kindergarten sanatoriums provided educational facilities for children with tuberculosis, and auxiliary kindergartens were for the mentally deficient.

Elementary Education

Before the Communists took power, there were primary schools for children between seven and eleven and progymnasia for children [Pg 109]eleven to fourteen years old. Although both levels of education were compulsory according to the law, many children between the ages of seven and fourteen did not attend school. The program of the progymnasium was to enable children—who might be excluded from either a gymnasium or vocational school for economic or academic reasons—to obtain additional education beyond the primary level.

After 1944 the Communists undertook a major revision of elementary education in accordance with their basic principles of education (see Communist Educational Policies, this ch.). In 1950 a new unified school system was established, patterned after the educational system of the Soviet Union. This unified, eleven-year system comprised both primary and postprimary education. In 1954 the Edict on Public Education stated that the first eight years of this new general education were compulsory for children from seven to fifteen years of age. Depending on the particular needs of the individual community, children could attend either four-year, seven-year, or eleven-year general education schools. Generally, the four-year schools predominated in rural areas, and the seven-year and eleven-year schools were more prevalent in larger villages and towns.

Elementary education is still compulsory for both boys and girls from seven to fifteen years of age. Classes are held in the morning only and run six days a week, Monday through Saturday. The schools are known as basic or general schools and include not only elementary education but also the first two phases of the eleven-year polytechnic school. The elementary course comprises grades one through four, and the postelementary courses include classes five through eight. The elementary curriculum includes the study of Bulgarian, mathematics, music, art, and physical education. The postelementary curriculum also encompasses the study of foreign languages and science. On both levels the study of Russian is compulsory.

The purpose of this general elementary education, according to the government, is to "provide pupils with general and polytechnic education combined with fundamental moral, physical and aesthetic training, instill in children a liking for work, accustom them to productive work useful to society and prepare them for studies at a higher level." In accordance with these principles "education in labor" was made an integral part of the curriculum. The total curriculum of elementary education consists of a tripartite division. The academic section is subdivided into the sciences and the humanities. The education in the labor section consists of work, beginning in the first year of schooling, in shops, farms, and factories. The extracurricular section is dominated by the work-study program of the youth organization known as the Pioneers (see ch. 9).

Secondary Education

Before 1944 secondary education in Bulgaria consisted of the [Pg 110]gymnasium and the vocational school. The gymnasium was divided into three types: the classical, the semiclassical, and the scientific. All three included the following subjects in their curriculum: Bulgarian language and literature; either French, German, or English; philosophy; mathematics; history; the history of Christianity; geography; sociology; civics; physics; and chemistry. In the scientific and classical divisions, natural history and drawing were also given, and Latin and Greek were presented in the classical and semiclassical gymnasiums. There was also a normal school, or pedagogical part of the gymnasium, which added pedagogy and physical education to the basic curriculum.

Soon after the communist takeover the combined elementary-secondary period of schooling was reduced from twelve to eleven years. The objectives of a secondary education were described in the following terms: "the general promotion of the physical and intellectual development of adolescents, the weaning of their minds from extreme nationalist and reactionary ideas, the inculcation of the spirit of progress, and preparation for creative participation in the economic and cultural life of the country." The curriculum of the secondary schools was changed in order to incorporate these goals. Latin and Greek were no longer required, but Russian became compulsory. A new subject called general history subsumed within it the old studies of religion, ethics, political economy, and Bulgarian. Astronomy was added to the new curriculum.

Between 1949 and 1959 other changes were introduced in the secondary school system. There were then two principal forms of secondary education: the general school and the technical school. Grades eight to eleven of the general school, which were considered part of secondary education, included study of Bulgarian language and literature; Russian; French, German, or English; mathematics; physics; astronomy; chemistry; biology; history; constitutional history; geography; psychology and logic; geometrical drawing; and physical education.

Technicums and vocational-technical secondary schools, on the other hand, offered courses ranging from two to five years that gave the student a specialized education. Graduates of the eleven-year general school attended these schools for two years; students who had completed less than eleven years attended for three to five years. In 1952 labor reserve schools were established. These factory schools offered one-year or two-year training programs to young people from fourteen to seventeen years of age who had already completed their elementary education.

During the 1960s the new polytechnic secondary school was introduced in order to incorporate the elements of a general and specialized education into one system. Although this type of secondary education continued to be the main form of secondary education, it was criticized on two seemingly paradoxical counts. One group of critics claimed [Pg 111]that the polytechnic school gave the student neither a sound general education nor a solid base in professional training. Another group claimed that the polytechnic school was both too narrow and too technical, depriving the student of a broad background in general areas.

In mid 1973 there were three major types of secondary education in Bulgaria: the secondary polytechnic or a semitechnical variation of the gymnasium, the vocational-technical schools, and the technicums (see fig. 5). Roughly 95 percent of students who had completed elementary school continued in secondary education.

Figure 5. The Bulgarian School System, 1973

Figure 5. The Bulgarian School System, 1973

[Pg 112]Approximately one-third of students continuing in secondary education attend the polytechnic school. The stated purpose of this kind of school is "to provide pupils with wider scientific education and more intensive polytechnical training, through practical production experience closely linked with general education and technical subjects, and to prepare them for active working and intellectual life or for their continued studies at higher levels. This secondary course completes the pupils' basic science studies and polytechnical preparation. The practical experiences gained prepares them for specialization in a major branch of production work."

Polytechnic schools can be either part of the general schools—in which case they consist of grades nine through eleven—or separate schools in themselves. In the latter case the course is of either four or five years' duration. These schools are also open to factory and office-workers who are able to remain in their positions, on a reduced basis, while continuing their education.

Technicums are more popular than the polytechnic schools. Although sources differ with respect to the exact percentage of elementary students who continue their education in technicums—with some claiming approximately 40 percent and others as high as 77 percent—probably about 50 percent continue their schooling in this area. According to the government the purpose of the technicums is to "train specialists at intermediate levels for the various sectors of the national economy: industry, agriculture, and building construction, transport services, commerce and public health services." At the same time, however, the technicums provide general education that corresponds to some extent with the program of the polytechnic school.

These schools, more than the polytechnic schools, are directly related to trends in the economy. Technicums are designed to produce supervisors and skilled workers who will satisfy the needs of the economy. The course of study varies from three to four years. Although some general subjects are taught, emphasis is on the acquisition of specialized knowledge in such fields as agriculture and engineering.

The least popular form of secondary education in Bulgaria is the vocational-technical school, which is a form of trade school. Although the number of students in vocational-technical schools has doubled since 1944, only approximately 20 percent of the graduates of elementary education continue in this area. The government states that "Vocational training schools are designed to train skilled workers for industry and agriculture." The schools can either operate independently or be a part of a technicum or agricultural or industrial enterprise. Although the courses are generally open to elementary graduates, workers under thirty who have not completed their primary education may also continue their training in these schools.

The program of the vocational-technical school varies from one to three years. In the case of workers under thirty, the program runs [Pg 113]from one to four years. Graduates of the program receive the title of skilled workmen; they are obligated to work in their field of specialization for three years. The curriculum in the vocational-technical school includes: Bulgarian, Russian, physics, mathematics, and physical education. These subjects consume only half of the allotted time; the other half is spent working in factories or on farms.

In addition to these three basic forms of secondary education, there are special types of secondary schools as well. Specialized secondary schools exist for music, art, and ballet. Although most operate only on the secondary level—requiring the completion of the elementary school—some give the complete eleven-year program. The length of study generally is four years. Music schools offer courses in instrumental music, singing, musical theory, and general education. Students of dance study at the National School of Choreography, which is divided into a section offering classical ballet and another offering Bulgarian folk dance. Art students study at a special gymnasium.

Another form of secondary education is the foreign language secondary school. In these schools all instruction is given in the foreign language selected. Russian is the most popular language, followed by French, German, and English. Although no figures are available for schools of other languages, in 1973 there were six English-language schools with fifteen native English instructors. Of the total number of places available in these language schools, 50 percent are reserved for girls and 50 percent for boys. Of the same total, 20 percent are reserved for children of "the active fighters against fascism and capitalism."

Higher Education

In the period between the 1921 reforms and the years just before World War II, there were nine institutions of higher education in Bulgaria. The University of Sofia was both the largest and the oldest. The most popular faculties in higher educational institutions at that time in order of popularity were: education, law, economics, medicine, and agriculture. The arts were the least popular faculty. In mid 1973 statistics were unavailable for both engineering and physical education (see table 9).

When the Communists took power in 1944 they made sweeping changes in the field of higher education. Universities—which had heretofore been autonomous—were put under state control; members of the party sat on faculty councils that selected and promoted professors. University graduates were placed by the government and were subject to punishment under the newly established penal code if they refused to accept assignments.

[Pg 114]Table 9. Number and Proportion of Students in Various Bulgarian University Faculties,
Selected Years, 1939-71

  1939 1948 1960 1970
Number Percent
of Total
Number Percent
of Total
Number Percent
of Total
Number Percent
of Total
Engineering n.a ...    182     5.4 1,480 25.5   5,042 40.6
Agriculture 127 ...    768   22.9 1,088 18.8   1,415 11.4
Medicine 139 ...    729   21.8    911 15.7   1,174   9.5
Economics 230 ...    716   21.3    889 15.4   1,895 15.2
Arts   55 ...      86     2.6    268   4.6      319   2.6
Education 365 ...    388   11.6    827 14.3   2,163 17.4
Physical education n.a. ...      40     1.2    169   2.9      259   2.1
Law 307 ...    441   13.2    157   2.7      142   1.1
    TOTAL     3,350 100.0 5,789   99.9* 12,409   99.9*
n.a.—not available.
... not applicable.
* Columns do not add to 100 because of rounding.
Source: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook, 1971, Sofia, 1971, p. 247.

[Pg 115]The essential task of higher education was enunciated by Premier Vulko Chervenkov in 1954: "Higher schools must train not only qualified specialists but also able, and conscious participants in the political direction and building of socialism in our country." In 1949 correspondence courses were initiated for manual workers and civil servants. Courses generally ranged from five to six years. Certain workers were allowed to attend shorter courses given by the various institutions while they continued to work. Although they were required to pass examinations, they did not have to attend classes regularly.

Between 1948 and 1952 the curriculum became more and more patterned after the curriculum of the Soviet Union. In 1948 Marxist-Leninist studies were introduced; in 1949 political economy and the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union became obligatory for all university students. By 1950 the party newspaper, Rabotnichesko Delo, reported that 150 Soviet texts were being utilized in institutions of higher education. By 1952 students were obliged to study both dialectical and historical materialism, the rudiments of Marxism-Leninism, and the history of the BKP. Study of these subjects was generally mandatory for three years.

In mid 1973 there were two major forms of higher educational institutions: teacher training institutions and university level institutions. In the latter category are universities, technical institutes, agricultural institutes, medical schools, art academies, and higher schools of economics. In 1972 there were twenty-two university level institutions, sixteen of which were in Sofia. The remainder were located in the provincial cities of Plovdiv, Varna, Svishtov, and Ruse. The courses of study range from four to six years; five years is the average period. In 1970 in proportion to the total population of the country, Bulgaria was fourth in the world in terms of the number of students—which constituted about 1 percent of the total population—attending institutions of higher education, following the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan.

Higher education in Bulgaria is conceived primarily in terms of the national economy. The entire educational process at the higher level is determined by the needs and prerequisites of the economy. The government has stated: "The main tasks of the institutions of higher education are: to train qualified specialists, imbued with Communist ideals, for all fields of activity, who will be conversant with the latest developments in science and technology, to train teachers and research specialists for the institutions of higher education and scientific organizations, to take systematic measures to improve the qualifications of specialists in various branches of the national economy; [and] to propagate scientific, technical and political knowledge among the workers."

Students at the undergraduate level—with the exception of students of worker and peasant origin—are expected to pass a written examination in order to gain admission. Fifty percent of the total number of admissions are reserved for people who have been employed for a two-year period. Most graduates are obliged to work for three years after graduation in a position assigned to them by the government. Unlike [Pg 116]the prewar faculties, technical and scientific faculties have had the highest enrollments. Although education continues to draw large enrollments, in 1971 engineering had the largest number of students, followed by education, economics, agriculture, and medicine. Law and physical education had the lowest number of students at that time. As the State Committee for Science, Technical Progress, and Higher Education determines the specialization to be pursued, this list reflects more the preferences of the government than those of the students.

Because the government determines the fields of specialization to be pursued by students of higher education, over a ten-year period—from 1960 to 1970—the pendulum has swung away from the arts and toward the pure sciences. The fields most preferred by the students themselves, however, and those that earn the highest wages, are still medicine, architecture, journalism, and foreign languages.

The State Committee for Education and Technical Progress stipulates the number of admissions as well as the courses to be followed in graduate work. All applicants for graduate study must have a minimum of one year of working experience in their fields of specialization. In addition to completion of four or five years of higher education, the applicant must pass examinations in his field of specialization, in Russian, and in one Western European language. The curriculum is determined by the various research institutes of the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Agricultural Sciences, or other institutions of higher education. The term of graduate study is approximately four to 4-1/2 years.

Beyond the usual graduate study is the doctoral program. To obtain the doctor of science degree, the student must prepare a dissertation that according to governmental criteria, contains "a significant scientific contribution, new educational methods and proposals, theoretical conclusions and discoveries of great significance for the advancement of science, technology, and the national economy." A candidate for this degree must either hold a candidate degree, be thoroughly accredited in his profession, or have proof of significant contributions to the economy.

In terms of the exchange of foreign students, there are only a relatively small number of foreign students in Bulgaria, and only a tiny percentage of the Bulgarian student population studies abroad. Although theoretically opportunities exist for Bulgarian students to study in other countries, in fact, opportunities are very limited. There are strict regulations regarding foreign study. In 1971 the Ministry of National Education stated that only students of parents permanently employed abroad could study there; no students with independent sources of income were allowed to study in foreign universities. In 1971 between 1.5 and 1.8 percent of the Bulgarian student population were foreign students. In the academic year 1970/71 only 1,603 students studied abroad. Of these, 1047 studied in the Soviet Union; 226 studied [Pg 117]in East Germany; 154 studied in Czechoslovakia; and twelve students pursued their studies in other countries.

At the same time foreign students are not numerous in Bulgaria, although they come from a variety of countries. As of 1972 only 1,240 foreign students had been graduated from Bulgarian universities. Among these graduates were 174 from Albania, 129 from Syria, 126 from East Germany, ninety-four from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), fifty-seven from Kenya, and fifty from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). In the academic year 1969/70 alone, 1,882 foreign students attended Bulgarian institutions of higher education. These students came from ninety-two countries; they include 430 students from North Vietnam, 393 from Syria, 106 from the Sudan, forty-five from Iraq, and twenty-two from Cuba. Although the focus in foreign student exchange is definitely on the developing countries—for both economic and political reasons—in 1971 foreign student exchanges with Western countries were being increased.

Although higher education is tuition free in Bulgaria, financial assistance is still required by a large number of students. The percentage of students on governmental scholarships varies from year to year, generally ranging between 30 to 40 percent. In 1965 over 39 percent of the student population received scholarships, whereas in 1970 only 30 percent received them. There are two basic conditions for scholarships as stipulated by the state: acceptable grade averages and a family income—per family member—that does not exceed 70 leva per month.

There are still severe difficulties in the field of higher education in Bulgaria. One problem is the acute shortage of professors in the areas of engineering and technology in institutions of higher education. At some times the shortage is so extreme that advertisements are placed in the newspapers in order to recruit personnel.

Another difficulty in higher education is overcrowding in the schools and in the cities where the institutions are located. This dilemma is particularly acute in Sofia, where most of the major universities and institutes are located. In school year 1969/70 there were 82,573 students enrolled in higher educational institutions; of this number, 59,130—roughly three-fourths—were in Sofia. As many of the students come to Sofia from other areas of the country, the influx of students has created a severe housing shortage. One solution, which has been explored to some extent in recent years, has been for students to enroll in institutions in major cities to study in their regional areas during the year and come to Sofia only when examinations are given. Approximately one-third of the total student population have studied on this basis.

A more serious problem is the issue of student preferences versus the demands of the economy. Since the government requires trained scientific and technological personnel, there are more admissions in these [Pg 118]areas than in the arts. Students, however, have indicated a greater interest in the humanities, but admissions in these areas are few. In 1973 for every place available in the humanities, there were six applicants. For every place available in the sciences, there were only four applicants. The inevitable result of such a policy is the creation of a group of young people who are engaged either in a study not of their choice or who have been dissuaded from the field of higher education altogether.

The most serious problem is the fact that only a small proportion of applicants are accepted in universities and institutes because there are simply not enough facilities available to them. In an average year there are generally 70,000 applicants and only 15,000 acceptances. Thus, roughly 80 percent of all applicants are rejected by the institutions of higher education in Bulgaria. Although students are allowed to reapply at a future date, because they are not generally permitted to study abroad, this overflow has resulted in the problem of the so-called idle youth. At the beginning of 1972 authorities estimated that there were approximately 50,000 of these people. Although the government has attempted to deal with this problem by forcing the idlers to either work or be trained for work—and they have been quite successful, as idlers were estimated to be down from approximately 51,000 to 9,000 in less than six months—they have failed to deal with the root cause of the problem, that is, insufficient places in higher education.


Between 1921 and 1932 all primary and progymnasium teachers had to complete the normal school section of the gymnasium. In 1932, however, all normal schools were abolished, and teachers were trained in two-year pedagogical institutes that demanded completion of the gymnasium for admission. The pedagogical institutes were subdivided into three sections: the humanities, the sciences, and arts and crafts. Gymnasium teachers, in turn, had to have a university degree. Vocational-school teachers generally were vocational-school graduates themselves.

In 1944 two new forms of teacher training, both based on the Soviet model, were established. Teachers in the kindergartens and the four-year elementary schools, who had already completed seven years of elementary school, attended five-year teacher training schools. Teachers of grades five through seven, who had completed their secondary education, trained at two-year institutes. As before the communist takeover, teachers of secondary education and university professors had to complete their training at a university. Teachers of physical education, fine arts, and music were trained at the appropriate section of an institution of higher education.

In 1953 the government established the Institute for the Improvement of Teachers for the purpose of providing refresher courses for teachers. This institute also provided teachers with the proper [Pg 119]ideological orientation. The government stated that the objectives of this institute were to provide the "dogmatic ideological improvement of teachers ... and ... the study and application of [the] Soviet teaching experience." The institute offered such courses as pedagogy, psychology, Bulgarian language and literature, Russian language and literature, Bulgarian history, the Bulgarian constitution, mathematics and physics, natural science and chemistry, and geography.

In 1959, however, it was decided that all elementary-school teachers—those who taught grades one through four—would be trained at teacher training colleges, and all secondary-school teachers—who taught grades five through eleven—would attend higher educational institutions.

In mid 1973 both kindergarten teachers and teachers of the first to fifth grades were trained at intermediate teacher training institutes. Teachers of grades five through eight also began their training at the same institutes, where they trained for three years after the completion of their secondary education. When they had completed this level of their education, they continued at an institute of higher education. Teachers of the fifth through eleventh grades had to have a diploma from an institution of higher education. Vocational-school teachers and art teachers were trained at appropriate faculties of higher educational institutions.

Teachers are paid at various levels depending on their academic backgrounds and current circumstances. The three basic determinants of a teacher's salary are his or her academic qualifications, the number of classes covered per week, and the overall length of service. Every teacher is entitled to a 4-percent increase in salary after every five years of teaching. The total increase is limited to 16 percent. Teachers who work excessively long hours are granted overtime pay. In the case of teachers who are forced to teach in areas where living conditions are considered difficult, extra salaries are given. Teachers who are engaged in pilot programs receive a 5-percent supplement to their salaries in order to repay them for the necessary research and training. Teachers who teach in special schools, special kindergartens, and schools for maladjusted children also receive supplemental salaries. Teachers who—in addition to their regular duties—work in pupils' centers, boarding schools, and evening study periods receive an additional 20 percent of their original salary.


Before World War II there were very few facilities for education that did not fall into the standard educational system. Schools for the handicapped, for example, were almost nonexistent. Just before the war there were only five schools of this kind and only 400 children were enrolled. There were three schools for the deaf, one for the blind, and one for the mentally retarded.

[Pg 120]By 1944 the number of schools for the handicapped had declined to four, and only 200 children were enrolled. One of the first pieces of educational legislation under the Communists provided specifically for this type of school. Although the development of these schools in the early years was quite slow, eventually, by the early 1960s, there were seventy special schools, caring for approximately 8,000 children. These special schools provided general schooling for the handicapped—although the curriculum was, of necessity, modified to suit the needs of the individual student. Emphasis was on vocational training.

The primary focus was on adult education. The major objective was to raise the level of literacy in the country. Between 1944 and 1950 there were special courses that were aimed at both total illiterates and semiliterates. When, by the early 1950s, this goal had been accomplished, these courses were reduced in number and replaced by other kinds of adult education. Part-time courses at the secondary level were made available for workers. Evening classes—which taught new vocational skills and improved already existing skills—became common. Higher education through correspondence courses opened new avenues to people who had previously had only a vocational education.

In 1961 the first boarding schools were established. In 1971 new plans were formulated to increase the number of such schools. It was anticipated that 30 percent of all first to eighth graders would attend such schools by 1975, that 50 to 60 percent would attend by 1980, and that a full 80 percent would live in boarding schools by 1990.

There is a wide diversity of schools that do not fall into the standard educational system. In terms of special education there are elementary schools for the blind, deaf, mentally retarded, and children who are otherwise handicapped. All children in these categories begin their schooling at the age of seven with the exception of the retarded, who begin at eight. These children attend school for eight years and may then continue in schools of general education, technicums, or other schools. Retarded children, after completion of the eight years, go on to special enterprises that are supervised by the Ministry of Public Health.

Children who are either recuperating from, or are prone to, illness attend primary and secondary schools located in areas where the climate is propitious for their recovery. Children in these schools are accepted at any point between the first and eleventh grades. Although the curriculum is somewhat modified, the basic content of the courses is essentially the same as in the regular primary and secondary schools. Most pupils attend these schools only temporarily, generally from four or five months to a year.

When the Communists came to power they stipulated that private schools could continue only if they had express permission from the government and were operated under governmental authority. In the early years of communist rule, diplomatic missions continued to [Pg 121]operate schools for the children of foreign emissaries. In 1973, however, the only private schools were the secondary school, known in Bulgaria as a seminary, and the Ecclesiastical Academy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

In addition to these special schools, there are technical and vocational schools of various kinds that are not part of the regular school system. Between secondary and higher technical schools fall the advanced technicums, which function on a postsecondary level. Courses generally run from two to three years, depending on the field of specialization. There are advanced technicums for such specializations as mining, medicine, veterinary medicine, and industrial chemistry. All schools include courses in Marxism-Leninism, higher mathematics, and physical education in addition to the courses of specialization. Also on the technical-vocational level are six-month training courses that are organized by factories, cooperatives, and other enterprises. These courses are designed to improve the workers' skills or to retrain workers for other areas of specialization. These courses include both theoretical studies and practical work.

Evening courses, correspondence courses, refresher courses, and special research programs are also numerous in the country. Workers up to thirty years of age who have not completed their elementary education are urged to attend evening schools—known in Bulgaria as shift courses—or correspondence courses. In both types of school the average length of study is from one to three years, depending on the amount of elementary education completed. Once these courses are completed, the worker may continue in either a secondary polytechnic or a vocational school. Eventually, he may go on to an institution of higher education. Refresher courses, on the other hand, are at the higher education level and are provided for industrial specialists in order to keep them abreast of the latest developments in science and technology. Teachers and researchers are encouraged to hold research fellowships that function under the various institutions of higher education as well as the Academy of Sciences.

The final component of specialized education is conducted by the party. Based on Marxism-Leninism, it is geared to indoctrinate party members but is provided for nonparty members as well. The objectives of this form of education were summed up by Georgi Dimitrov, premier of the country from 1946 until 1949, who stated that these schools are to prepare "individuals in the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism ... in order that they become independent practical organizers and leaders, capable of leading the masses in the struggle against the class enemy." The instructors of party education are trained at the Institute for Political Instruction of the Central Committee of the BKP, which in turn supervises the work of the Central Leninist Party School. In addition to the general dissemination of party policy by these instructors, there are both formal study circles [Pg 122]and political schools that present two-year courses in the history of both the Bulgarian and the Soviet communist parties.

[Pg 123]



Bulgaria has a proud cultural heritage that dates to early medieval times. During the Golden Age (A.D. 893-927) of the first and second Bulgarian kingdom, Bulgarian arts and letters dominated the Slavic world. Exposed to the flourishing culture of neighboring Byzantium, Bulgarians absorbed its influence, adapted it to their own Slavic culture and language, and then spread it among the less advanced Slavic peoples in the Balkans and to the north.

After the Turkish conquest in 1396, cultural development was retarded for several centuries until the drive for liberation in the nineteenth century rekindled its creative spark. In contrast to the Golden Age, however, when Bulgarian culture was widespread, modern artistic and intellectual expression tended to be provincial in both its audience and its content. After independence, although interest in cultural and intellectual matters was high, support for it was restricted to a minority in Sofia and in a few of the largest towns. The government made some contribution to the country's artistic development through small subsidies to institutions and government jobs for artists and intellectuals, but the subsidies were not always on the basis of merit.

Before World War II few people could made an adequate living through creative work alone, with the possible exception of members of the National Theater and Opera. The prestige of university professors, members of the Academy of Sciences, and the leading singers, artists, actors, and writers was high, but the financial rewards were hardly commensurate with their standing. Despite their prestige, Bulgarian writers and intellectuals have not enjoyed the same position of leadership and influence that has been traditional in other countries of Eastern Europe.

The communist government had promoted pride in the cultural heritage by restoring and preserving the country's medieval treasures and national revival masterpieces and by promoting traditional folk arts both in their own right and as inspiration to other forms of artistic expression. Considerable funds and efforts have been devoted to the promotion of new artistic and intellectual expression, which is seen as an important medium for the political and social education of the people. For this reason the leadership has tried to keep artistic and intellectual expression under control and to use it for its own purposes.

[Pg 124]Despite controls, artistic and intellectual life is active. Not all creative effort becomes public, and that which does not meet the prescribed criteria of style and content is known only by its creator and a few select friends; nevertheless, it is produced. Much of what passes the censor is of doubtful artistic quality, but works of considerable merit have appeared in all forms of artistic expression. Gifted artists and writers find ways to express their talent within the confines of government regulations.


Since 1944 artistic and intellectual expression have been subject to the cultural policy of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary), which has followed a relatively strict adherence to the concept of Socialist Realism as developed in the Soviet Union. Under this concept art, music, and literature are required to promote communist ideology and present an idealized picture of communist society. In order to impart the ideological message, artistic and intellectual expression must be understood by the common man and, therefore, can only take the form of straightforward representative statements.

During the period of de-Stalinization in the mid-1950s, cultural controls became less restrictive, and artistic and intellectual expression burst into new creativity and life. Although this outburst never reached the proportions it did in Poland and Hungary during the same period, the regime considered it a threat and reimposed strict controls in the late 1950s. At that time the government was preparing for a great push in economic development and, to further this goal, mobilized the cultural community into service as propagandists.

Another thaw in cultural restriction occurred in the early 1960s when several factions were struggling for control of the BKP. After Todor Zhivkov assumed firm control of the party, writers and artists were again required to serve the needs of the state until the fall of Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, and an attempted coup in Bulgaria forced Zhivkov to broaden his popular support by relaxing the BKP's control of national life.

This ebb and flow of restriction on artistic and intellectual expression continues and serves as a barometer for the political and economic climate in the country. At no time since the mid-1950s did cultural policy reach the degree of repression of the Stalinist period. The leadership in Bulgaria, as did those in other Eastern European countries, learned that repression was counterproductive. Instead, it adopted a subtler method of control through the publishers, art galleries, theater companies, and other outlets for creative expression, all of which are run by the state in conformity with the guidelines on cultural policy. Because a creative artist must communicate his ideas to an audience in order to achieve fulfillment, he tends to adapt his ideas and principles to what is acceptable to the available outlets for his work. Thus, [Pg 125]self-censorship has replaced direct government control for the most part.

From a material standpoint, the life of a creative artist in contemporary Bulgaria is far more secure than that of his counterpart in a capitalist country. Creative expression is seen as a social function; therefore, society owes the creative artist an assured livelihood. This is provided either through regular salaries from publishing houses, academies of music or art, or other agencies that employ artists or through stipends paid to creative artists who do not have a regular salary to depend on. Free or low-cost room and board are also available to creative artists and their families at special artists' colonies or retreats operated by professional unions in the creative arts and by government agencies for the promotion of the arts and sciences. Under this system, however, the artist is under constant pressure to produce in order to justify his salary or stipend.

In order to qualify for any of the material advantages, in fact, in order to function as a professional artist or scholar, an individual must be a member of the appropriate professional union. The unions are, for the most part, an arm of the BKP and another instrument for enforcing cultural policy (see ch. 9). Only the Writers' Union has demonstrated a certain degree of independence based on the recognized power of the written word. As recently as December 1972 the union again resisted integration into the Committee on Art and Culture, a supradepartmental government agency having a wide range of authority in the cultural sphere. The Writers' Union is the only professional union in the arts that has not been integrated into the committee.

The principal aim of cultural policy since 1944 has been to popularize the arts and sciences by making them accessible to all segments of the population and to utilize those mediums for the promotion of communist values. Popularization of the arts has been accomplished by greatly expanding the facilities that present the arts to the public and by supporting these facilities with state funds. Many new orchestras, theater companies, publishers, and art galleries have come into existence since World War II. Touring exhibits and road companies take the arts into small towns and villages. Radio and television have been extensively utilized to promote the arts and learning. Through state support, the prices of books and admission tickets have been kept extremely low in order to bring them within the reach of as many persons as possible. The traditional library clubs have been reinforced by a network of "houses of culture," which serve as cultural centers in villages and in urban neighborhoods.


The origins of Bulgarian literature date back to A.D. 855 when the [Pg 126]Greek priests Cyril and Methodius designed an alphabet—Cyrillic—suitable for the Slavic languages in order to facilitate the Christianization of the Slavs (see ch. 2). At first the alphabet was used to translate the Bible and other Christian religious texts, but in the Golden Age of the First Bulgarian Kingdom several original religious and secular tests were written by Bulgarians in their own language. In the late Middle Ages a substantial literature in Bulgarian was created. Although the authors were all churchmen, much of the literature was secular. A whole body of apocryphal literature—so-called heretical tales and legends—came into being at that time.

During five centuries of Turkish rule, no literature was produced except the orally transmitted folksongs and ballads. Not until the second half of the eighteenth century, when Turkish rule began to degenerate, did Bulgarian literature revive itself as part of the awakening national consciousness of the people. The first book to appear was Father Paisi's Slav-Bulgarian History, a highly nationalistic book published in 1762 that played a major role in the struggle for liberation. During the first half of the nineteenth century, several Bulgarian texts were published in neighboring countries. These were extremely influential in developing the modern Bulgarian language as their publication coincided with the establishment of schools and the spread of education among the Bulgarian people. A number of periodicals were also started by Bulgarians abroad, but most of them were irregular and short lived. Of considerable significance, however, was the collection and publication, first in periodicals and later in book form, of the folksongs and ballads that had kept alive the language and culture of the Bulgarians during the five centuries of Turkish rule. Much of the interest in folk literature came from outside the country from other Slavs in Serbia, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, and Russia, who were going through their own national awakening and had a kindred feeling for the Bulgarians.

The early modern literature was nationalistic and didactic. Its authors were educators involved in the spread of education and in the modernization of the language and revolutionaries fighting for an independent Bulgaria. Modernization and social reform were other strong currents permeating the literature of that time and later. Such poets as Petko Slaveikov, Lyuben Karavelov, and Khristo Botev were strongly influenced by the Russian social reformers and revolutionaries of the second half of the nineteenth century. Botev was the most outstanding poet of this era. His short, intense, and fiery poems continue to arouse patriotic feelings of Bulgarians everywhere. Botev's revolutionary fervor and heroism have been identified by the present-day regime with its own revolutionary movement, and he has been accorded great honor.

In the postindependence period the dominant literary figure was Ivan Vazov, whose influence on subsequent generations of writers [Pg 127]has been tremendous. Known as the national poet and father of modern Bulgarian literature, Vazov was primarily a writer and not a crusader or revolutionary as were his predecessors. He was steeped in the great literature of Europe and Russia and used the Bulgarian setting and traditions to write about universal ideas. Vazov's greatest novel, Under the Yoke, describing Bulgarian life under the Turks, has been widely translated.

Vazov and his contemporaries Yordan Yovkov and Pencho Slaveikov (son of Petko Slaveikov) sought to direct Bulgarian literature away from its confines of national politics and reform into a more general artistic and philosophical outlook. They were joined in this effort by the somewhat younger Elin Pelin, whose stories have also been widely translated. Although these writers continued to draw much of their inspiration from native scenery, folk themes, and village life, they were writers of universal quality and appeal.

Later, rival literary groups, each with its journal, laid the basis for marked development in poetry, the short story, and the novel between the two world wars. No outstanding literary figure emerged, but writers continued to experiment with a variety of themes and forms.

Realism had always been a strong theme in Bulgarian literature, and in the decade after 1944 the Communists sought to utilize this tradition in imposing Soviet-style Socialist Realism as the desired form of expression. Writers who conformed to the prescribed style were generously rewarded with stipends and special privileges that encouraged a volume of writing heretofore unknown. The novel became the main literary form as it lends itself particularly well to the prerequisites of the prescribed literary style. Nikola Vaptsarov and Khristo Smyrnenski have been singled out by the government as outstanding writers in the style of Socialist Realism.

Most of the literature produced in the late 1940s and early 1950s has been classed at best as mediocre, even by Bulgarians themselves. Several works of that period, however, have been recognized as outstanding. The most acclaimed of these has been Dimitur Dimov's Tobacco, dealing with the revolutionary movement among tobacco workers before and during World War II. The novel was strongly condemned when first published in 1951 but, after the relaxation of cultural controls in the mid-1950s, it was hailed as the best novel since Vazov's Under the Yoke.

Dissatisfaction of the writers with the restrictions imposed on them and discontent of the public with the monotony and lack of literary quality of contemporary writing became evident in the mid-1950s. These feelings broke into the open when a mild form of de-Stalinization was put into effect in 1956 (see ch. 9). Although the so-called writers' revolt never reached the proportions of those in Poland or Hungary, it did bring about a short period of relative freedom in [Pg 128]literary expression and a number of outstanding literary works that aroused a great controversy. Foremost among these was Emil Manov's An Unauthentic Case, which describes interparty conflict. Todor Genov's play Fear also received high praise for its treatment of the corruption by power of a once idealistic Communist.

The leaders of the writers' revolt, with one exception, were all loyal Communists who had become disillusioned with what they saw as the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the leadership, which they felt was leading the people into moral bankruptcy. Their main forum was a new periodical, Plamuk, edited by Manov, foremost of the rebels. The main demand of the rebels was that an artist should be free to choose his themes and methods of presentation provided he remain loyal to communist ideology.

When the exposure in literature of the spiritual decline of individual Communists and of communist ideals became too embarrassing to the leadership, tighter restrictions were reimposed in the late 1950s. The literature of the early 1960s has been termed cathartic. By writing about long-suppressed thoughts and emotions, writers attempted to purge themselves of guilt for the sins of the system that they had supported. The poetry, which was very popular with the young, had a ring of disillusionment and pessimism.

The government leadership did not approve of this literature any more than it did of the literature exposing faults in the system. Rather than repress the writers as it had done before, the regime used subtle pressures to guide writers into acceptable subjects. What followed was a wave of naturalistic poetry and novels dealing with purely human problems.


A dramatic tradition was developed as part of the National Revival. Plays intended to arouse the people's national consciousness were written by Bulgarian authors and staged by students and teachers at library clubs in several cities (see ch. 11). After independence in 1878 the National Theater was formed in Sofia, but for several decades it depended heavily on foreign plays and foreign theatrical talent. By the start of World War II, however, government subsidies had helped to develop it to a point where it compared favorably with national theaters elsewhere in Europe.

The present-day government has heavily supported the theater as a "mass school for the all-round ideological, ethical and aesthetical education of the people." An extensive repertoire of Bulgarian plays conforming to the demands of Socialist Realism and to the prescribed content and interpretation has been built up. It is performed by some forty-six theatrical companies throughout the country. Classics by William Shakespeare, Johann von Schiller, Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and others are also performed regularly, as are selected [Pg 129]contemporary plays by playwrights from all over the world. Unlike elsewhere in Eastern Europe, there has been no experimental or avant-garde theater in Bulgaria.

The presentations of the Satirical Theater in Sofia are the most daring and innovative theatrical presentations available to the public. Although their humor is often biting, their theatrical style seems rather ordinary and traditional to a Western theatergoer. The Satirical Theater is, nevertheless, the most popular theater in the country; tickets for its performances are sold out weeks in advance. In addition to satirical reviews, the theater presents classical satires by Bertolt Brecht, Nikolai Gogol, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and others. On the assumption that "people who laugh think no evil," which is an old Bulgarian proverb, the authorities have tolerated greater outspokenness on the part of Satirical Theater productions than in the more serious forms of artistic and creative expression.


As a medium of artistic and intellectual expression, Bulgarian films have lagged behind those produced in other Eastern European countries. They have received little recognition in the West, where they are generally considered old-fashioned in story line interpretation as well as in technical approach. Several attempts at imitation of the surrealism of Alain Resnais and Louis Bunuel or of some of the other contemporary Western cinematic directors, have proved failures in the eyes of the critics at home and abroad.

In common with other communist filmmakers, those in Bulgaria have concentrated for years on the suffering of the people under Nazi oppression during World War II. Most of these films about war and resistance have a propaganda purpose that outweighs any efforts toward artistic or technical excellence. Since the late 1960s most feature films have focused on contemporary life and its problems. It is these films that have shown some experimentation in contemporary cinematic techniques on the part of Bulgarian directors.

Animated cartoon shorts have been better received by Western critics and audiences than have feature films. Those designed and directed by Ivan Andonov, who is also one of Bulgaria's leading actors, have been acclaimed as outstanding.


Bulgaria is best known in the world of music for several renowned opera singers it has produced in the twentieth century. The bassos Boris Khristov and Nikolai Ghiaurov, in particular, rank among the great singers of all time. A number of other singers are known on opera stages in Europe and the Soviet Union. The country's five opera companies provide a good training ground for young singers. The opera [Pg 130]repertoire relies heavily on the classics and on contemporary compositions of non-Bulgarian origin; there are few Bulgarian operas. Nevertheless, opera is an extremely popular form of musical entertainment, particularly among the intelligentsia.

The interest in and love of opera among Bulgarians probably has its roots in Eastern Orthodox Church music, which abounds in both the vocal and dramatic elements characteristic of opera. Bulgarian clerics made considerable contribution to the development of this music during the Middle Ages through the introduction of certain rhythmic and structural qualities that give orthodox ecclesiastical music its characteristic form.

The most typical form of musical expression through the ages has been folk music. Through folksongs the Bulgarian language and cultural heritage were kept alive during the centuries of Turkish rule. Turkish influence is evident, however, in the musical quality of Bulgarian folksongs, which are noticeably Middle Eastern in feeling. Although there are many gay dances and happy songs in the folk repertoire, an important segment of folk music has a sad, plaintive quality and sings of the hardships and grief of daily life.

Bulgarian concert music is not well known outside the country. It is, however, regularly performed by Bulgarian orchestras and has found its way into the repertoire of orchestras in the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Outstanding among contemporary composers is Pancho Vladigerov, whose compositions were well received both before and after the Communists came to power.

In the early 1970s the Bulgarian press noted a growing interest in popular music among the youth. Dance bands and popular ensembles proliferated in the high schools and youth clubs. Although the press praised this interest in music as constructive, it decried the kind of music that found most popularity. Instead of heroic "mass songs" of Bulgarian composers, the youth showed interest only in Western popular music.


A rich legacy of folk arts was developed before and during the five centuries of Turkish rule. On Sundays and festival days and at the end of ordinary workdays, young and old in the villages would gather to dance the intricate steps of the horo (a circular group dance) and to sing about young love, brave men, Turkish oppression, or mythical beasts with strange features. Flutes, bagpipes, and simple stringed instruments accompanied the songs and dances.

History and tradition were passed on from generation to generation through legends, ballads, proverbs, and cautionary tales. This folklore has formed the basis of much of Bulgarian literature and art since independence from the Turks.

Other forms of folk arts were woodcarving, highly colored [Pg 131]embroidery, rug weaving, and icon painting. Although distinct in their regional variations, the traditional costumes of Bulgarian peasants are simple and drab when compared to those of other parts of Europe. Because any wealth or material possessions were subject to Turkish confiscation, Bulgarian peasants strove to present an image of poverty through simple dress and housing.

In common with other Eastern European governments, the Bulgarian government has striven to support and promote the traditional folk arts as part of the cultural heritage of the people. Artisan co-*operatives produce carved woodenware, rugs, weavings, embroideries, and traditional musical instruments for sale in government shops. Numerous folk dance groups give performances at local tourist centers and abroad. The various folk arts have been free from restriction even during periods of strict cultural controls; therefore, they have afforded the best outlet for individual creativity of the serious artists as well as the folk artists.


The golden age of Bulgarian art was, without doubt, the Middle Ages. No art since that time has matched the magnificence and quality of the icons and frescoes that adorn the churches and monasteries constructed during that period. Some of the best and most prized examples of Byzantine painting are found in the Boyana Church near Sofia, in the Zemen Monastery in the mountains along the Yugoslav border, and in several other small village churches. A masterpiece of early Bulgarian art is the icon of Saint Theodor of Plateina near Preslav; it was made of colored faience in the tenth century. True to the Byzantine style, medieval Bulgarian art used muted colors, mostly the earthy tones of yellows and browns, to depict somber saints and other religious figures.

Some of the Bulgarian painters developed a special style known as the Turnovo School of art. In addition to decorating churches and monasteries, Turnovo School artists also painted miniatures to illustrate chronicles and religious texts. Several of these are preserved in major European museums.

Woodcarving, silversmithing, goldsmithing, and other crafts also reached a high level of artistry in medieval Bulgaria. Human and animal figures were common motifs in carved wooden doors and other architectural features.

Medieval creativity came to an abrupt halt with the Turkish invasion, which not only prevented new artistic expression but also destroyed and damaged much of the existing art. Not until the National Revival of the nineteenth century did Bulgarian artists again begin to express their creativity in painting and sculpture.

Modern Bulgarian art had its beginning in the national awakening [Pg 132]and the struggle for independence of the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. As in literature, National Revival art found its themes in the beauty of the countryside, the charm of old customs, traditional folktales, and the heroic deeds of brave men. Stylistic inspiration came from peasant art and ancient Bulgarian religious art. Most significant among revival artists were Nikola Pavlovich and Vladislav Dospevaki, the former for his introduction of Western-style realism and the latter for his modernization of church art. As a whole, however, National Revival art is more significant for its historic role than for its artistic merit.

In the early years of independence, the simplicity of National Revival art gave way to an academic style and to impressionism. Best known in that period was Ivan Murkvichka, a Bohemian by birth, whose most appreciated paintings dealt with peasant life. He founded the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia and organized the first Bulgarian art exhibit.

After World War I Vladimir Dimitrov, known as The Master, sought to free Bulgarian painting from the influence of ethnography and literature, although he too drew upon village motifs. Mainly a painter of people—in individual portraits or in group compositions—he concentrated on themes of family life and peasant work. Since World War II Dimitrov has been hailed as a great revolutionary humanist whose stylized epic and lyrical works depict the greatness of the people and of their suffering.

In addition to Dimitrov, the interwar period saw the formation of a group of young painters, led by Ivan Milev, who broke away from routine academic composition and advocated the combination of national with modernistic elements. At this time also, Alexander Bozhinov developed cartoon caricature as an art form to be used as a political weapon.

Contemporary art has been guided by the strictures of Socialist Realism as interpreted at different times. Because national or peasant art is always acceptable under these restrictions, artists have used it as an avenue for greater freedom of expression. The influence of peasant icons, for instance, can be seen in the work of many contemporary artists. Peasant motifs, such as the fruits of the earth, are also evident in much of the work. The art most acceptable to the leadership, however, has been the kind of realism that Westerners associate with communist art. Typical of this style is Ilia Petrov's Partisan Song, a monumental canvas depicting a group of partisans triumphantly singing after a victory over fascists. Petrov has consistently received official praise for his work, which is seen as "national in form and socialist in content."

Under the influence of Zhivkov's more liberal cultural policy in the 1960s, artists began to show greater variation and creativity in style while retaining the acceptable subject matter for their work. Many experimented with abstracts and other avant-garde forms, but these [Pg 133]works were never selected for public showing or purchase by the museums and other state agencies, which are the only significant patrons. The artist, therefore, is usually forced to divide his efforts between those works that will earn a living and those that will give vent to his creative urge.

Although nonrepresentational art is not publicly exhibited, a considerable degree of abstraction became acceptable in the late 1960s. According to observers who have had contact with Bulgarian artists, the public had grown bored with the prescribed style and content of artistic production, and the government could no longer effectively enforce the restrictions. Added to the difficulties of enforcement was the increasing exposure of Bulgarians through tourism to the great variety of contemporary art produced in Western Europe and in some of the other communist countries. The most abstract and avant-garde painter in Bulgaria is Genko Genkov, some of whose paintings hang in the National Gallery in Sofia.

Graphic artists have been allowed the greatest freedom for abstraction. By its very nature, graphic art tends to be abstract and stylized. Graphic artists such as Maria Nedkova have succeeded in producing works that are highly regarded both by the government and by the avant-garde intelligentsia. Many graphic artists go back to Bulgarian medieval art for inspiration in theme and style. Pencho Koulekov, for instance, who is highly regarded in Bulgaria, uses the primitive two-dimensional perspective, the simplification of forms, the highlighting of the essential, and the omission of all detail that was characteristic of early miniaturists and icon painters.

Until the time of independence, sculpture was represented almost exclusively by decorative wood carvings. With the introduction of Western influences, several artists turned to the use of stone. Few Bulgarian sculptors achieved international fame, however, although the work of some professors of fine arts in Sofia were becoming known outside the country. Among them was the noted woodcut artist, Vasil Zakhariev, and a former director of the Academy of Fine Arts, Ivan Lasarov.

The three-dimensional nature of sculpture and the classic Greek tradition of literal representation have made it difficult for contemporary sculptors to break away from the realistic representational requirements of the regime. Only sculptures designed for children's playgrounds and parks are allowed a degree of abstraction characteristic of art created by children themselves. Observers have commented that works considered highly modern in Bulgaria are completely traditional and representational to the Western eye.


The architectural tradition of Bulgaria is formed on ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman architecture of which examples survive in [Pg 134]several parts of the country. Three periods stand out in the development of distinct architectural styles over the ages. The first period was the Middle Ages, when Bulgarian and other architects constructed some of the great examples of early Byzantine architecture in territories that constituted the First Bulgarian Kingdom (see ch. 2). Many of these monuments are no longer within the boundaries of Bulgaria—notably the churches and monastery in the Lake Ohrid region of Yugoslavia—and others were destroyed during the centuries of Turkish rule. Among those that have survived within the confines of the country are some of the best examples of artistic expression and technology of the Byzantine period. These are a source of great pride for Bulgarians, who consider them part of their contribution to world culture.

The next period of outstanding architectural development was the National Revival period of the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century. Flourishing commerce gave new life to such towns as Plovdiv and Turnovo and created new urban centers in which affluent merchants and artisans built homes and public buildings in a richly ornamented style that came to be known as the National Revival style. These two-story structures made extensive use of stone and wood, the latter usually elaborately carved. The interiors were light and spacious. In addition to carved doors, ceilings, and built-in sideboards, the interiors were often decorated with wall paintings. Typical of National Revival architecture is the Rila Monastery; its interior walls are covered with frescoes, and its interior and exterior abound in carved wooden structural members and decorative details. The monastery, like other National Revival structures, reflects the Byzantine influence in the many large arched windows, arched ceilings, and arcades.

The third period of distinguished architectural development is the contemporary one. Industrial growth since World War II and a rapidly growing tourist industry since the mid-1950s have called for large-scale construction of needed facilities. New resort towns arose on the Black Sea; industrial new towns grew in other locations; and hotels, apartment complexes, and public buildings were needed throughout the country. Although much of the architecture imitates the colossal style of Stalinist work, some of it is of high artistic quality and imagination. The Balkantourist Hotel in Turnovo and several hotels in Black Sea resorts are often singled out as outstanding examples of modern architecture; they combine traditional features with modern materials and techniques and blend them into a design that fits into the natural surroundings.

Several young architects have achieved international reputations by winning major design competitions in different parts of the world. Winning designs have included plans for the development of the city center of Closure, in the Federal Republic of Germany (West [Pg 135]Germany), and the city center of Tunis, and the redesigning of the Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. Since the 1960s the most talented young architects have been spending some time in Western Europe to expand their knowledge and experience.


Isolated for five centuries from the main currents of intellectual and scientific developments abroad and denied the education required to undertake any scholarly or scientific activity of their own, the Bulgarian people do not have a long tradition of scholarship and science. Some intellectual activity did take place in the isolated mountain monasteries, and it eventually inspired the National Revival. Because of this isolation, however, the focus of the intellectual activity was parochial.

The Academy of Sciences was founded in 1869 as part of the National Revival movement and has served, together with the University of Sofia, as the rallying point of intellectuals and scholars. After World War II the Academy of Sciences was expanded by the incorporation of several independent research institutions. Its membership was also vastly increased with the admission of individuals whose loyalty to the new government would assure the proper slant to their scholarly work. The Academy of Agricultural Sciences was founded in 1961 to provide the scientific know-how that would expand the output of collectivized agriculture. The two academies coordinate and supervise all research and scholarly activity undertaken in the country.

Emphasis in all scholarly and scientific activity has been on matters directly applicable to industrial and agricultural development. Work in the social sciences has been directed at the government's efforts to transform Bulgaria into a socialist state. The work of scientists and scholars must conform to the various theories and formulas developed by Soviet scholars and must not dispute or contradict the basic precepts of Marxism-Leninism as interpreted by the Bulgarian leadership. In the early 1970s scholarly activity in Bulgaria had not yet attained the freedom of thought and expression that has been evident in Poland and Hungary.

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The People's Republic of Bulgaria is a socialist state with a form of government not too different from the Soviet model on which it was patterned. Following the classical Marxist-Leninist ideology, it subscribes to rule by the working class—that is, dictatorship of the proletariat—a doctrine asserting that all power emanates from the people and is exercised by them through the electoral process. Corollary to this right of the people to elect national representatives is the power to recall them through the same instrument of the ballot. In practice, however, the dictatorship of the proletariat has been a dictatorship of the communist party.

The government has its theoretical base in the constitution adopted in 1971, which superseded the earlier version of 1947. The 1971 Constitution provides for a representative unicameral legislature known as the National Assembly, an executive committee within the legislature called the State Council, and a cabinet of advisers known as the Council of Ministers. For regional and local government the constitution establishes a hierarchical structure of people's councils. Parallel to the entire governmental structure there exist corresponding levels of the Bulgarian Communist Party (Bulgarska Komunisticheska Partiya—BKP, see Glossary) and, in practice, the party leadership at each level exercises executive and legislative control.

The 1971 Constitution, unlike the 1947 document, explicitly sanctions the leadership of the BKP. Its preamble unequivocally proclaims the leading role of the BKP in the government machinery as the directing force in promoting socialist goals and in actively participating in the fraternity of friendly socialist countries. Particularly noteworthy is the statement of recognition of Bulgaria's alignment with the Soviet Union.

The 1971 Constitution also recognizes the representation of multi-interest groups within the united Fatherland Front (Otechestven Front), a coalition of left-of-center political groups, which had its origins during World War II. The front has become a large umbrella for mass organizations and is headed by the National Council of the Fatherland Front, which functions under party auspices. As constituted [Pg 138]in 1973, the front remained a control mechanism or, more appropriately, a transmission belt for the BKP.

The drafters of the 1971 Constitution of Bulgaria subscribed to Lenin's principle of unity of power, which advocated combined legislative-executive authority in one state organ of power. In the 1970s the State Council had assumed legislative initiative as well as executive responsibility, whereas the National Assembly, which was constitutionally endowed with the legislative authority, followed the lead of the State Council.

Government is structured on two levels: national and local. The highest legislative body, according to the constitution, is the National Assembly, which meets only three times a year in very short sessions. Executive direction at the national level comes from the State Council, which theoretically is elected by and responsible to the National Assembly. In effect, however, the council has become a superior body. Because the National Assembly meets infrequently, the State Council assumes legislative initiative in addition to its executive responsibility. The third major organ at the national level, referred to in the constitution as the government, is the Council of Ministers, which is theoretically appointed by and responsible to the National Assembly but is actually responsible to the State Council. National policy decisions reach the grass roots level through the pyramidal system of people's councils.

The judiciary, although independent in theory, is an integral part of the government structure that operates as an adjunct of the executive-legislative organs. By design the judicial system legitimizes communist control and gives legal expression to party policy. The system is structured so that the courts of law and the prosecution agency function together, and the latter enjoys police power.


The beginnings of constitutional government in Bulgaria date back to 1879 after Russia had liberated the country from 485 years of Turkish rule. From 1879 to 1947 the country was governed by a constitutional monarchy based on the Turnovo Constitution, which established a parliamentary system of government having a king at its head. Among comparable constitutions in Europe at the time, the Turnovo document was considered liberal and democratic in form, organization, and operation. It was considered to be one of the most liberal in the world at that time. Whereas most European countries limited suffrage in various ways, all Bulgarian citizens over the age of twenty-one enjoyed the franchise.

Through a sixty-five-year span, however, the Turnovo Constitution was revised twice, suspended twice, and violated many times. Basic to these conflicts was the limit on the power of the king and the extent of popular participation in government. The absence of [Pg 139]consultative bodies in a unicameral legislature served to widen the rift between the executive and legislative branches.

Even after the communist takeover in 1944, the Turnovo Constitution continued to be the charter of government until a new constitution was adopted in December 1947. In party historiography the 1947 Constitution is described as the work of Georgi Dimitrov, hence it became known as the Dimitrov Constitution and remained in force until 1971.

The Constitution of 1947

In the mid-1940s, with the ascendancy of the BKP in the Fatherland Front coalition government, there arose a need to draw up a new charter. The changes in government structure and operation had rendered the Turnovo Constitution obsolete, and the BKP was anxious to discard those elements that party ideologists considered bourgeois.

Structurally the Constitution of 1947 consisted of eleven chapters and 101 articles without a preamble. It proclaimed Bulgaria a people's republic with a representative form of government to be implemented by universal suffrage of citizens eighteen years of age and over.

The constitution established the National Assembly as the supreme organ of the state power and the Council of Ministers as the supreme executive and administrative organ. During the twenty-four-year span of the 1947 Constitution, the Presidium of the National Assembly actually wielded more power than its parent organization or the Council of Ministers, even though such power was not ascribed to it in the Constitution. The power of the presidium derived from the BKP positions concurrently held by its members.

Legislative power was vested in a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, which was elected for a term of four years. Assembly representatives were elected by the people on the basis of one representative for every 30,000 people; amended in 1961 to 25,000. Representatives served terms of four years but could be recalled at any time before the expiration of their terms. The constitution required the assembly to meet twice a year and on other occasions as required by its presidium, which met in continuous session.

The many functions of the National Assembly included electing the presidium, Supreme Court judges, and the chief prosecutor; appointing the Council of Ministers; amending the constitution; granting amnesties; deciding the holding of referenda; voting on the general economic plan; settling questions of war and peace; and other legislative matters of nationwide application.

Within the assembly the presidium—consisting of a president, two vice presidents, a secretary, and fifteen members—was empowered with legislative-executive authority, and it exercised judicial power in the interpretation of laws that were binding on everyone. More importantly, the presidium assumed the powers and functions of the [Pg 140]National Assembly when the latter was not in session. In effect, the small presidium exercised the legislative function most of the time.

Executive and administrative direction was vested in the Council of Ministers, a cabinet elected by the National Assembly. The council consisted of a chairman, several deputy chairmen, the heads of various commissions having ministerial rank, and the ministers. The council was assigned the tasks of directing and administering the various ministries that were concerned with the economy as well as with affairs of state; the State Planning Committee; the State Control Committee; and the Committee on Art and Culture; as well as the Committee on Science, Technical Progress and Higher Education. In practice, the council implemented policy decisions of the party leaders who were its high-ranking officers.

Following the Soviet model, the first secretary of the party was also the chairman of the Council of Ministers and, as such, was the country's premier. It became evident through the years that the Council of Ministers and the Presidium of the National Assembly were the ultimate sources of governmental authority because legislation they proposed was usually implemented by decree and approved, after the fact, by the National Assembly.

The 1947 Constitution treated the economic and social structure of the country extensively. It subscribed to collective ownership of the means of production; defined rules of national economic planning and social welfare; empowered the government to nationalize trade, industry, and transportation; expropriated land where necessary; and restricted ownership of private property—all in the interest of the state. The constitution also gave the state the prerogative to establish monopolies over production and trade.

Below the apex of the governmental pyramid lay the wide base of local governments. These consisted of district and communal people's councils exercising authority through their executive committees, which sat in continuous session. The executive committees of the people's councils cooperated closely with local party groups, and personnel were often concurrently members of executive committees and local party committees. Although the organization of local government was revamped in 1949, in 1951, and in 1959, by the mid-1960s it was replaced by twenty-seven districts plus Sofia, which became a territorial administrative unit. The decentralizing of governmental authority to the local organs of state power was designed to bring about greater efficiency and better supervision in matters of political, economic, and cultural interests.

The Constitution of 1971

The Constitution of 1971 was the result of the work of the Tenth Bulgarian Communist Party Congress, which was held April 20-25, 1971, in Sofia. This congress also produced a new program for the BKP, [Pg 141]made changes in statutes, elected the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, and adopted "Directives on the Socio-Economic Development of the People's Republic of Bulgaria during the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1971-75)."

The draft of the new constitution was presented for nationwide discussion on March 30, 1971, just three weeks before the opening of the tenth BKP congress. The congress approved the draft in its entirety on the opening day of session. The constitution was approved through a popular referendum on May 16 and was proclaimed law two days later by the National Assembly. General elections under the new law took place on June 27, 1971.

The structure and functioning of the different organs of state power as outlined in the Dimitrov Constitution remained essentially the same except that the State Council became a more powerful governmental body than the Presidium of the National Assembly that it replaced and, in effect, overshadowed the Council of Ministers in authority. The new document continues to define Bulgaria as a people's republic but also refers to its socialist character and to its membership in the international community of socialist states. Two new features are the declaration of principles in the preamble and the sanction given to the leadership of the BKP, aided by the Bulgarian Agrarian Union (also called the Agrarian Party) within a united Fatherland Front (see ch. 9).

The Constitution of 1971 reflects the new changes in the sociopolitical and socioeconomic development of the country as viewed by the communist leadership. The first chapter consists of twelve articles that briefly define the political philosophy upon which the constitution is based and the direction in which the party expects the country to move under the new charter. Simply stated, the philosophy avows that Bulgaria is "a socialist state of the working people of town and country, headed by the working class," and "the guiding force in society and the state is the Bulgarian Communist Party." The direction of movement expected by the country's leadership is evidenced by the assertion that "the socialist state shall promote the evolution of the socialist society into a communist society." This chapter also affirms the Marxist-Leninist principles that underlie the functioning of the state and the society.

The new document also addresses itself to significant changes in the interrelationships between the National Assembly, State Council (formerly the presidium), and the Council of Ministers. For instance, the constitution expanded the right of legislative initiative to include not only the National Assembly and the Council of Ministers but also the State Council, the permanent commissions of the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the chief prosecutor, and the district people's councils. The rationale was that the National Assembly is not a continuously sitting body so that its functions must, of necessity, be assigned to state bodies of a permanent nature.

[Pg 142]Twenty articles explain the economic system and development of the republic based on the socialist ownership of the means of production. The constitution recognizes four kinds of ownership: state, cooperative, public organizations, and individual or personal.

The Law on Citizen's Property passed during the session of the National Assembly in March 1973, however, nearly abolished the private ownership of the means of production which, according to communist theory, is the basis for the exploitation of man by man. The new measure gave legal expression to what had been planned since the constitution was promulgated in 1971 and reflects the complete predominance of collective ownership in furtherance of the spirit of the tenth BKP congress. Private ownership is confined to "items for personal use."

Basic rights and liberties of citizens get constitutional guarantees, but in almost every stipulation that hinges on personal, civil, and political rights, in practice, the interest and welfare of the state take precedence. Basic rights and obligations embrace a wide scope of personal, civil, and political freedoms. Among these guarantees are the right to Bulgarian citizenship; civil rights of spouses, parents, and children; rights to work, rest, and receive health care and free education; freedoms of speech, press, association, and demonstration; rights to secrecy of correspondence and communication except in cases of national emergency; and freedom of worship. All citizens are declared to be equal before the law regardless of national origin, creed, social status, education, or sex. Article 36 extends to women equal rights with men. Mothers are guaranteed all-expense-paid hospitalization and maternity care, paid maternity leave of absence, and provision for children's care in nurseries and other establishments provided by the government. The protective arm of the state also extends to its citizens overseas.

Rights have commensurate obligations defined by the constitution to ensure the survival and strengthening of the socialist foundation. Foremost among these are the obligation to work according to one's abilities, the defense of the state, compulsory military service, and tax obligations for state support. Treason and other high crimes against the state, such as inciting war and disseminating propaganda, are treated with severity.


The Central Government

The constitution exhibits an image of legislative supremacy asserting that power belongs to the people and is exercised through such elected representative bodies as the National Assembly and the people's councils. The practice, however, shows executive political hegemony exercised by the party leadership occupying positions of governmental responsibility, such as the head of the Council of Ministers and head of [Pg 143]the State Council. The power exercised by a government organ is directly linked to the party positions held by its head and by its members. For example, Todor Zhivkov as president of the State Council (a position that automatically makes him president of the republic) is at the same time first secretary of the party and a member of its Politburo. Stanko Todorov, who is chairman of the Council of Ministers and thereby premier of the republic, is also a member of the Politburo. Several other members of the State Council and the Council of Ministers are concurrently members of the Politburo, the Secretariat, or the Central Committee. This interlocking of positions, which occurs not only at the national level but at all levels, ensures party control of the entire governmental system (see fig. 6).

State Council

The source of executive direction and control in the government is the State Council, a twenty-four-man executive committee within the National Assembly elected for an indefinite term until a new National Assembly elects a new council. It functions as a collegial executive and legislative body, and its president assumes the title of president of the People's Republic of Bulgaria.

The State Council of the National Assembly replaced the former presidium, to which the 1947 Constitution had given honorific titles but largely ceremonial functions. Conceived during a plenum of the party Central Committee in 1968 but not established until after the promulgation of the new constitution in 1971, the State Council was designed to be a powerful force, both executive and legislative, in the overall governmental structure. The best evidence to the power inherent in the structure of the new State Council was the fact that party leader Zhivkov chose to relinquish the premiership, which he had held for several years, in favor of the newly created position of president of the State Council. Zhivkov is one of a very few leaders of communist countries who continues to retain the top position in both the party and the government.

The State Council exercises a wide spectrum of authority that would theoretically be the responsibility of the National Assembly. In effect the State Council becomes the alter ego of, or a surrogate for, the National Assembly and arrogates to itself the constitutional prerogatives of the people and the elected legislature. Most members of the State Council are concurrently high-ranking members of the BKP.

Among the many duties and responsibilities of the council, the most important can be divided into two definite groups: those functions that are specifically defined and thereby permanent and those functions that the council assumes when the legislative body is not in session. During wartime, when it might not be possible for the assembly to meet, the constitution provides for the complete assumption of legislative and executive authority by the State Council.

The State Council's specific and permanent functions include, among [Pg 144]others, calling the National Assembly into session, exercising the right of legislative initiative, determining bills that should be submitted to the people for nationwide discussion, interpreting the laws and decrees binding on everyone, creating and eliminating departments below ministerial level, appointing and recalling diplomatic representatives, granting Bulgarian citizenship, ratifying international treaties concluded by the government, and implementing the general direction of the defense of the country.

Figure 6. Bulgaria, Structure of Government, 1973

Figure 6. Bulgaria, Structure of Government, 1973

[Pg 145]When the National Assembly is not in session, the State Council is empowered to promulgate decrees and other acts of legal validity dealing with problems arising from laws and decrees of the legislative body. Furthermore, these acts and decrees have the force of law and need no legislative confirmation at the next assembly session.

Additionally, the council exercises executive control over the Council of Ministers, its members, the local people's councils, and the Office of the Chief Prosecutor; it can repeal decisions of the ministries and other central departments, which in effect reduces the Council of Ministers to a grade below the State Council. In the event of war the State Council, in the absence of the National Assembly, is empowered to sign peace treaties, to amend the constitution, to grant amnesty, and to change the territorial boundaries of the country. In sum, the functions of the State Council can be categorized into executive, legislative, judicial, and police. In carrying out these multifarious responsibilities, six councils and two committees assist the State Council, (see fig. 7).

Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers is described in the constitution as "a supreme executive and administrative body of state power." In practice the council is more of an advisory body to the State Council than it is a supreme body even though it oversees the day-to-day functioning of the government. In 1973 the council consisted of a chairman (the premier), two first deputy chairmen, five deputy chairmen, twenty ministers, and several chairmen of committees subordinate to the council. Additionally, there are other members in the council; they are ministers without portfolio (two) and the deputy chairman of the State Control Committee. Within the council there is an inner executive committee known as the Bureau of the Council of Ministers; its membership includes the chairman, his seven deputies, the minister of finance, and the chairman of the State Planning Committee.

Election and organization of the Council of Ministers is done by the National Assembly, which determines the number, kind, and names of the ministries and of other departments with ministerial rank. For this reason the number of ministries and central agencies may vary from time to time. The Constitution of 1971 introduced two new features that did not exist in the 1947 Constitution. One obliges the Council of Ministers to give an accounting of its work to the State Council and another limits the rights of the Council of Ministers over the executive committees of the people's councils.

Some of the functions of the Council of Ministers overlap those of the State Council. Categorically, these functions may be grouped together as executive, legislative, economic (budget preparation), police, and military.

The Council of Ministers also has jurisdiction to form—for the purpose of administration—committees, councils, general boards, and offices. Also within their competence, ministers and heads of departments with ministerial rank have the right to issue orders and rescind unlawful or irregular acts and actions of the special bodies of the people's councils. They also have the right to suspend acts of the executive committee of the people's councils.

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Figure 7. Bulgaria, Organization of the Council of Ministers, 1973

Figure 7. Bulgaria, Organization of the Council of Ministers, 1973

The constitution empowers the Council of Ministers to draft and implement national economic plans for submission to the National Assembly. The council has police power in the maintenance of public order and security and has general command of the armed forces. [Pg 147]Along with the State Council it implements the direction and control of the activities of the people's councils.

The National Assembly

The National Assembly, a unicameral legislature, is the only legislative body of the central government, but legislative initiative has been extended to several other governmental organs. In practice the State Council appears to be the most powerful organ of government as well as the principal initiator of legislative matters. The assembly, which meets only three times each year in short sessions, would appear to have more form than substance in the actual governmental affairs of the country. It would seem to be impossible for anyone to become a member of the assembly or of the State Council without prior approval of the BKP (see ch. 9).

The assembly's 400 members represent voting districts of equal numbers of inhabitants per delegate. The term of office is five years. This was another innovation in that the BKP hierarchy decided that party congresses would be held every five years instead of four and, therefore, elections to the National Assembly should be changed in the same manner. In the exercise of its functions, the National Assembly can dissolve itself, and in emergency situations it may extend its term.

The manner in which the National Assembly operates, that is, the infrequency and brevity of sessions, makes it imperative for permanent commissions, in addition to the State Council, to carry on the multifarious functions of the assembly. In 1971 there were twelve permanent commissions, half of which had overlapping functions with various ministries. The constitution does not specify how many permanent or interim commissions the assembly should appoint but leaves such matters of organization to the assembly itself.

Local Government

Territorially, Bulgaria is divided into twenty-eight districts (okruzi; sing., okrug), about 200 municipalities, and about 5,500 villages. The municipalities, if size warrants, are divided into urban constituencies (rayoni; sing., rayon), whereas villages are usually grouped together to form rural constituencies known as obshtini (sing., obshtina). Since 1959 the number of districts has remained constant at twenty-eight, which includes one for the city of Sofia. The number of urban and rural constituencies, on the other hand, changes frequently as the population increases and as people move from the countryside to the cities or move from cities to suburban areas. Districts and urban and rural constituencies are governed on the local level by people's councils, and in the 1971 elections there were almost 1,200 such councils with a total of more than 53,000 elected officials.

Each people's council has an elected executive committee, which is constantly in session and which acts for the council during the long [Pg 148]periods when the full body is not meeting. On the local level the executive committee is to the people's council what the State Council is to the National Assembly on the national level. An executive committee usually consists of a chairman, a first deputy chairman, several deputy chairmen (depending on size), and a secretary. The interlocking of party and governmental positions that is the hallmark of the central government is repeated at the district and rural and urban constituency levels, and often the members of a people's council executive committee are also the most prominent members of the local party organization. An executive committee usually serves for the entire term of its people's council.

In the implementation of national policy, people's councils are under the supervision and control of higher councils all the way up to the central government. The hierarchical and pyramidal structure of the people's councils, wherein the lowest bodies are subject to the direction of the next higher and of the highest bodies, is an example of the application of Lenin's principle of democratic centralism. Coincident with this structure of government is the parallel structure of the BKP, whose members are in control or are influential at every level.

People's councils are empowered to adapt decisions and orders of higher authorities to their own individual needs. Local councils prepare plans and budgets in consonance with the national plans and, after decisions have been made at the national level, the local councils conform to the national policy. People's councils are involved in the day-to-day affairs of their constituencies in government services and administration, the maintenance of public order, the protection of state and communal property, and the protection of the rights of its citizens. In these areas the local police, known as the People's Militia, are the instruments of the local council, but their responsibility is also to the next higher level and on up to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (see ch. 15).


The highest judicial organ is the Supreme Court, the members of which are elected by the National Assembly for five-year terms. Below it are twelve regional and ninety-three district courts, and the military courts. The Supreme Court is a court of original jurisdiction as well as of appellate jurisdiction. It is organized into criminal, civil, and military divisions. In the administration of justice, courts and prosecution are referred to as "weapons of the dictatorship of the proletariat." Judges and assessors take part in the dispensation of justice. These positions are elective.

The Office of the Chief Prosecutor is established to see that the laws are obeyed by the ministries and other national departments, bodies of local state power, economic and public organizations, and officials as well as citizens. The chief prosecutor is elected to a five-year term. [Pg 149]He is subject to recall, however, before the expiration of his term and is responsible only to the National Assembly. Again, as is true with the Supreme Court, between sessions the chief prosecutor reports to the State Council.

The chief prosecutor exercises wide powers in the performance of his functions. Because he is elected by the National Assembly, he is certain to be a loyal party member; he appoints prosecutors (district and communal) for lower levels and can recall them before the expiration of their terms. Together with the minister of justice, he controls the judicial system for the communist party.

In interpreting the communist theory of "unity of power," the constitution places the judiciary below the executive and legislative branches of state power. It also lumps together the judicial bodies and prosecutors in overlapping and parallel functions. The fact that judges and lay assessors are elected indicates that the party echelons can control the workings of the judicial machinery.


The basic election law of Bulgaria is embodied in a document adopted on February 17, 1953, and published as the Law of Election for the National Assembly of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. It has been amended many times since then.

Article 6 of the 1971 Constitution extends the right to vote to every Bulgarian citizen who has reached the age of eighteen, regardless of "sex, nationality, race, creed, education, occupation, official or social status, and property status." The only exceptions are those persons under "complete tutelage." An earlier law had denied the right to vote only to those who had been sentenced by a court.

Members of both national and local representative bodies—the National Assembly and the people's councils—are elected by direct and secret ballot on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage. Theoretically, they are responsible to their electorate and render an accounting of their activities. In this frame of reference they can be subject to recall even before the expiration of their term. In practice they are removed at the discretion of the BKP.

The State Council schedules dates for elections to the National Assembly and people's councils. In no case is the date fixed later than two months after the expiration of the current mandate. The council is also empowered to schedule dates for holding referenda on decisions of the National Assembly. All election dates are set on weekends or nonworking days to ensure continuous work production.

Under the election law and in accordance with the constitution, elections are called by the State Council and conducted by the Central Election Commission, a body created by the National Assembly and directed by the State Council. The Central Election Commission comprises representatives of various organizations, such as trade unions, [Pg 150]cooperatives, youth organizations, special professional and interest groups, and other public organizations and societies, which must be duly registered according to acceptable procedures established by the National Assembly. The election commission is headed by an executive committee consisting of a chairman, a deputy chairman, a secretary, and twenty members, all of whom must be approved by the State Council.

Corollary to the right to elect is the right to be elected to public office. Candidates are nominated according to electoral areas. Theoretically, the right to nominate candidates is secured through meetings of public organizations and such societies as trade unions, youth organizations, cultural societies, and cooperatives. In practice, however, candidates are nominated by the BKP leadership of these public organizations, and their names are submitted for discussion during meetings. This procedure ensures the candidates' election and at the same time meets the obligation in the electoral law that nominations be discussed at public meetings.

Lists of candidates for public office are compiled in each village, town, and district and are submitted to the BKP-controlled National Council of the Fatherland Front where a final list of candidates is drawn. Only candidates nominated by the BKP, the Bulgarian Agrarian Union, and other mass social organizations approved by the Fatherland Front are allowed to go on the ballot. Quite expectedly, the single slate of candidates presented by the Fatherland Front usually gets elected unanimously.

In the parliamentary election held on June 27, 1971, voters elected assembly deputies, people's councillors, judges, and lay assessors. Out of 6,168,931 registered voters, 6,159,942 cast ballots, representing 99.85 percent of the electorate. A total of 6,154,082 voters, or 99.9 percent, voted for all Fatherland Front candidates as contrasted to 1,487 who voted against. About 4,373 election ballots were declared void because of irregularities.

The speed with which election results are tallied and announced was exemplified by the election of 1971. Two days after the election the Central Election Commission—headed by its chairman, Angel Velev—examined the protocols of the 400 urban constituency election commissions and announced the results. As expected, all 400 candidates nominated by the Fatherland Front were elected. Announcements of local election results in towns and villages are made by the respective executive committees of the people's councils.

The BKP's method of organizing the government after an election was illustrated by the plenum of the Bulgarian Communist Party's Central Committee held on July 6, 1971. It discussed and approved proposals for candidates for chairman and deputy chairman of the National Assembly, membership of the State Council, Council of Ministers, heads of the different commissions, chairman of the Supreme [Pg 151]Court, and chief prosecutor. Nominees were submitted for discussion and confirmation during the first session of the sixth National Assembly held on July 7, 1971.

An amendment to the 1971 Constitution on the nomination of candidates by the leadership of public organizations obtained official sanction not only for the purpose of expediency but more importantly to guarantee the election of the nominees, as there had been cases of nonelection during the previous elections for people's councils. The election law also provides that candidates must garner 50 percent plus one vote in the electoral districts before being declared elected. Statistics of election results for people's councils in 1949 and 1966 showed that the percentage of votes ranged from 96.48 percent of the voting population in 1949 to 99.56 percent in 1966. The new amendment required that two-thirds of the registered voters cast their ballots in favor of the candidates before declaring that an election had taken place.

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[Pg 153]



In mid-1973 political affairs and the administration of the country remained completely in the hands of the ruling circle of the Bulgarian Communist Party (Bulgarska Komunisticheska Partiya—BKP, see Glossary), headed by First Secretary Todor Zhivkov. Political power was exercised by him and by the few select officials in the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, particularly those who were members of the Politburo and the Secretariat. The extent of such power was best described by Vulko Chervenkov, onetime premier and Politburo member, who declared that "no institution, organization, or person can be above the Politburo and the Central Committee." This statement, made in the early 1950s, continues to be the cardinal rule of communist power in Bulgaria.

Retention of power by the party was ensured through its absolute control of governmental machinery and of all organized activities. Virtually every important government post was held by a high-ranking party member. First Secretary Zhivkov, for example, was also president of the State Council, the leading government body, which made him the top man in both party and government. In addition to the interlocking of government and party posts at all levels, it was also customary for the top officers of mass organizations to be members of the party hierarchy. The continued existence of a second political party, the Bulgarian Agrarian Union (Bulgarski Zemedelski Suyuz—BZS), did not encroach on the monopolization of political power by the BKP because the prerogatives of the union had been curtailed to the point where it had become an auxiliary of the BKP rather than a competitor. Any opposition to the ruling elite had come from within the party rather than from outside organizations. As recently as 1965 an abortive attempt to overthrow Zhivkov was made, but this was the result of intraparty factionalism rather than antiparty opposition. Zhivkov managed to avert the attempted coup d'etat and afterward strengthened his power base within the party.

At the helm of the party for nineteen years, Zhivkov, despite occasional intraparty struggle and friction, remained the undisputed leader and, as such, he maintained very close relations with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and with the Soviet government. On the one hand the close Bulgarian-Soviet relationship has been interpreted by Marxist theoreticians as the application of "proletarian [Pg 154]internationalism"—a theory that contends that proletarian unity is "historically the higher right than that of national self-determination." On the other hand, many observers of Bulgarian-Soviet relations maintain that the nature of the unequal alliance stems not only from historical and cultural affiliations as well as political and ideological identification but, more important, from Zhivkov's need for strong Soviet support.

At the Tenth Party Congress in 1971 Zhivkov reiterated the necessity for close ties with the Soviet Union and introduced a five-year economic plan that continued the long emphasis on heavy industry. The congress reelected the Politburo, despite the advanced ages of some of the members and their demonstrated concern for maintaining the status quo at a time when the changes necessary to transform Bulgaria into a modern industrial country have placed new demands on old methods and institutions. Success or failure of the Communists' ongoing efforts to industrialize, modernize, and communize the country depends on the adaptability of the leadership and the political institutions to meet the challenges of the 1970s.


After discovery of the plot to overthrow him in April 1965, Zhivkov took steps to secure his position and to prevent future conspiracies. Because the threat to his regime had come mainly from the army, Zhivkov and his minister of defense often spoke to assemblies of military officers to explain party policies and to assuage dissident feelings within military ranks. In addition, state security functions were realigned in an attempt to tighten the system in order that such conspiracies would not be able to germinate in the future. The Ministry of the Interior lost its responsibility for security to the newly created Committee of State Security, which was under the direct supervision of Zhivkov in his position as premier. Later, in 1968, the Committee of State Security and the Ministry of the Interior were again merged under the latter's title.

After the abortive plot against him, Zhivkov offered some reforms to placate disgruntled elements and to avoid a repetition of the incident. Although the principal plotters were imprisoned, Zhivkov's reaction to the conspiracy was one of general appeasement. This policy of appeasement was shown by the fact that no general purges took place and that people who could have been suspected of dissident activity were allowed to remain in positions of authority in the party and in the government rather than being summarily swept aside. The programs of liberal reform that had been implemented before, but interrupted by, the 1965 plot were resumed, and Bulgaria seemed to be reaching for [Pg 155]a national destiny rather than accepting the role of a Soviet puppet. The reforms affected all fields—political, economic, and cultural—and for a time it seemed that the abortive coup d'etat had given new impetus to Bulgarian national interests.

The promise of reform appeared to be the focal point around which the Ninth Party Congress was convened in 1966, and at the congress party leaders underscored the need for the widest participation in the democratic process. Reforms, however, fell victim to the conservatism of older party leaders, and Zhivkov did not have the personal strength or magnetism to push forward his program. The ninth congress ended with the reelection of the essentially reactionary Politburo and a reaffirmation of the status quo. The bright hopes for economic, political, and social progress that had been evident in late 1965 and early 1966 collapsed in a return of rigid ideological dogma and a firm reliance on Soviet rather than Bulgarian initiatives.

The failure of the ninth congress to rejuvenate the party hierarchy and to chart a reform course for the future had repercussions throughout Bulgarian society. Initiatives in foreign affairs that had been taken in 1965 and 1966 foundered in the retrenchment into party orthodoxy. Negotiations that had begun with Western European countries as well as with Balkan neighbors bore no fruit as the Zhivkov government failed to follow up earlier moves toward better relations. Even more detrimental to Balkan relations was Bulgarian participation in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, which Yugoslavia and Romania strongly opposed. In the cultural area the party tightened its controls over creative artists and reorganized the Committee on Art and Culture to better serve the needs of the government. The First Congress of Culture, held in 1967, emphasized the constructive role of culture in society and called for an intensification of anti-Western propaganda in order to counter the dangerous influence of so-called bourgeois culture.

There was also great concern among party leaders about the so-called nihilistic attitude of the country's young people. In December 1967 Zhivkov published his "Youth Theses" in an attempt to counter what the party considered to be dangerous apathy on the part of Bulgarian youth. Zhivkov's theses initiated some institutional reforms that dealt heavily with patriotic education in an attempt to instill some national pride in the young people, but about a year later patriotic education was deemphasized. Evidently the program had aroused strong feelings of nationalism that interfered with the pro-Soviet attitudes that have been characteristic of Zhivkov's government. After publication of the "Youth Theses," all youth activities came under the aegis of the Dimitrov Communist Youth Union (Dimitrovski Komunisticheski Mladezhki Suyuz), referred to as Komsomol, which is the junior auxiliary of the BKP. The moves to politicize young people failed to arouse any widespread interest, and in the early 1970s Bulgarian [Pg 156]youth remained essentially apolitical and apathetic.

In the economic sector the BKP blueprint for reform commonly referred to as the New Economic Model offered innovations in decentralized decisionmaking that delegated more responsibilities to public and state organizations on the lower level as well as to individual enterprises. The attention given to economic reform at the time—late 1965—was motivated not only by Zhivkov's need to shore up his own political position after the attempted coup but probably more so by the examples of new economic programs that were sweeping the Eastern European communist countries and the Soviet Union. More important than the liberal reforms for decentralized management of the economy was the decision to allow planning from the bottom to the top. From the time of the enactment in 1965 up to about 1968 there were definite signs of change. The July plenum of the BKP Central Committee in 1968, however, formalized a number of changes that called for considerable reduction in the autonomy of the existing public and state organizations, thus setting aside the entire economic reform program. After the July plenum and another in November 1968, a reorganization of state enterprises took place in line with the new centralization policy.

During the remainder of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, Zhivkov's position remained stable, and there were no overt threats to his regime such as the 1965 plot to overthrow him. In 1969 and again in 1970 agreements were signed in Moscow that tied the Bulgarian economy even closer to that of the Soviet Union. Bulgaria's position, or more precisely the BKP's position, on relations with the Soviet Union was summed up in a statement made by Zhivkov just before the Tenth Party Congress in 1971: "The fraternal friendship and cooperation of the Bulgarian Communist Party with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the ever broader and deeper alignment of Bulgaria with the Soviet Union will remain the immovable cornerstone of the entire work and the domestic and foreign policy of our party."

At the Tenth Party Congress, which was attended by General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, there were no startling changes either in party policy or in high-ranking personnel assignments. The same Politburo, with an average age of sixty-three, was returned to office, and the party program promised no alteration in the heavily centralized, pro-Soviet policies that had marked most of Zhivkov's tenure. A new constitution was proposed by the party and later adopted by the government and, although some institutional changes were made—for example, creation of the State Council as a collective executive branch of government—the absolute supremacy of the BKP over every aspect of Bulgarian life was in no way diminished. On the contrary, the power of the top leadership was probably enhanced along with its ability to perpetuate itself in office.



Party statutes define the organization, membership, and program of the BKP. A statute promulgated during the Sixth Party Congress in 1954 proclaimed the party to be an "inseparable part of the world communist front" and acknowledged the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as the leading political force within the communist bloc countries. Later party statutes refined the basic document but did not change the premise that the BKP looks to the Soviet party for leadership.

Central to the observance of basic communist policy is adherence to the principles of democratic centralism. Patterned after the Soviet model, these principles call for a pyramidal form of command responsibility in which lower party organs are subordinated to the next higher body. This also means that decisions of higher bodies bind those below, individually and collectively. Party policy and practice encourage open discussion of issues during meetings of local party units as well as during conferences and congresses at higher levels; however, party discipline requires unitary action after a decision has been reached by the hierarchy.

The party hierarchy is composed of the Politburo, the Secretariat and, to some extent, the Central Committee, the membership of which interlock as one man may occupy two or more positions at any given time. Theoretically occupying the apex of power is the congress of the party that is held every five years, following the example of Soviet party congresses. The congress is made up of delegates from various party units on the basis of proportional representation of party members. The main statutory functions of the congress include revising or amending party statutes, deciding party policy, electing the Central Committee, and receiving reports concerning past progress and future plans. It is customary for major governmental programs or reforms to be presented to a party congress before promulgation. The Tenth Party Congress, for example, listened to readings of the draft of a new constitution and the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) and approved both unanimously. Actually, the purpose of a congress is to demonstrate unanimity and accord. The size of the congress (1,553 delegates in 1971) and the fact that it meets only at five-year intervals preclude carrying out its statutory role as a deliberative and policymaking body. Public politicking or wrangling by delegates to a party congress would be unprecedented.

Because the party congress meets so infrequently, it delegates its functions to the Central Committee that it elects. Election of Central Committee members is also a pro forma action wherein the congress unanimously approves the list of names provided by the party leadership. The Central Committee is a large working party organ, which in [Pg 158]1973 included 147 members and 110 candidate (nonvoting) members. The committee is charged with the administration of party work between sessions of the congress and the implementation of party policies presented by the leadership. For the performance of its duties, the Central Committee has fourteen permanently operating departments and six schools and institutes, the latter ostensibly to promote political educational goals. As set forth in party statutes, plenary sessions of the committee are to be held at least twice a year, and special sessions may be called from time to time.

Within the Central Committee sits the nine-man permanent Secretariat headed by the first secretary who, by party structure, is the most powerful man in the country. The Secretariat is elected by the Central Committee during the party congress, but the election, once again, is merely formal approval of the members already selected by the top party leadership. Since 1954 the position of first secretary has been continuously held by Zhivkov, who also heads the State Council and is therefore the head-of-state. In addition to the first secretary, six other secretaries and two members complete the composition of the Secretariat. The main function of the Secretariat is to supervise the implementation of party policy.

Sharing the center stage of political power with the Secretariat is the Politburo, elected by the Central Committee in the same manner as the Secretariat. In effect the Politburo is a self-perpetuating body, and any change in membership is dictated by the members themselves. Composed of eleven members and six candidate members, all Politburo members belong to the Central Committee. They provide collective political leadership in both party and government.

The Politburo is the policymaking and decisionmaking branch of the party. In theory the eleven members of the Politburo are equal, but in practice the party first secretary occupies the topmost position of power in the party and is therefore first among equals in the Politburo. Such is the concentration of political authority in the top bodies that multiplicity of membership by party officials in any or all of the central party organs is more the rule than the exception.


After the successful coup d'etat in September 1944, communist party membership grew with unprecedented speed. From prisons and internment camps and from self-exile abroad, party leaders began to converge in Sofia to restructure the party and to form a new government. Party members assisted by sympathizers helped fill the necessary manpower requirements as functionaries and working groups in the new coalition government. A period of intensive recruitment and propaganda followed that swelled the number of members from 15,000 to 250,000 in just four months. By the time the Fifth Party Congress [Pg 159]convened in December 1948, party membership reached 500,000. This was in part due to the merger of the Social Democrats with the BKP in August 1948. In large part, however, Bulgaria's egalitarian peasant society—coupled with indiscriminate recruitment using hardly any criteria for qualification—produced a predominantly peasant membership. Workers accounted for slightly over one-fourth of the total membership as compared to one-half made up of peasants.

Ironically, the intense campaign for new members was accompanied by wide-scale purges within the party during a power struggle between the Stalin faction and the home faction of the BKP. Led by Chervenkov, the Moscow-oriented leaders succeeded in getting rid of their political opponents and soon after established a Stalinist kind of government in the country. Observers noted that this was aimed not only at weeding out undesirable party elements but, more important, at increasing the number of workers and consequently achieving a numerical balance with the peasant members.

Once in full control of the party and government, the BKP hierarchy turned its attention to more systematic methods of recruitment. By the time the Eighth Party Congress convened in November 1962, the BKP had 528,674 members plus 22,413 candidates. It was also at about this time that the Zhivkov government relaxed the open police terror and pardoned 6,000 political prisoners, most of them Communists.

The Ninth Party Congress, held in November 1966, provided new regulations concerning party composition and acceptance of new members. Qualifications of candidates had to be checked thoroughly, and only those qualified could be accepted. Education as the main criterion of selection was emphasized among target groups of workers, peasants, specialists, women, and young people. As a result of this improved recruitment procedure, the new members after the congress were 44.3 percent blue-collar workers and 32 percent women. Of this group, it was estimated that 60.4 percent had at least a secondary education.

It was reported by the Secretariat that district (okrug) party committees after the Ninth Party Congress showed improvement in "content, style and methods of their work," and that they understood better the political approach in guiding local economic tasks as well as leading primary party organs in the political and organization work of their constituencies. Furthermore, over 77 percent of full-time secretaries of local party committees and about 90 percent of chairmen of cooperative farms had higher or secondary education. Formal training as well as in-service education was given serious attention. Educational training for party members includes two-year university courses, short courses, seminars, informal meetings, and conferences of local party committees.

Statistics reported in 1971 showed that 25.2 percent of about 700,000 [Pg 160]members of the BKP were women. Increasingly more important positions were assigned to women in the party hierarchy. In the same period (1971) there was a woman member of the Politburo, several women members of the Central Committee, and two women ministers. Not only were women active in party activities, but they could also be found in boards of management of government enterprises.

Party Congresses

Party statutes formerly stipulated that congresses would be held every four years, but a decision was made to extend the interval to five years after the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had made the same change. Decisions of the congresses appear as party statutes that usually reflect the desires of the leadership and the circumstances that necessitated the additions, deletions, or amendments to already existing statutes. The most important innovations embodied in BKP statutes emerged from congresses beginning with the Sixth Party Congress, held in 1954, and continuing through the Tenth Party Congress, held in 1971.

The Sixth Party Congress abolished the position of general secretary and in its place created the post of first secretary, again following the lead of the Soviet party, which had done the same thing after Stalin's death a year earlier. Party leader Chervenkov, who was premier and a Politburo member, kept those posts and allowed the election of Zhivkov as first secretary. Zhivkov was then an unknown functionary who had risen from the ranks of the Sofia party structure. Aside from the usual exhortation for party unity and the changes in six Politburo positions as well as an increase in Central Committee membership, the Sixth Party Congress was uneventful. Zhivkov's rise to power did not take place immediately, and a period of intraparty struggle ensued as he gradually consolidated his authority as first secretary.

The Seventh Party Congress, held in June 1958, proved even more uneventful. It passed the Third Five-Year Plan for the development of the economy, the fulfillment of which was drastically reduced to three years even before the ink was dry on the document. With Central Committee approval, new plans for economic targets were prepared; meanwhile, Zhivkov prepared an elaborate propaganda campaign to push this program through. Zhivkov's Theses, as the collection of instructions have come to be known, advocated increased cultivation and production in agriculture and industry to obtain yields that were double those of previous plans. An unprecedented flurry of activity followed on the heels of extensive media coverage. Aided by the press, the Agitation and Propaganda Department under the Central Committee's direct supervision launched a vast campaign that surpassed even those efforts in neighboring countries.

This period is characteristically known as Bulgaria's Great Leap Forward, patterned after the Chinese experience, and historians put [Pg 161]forth political and economic motives for such an economic experiment. Politically, after Nikita Khrushchev started his de-Stalinization policy in the Soviet Union, the Bulgarian repercussion was evident in Chervenkov's disenchantment with the Soviet trauma and his looking favorably instead toward the Chinese example. The Great Leap Forward was neither a spectacular success nor a dismal failure and achieved no more than the expected progress in three year's time. The ensuing period marked a return to earlier patterns and heralded the end of Chervenkov's political career and the concurrent elevation of Zhivkov. The election of Zhivkov's friends—Stanko Todorov and Mitko Grigorov—to full membership in the Politburo gave him added support. Khrushchev's visit as the head of a large Soviet government delegation did not hurt Zhivkov but rather gave convincing proof of Khrushchev's support of the Bulgarian first secretary. Anton Yugov was premier at this time, but it was not long before he too was purged, the final blow coming only hours before the start of the Eighth Party Congress.

The Eighth Party Congress in 1962 marked the end of the open opposition to Zhivkov's leadership. With Chervenkov and Yugov out, Zhivkov was in full control. A month earlier, in October 1962, a special plenum of the Central Committee announced Zhivkov's assumption of government power as premier while retaining the first secretaryship of the party. In the economic sector, the Twenty-Year Plan of Economic Development—patterned on that of the Soviet Union—had been passed. It featured more realistic goals in contradistinction to its predecessor. As usual, heavy industrial priorities ranked high in the development plan.

In November 1966 the Ninth Party Congress was held in Sofia. During the deliberations changes were made within the Politburo whereby Zhivkov's former protégé, Grigorov, was dropped from membership without an explanation and Todor Pavlov, a theoretician of Marxism, and Tsola Dragoycheva, head of the National Council of the Fatherland Front, were added as full members. Boyan Bulgaranov and Ivan Mihailov, both older party members, were retained—a move that indicated the influence of older functionaries over young potential leaders. Economically, the congress supported principles of new management, tying political progress with economic advancement.

Collectively the aforementioned congresses accomplished little. On the contrary the 1971 congress introduced considerable changes in the sociopolitical and socioeconomic patterns of growth—among them the drafting and adoption of a new constitution (see ch. 8).

Tenth Party Congress

Whatever political changes are visible in Bulgaria are the result of the Tenth Party Congress held in Sofia from April 20 to April 24, 1971. It was attended by 1,553 delegates representing roughly 700,000 party [Pg 162]members, a ratio of about one delegate for every 450 members. Additionally, foreign representatives from eighty-nine countries were on hand. Leading the Soviet delegation were Brezhnev, general secretary of the Soviet party, and four other high-ranking officials.

As is customary, Zhivkov opened the congress with his usual state-of-the-nation address, extolling Bulgarian-Soviet ties and stressing friendship between the two countries. Included in the agenda were the adoption of a new five-year economic plan; discussion and adoption of the new party program; discussion and approval of the new constitution; the election of party members to the Central Committee, Politburo, and Secretariat; and a change in party statutes calling for a congress every five years instead of four.

The central theme of the party congress revolved around the concern or "care for man." To this end resolutions were passed during the deliberations purportedly giving "everything for the sake of man; everything for the good of man." A separate report on the subject also emphasized the need for improving the economic plight of the people. By the time the resolutions and directives were being implemented, however, noticeable variations in interpretation and emphasis had taken place. For example, the draft directives for the Sixth Five-Year Plan showed projection of industrial production that went up by 60 percent, whereas production of consumer goods was projected to increase by only 50 percent.

Special attention was given to the areas of education and culture by the Tenth Party Congress. Zhivkov underscored the need to close the educational gap between workers and peasants, who often had no more than an elementary education, and the intelligentsia and white-collar professionals, who had attained the secondary level and more often had gone on to higher education.

Far more significant changes in party statutes took place in the area of governmental operations. With the adoption of a new constitution, modified structural arrangements were worked out, the most important of which was the creation of the powerful State Council of the National Assembly; the council's functions are not entirely dissimilar to, but greater than, the presidium that it replaced (see ch. 8).

The composition of the new Politburo and Secretariat remained essentially the same. The congress seemed anxious to demonstrate unity by stressing continuity of tenure for its senior members. All of the eleven Politburo full members elected in 1966 were reelected in 1971; four were over age seventy, and the youngest was fifty years old. All Politburo members except one had been with the party since before September 9, 1944. Some Western observers wondered whether the retention of the entire old guard signified stability or exemplified stagnation. At a time when observers were expecting an infusion of new blood into the hierarchy, the leaders chose the status quo. Zhivkov, in his closing speech, seemingly aware that the political [Pg 163]conservatism of the old ruling elite left something to be desired, maintained that "the communist is ... an official up to a certain age; but he never ceases to educate, to inspire, to unite, and to organize the masses." In effect he apologized for retaining the same old membership in the hierarchy.


The egalitarian character of Bulgaria's society derives from its basically agricultural economy. Its peasant organization—the Bulgarian Agrarian Union (Bulgarski Zemedelski Suyuz—BZS) was formed as early as 1899, making it one of the oldest agrarian organizations in Europe. Founded to promote the well-being and educational advancement of its members, it developed into a political party and a powerful machine that in the 1920s became the governing party under Alexander Stambolisky. After Stambolisky's government was overthrown in 1923, it did not rise to power again. The party split in 1931, and in 1942 the radical half of the party, known as the Pladne (the name of their newspaper) faction, joined the BKP in the Fatherland Front coalition.

The BZS in the early 1970s was a secondary political party subservient to, and controlled by, the BKP. Its membership was reported to be 120,000, of which 80,000 were cooperative farmers and approximately 15,000 were active militants in government jobs. It has a more simplified party hierarchy, being governed by an executive council elected by delegates of its congress, which meets every four years. The Executive Council—corresponding to the BKP Central Committee—is composed of ninety-nine members and forty-seven alternate members. From among them are elected members of the Standing Committee, comparable to the Politburo of the BKP, which directs the entire activity of the BZS. The Standing Committee derives its authority from the Executive Council and reports to it.

Assisting the Executive Council is the Auditing Commission, which oversees the financial accounts of the BZS. Another leading central organ of long historical tradition is the Supreme Council. It is not as large as the congress, but it is important enough to make policy decisions affecting the great mass of agrarian rank and file. It consists of all members and alternates of the Executive Council, members of various commissions, and all the chairmen of district committees.

There are twenty-eight district committees; 1,027 village committees; and 3,848 local branches of the BZS below the national level. Jurisdictionally, they all follow an orderly system of organization whereby lower organs fall under the supervision and control of higher organs, and all fall under the final jurisdiction of the BKP agencies above them.

The preamble of the 1971 Constitution recognizes the existence of the BZS as united in "purpose and action" with the BKP in the [Pg 164]establishment and development of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. In keeping with this pledge, the BZS leadership and prominent members are elected to, and in some cases appointed to, important bodies of state administration through all levels of the government. There was an increase in the number of BZS members elected to public office in the general elections that followed the BKP congress in 1971. It appeared that the Communists had decided during their congress to broaden the base of representation by including more BZS members in the government as well as more members from various mass organizations and the Turkish minority. Regardless of affiliation, all candidates for office are carefully screened by the BKP, and after election all officials are under the control of the BKP.

Of the national officials in January 1973, Georgi Traykov, leader of the BZS, was one of two first deputy chairmen of the Fatherland Front. Earlier, he had been released as chairman of the National Assembly, which approved his nomination to the State Council, a move that was politically expedient in the view of Zhivkov to establish a "closer relationship ... between the State Council and the National Council of the Fatherland Front."

During the Thirty-Second Congress of the BZS, held in Sofia in October 1971, the presence of high-ranking BKP Politburo members as well as foreign delegates was very much evident. Boris Velchev, Politburo member and secretary of the Central Committee, delivered a speech praising the work of the BZS in its partnership with BKP in all aspects of Bulgaria's socialist development. Domestically, BZS was lauded for its efforts in the technological progress in agriculture resulting in the production of large quantities of cheap produce. BZS members were also praised as good machine operators in factories and as "innovators and frontrankers in field brigades and livestock farms."

Internationally, the BZS maintains contacts with dozens of agrarian and related organizations in various countries. As diplomats, national officials among the BZS leaders had demonstrated exceptional ability in foreign relations, especially where the regular high-ranking BKP representatives had been found less acceptable.


Mass organizations are auxiliaries of the BKP through which the party hierarchy exerts control over the bulk of the population. Established to serve the immediate interests of a particular class of workers or professionals, mass organizations work as transmission belts for the administration of party policies and the achievement of party goals. Most, if not all, of their chairmen are trusted and loyal BKP members.

The right to form organizations for any purpose not contrary to public law and national security is guaranteed in the constitution. [Pg 165]These organizations may be political, professional, cultural, artistic, scientific, religious, or athletic. Furthermore, unions and other associations may be formed within public organizations and cooperatives. In all cases the guidelines set by the BKP for the development of a socialist state impose limitations on the operations of mass organizations. Recognition of the BKP as the leading political party and the subservience of all other organizations is clearly understood. The most important mass organizations are the Fatherland Front, the Central Council of Trade Unions, and the Komsomol and its affiliate Pioneer organization.

Fatherland Front

The Fatherland Front grew out of the internal dissension between the government and various political parties, in particular, the pro-Soviet elements who objected to the alliance with Nazi Germany. In March 1942 the government launched repressive measures in an attempt to immobilize communist activities. Working with a group of exiled Bulgarian leaders in Moscow, Georgi Dimitrov, former secretary-general of the Communist International (Comintern), urged action against the country's rulers, "who have sold themselves to Hitler." As conceived by Dimitrov, the program of the Fatherland Front aimed not only to bring down the "Hitlerite" regime and consequently establish a "true Bulgarian national regime" but also to declare Bulgaria neutral and dissolve its alliance with Germany.

Established in 1942, the Fatherland Front operated underground under communist leadership but also included other political parties. Cooperation among these political parties, however, did not take place without problems, mainly because each one espoused its own particular interests and viewed the BKP with suspicion. Leaders of each party worked as members of the National Committee (later known as the National Council) of the Fatherland Front. It was from within the Fatherland Front movement that the coup d'etat of September 1944 took place, the result of which was a coalition government.

When the Communists took full control of the government and dissolved the coalition, they retained the Fatherland Front as an umbrella organization. The BKP, of course, is the leading force within the front, which also includes the Bulgarian Agrarian Union and several other organizations. In effect the Fatherland Front is an instrument of the party through which most of the country's organized activities are controlled and supervised. Some of the tasks relegated to the front include the nomination and discussion of candidates for election to central and local bodies of state authority; the right to supervise the activities of enterprises, institutions, and organizations operating public utilities and services; and the right to supervise activities of workers and professionals to ensure conformance to party line and policy.

[Pg 166]In 1973 the Fatherland Front continued to be a large mass organization working fully for and with the BKP. Available statistics showed a membership of 3.86 million in July 1970, of which 3.1 million were nonparty members. It included both individual members and collective groups—mainly trade unions and youth organizations.

Central Council of Trade Unions

Trade unions are workers' and professionals' organizations—the function, role, and responsibility of which echo the economic directives and decrees of the BKP. With the abolition of capitalist ownership declared by the Fifth Party Congress in December 1948, the structure and activities of trade unions changed to conform to the party's management of the economy as the vanguard of the state in its socialist development. Since then the Bulgarian trade unions have been reliable mainstays and faithful transmission belts of BKP policies among the working masses. Thirteen individual trade unions unite to form the Central Council of Trade Unions, which accepts the leading role of the BKP in all Bulgarian affairs. In 1973 total membership in the central council was about 2.6 million.

Following the principle of democratic centralism, all trade union officials are elected from bottom to top but, following the pattern set by the BKP, all candidates for union offices are carefully screened and selected by officials at higher levels. Each trade union local is the basic organization unit at a factory or business enterprise, and there is an ascending hierarchical structure based on territorial organization. At the district level there is a district trade union that reports to the central organization. Theoretically, the trade unions are independent and nonparty, but they are organized hierarchically, and their activities are closely monitored and controlled by the BKP. In effect, the trade unions look after the interests of the state rather than the interests of the workers. To ensure party control there is an interlocking of positions in the highest realms of the unions, the government, and the party. For example, the chairman of the Central Council of Trade Unions in 1973 was also a member of the State Council of the National Assembly as well as being a candidate member of the Politburo. At lower levels many district and local trade union executives are also members of the district and communal people's councils. Under this arrangement the unions take a direct part in the management of state affairs—such as labor and labor legislation, recreational activities, workers' sports, and so forth.

Dimitrov Communist Youth Union

Young prospective members of the BKP come from the Dimitrov Communist Youth Union (Dimitrovski Komunisticheski Mladezhki Suyuz), also referred to as the Komsomol. Established as the youth's counterpart of the BKP, it is organized much as the parent structure, [Pg 167]having a secretariat of nine members headed by a first secretary and a bureau of seventeen members and five candidate members that is comparable to the party Politburo. The Komsomol is under the leadership of party committees and is supported by the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Bulgarian Red Cross, and the Civil Defense Staff in interlocking roles of authority and supervision. Founded as a sociopolitical organization to train the youth in the ideological principles and goals of the BKP, the Komsomol also serves as a source of manpower reserve in government and as an instrument for the application of party policies and directives. In the early 1970s membership was about 1 million (see ch. 2; ch. 15).

Despite all the attention given to youth affairs, alienation of young people manifests itself in many different ways. There were no tangible signs of protest such as outward demonstrations, mass rallies, or disruptions during congresses, plenums, annual meetings, or regional conferences to show this alienation. But the negative attitude and sagging interest in political indoctrination and economic activities increasingly worries party leaders. The ideological and political gap between generations prompted the administration to prepare and publish Zhivkov's "Youth Theses" in December 1967. This work is basically an inspirational treatise to counter what Zhivkov averred was national nihilism among the youth, characterized by apathy, absence of discipline, improper family upbringing, misdirected school discipline, and ill-prepared Komsomol programs, among other things. The theses also deplored the "degenerate influences" of capitalist society that were evident in conspicuous material consumption in food and beverages, dress, music and dance, and social mobility brought about by bourgeois affluence.

In an effort to bring the youth back into line, the theses emphasized patriotic political education within a Marxist-Leninist frame of reference, defined the duties and privileges of the young people, and finally directed the reorganization of the Komsomol under closer party supervision. The initial reaction to the theses was one of increasing passivity.

In another effort to court the Komsomol-age group, political speeches openly lauding the youth union as the instrument for the realization of the technological and scientific as well as the military technical training of young people and their patriotic education have been resorted to. Further, in extolling the work and importance of the youth union to the all-round development of Bulgarian socialist society, Zhivkov also enjoined the youth to implement the Sixth Five-Year Plan of the BKP.

The organization for Bulgarian children still too young for the Komsomol is the Pioneers, also known as Young Septembrists to commemorate two September events in Bulgarian political history—the abortive communist coup d'etat in 1923 and the successful overthrow [Pg 168]of the monarchy in 1944. The Pioneer organization is composed of children of elementary school age. It is structured like the Komsomol and operates as its junior division. A special division within the Komsomol National Central Committee oversees the affairs and work of the Pioneers. Lower committees at the district and municipality levels are directed by the soviets for working with students, which are charged with youth work in their respective territorial jurisdictions. Each district has a Pioneer battalion that is divided into companies corresponding to school classes and further subdivided into classroom rows, the lowest unit of Pioneer organization. The chain of command flows from the central committee and reaches down to the youngest member of the organization living in the remotest part of the country. The content of academic curriculum and party training is generally in accord with the ability levels of the children.

Committee of Bulgarian Women

There is no mass organization, as such, for Bulgarian women. The Committee of Bulgarian Women, with a membership of 171 in 1973, is a group dedicated to looking after the affairs of women in the country, whether they be workers or housewives. The Constitution of 1971 guarantees to Bulgarian women the enjoyment of equal rights with men. In the complex structure of the BKP-controlled government, recognition of women as a significant working force in the socialist movement is given great attention. An earlier provision contained in the 1947 Constitution, known as the Dimitrov Constitution, similarly guarantees the "right to work, equal pay for equal work," and the attendant benefits, such as paid leave, social security, retirement pension, and education.

Bulgarian women have become active participants in the political process under communist rule. As noted earlier, 25.2 percent of BKP members in 1971 were women, and there was one woman in the Politburo. There were 7,000 women members of the BZS and almost half of the Komsomol members were women (500,000); the same is true for the Fatherland Front, and women made up 41.2 percent of the trade unions. In the unions of writers, composers, artists, and actors women are also active. Most teachers are women. They represented 67.7 percent of the Teachers Union.

The women's movement was active on a nationwide scale. On the initiative of the Committee of Bulgarian Women, a plan for the development of science and technical progress including the study of the social role of women was presented to the presidium of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Another suggestion by the same women's group called for the study of conditions defining women's role as "mothers, production workers and public activists."

In the report to the plenary session of the party Central Committee in July 1968, Zhivkov outlined the functions of the Committee of [Pg 169]Bulgarian Women. These included the coordination of state and administrative organs in research institutes that studied the role of women in society. Henceforth, according to Zhivkov, the Central Committee of the BKP would receive reports on such research and would be directly concerned with matters concerning Bulgarian women.

Ideological Training

How mass organizations relate to BKP party directives, orders, and decrees is best illustrated in the area of political education and indoctrination. The National Conference on Party Propaganda was held in April 1970 and sponsored by the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the Central Committee and by the district party committees. During the conference one of the district secretaries detailed some aspects of a three-stage system that is being applied.

The three-stage structure corresponds to the educational level as well as to the political training and age of students. Schools in the higher level of various district party committees and branches of the mass organizations train administrative personnel, intellectuals, and party activists. Training on this level includes theoretical seminars and study groups. For intermediate personnel, including employees with a secondary education, there are schools and institutes giving lectures and talks on Leninism. A more elementary form of mass propaganda is given to people with less training in theoretical political ideology; people of advanced age fall also into this category. Political education for this group consists of lectures in beginners' schools. Compulsory subjects in primary party organizations are also discussed during education sessions at party meetings. Except for Sofia, which has a high rate of literacy, most districts employ this three-stage system of political education. It is estimated that 60 percent of Communists in Sofia have at least a high school education; many have college degrees in contrast to some outlying districts where a large percentage of the Communists have only an elementary education.

The three-stage system is also used for training newly inducted Communists as well as youth groups. It was reported during the conference that approximately 900 of the best party propagandists have been sent to Komsomol organizations to train youth in the party school system. Within the Komsomol there is evident need for considerable changes in the training of youth in the system of political education, designed to bring the youth closer to the practice of the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

[Pg 170]

[Pg 171]



Throughout the communist era in Bulgaria, that is, since World War II, the foreign policy of the country has mirrored that of the Soviet Union. In addition to the close relationship resulting from bilateral agreements between the two countries, Bulgaria was also a charter member of both the Soviet-dominated Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON—see Glossary) and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) military alliance. Bulgaria's loyalty to the Soviet Union throughout the period is always a starting point in political writings on Eastern European affairs.

The successive leaders of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary) have consistently maintained that their country's fortunes would rise with those of the Soviet Union. To the Bulgarian Communists, such loyalty was not only natural from an ideological point of view but was also the pragmatic course, given the factors of world power politics in the postwar era. Todor Zhivkov, the BKP leader since 1954, and still in office in 1973, continued to adhere to a policy of close alignment with the Soviet Union and used the relationship as the foundation of his regime. The nature of the relationship has developed along two parallel lines: the BKP has maintained close ties with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the same time that government-to-government affairs have become increasingly intertwined.

As is true with other countries in which the communist party has become the dominant political force, in Bulgaria the formulation of foreign policy takes place at the highest party level—the Politburo. After the party has announced the basic policy, the administration of foreign affairs is handled by government ministries. The government has repeatedly dedicated itself to the goals of the world communist movement and, particularly, to the goal of solidarity among socialist states, always acknowledging Soviet leadership. In the Sino-Soviet rift that developed during the 1960s, Bulgaria continually expressed its allegiance to Moscow and decried the divisiveness that resulted from polycentric attitudes and actions.

In mid-1973 Bulgaria maintained diplomatic relations with eighty-two governments, thirty-six of which had embassies in Sofia. The remaining governments carried on diplomatic relations through their representatives in nearby capitals. Bulgaria maintained fifty-four [Pg 172]embassies in foreign countries and, as a member of the United Nations (UN), maintained an ambassador and a staff in New York. Bulgaria also participated in the activities of many of the UN special agencies.


Historical Factors

Bulgaria emerged from World War II under the control of a coalition government dominated by the BKP, which by 1947 had arrogated unto itself complete power in the country. In the immediate postwar years policy and direction concerning how the BKP should run the country was dictated from Moscow, as was the case throughout most of the countries of Eastern Europe. Between 1944 and 1948 eight countries had been taken over by communist parties and had aligned themselves with the Soviet Union, which exerted varying degrees of influence in the internal and international affairs of all of them. Over the next twenty years Yugoslavia and Albania broke out of the Soviet orbit completely; the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia experienced uprisings or civil disorders—in most cases suppressed by Soviet force—and Romania asserted its right to national self-determination on numerous occasions. Bulgaria alone remained unwavering in its absolute allegiance to the Soviet Union.

Bulgaria chose not to follow the examples of other Eastern European countries in seeking some degree of autonomy during the 1950s and 1960s for many reasons. Not least among these were the historic traditions of friendship between Bulgarians and Russians dating back to the Russo-Turkish war that freed Bulgaria from Turkish rule in 1878. Bulgarians are also close to the Russians in language, religion, and cultural traditions. Additionally, having assumed power, the Bulgarian Communists quite naturally looked toward Moscow—then the center of world communism—for guidance and support. Many of the early postwar leaders had spent several years as residents of the Soviet Union, where they had been closely associated with the country's party.

Another reason for the close ties to the Soviet Union was pure pragmatism on the part of the Bulgarian communist leaders. They were, in effect, a minority leadership group faced with the task of imposing an alien ideology on a reluctant majority at the same time that they were trying to reorient the country's economy from an agricultural base to an industrial base. The Bulgarian leaders needed the support of the Soviet Union.

Beset by intraparty strife and lack of success in running the country after the death of Georgi Dimitrov—the leading Bulgarian communist hero and strong man of the early postwar years—the party leadership again clung to Soviet support and totalitarian rigidity to perpetuate itself in power. Even after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin [Pg 173]and the later de-Stalinization program under Nikita Khrushchev, Bulgaria's leaders retained Stalinism as a modus operandi until the early 1960s.

After Zhivkov became first secretary of the party in 1954, there was a long power struggle, for a third time, and it was not until the early 1960s that Zhivkov managed to eliminate his major antagonists from the party hierarchy and stabilize his regime. During all of those years and on through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Zhivkov continued the policy of absolute loyalty to the Soviet Union and to its leadership. Consequently, Bulgarian foreign policy has been a mirror image of Soviet policy.

Principles of Foreign Policy

Bulgaria's constitution, in describing how the state serves the people in foreign affairs, mentions "developing and cementing friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the other socialist countries" and "pursuing a policy of peace and understanding with all countries and peoples." Official spokesmen proclaim that the country's international relations are founded on the necessity for protecting national sovereignty and on the creation of an overall attitude that would further the cause of all nations in their development as modern states.

A quotation from the party program developed for the Tenth Party Congress in 1971 indicates that, as far as Bulgaria's leaders are concerned, the Soviet Union leads and Bulgaria follows. "For the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Bulgarian people, Bulgarian-Soviet friendship is like the sun and the air for every living creature, it is a friendship of centuries and for centuries, one of the main driving forces of our development, a condition and guarantee for the future progress of our socialist fatherland and its tomorrow."


The Constitution of 1971 assigns the conduct of foreign relations to the National Assembly, the State Council, and the Council of Ministers. Formulation of foreign policy, however, remains a prerogative of the BKP. The constitution states that the National Assembly implements foreign policy but, because the assembly meets only three times each year in short sessions, the implementation function is passed on to the State Council during the long interim periods between assembly meetings. Primary responsibilities of the State Council in foreign affairs (as opposed to those limited to the periods between National Assembly meetings) include representation of the country in its international relations; the appointment, recall, or release from duty of diplomats and consular officials; the ratification or denunciation of international agreements; and the establishment of diplomatic and consular ranks.

Although the ministries of foreign affairs and foreign trade are the [Pg 174]governmental operating agencies in the field of international relations, in theory and in fact the State Council is the supervisory body. The State Council exercises control over the activities of the Council of Ministers and the ministries as stipulated in the constitution. In essence, the State Council is the most powerful government organ, not only in foreign affairs but in all governmental activities. The interlocking of positions between the highest levels of the party and the highest levels of the government assures that the BKP program will be implemented.

According to the constitution, the Council of Ministers "organizes the implementation of the home and foreign policy of the state." The council is also charged with the concluding of international agreements and the approval or denunciation of international agreements that are not subject to ratification. In performing its constitutional duties in foreign affairs, the Council of Ministers acts through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the administrative arm of the government in the execution of foreign policy directives, decrees, and decisions of the BKP and in representing the country abroad in embassies, legations, and consular offices. The ministry, in the prosecution of its duties and functions, employs a minister, two first deputy ministers, four deputy ministers, and a secretary general, who are assisted by the heads of eight geographic departments. In 1973 these departments were designated to handle affairs with the Soviet Union, other socialist states, the Balkans, Western Europe, Asia, the Arab-bloc countries, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas.

The functional departments include: administrative, consular, political, research and planning, cultural, documentation and archives, economic, finance and accounting, international organization, inspectors, personnel, press and cultural affairs, protocol, and legal. A committee for church affairs and a diplomatic service bureau, although not classified as regular departments, function as such. Also included is the position of disarmament negotiator.

The Ministry of Foreign Trade functions under the direction and supervision of a minister, a first deputy minister, and six deputy ministers, who are almost always high-ranking members of the BKP. The ministry itself is organized into thirteen geographic offices and seven departments. The different geographic offices handle trade agreements with the Soviet Union, other socialist countries, developed capitalist countries, Asia and Latin America, and the Arab and African countries. Other offices include foreign exchange planning and accounting, coordination, leadership and control of foreign trade organizations, currency and finance, economic planning, market conditions, planning, and personnel. There are departments for statistics, secretariat and protocol, legal and departmental arbitration, accounting and auditing, administration, labor and wages, and control inspectorate. [Pg 175]Additionally, there are offices and sections not falling under any specific category but existing independently. They are: an office for a trade fair director general, trade representatives, a foreign trade research institute, and a state inspection on the quality of goods for export.


Relations with Communist Countries

Bulgaria's foreign policy and foreign trade are circumscribed to a great extent within the alliances formed by the Soviet Union and the communist countries of Eastern Europe. In the early 1970s this tightly knit, although polycentric, group continued to expect and did receive Bulgaria's participation in preserving the status quo in Eastern Europe. As is the case with other Eastern European countries, Bulgaria wants Western technology and also would like to attract more Western tourists to increase its hard currency intake. Bulgaria's motive for attracting the West is economic rather than ideological. It is accepted within the socialist alliances that the principle of proletarian internationalism does not preclude diversity of trading partners of the individual member countries.

Soviet Union

Bulgarian relations with the Soviet Union have been described as subservient, and Zhivkov once acknowledged that he was "known for being bound to the Soviet Union in life and death." In 1948 Bulgaria entered into the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Aid with the Soviet Union, which was renewed for another twenty years on May 12, 1967, and over the years the close alignment between the two countries has taken on greater importance. Ideologically, it is well known that Bulgaria is a loyal partner within the Soviet-dominated socialist group. Its leaders have been schooled in Marxism-Leninism and usually look to the Soviet Union for leadership.

Economically, Bulgaria still looks to the Soviet Union for foreign aid and preferential trade treatment. The rapid pace with which Bulgaria has moved toward industrialization is primarily owing to Soviet assistance. Raw materials critical to Bulgaria's economy are supplied by the Soviet Union and, with Soviet aid, the country has been able to construct many large industrial enterprises. Estimates in 1967 put the number of Soviet specialists in Bulgaria at 5,000, and the number has probably increased. The renewal of a five-year agreement for 1971 through 1975 would serve to increase further the Soviet share of trade in Bulgaria.

Relations with Other Communist States

Bulgaria's relations with Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania are largely governed by a series of bilateral and multilateral treaties of friendship and cultural cooperation and by military and economic alliances. The alliances are the Warsaw Pact [Pg 176]and COMECON. Relations with the other two communist states of Eastern Europe, Albania and Yugoslavia, have usually followed Soviet initiatives toward those countries.

Quite naturally, Bulgaria's major concerns in foreign affairs have dealt with relations among the states of the Balkan Peninsula and particularly with adjacent states. Romania, its northern neighbor, is a member of COMECON and the Warsaw Pact but has often appeared to be a reluctant member and since the early 1960s has stressed nationalism rather than Marxist internationalism, causing Bulgaria, with its strong Soviet orientation, to tread lightly in bilateral relations for fear of offending the Soviets. Nevertheless, the Bulgarians and Romanians have drawn closer together, probably because both countries see benefits that might accrue from Balkan cooperation and believe that such cooperation should in no way disturb the Soviet Union. In the early 1970s relations appeared to be particularly good: there were frequent meetings between leaders and government ministers, and a plan to cooperate in the building of a huge hydroelectric project on the Danube River between the two countries was announced.

Relations with Yugoslavia have more often than not been troubled to the point of enmity. The problems existing between these two countries have deep historical roots that hinge primarily on the Bulgarian contention that Macedonia (since 1946 a federated republic of Yugoslavia) should be Bulgarian rather than Yugoslavian. After World War II, when both countries became communist, the Macedonian question was purposely deemphasized but, when the Soviet-Yugoslav split occurred in 1948, ideological differences paved the way for a renewal of the polemics on the Bulgarian irredentist claims. In the early 1970s the polemics were reduced to a minor level, and constructive talks leading to a rapprochement began to occur. The changed atmosphere was attributed to the state of relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia but, for whatever reason, the climate of relations between Bulgaria and its western neighbor was considerably improved, and Bulgarian irredentism was submerged.

Relations with Noncommunist States

The European Conference for Security and Cooperation held in Helsinki in the spring of 1973 discussed the possibility of a freer exchange of people and ideas as well as a freer flow of information between Western European and Eastern European societies. The intensity of ideological polemics had diminished with increasing contacts between East and West, and the gap between the two social systems seemed narrower, especially in regard to economic planning and development. Bulgaria, however, publicly expressed doubts about importing anti-communist theories that might accompany the freer exchanges of people, ideas, and information.

In a plenum of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist [Pg 177]Party in July 1973, the party leaders touched on issues of international relations. The leaders pledged to continue a new policy of building goodwill and enhancing relations with noncommunist European states as well as with other developed capitalist states in all aspects of political, economic, cultural, and other relations. Bulgaria also sought to continue cultivating and developing friendly relations with nonaligned friendly countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Consistent with this policy, it pledged to render assistance to these countries, especially where there were national liberation movements involved in active resistance to the established regimes.

Greece and Turkey

Greece is geographically contiguous to Bulgaria, and relations between the two countries have been alternately hot and cold depending on the political climate of the times. In 1964 both countries signed an accord relative to war reparations, which opened up some channels of communication, cultural exchanges, and relaxed travel restrictions. The move toward better relations was interrupted by the 1967 coup d'etat in Greece, but improvement began again in the early 1970s when officials of the two governments exchanged visits. By 1972 a newly created Bulgarian-Greek economic cooperation commission had met in Sofia.

Difficulties between Bulgaria and Turkey have deep roots in history and also involve the 750,000 ethnic Turks still residing in Bulgaria (see ch. 2; ch. 4). An atmosphere of cordiality, however, had been developing slowly as the officials of both countries cautiously negotiated to reduce tensions between the two countries. Exchanges of high-level visits and the signing of various economic agreements had stabilized Bulgarian-Turkish relations by the early 1970s. The hijacking of two Turkish planes to Sofia in 1972 disturbed the détente temporarily, but the Bulgarian foreign minister went quickly to Turkey to make amends. In 1973 the two countries again enjoyed improved relations.

The United States

The tensions that marked Bulgarian-United States foreign relations in the 1950s eased somewhat in the 1960s. The legations of both countries were raised to embassy status in November 1966. This action was believed to be an offshoot of United States efforts, particularly that of President Lyndon B. Johnson, to "build bridges" to Eastern Europe. This resumption of diplomatic goodwill was not pursued vigorously and, at the time, reception to the idea in Bulgaria was generally cool. A noted communist theoretician regarded the United States overtures as a divisive force in the fraternal world of the communist movement, designed ultimately to bring in a capitalist system inimical to the ideological interest of any socialist country.

In 1973 the relations between the two countries were, however, cordial. Observers noted an increase in trade, although it was still quantitatively small and accounted for only between US$6 million and US$7 [Pg 178]million annually. Bulgaria hoped to increase this volume to US$30 million, especially by exporting high-quality tobacco to the United States market.

Bulgaria has been seeking a consular agreement that would grant it most-favored-nation tariff treatment in order to keep Bulgarian exports on a competitive level with others in the United States market. Toward this end, a Bulgarian trade delegation visited the United States in mid-July 1973 to exchange views on expanded trade and economic relations between the two countries. While in Washington the delegation met with top officials from the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Treasury, and the Export-Import Bank and with some members of Congress.

West Germany

The two world wars saw Bulgaria fighting on Germany's side. Thereafter Bulgarian policy differed from the Soviet line only once in a case that involved relations between Bulgaria and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). When Chancellor Ludwig Erhard sounded out several Eastern European governments with peace notes in 1966, Bulgaria along with Romania did not publish official replies. Later that year West German officials met with the Bulgarian foreign minister, and it appeared that normalization of relations was in the offing. The negotiations did not come to fruition, however, and Bulgaria fell back in line with the Soviet Union, which at the time was hostile to West Germany. The mere fact that Bulgaria participated in such independent talks appeared remarkable to some observers.

During 1972 relations between Bulgaria and West Germany improved. Some of the reasons attributed to this changing tack included the ratification of treaties negotiated between West Germany, Poland, and the Soviet Union; the opening of diplomatic channels between Poland and West Germany; and the meetings of ambassadors of European countries in Helsinki. Most important, however, was the signing of a basic treaty that established and regulated relations between West and East Germany, a condition set by Bulgaria before diplomatic relations could be resumed with West Germany. The open advocacy of the Soviet Union for improved relations with West Germany also encouraged Bulgaria to expedite the resumption of diplomatic communications.

Other Western Countries

The mid-1960s saw party chief Zhivkov "building bridges" himself with other Western countries. In light of Bulgaria's interest in expansion of trade, relations with France were improved with reciprocal visits in 1966 between Zhivkov and Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville. Also in the same year, partly as a result of these negotiations, the French car manufacturer, Renault, established an assembly plant in Bulgaria. Simultaneous with this move was the establishment of a diplomatic mission in Canada. Agreements were negotiated with [Pg 179]Belgium and Italy on cultural, technical, and economic matters. Australia also had a share of Bulgaria's trade attention; both countries signed a long-term trade agreement in 1972, and an agreement was reached to establish diplomatic relations at the embassy level.

Relations with Other States

Bulgarian interest in trade with the developing countries has increased considerably. In 1971 and 1972 the volume of trade with third world countries exceeded 316 million leva (for value of the lev—see Glossary) as opposed to 113.3 million leva in 1965. The Arab countries rank first in the amount of business conducted with Bulgaria. A considerable number of Bulgarian experts are also engaged in the construction of industrial enterprises in various developing countries.


Regional Cooperation

Military cooperation on a regional basis was secured for Bulgaria and its allies (the Soviet Union, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia) in a multilateral alliance known as the Warsaw Pact. Albania, an original member, withdrew in 1968 (see ch. 16). Signed on May 14, 1955, in Warsaw, Poland, the pact was and remains Eastern Europe's answer to the challenges and security arrangements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In one sense it seemed to provide legal grounds for the Soviet Union to keep its troops in east-central Europe as well as to secure the balance of military power in Europe, especially after West Germany joined NATO. In another sense it confirmed the Soviet Union's political and military hegemony in all of Eastern Europe.

The organization has two main bodies—the Political Consultative Committee, which recommends general questions of foreign policy for member countries, and the High Command of United Armed Forces, which prepares military plans in time of war and decides troop deployments. Both bodies are located in Moscow, and all its senior ranking officials are Russians.

Bulgaria has bilateral treaties of mutual aid with each other member of the Warsaw Pact. A multilateral agreement binds all the members to one another in general and to the Soviet Union in particular. Within Bulgaria Soviet officers serve as advisers at the division level and formerly served down to the regiment level. Others serve as instructors.

Bulgaria was a charter member of COMECON in 1949. An economic alliance among Eastern European countries, COMECON is the counterpart to Western Europe's European Economic Community (commonly called the Common Market). Other members are the Soviet [Pg 180]Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and East Germany. Mongolia and Cuba, non-European countries, joined in June 1962 and July 1972, respectively. Albania joined in 1949 but withdrew in 1961.

Founded as an outlet for agricultural and industrial products and as a capital-and-labor market, COMECON, like the Warsaw Pact, binds its members to each other and all of them to the Soviet Union. Long-term trade agreements of five years are usually renewable at the end of each term. It is estimated that 60 to 65 percent of the total foreign trade of each signatory is carried on with other member countries. One of the obvious disadvantages of the organization, however, is the absence of a common market. Trade and commerce between the member countries are carried out on the basis of preference and within the framework of bilateral agreements.

Because the loose structure of COMECON does not make for effective regional planning, member countries such as Bulgaria continue to renew bilateral trade agreements within COMECON. The Soviet Union remains Bulgaria's largest foreign market, accounting for more than 50 percent of Bulgarian trade. Bulgaria also agreed to send Bulgarian workers to the Soviet Union for heavy industrial projects.

Participation of Bulgaria on a regional level has been confined to a few projects. Among these are a COMECON electric power grid, which serves the western Ukraine, especially the city of Kiev; a Romanian-Bulgarian project to construct a power dam and navigation system for sixty miles along the Danube River; a system of high-speed expressways to connect the capital cities of member countries; a project to modernize steel industries and to reduce production and delivery time; and membership in the International Bank for Economic Cooperation, headed by a former deputy chairman of the Soviet State Bank.

United Nations Membership and Participation

Bulgaria became a member of the UN on December 14, 1955. Its delegates are active in committee work of the UN organs and subsidiary bodies as well as in deliberations on the floor of the General Assembly. One of its most important committee assignments is to the so-called First Committee, which was established as one of the original six committees under the General Assembly's rules of procedure in 1946. It deals with political and security matters and was headed by Milko Tarabanov, one of five Bulgarian delegates to the UN in the session held from September through December 1972.

Available records of General Assembly activities in 1970 showed active participation of Bulgaria's delegates in committee work touching on such matters as the review of administrative tribunal judgments; the question of defining aggression; the peaceful uses of outer space; the peaceful uses of the seabed under international waters; and the implementation of the declaration on the granting of independence to [Pg 181]colonial countries and peoples. Bulgaria was particularly interested in the Caribbean territories.

As a member of the Committee on Disarmament, Bulgaria, along with twenty-four other participating states, met in Geneva in 1970. The committee met to consider the question of cessation of the nuclear arms race and associated matters, such as the prohibition of emplacing nuclear arms or other destructive weapons on the seabed. A refinement of the comprehensive test ban treaty of 1963 extended the prohibition on arms control to underground testing. Bulgaria, along with other Eastern European countries, also supported draft proposals of the committee not to undertake the "development, production, and stockpiling of chemical and bacteriological weapons" and the consequent "destruction of such weapons" as well as the prohibition of "biological methods of warfare." Bulgaria, as a member of the General Assembly's First Committee, also cosponsored a resolution to secure guarantees that the seabed would be used only for peaceful means.

In regard to the question of nuclear and thermonuclear testing, Bulgaria sought the early passage of an agreement to prohibit all nuclear weapons testing while the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) were going on between the United States and the Soviet Union. Bulgaria also participated actively in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. As a member of a subcommittee's working group, proposals and working papers were submitted on the question of liability for damage caused by objects that were launched into outer space. For its part, Bulgaria sought to clarify the "question of applicable law" and the "settlement of disputes."

The country was also represented in bodies dealing with economic questions; questions of development; and social questions involving housing, building, and planning as well as the promotion of children's welfare. Additionally, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development had Bulgarian delegates in five of its working groups, dealing with trade and development, commodities, domestic shipping, international shipping legislation, and the transfer of technology. Bulgaria is also a member of the Economic Commission for Europe.

[Pg 182]

[Pg 183]



Since the Communists took over the government in 1944, the mass communications systems have been perceived as instruments of propaganda and vehicles for party control. Because of this perception of the significance of the media, the new government immediately claimed all mass media as state property.

There is little if any tolerance of the free expression of ideas throughout the entire mass communications system. Because Bulgaria is more closely tied to the Soviet Union than most of the other Eastern European countries, the dictates of Moscow are virtually followed to the letter in the media. Themes that are initiated in Moscow are reiterated almost verbatim in Sofia. The major theme of the mass media is respect for and emulation of the Soviet Union, although recently some social themes—such as the problems of youth and alcoholism—have been incorporated as well.

The only sources of information and entertainment permitted to the people are the domestically controlled mass media. Most Bulgarians distrust information available to them from these sources but, having no alternative, continue to use them.

Historically, of all the mass communications systems, the press has always reached the largest number of people and has traditionally been viewed by the government as the most effective means of informing the general public. Although the circulation of the press dropped drastically in the mid-1940s, it has since the 1960s once again become the chief instrument of the mass communications system. Radio has greatly expanded in variety and scope since the 1940s. Television, although slow to develop and still limited in its audience relative to other European countries, has been growing rapidly since the early 1960s and was beginning to experiment with color in the early 1970s.

There has been little change in the Bulgarian publishing industry since 1944. Owing to the government's fear of contamination by the West or other capitalist societies, there is very little importation of foreign books into the country. Although books have increased greatly in terms of sheer numbers of editions, the quantity of book titles has remained very much the same since World War II.

Libraries range from those under the control of state ministries and committees to local reading rooms and enterprise libraries. The [Pg 184]latter are generally more widely used by the people.

Since the end of World War II the film industry has grown to a great extent. Like other instruments of the media, films are chosen for their propagandistic value; however, since the advent of television, fewer people have attended films.


The press—composed of newspapers and periodicals—was the most developed of the Bulgarian media in the first half of the twentieth century. Radio, which was introduced in the 1920s, was under the aegis of what was then the Ministry of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone. The production, importation, and sale of radios were unrestricted. The least developed communications system of the day was the film industry, which was privately owned and operated. Television was not initiated in the country until the mid-1950s.

In the years immediately after the takeover, a strong pro-Soviet policy was established for the media, which was still in effect in 1973. While the new government restricted individual freedom and initiative within the media, it demanded total support by the media of all policies of the Soviet Union. Despite the fact that Bulgaria has never deviated from the policy of complete commitment to the Soviet Union, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia various media conferences were held in which calls for stricter adherence to the Soviet line were sounded.


The government has certain distinct perceptions as to how the media must serve the state. Propaganda permeates every aspect of life from formal education to membership in unions and clubs to the publication of books and pamphlets. The Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary) is the main political force. It both creates the appropriate condition for the expression of public opinion and forms public opinion itself.

At a recent conference on the mass communications system, a leading member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party delineated the principal tasks of the media. The major task of the media was "to work for the broadest possible propagation of the congress decisions and for the mobilization of the people's physical and mental powers to make their decisions materialize...." The second vital task of the media was to "help form a socialist outlook on life among the peoples and educate the new man—active fighter for the developed socialist society, ideologically convinced, morally durable, physically tempered, with profound awareness of duty and responsibility." The third task was to promote the economic awareness of the people and to train managers, specialists, workers, and farmers for the greater economic good of the country. The fourth [Pg 185]main task was to continue in the active struggle against "bourgeois ideology ... and the ideological subversion of imperialism."

A basic tenet of the Bulgarian system, however, is the belief that mass communications must be actively supplemented by human contact on the individual level. Iliya Georgiev, secretary of the Varna Okrug Bulgarian Communist Party Committee, in an article on the political knowledge of working people in 1972, stated categorically that the interest stimulated in the people by the mass communications system must be maintained and extended by informal means of communications, such as district (okrug) seminars, meetings in enterprises and farms, activities in the trade unions, and the Dimitrov Communist Youth Union (Dimitrovski Komunisticheski Mladezhki Suyuz—commonly referred to as the Komsomol).

The government has spent considerable time in assessing the extent to which these media objectives have been achieved. In the years immediately following the takeover, the government was consistently distressed by continued Bulgarian feelings of friendship with the West and the continual influence of the West upon the country. Although the propaganda efforts of the communist government were tireless, radio broadcasts and printed materials from the West continued to pour into Bulgaria.

As the government's control over both the formal communications media and the informal means of communications widened, the external threat was perceived to be less, and governmental attention turned to the assessment of the relative popularity of the various branches of the media. In a recent study 3,294 people were questioned as to their favorite source of domestic and international information. The vast majority—64.8 percent—of those polled stated that their preferred source was daily newspapers; 24.6 percent preferred television; and only 2.7 percent preferred radio. Although the newspapers were the favorite source of information, they were frequently criticized by the people, who expressed a basic lack of confidence in the press. In a second study dealing with people's attitudes toward the press alone, 48.1 percent of the 900 people polled said they disliked the press, and 52.1 percent complained of the primitive quality of Bulgarian newspapers.

Young people, especially students, appeared to be even less stimulated by the mass media than their elders. A study performed in the 1969/70 academic year indicated that students were indifferent to both domestic political events and international developments. The pollsters concluded that generally Bulgarian students take little advantage of the mass media as a source of information. Unlike the broad public, whose primary source of information was the press, students tended to see television as their preferred source and the press and radio as secondary sources.


[Pg 186]The 1947 Constitution, known as the Dimitrov Constitution, established the stated rights of citizens as well as the nationalization of all private property, including the mass communications network. Regarding the so-called freedom of citizens, Article 88 of the 1947 Constitution claimed: "The citizens of the People's Republic are guaranteed freedom of the press, of speech, of assembly, of meetings and demonstrations." At the same time, Article 10 and Article 17 prohibited the unrestricted freedom of private property and provided for its nationalization under the authority of the National Assembly. More specifically, Article 80 of the constitution dealt directly with the system of mass communications: "The state cares for the development of science and art by establishing ... publishing houses, libraries, theatres, museums, public reading clubs, ... film studios, [and] cinemas...."

In 1956 the premier of the communist regime, Vulko Chervenkov, emphasized the ultimate control of the party over all institutions of the country. He stated: "No institution, organization, or person can be above the Politburo and the Central Committee ... those guilty of deviation from the Bolshevik rule must be held responsible and punished." Under his successor, Todor Zhivkov, a slight liberalization regarding freedom of the media ensued (see ch. 9). For a brief period writers and scholars were given greater latitude of expression. When some writers dared to openly criticize the government, however, Zhivkov was unable to tolerate this criticism and reimposed restrictions on the media. The ultimate authority of the party was again made manifest. In an article in 1969, Georgi Bokov, chief editor of Rabotnichesko Delo and chairman of the Union of Bulgarian Journalists, flatly rejected the notions of freedom and independence for the mass communications system. The stated goals of the Union of Bulgarian Journalists in the late 1960s were "to promote the development of mass information and propaganda media as first-rate ideological weapons in the struggle for the victory of socialism and Communism ... the Union must constantly work to turn the press, radio, and television into effective ideological instruments for the Party."

In 1971, a new constitution was promulgated, but the basic clauses of the 1947 document, regarding so-called individual freedoms and state ownership, remained essentially intact. It was restated in Article 54 that "citizens enjoy freedom of speech, press, meetings, associations and demonstrations." Article 46 again provided for state development of, and control over, the mass communications system.

The results of the policy regarding the media are witnessed by numerous examples of party control and the repression of dissidents. All newspapers must provide space for the official news of the government, and all Central Committee directives must be printed without alteration. No dispatches sent out by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (Bulgarska Telegrafna Agentsiya—BTA)—the official news agency of the [Pg 187]country—are allowed to be revised. No criticism of government policies is tolerated. Dissident individuals and groups are singled out for criticism by the Politburo. In 1972 a Politburo member, Todor Pavlov, accused certain writers of rejecting Socialist Realism in favor of more bourgeois literature and art. Other writers were criticized for their so-called subjectivistic interpretation of Bulgarian literature and were branded as pseudoscientists.


Administrative Units

As the system has evolved, the broad outlines of propaganda have been dictated from the Politburo, the party's chief policymaking unit. From there policy is transmitted to the Agitation and Propaganda Department (Agitprop), which is a major operational unit of the Central Committee. Agitprop, in turn, is responsible for the transmission of guidelines down to the lowest levels of party organization. Simultaneously, the same dictates are transmitted throughout all cultural institutions by the Ministry of Information and Communications. Under this ministry's jurisdiction are the arts, the film industry, radiobroadcasting, television, book and pamphlet publishing, printing, all cultural or educational institutions, and all so-called independent artists. Still a third channel for the transmission of the original propaganda are the mass organizations that function in the propaganda field under direction of either Agitprop or the Ministry of Information and Communications (see ch. 9).

The administrative center for all media is Sofia, the capital. Eight daily newspapers are published in Sofia and distributed throughout the country; there are also seventeen major publishing houses in Sofia. The National Film Board, which oversees all aspects of film production, is in Sofia, as is Radio Sofia, which is the radio station for the entire country. The Cyril and Methodius Library—also known as the Bulgarian National Library—is within the confines of the city, as are the Union of Bulgarian Writers; the Union of Bulgarian Artists; and the Union of Composers, Musicologists, and Performing Musicians (see ch. 7).

The exportation of propaganda is under the auspices of the Sofia Press Agency. This agency was founded in 1967 with the express purpose of disseminating Bulgarian propaganda to other countries. Its three major tasks are to publicize Bulgaria's achievements and successes actively to the world; to attempt to counter anti-Bulgarian propaganda; and to provide the various communist parties of the world with rationale in their struggles against capitalism.

In 1972 the Sofia Press Agency was in the process of negotiating agreements with the BTA and the Committee for Television and Radio. [Pg 188]Agreements had already been established with book publishers, photographic artists, and the film industry. In early 1972 over 500 people—the majority of whom were editors and translators—were working for the Sofia Press Agency, and contracts had been signed with approximately 120 foreign countries. Nine magazines, translated into eleven languages, had been published each year in 2.5 million copies. A dual language newspaper has been published each year in 500,000 copies, and 400 books had appeared in approximately 4 million copies. Some 15,000 articles had been written, 30,000 photographs taken, and dozens of television motion pictures and documentaries had been filmed.

News Agency

The BTA was founded originally in 1898 in Sofia. It is the official news agency of the country and the sole source of both foreign and domestic news. It receives most of its foreign items from the Soviet Union news agency but also maintains exchange agreements with Reuters, Associated Press, and the Associated Foreign Press as well as a host of lesser known foreign news agencies, although it tends to be more discriminating in terms of the items selected from these sources.

In the 1960s the BTA had twenty-three correspondents posted throughout the nation, as well as foreign correspondents in Moscow, Peking, East Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Tirana, Belgrade, Ankara, Paris, Bonn, New York, Vienna, Cairo, and New Delhi. Correspondents are sent on special assignments to investigate news that is considered to be of interest to Bulgaria. Domestic news is reproduced in Russian, English, French, German, and Spanish, and international news is reproduced in Russian, English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. In an average day the BTA receives approximately 800 foreign newspapers, magazines, and bulletins and itself produces over 125,000 words.


The predominant theme of the media remains the expression of friendship with the Soviet Union. In 1971 a leading member of the party's Central Committee informed members of the media that one of their primary functions was to champion the feelings of "fraternal love, trust, and gratitude" of the Bulgarian people for the "heroic Soviet people," at the same time demonstrating "clearly and convincingly the unbreakable ties linking our present and future with the present and future of the Soviet Union."

A second common theme of the current media deals with the continuing struggle between so-called bourgeois capitalism and socialism. The people are, on the one hand, warned of the invidiousness of capitalistic methods—"The veiled methods of ideological struggle applied [Pg 189]on an even broader scale by contemporary imperialism requires greater vigilance from us...." On the other hand they are assured that socialism will ultimately prevail—"their [socialist] ideas make their way with insuperable force into the minds and hearts of working people all over the world, gain more and more new adherents, and become a powerful factor of social progress."

Another dichotomy that the media pose as a continuing theme is that of religion versus socialism. Bulgarian writers triumphantly proclaim that "religion as a component of the sociological structure of society for thousands of years gradually withers away at an even faster pace throughout the transition from capitalism to communism." Since one of the major aims of the government is to eliminate religious sentiment among the people, the public is from time to time assured that—according to the latest survey—only 35.5 percent of the population is considered religious or that the "Bulgarian people is one of the least religious in the world."

Another divisive force that is frequently posed by the media is national patriotism versus proletarian internationalism. Although internationalism is viewed as predominant, citizens are warned against feelings of bourgeois nationalism, since the "unity between internationalism and patriotism is of a relative character, and there is always the real possibility of dissension between them; they may even be placed into a position of mutual opposition." Somehow the conflict, according to the journal Filosofska Misal, is perceived as being resolved through a higher form of patriotism that is inextricably linked with love of the Soviet Union. Socialist patriotism is seen as a "qualitatively new, higher form of patriotism" as expressed in "love and gratitude toward the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union organically linked with love for Bulgaria."

In accordance with the media's constant expression of admiration for, and solidarity with, the Soviet Union, any issue that raises the question of conflicting loyalties between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Soviet Union is summarily dismissed with the reiteration of support for the Soviet Union. One journal warned the people of the dangers from the left in the form of the people of the PRC as well as from the right in the form of capitalist societies: "Contrary to all healthy logic, for years on end, the Chinese leadership has been waging hostile propaganda campaigns against the Soviet Union ... which are in no way inferior to the most malicious fabrications of bourgeois anti-Sovietism."

When the troops of the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, Bulgaria once again rose to the Soviet Union's defense in complete justification of the invasion. The BTA cited a long list of workers, peasants, and intellectuals who were allegedly in favor of the action. Major newspapers such as Rabotnichesko Delo interpreted the event as symbolic of proletarian internationalism, and Zemedelsko [Pg 190]Zname stated that "it is our supreme duty to resist the common enemy and not to allow anyone ever to tear away even one link from the chain of the socialist community." The Czechoslovak uprising itself, as reported by the Bulgarian press some months later, was interpreted as nationalistic and counterrevolutionary.

Bulgaria's relationship with the West, as expressed by the media, has evolved over time from overt hostility to some degree of tolerance. In 1968 the Bulgarian media openly denounced the concept of peaceful coexistence with the West. By the early 1970s, however, although citizens were still urged by the media to struggle against bourgeois capitalism as epitomized by the West, a slight thaw in the cool relations that had prevailed since the mid-1940s was detected. On the one hand, all instruments of the media were urged to direct the people away from foreign influences and to struggle against "bourgeois ideology, anticommunism, and the ideological subversion of imperialism." On the other hand, however, Western correspondents in 1973 declared that Bulgaria was entering a period of greater flexibility with the West.

The last polemical theme of the Bulgarian mass media is known as the Bulgarian miracle. Although success for the alleged achievement of Bulgaria's national goals is attributed to correct socialism, the application of Leninist principles, and the unity of party and people, the media take every opportunity to stress the achievements of the Bulgarian state since the advent of communism. One journal stated that "our country strengthened and matured as a state with a modern socialist industry, intensive mechanized agriculture, and flourishing national culture, a state enjoying an indisputable international prestige, respected as an economic partner and as a factor for the safeguard of peace."

On the nonpolemical side, the Bulgarian media discuss both Bulgaria's immediate social problems and issues that affect the world. The issue of alcoholism is discussed relatively openly and is viewed as an issue of national concern. Alcoholism is perceived to be related to both the rising number of divorces and the frequency of crimes (see ch. 5; ch. 15).

Bulgarians also have become involved in the international issue of pollution of the environment, and the press has given the topic a fair amount of coverage. The issue has been dealt with on a completely nonpolemical basis; in fact the brotherhood of all forms of societies is stressed as the means of combating the problem.



In 1944, three months after the new government took control, all newspaper plants were made the property of the state. In the ensuing [Pg 191]year, the government took over the distribution of newsprint, and many noncommunist editors and Communists were either jailed or executed. By 1945 only eight daily and weekly newspapers were permitted to publish. Five of them were published under the aegis of a governmental or party agency. Rabotnichesko Delo—which was patterned on the Soviet Pravda—became the organ of the Central Committee, and Otechestven Front—patterned on the Soviet Isvestia—became the official organ of the government. Izgrev was an organ of the Fatherland Front Zvenos; Narod was an instrument of the Fatherland Front (Otechestven Front) Socialists; and Narodna Voiska was an army organ. Politika was not directly affiliated with the party but was decidedly pro-Communist (see ch. 9).

The other two newspapers, both expressing a degree of opposition, were tolerated only through 1946. These were Narodno Zemedelsko Zname, an organ of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union (Bulgarski Zemedelski Suyuz—BZS) and Svoboden Narod, an organ of the Social Democratic Party. In early 1947, however, they were closed down.

The Fifth Party Congress in 1948, endeavoring to more fully exploit the potential of the press for propaganda purposes, called upon it to serve as the "first assistant of the Bulgarian Communist Party, of the Fatherland Front, and of the government." The primary function of the printed news media, as stated by that congress, was to mobilize the working people in terms of their identification with the so-called great socialist buildup. In the same year the Central Home of Bulgarian Journalists was established in order to train writers in the correct propaganda line established by the party. This institution was replaced in 1955 by the Union of Bulgarian Journalists.

After World War II the national newspapers were generally four pages long and consisted of news concerning Bulgaria, the Soviet Union, and other socialist countries; progress reports regarding national economic plans; foreign news presented with a decided anti-Western bias; and information regarding cultural events and sports. Cartoons, which appeared occasionally in the daily and weekly newspapers, were generally propagandistic and dealt with so-called foreign agents, the bourgeoise, and other so-called enemies of the people. There was little humor in the newspapers, as their overall purpose was to portray and defend the communist system.

The national newspapers were modeled after those of the Soviet Union, in both style and content. During the 1940s they established ties with the Soviet news agency, the Chinese Communist news agency, and the news agencies in other communist countries. All international events—those dealing with the communist-bloc countries and those dealing with the West—were integrated through these sources.

While Stalin lived, all of his dictates were followed to the letter, including the duplication of the Soviet example in the strong verbal [Pg 192]campaign against Yugoslavia. When Nikita Khrushchev succeeded him and subsequently made some semblance of peace with Yugoslavia, the Bulgarian press followed suit. Similarly, when the Soviets quickly quelled the Polish and Hungarian revolts, the Bulgarian press endorsed the Soviet versions of these events. Strict control over the press was retained in the early 1970s, and most news still emanated from the Soviet news agency. Censorship was seldom required, however, since all editors were by this time acutely aware of their responsibilities to the party.

In contrast to the natural press, the provincial press concentrated on local matters. It included, in addition to a few regularly published newspapers, a variety of new types of publications, such as multicirculators—which were wall posters—and the so-called bumblebees, which were letters of accusation pointing out alleged failures of particular individuals to maintain acceptable social standards or to attain programmed economic goals. In broad terms, all these publications were designed to indoctrinate specific groups of people, generally in their places of work. The multicirculators called on workers to support the economic goals of the government and promised them rewards if they fulfilled the required objectives (see table 10).

Table 10. Bulgaria, Newspaper Circulation by Frequency of Issue, 1971

Frequency of Issue Number Annual Circulation
(in thousands)
Daily   13 611,900
Two to four times per week   31 108,181
Weekly   58 100,880
Less than once per week 604   16,533
    TOTAL 706 837,494

In the early 1970s the style of Bulgarian newspapers remained essentially the same as in the mid-1940s. National daily newspapers ordinarily had four pages, but sometimes had from six to eight pages when there was vital news to cover. Headlines were often printed in red, but stories and articles were in black print. Since the late 1960s or early 1970s advertising increased, and newspapers began to resemble their Western counterparts to a greater extent.

In 1972 thirteen daily newspapers were published, eight of which were printed in Sofia. Rabotnichesko Delo was a descendant of the first workers' newspaper, which was begun in 1897. It led both in importance and circulation, was the primary organ of the BKP, and set the tone for all other newspapers in the country. In 1950 it had a daily circulation of 364,500 copies, and by 1960 its circulation had risen to 567,360. In 1972 this newspaper had a total circulation of approximately 650,000 copies. The second most important daily [Pg 193]newspaper published in Sofia was the Otechestven Front, the organ of the government. This publication was initiated as an underground newspaper in 1942. As of 1972 it claimed a daily circulation of 247,000.

The other Sofia dailies and their circulations were: Zemedelsko Zname, 168,000; Narodna Mladez, the newspaper for youth, 225,000; Trud, the organ of the trade unions, 200,000; Narodna Armiya, an organ of the Ministry of National Defense, 50,000; Vecherni Novini, founded in 1951, an evening newspaper, 40,000; and Kooperativno Selo, the organ of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry, 230,000. The major provincial dailies were Otechestven Glas (in Plovdiv), Narodno Delo (in Varna), Chernomorski Front (in Burgas), Dunavska Pravda (in Ruse), and Pirinsklo Delo (in Blagoevgrad) (see table 11).

Table 11. Bulgaria, Circulation of Newspapers and Periodicals, Selected Years, 1939-71

  1939 1948 1960 1971
    Annual circulation* 130,297    345,905    602,813     837,494    
    Annual circulation per capita          20.7          48.5          76.6          98.1
    Number        393           246           151           963   
    Annual circulation*   11,208      10,421      20,923      48,605   
    Average annual issues per capita            1.8            1.5            2.7            5.7
* In thousands


By 1971 there were 963 periodicals with an annual circulation of 48.6 million, roughly tripling the pre-World War II figures. Periodicals were an extremely popular form of reading material.

Among the leading periodicals of Bulgaria are: Novo Vreme, a monthly journal of the Central Committee; Ikonomicheska Misal, the organ of the Institute of Economics of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Puls, a publication of the Central Committee of the Komsomol; Slavyani, the monthly journal of the Slav Committee in Bulgaria; Bulgarski Voin, the monthly journal of the chief political department of the Bulgarian People's Army (Bulgarska Narodna Armiya); Resorts, a bimonthly journal printed in Russian, French, English, and German; and Lov i Ribolov.


In 1939 there were three radio stations and over 60,000 subscribers (see table 12). Approximately one out of every 100 Bulgarian citizens owned a radio set.

[Pg 194]Table 12. Bulgaria, Number of Radio Stations and Subscribers, Selected Years, 1939-71

  1939 1948 1960 1971
Radio stations:        
    Mediumwave n.a. n.a.               5             12
    Shortwave n.a. n.a.               2               4
    Ultra-shortwave n.a. n.a.               0             11
Number of radio stations          3            5               7             27
Number of relay stations n.a.          41        1,347        1,835
Number of radio subscribers 62,677 210,366 1,430,653 2,304,567
Number of radio receivers 62,677 201,866    868,950 1,546,163
Subscribers*        10          30           182           269
n.a.—not available.
* Per 1,000 population.

As of March 26, 1948, the state controlled not only the management of radio stations and the content of radio programs but also the manufacture, distribution, and sale of radio equipment. The ownership and operation of radios were subject to the chief directorate of radio information according to the Law on Radio. Article 15 of this law stated that private homes could only receive programs of Bulgarian radio stations. Article 17 of the same law stated that all people wishing to purchase radios had to receive prior authorization and pay a radio tax.

The ideological purposes of radio broadcasts are presented by the government in quasi-cold war terms. One radio commentator, Lyuben Popov, has described the radio as a weapon for waging war on the air. He explained that "the struggle on the air is becoming sharper and sharper and more and more uncompromising.... Our propaganda work is part of the ideological struggle for victory of communist ideas." Radio is perceived as serving two principal ends. On the domestic level it serves to provide information as well as propaganda to the public; on the international level it functions in a purely ideological capacity.

There are twelve mediumwave radio transmitters: two are located in Pleven; two in Kurdzhali; two in Sofia; and one each in Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, Varna, Shumen, Stara Zagora, and Stolnik. There are eleven ultra-shortwave stations: three are located in Sofia, two in Botev, two in Slunchev Bryag, two in Kyustendil, one in Snezhinka, and one in Plovdiv. There are four shortwave radio stations in Bulgaria. Of the total number of twenty-seven radio stations in the country, six broadcast in both amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM); twenty broadcast in AM only; and one located at Botev Peak broadcasts only in FM.

Bulgarian radio stations are on the air approximately 500 hours per week. Foreign broadcasts are transmitted approximately twenty-six [Pg 195]hours a day Monday through Saturday and twenty-nine hours on Sunday. These programs are broadcast in Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, Serbo-Croat, French, Italian, German, English, Spanish, and Arabic and are transmitted to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North America, and South America. The number of domestic listeners has approximately doubled over the 1960-71 period. In mid-1973 over a quarter of the population owned radio sets.

The leading radio programs are transmitted by Radio Sofia. Radio Plovdiv, Radio Varna, and Radio Stara Zagora also transmit popular programs. Radio Rodina is the main station transmitting to Bulgarians residing abroad. Generally, radio programs consist of news bulletins dealing with both local and international events; programs for rural listeners and industrial workers, which deal with industrial, agricultural, and cultural matters; programs for children, which complement the formal educational curriculum; literary and cultural programs; and scientific programs.

In January 1971 Radio Sofia took steps to refurbish its old programming. Some critics felt that the old programming was lacking in variety, causing listeners to turn to foreign broadcasts for more enjoyable entertainment. Others within the medium wanted to have more freedom and creativity in programming. As a result, in mid-1973 the three main programs of Radio Sofia had a singular and distinctive character. "Horizont" provided both general information and popular music. "Christo Botev" had a more cultural and propagandistic nature, presenting ideological, literary, and educational programs. "Orfei" was the program for classical music, which was occasionally supplemented by theatrical and literary features. The results of these changes have been mixed. Although some critics felt that the new programs were more lively than their predecessors, others continued to criticize them for a "dearth of original thought, a laconic style, and a pompous tone."

Other recent developments in radio have been the establishment of radio relay ties with nearby countries. These relay ties are expected to increase Bulgaria's communications with the West while providing her new partners with access to the East. In July 1972 the construction of radio lines between Bulgaria and Turkey was completed. In December 1972 plans for a radio relay line between Sofia and Athens were announced; the line was to be completed by 1974. This particular line was expected to provide Greece with access to Eastern Europe and Bulgaria with access to the Middle East and North Africa.


Television, like radio, became a state monopoly under the control of the Ministry of Culture on March 26, 1948, but the first strictly experimental broadcasts were not undertaken until 1954. It was 1959 [Pg 196]before the first regular programming—consisting of two programs per week—was being broadcast. By 1962 programs had been increased to only four per week.

The number of television subscribers rose from a mere 2,573 in 1960 to 185,246 in 1965 and to 1.2 million in 1971. These figures meant the number of sets per 1,000 people were; less than one, in 1960; about twenty-three, in 1965; and 138, in 1971. During the same period an increasing number of transmitting stations was making reception possible in nearly all parts of the country. By 1972 there were twenty-seven transmitters; the major ones were located at Sofia, Slunchev Bryag, Botev, Varna, and Kyustendil. In spite of the expansion of the network and the increasing numbers of sets available, in comparison to other European countries there were still relatively few television subscribers per 1,000 of the population.

Three-quarters of the television sets are located in the cities. Although there is only one major television program, Program I, plans are underway for the transmission of a second program, Program II. This, when added to the coverage of Program I, is expected to reach 95 percent of the population by 1975.

Television is transmitted on a daily basis. The weekly programs run between 68 and 72 hours. Television time has been apportioned more or less according to popular taste. Of the total hours, 22 percent of television time was devoted to documentaries, 15 percent to music, 12 percent to news, 11 percent to programs for children, 10 percent to language and literature programs, and 8 percent to sports. There were also special broadcasts to villages and question-and-answer programs in industrial enterprises and cooperative farms. Unlike the rest of Eastern Europe, Bulgaria imported very few television films from the United States.

One of the most recent innovations in television programming was the transmission of a special program for tourists in 1973. Bulgarian Radio and Television decided to cooperate with the Committee for Tourism to promote a 1-½-hour program for foreign tourists on the Black Sea coast. The program, as envisioned in 1973, would consist of local news, presented on three different channels in Russian, English, and German respectively; local events; international news; tourist information; and advertisements.

Future plans for Bulgarian television were outlined in the Sixth Five Year Plan (1971-75). Although color television programs in the 1970s were transmitted to Bulgaria from Moscow, Bulgaria's own color television was to be transmitted in late 1973. Along these lines, Bulgaria planned to collaborate with Intervision—the Eastern European television network—in the promotion of color television. In 1972 plans were also being formulated for the construction of between 250 and 300 relay stations and additional television transmitters.


In 1939 there were 2,169 books and pamphlets published in 6.5 million copies, and in 1948 there were 2,322 books and pamphlets published in 19.9 million copies. By 1960 the number of book and pamphlet titles had risen to 3,369 in 30.2 million copies, and by 1971 the number of book and pamphlet titles reached 4,188 in 46.8 million copies.

More recent studies of book and pamphlet publication conducted in 1969 and 1970 indicated that the overwhelming majority of books and pamphlets were written by Bulgarians. Of the 3,799 books published in 1970, there were 3,368 by Bulgarian authors. The foreign works during this year were predominantly in Russian, 131; French, sixty-five; English, sixty-five; and German, fifty-four. There were few books translated from Spanish and a sprinkling of translations from other lesser known languages. Of the translated works most were literary, followed by works dealing with the social sciences, the applied sciences, the arts, geography and history, the so-called hard sciences, philosophy, philology, and religion.

A 1971 study illustrates the fact that—in terms of titles alone—books are more popular than pamphlets by a ratio of approximately three to one (see table 13). The greatest number of book titles in 1971 were in the areas of artistic and folkloric literature, technology and industry, and scientific and educational texts. The smallest number of book titles were in the areas of general handbooks, community affairs, and atheism and religion. The greatest number of pamphlet titles, on the other hand, were in juvenile literature, communist party literature, and science and education. The fewest pamphlet titles dealt with atheism and religion, Marxism-Leninism, languages, and labor and trade unions.

Because the Bulgarian publishing industry has emphasized the quantity of books available in terms of copies rather than variety or number of titles, there has been some serious criticism of policy, particularly from the newspapers. In fact, among the Balkan countries, Bulgaria ranks below Yugoslavia, Romania, and Turkey in the number of titles published annually. One newspaper claimed that of the total number of books published in 1972, only approximately one-third were so-called real books, meaning that they were not simply textbooks or brochures. This newspaper claimed that foreign literature was not well known in Bulgaria and pointed out that the literature of Asia, Africa, and South America had increased by only 470 titles since 1939.

The state not only is in charge of the publishing houses themselves but also supervises the distribution of books throughout the country. Editorial councils are the final authorities in determining the output of individual publishing houses. The one exception to the general administration of publishing houses is the publication of textbooks. [Pg 198]In this case the Committee on Art and Culture is responsible for the printing of textbooks, and the Ministry of National Education is, in turn, responsible for their distribution.

Table 13. Bulgaria, Book and Pamphlet Publication, 1971

Subject of Publication Total Number of Titles Book
Pamphlet Titles
Marxism-Leninism      26      23        3
Communist party    270    158    112
Socialist and communist construction    181      97      84
Foreign policy and economics      94      74      20
Philosophy      70      52      18
History    147    121      26
Economics      29      21        8
Production      90      82        8
Finance      15      11        4
Labor and trade unions      55      39      16
Legal and constitutional system      73      53      20
Military policy      38      28      10
Natural science and mathematics    261    225      36
Technology and industry    490    415      75
Agriculture and cooperatives    284    214      70
Trade and nutrition      51      37      14
Transportation and communications      75      64      11
Community affairs        4        4    ...
Health    215    157    58
Physical education and sports      72      53      19
Scientific and educational texts    397    301      96
Literary criticism    133      55      78
Art    152    118      34
Languages      70      66        4
Artistic and folkloric literature    609    534      75
Juvenile literature    277    146    131
Atheism and religion        8        7        1
General handbooks        2        2    ...  
    TOTAL 4,188 3,157 1,031

The party is the final arbiter regarding the acceptability of work for publication. All party control, however, is theoretically unofficial; censorship exists only in the sense that all power of decision regarding publication is in the hands of party members. The official process for publication is that the writer submits his work to the publishing house. The publishing house then sends it, with a brief description of its ideological content, to the Committee on Art and Culture. If the book is approved at this stage, it is returned to the publishing house, where it is again checked for its ideological content.

The major criterion for acceptance is the ideological soundness of the work in question. According to a refugee playwright from Bulgaria, "The journalist must praise the party, and government, and criticize the West. The poet, the playwright, the novelist must uphold [Pg 199]the communist ideal." Since the works of leading Communists are almost always accepted for publication, one writer has stated; "In Bulgaria dead communist heroes are the safest bet."

The government is actively engaged in attempting to promote Bulgarian books abroad. In the late 1960s and early 1970s books by native authors—although in relatively small numbers—were published in such diverse countries as Great Britain, Japan, France, Turkey, Italy, Iran, Austria, Argentina, and Finland. According to the latest available source on the promotion of Bulgarian books abroad, plans also have been formulated for the publication of books in the United States, Belgium, Brazil, and Syria.

One of the most serious problems in the publishing industry, other than the broad issue of freedom of expression of the writers, is that of a shortage of textbooks. In 1970 the Committee for State Control discovered that courses in 1,013 subjects at the university level had no textbooks whatsoever. In the University of Sofia alone, where approximately 317 subjects were taught, textbooks existed for only 216 of these subjects; roughly half of the books for the 216 subjects that used textbooks were out of print.


When the Communists took power in 1944, they began to allocate relatively large sums of money to develop new libraries in both large cities and small villages. By 1971 the country had over 10,000 libraries, whose collections numbered nearly 50 million volumes (see table 14).

The Committee on Art and Culture maintained a number of libraries, including the country's largest, the Bulgarian National Library. Founded in 1878 in Sofia, it contained 814,000 works in 1971, including about 13,000 old and rare volumes, approximately 17,000 graphic works, and some 20,000 photographs and portraits. The library published both a yearbook and a monthly periodical.

The committee maintained two other libraries. One was the Ivan Vazov State Library, situated in Plovdiv, whose collection included a wide variety of periodicals, old and rare books, and archives. The other library under the committee was the Elin Pelin Bulgarian Bibliographical Institute, which maintained a record of all printed works in the country and published a monthly bulletin listing all of its publications, an annual yearbook, and a monthly list of all articles published in reviews and journals.

In addition there were research-related libraries maintained by the Academy of Sciences; public school libraries; university libraries; libraries organized in state plants, factories, and cooperative farms; regional libraries; and local libraries.

The major regional libraries were located in Burgas, Ruse, Stara Zagora, Shumen, Varna, Velsko, and Turnovo. The best known local library was the City Library of Sofia, which contained about 452,862 volumes.

[Pg 200]Table 14. Libraries in Bulgaria, 1971

Kind of Library Number
Libraries Books* Readers* Books Lent*
National          1      814      25      189
Local        27   5,287    259   4,807
Reading rooms   4,108 20,387 1,359 20,744
Enterprises and government offices   2,110   6,532    537   4,984
Public schools   3,860   9,336    772   6,653
Universities        23   2,077      84   1,320
    Science      115   1,409      29      507
    Government        35      594      16      282
    Party and public organizations        93      804      39      280
    Technical      212      864      54      398
    Medical        60      405      36      361
    Theaters (archives)      133      443        6        34
    Educational        14      152        8        57
    Total specialized      662   4,671    188   1,919
        TOTAL 10,791 49,104 3,227 40,616
* In thousands.

The so-called public reading room was another form of library. Founded by educated Bulgarians during the Turkish occupation as centers of culture and education, the reading rooms have become quite widespread, particularly in the villages, and supply books to farmworkers and other members of the rural population. In the early 1970s there were 4,108 reading rooms with over 20 million volumes.


By 1947, after the new constitution had been enacted, the film industry became a state monopoly. The next year the new Law on Motion Pictures was passed, which essentially expanded on the theme of state control. It officially abolished free enterprise in the film industry and prohibited individual activities in the importation and exportation of films and the private operation of movie theaters. The film industry fell under the official control of the Bulgarian Cinematography Association, which was under the Department of Motion Pictures of the Committee for Science, Art, and Culture. By 1950 the entire film industry was under the complete control of the Council of Ministers. The Department of Motion Pictures became officially attached to the council.

One of the early laws regarding films stated that "the motion picture must become a real fighting assistant of the party and the government and be an ardent agitator and propagator of the government policy." The focus of the industry was to be placed on the building of socialism [Pg 201]while increasing the country's bonds with the Soviet Union. Early legislation stated that "Soviet films gave immense educational influence and mobilized action and conscious participation in the building of socialism for still greater friendship with the Soviet Union." This emphasis on the relationship with the Soviet Union was not only ideological. Soviet films also represented approximately 87 percent of the films shown in Bulgaria from 1945 to 1956, and the Bulgarian film industry was in large part assisted by its film counterpart in the Soviet Union.

The film industry expanded quickly under the new government. There were 187 films produced in 1960 (see table 15). By 1965 there were approximately 2,000 motion picture houses, roughly 83 percent of which were in the villages.

Table 15. Bulgaria, Films Produced and Translated,
Selected Years, 1939-71

  1939 1948 1960 1971
Full length  3  ...    11     18 
    Art (3) ...  (10)  (16)
    Documentary ... ...    (1)    (2)
Television  0     0      0    19 
Short and medium length ...  19  110  252 
    Documentary ... (15)  (36)  (60)
    Popular science ...   (4)  (32)  (61)
    Technical education ... ...  (16)  (21)
    Animated ... ...    (8)  (16)
    Propaganda ... ...  (18)  (94)
Previews ...  53    66    58 
      TOTAL  3   72  187  347 

In mid-1973 information on the film industry indicated that the production, distribution, importation, exportation, and exhibition of films were still controlled by the Bulgarian Cinematography Association. This agency was subdivided into three sections: the chief studio at the Bulyana film center where feature films and cartoons were produced; a second studio that produced documentary shorts and popular science films for schools; and a third studio that specialized in newsreels.

Relative to other European countries there was little importation or exportation of films. In mid-1973 data suggested that between 100 and 150 feature films were imported per year. These films generally came from the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries, although a few were imported from Italy, France, and Great Britain. The first Bulgarian film to be exported was The Chain, which was shown in Czechoslovakia in 1964. The same year another Bulgarian film, The Intransigents, was shown in Ireland, and still another, [Pg 202]The Peach Thief, was shown in Great Britain. The precise number of Bulgarian films exported was unknown, although one writer claimed that in 1973 Bulgarian films were viewed in about seventy countries.

In mid-1973 the subject matter of Bulgarian films was characteristically contemporary, and there was little focus on historical events. Although a few historical films had been produced, they were in the minority. A few films had dealt with the subject of Bulgarian resistance to the Nazis, but they too were relatively scarce. More films were devoted to the so-called people's heroic struggles. Most films in Bulgaria, however, dealt with contemporary life in the country and current events. The overwhelming majority of these films treated the conflicts and issues of Bulgarian youth.

[Pg 203]




Under comprehensive control of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary), the economy was severely strained in mid-1973 as the result of the dual task imposed upon it by the BKP leadership to increase productivity rapidly and substantially and to provide a growing volume of consumer goods and services under a newly announced program for raising the population's low standard of living. A first step in improving the living standard took the form of an upward adjustment in the lowest wage brackets and a broadening of social security provisions. Further improvements, however, were made conditional upon attainment of the productivity and production goals.

The development of the economy and of the consumer program faced severe limitations because of the inadequacy of domestic resources, including basic raw materials, fuels and power, skilled workers, and trained professional personnel. Economic development was heavily dependent on financial and technical aid from the Soviet Union, and dependence upon that country was to be increased in the 1971-75 period. Efforts to overcome persistent and growth-retarding difficulties in the economy led to frequent organizational and procedural changes in the economic mechanism, the structure of which in mid-1973 was still in flux as a result of decisions taken by the BKP in 1965 and in 1968.

The main trend in reshaping the organization and management of the economy was one of concentration and centralization—a trend that led to the creation of huge trusts in industry and distribution and of vast agroindustrial complexes in agriculture. In the process, divisions and lines of authority were blurred, and violations of government directives were frequent because of their complexity and the constraints they placed on the day-to-day operation of economic enterprises.

In the search for a more efficient organization and management pattern, heavy reliance was placed on the introduction of complex automation into all economic processes with the aid of a nationwide computer network—a system of automation that would extend from the highest levels of national economic planning down to the individual [Pg 204]factory shop and cow barn. No ideas have been advanced, however, on how complex automation would solve the basic problem of the economy—the widely acknowledged and pervasive lack of incentives to work. The methods used to grapple with this problem were limited to a tinkering with the wage and bonus system, administrative sanctions, political indoctrination, and exhortations.


State ownership of the means of production predominates in the economy. Collective ownership has prevailed in agriculture, but it may be gradually eliminated in the course of the agricultural reorganization initiated in 1970 (see ch. 13). Private ownership of productive resources is limited to subsidiary farm or garden enterprises of collective farmers, industrial and state farmworkers, and artisans; a small number of individual farms on marginal lands; and noncollectivized artisan shops. In 1971 private ownership encompassed about 10 percent of the agricultural land but only 2.5 percent of the fixed assets used in production. Private ownership of personal property and homes is allowed.

The proportions of national income (net material product) generated in each of the ownership sectors in 1971 were: state, 70 percent; collective, 21 percent; and private, 9 percent. The importance of private enterprise in the production of food, however, is much greater than its contribution to the national income may suggest. The private sector has provided more than one-fifth of the crop output and one-third of the livestock production (see ch. 13).

Whereas the leadership has promoted livestock production on private farm plots, since 1968 it has placed increasingly severe restrictions on the activities of private artisans, who had originally been encouraged to expand their operations through liberal regulations issued in 1965. Aside from providing essential services, private artisans played an important role in supplying a variety of consumer goods for the population. The restrictions on artisans' activities have been based on the BKP tenet that private ownership of means of production and the use of personal property to acquire unearned income are incompatible with the socialist order and the country's new constitution.

Economic activities are centrally planned and directed along lines prescribed by the BKP. The functions of planning and control are exercised by the Council of Ministers with the aid of specialized economic ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Chemical Industry and Power Generation, and the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and of various governmental committees and commissions (see ch. 8). The state banking system and, more particularly, bank credit have also served as tools for the control of enterprises and trusts.

[Pg 205]The economic management structure has been subject to frequent changes. In the spring of 1972 there were fourteen economic ministries, including five ministries exclusively concerned with branches of industry and construction. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Industry, as its name implies, has functioned in two major economic sectors and has also had substantial responsibilities in the field of distribution. Among the committees and commissions the most important have been the State Planning Committee, the Committee on Prices, and the Commission for Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation. In December 1972 the Commission on the Living Standard was created to coordinate and control the fulfillment of the national living standard program decided upon by the plenum of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Attached to the Council of Ministers and chaired by a deputy minister, the commission is composed of ministers and deputy ministers, representatives of public organizations, scientists, and other members.

Since the beginning of 1971 economic management has been more highly centralized than before. A plan for partial decentralization of economic decision making adopted in 1965 was abandoned by 1968. The economy is organized into trusts (officially known as state economic associations) that unite enterprises within branches of economic sectors along functional lines, such as metallurgy, textiles, food processing, railroads, freight forwarding, tourism, wholesale distribution, publishing, and filmmaking. In agriculture, trusts are known as agroindustrial complexes; each complex unites several previously independent farms (see ch. 13). Trusts are subordinated to economic ministries and are ultimately responsible to the Council of Ministers. The extent of the ministries' authority over trusts is not clear. In some important respects trusts receive instructions directly from the Council of Ministers.

Agroindustrial trusts number 170. In the nonagricultural sector about sixty-two trusts were originally created, with an average of thirty branches but as many as 106 in one instance. The process of concentration and centralization continued on a small scale at least until the spring of 1973, in part through the consolidation of separate trusts. Before the reorganization, trust branches had been legally and financially independent enterprises, and trusts served only as administrative links between enterprises and ministries. Whereas individual enterprises were previously regarded as the basic economic units in the country, it is the trusts that have been officially considered as such under the new system of management.

Trusts have assumed various functions previously performed by the enterprises themselves. They formulate economic and technological development policies for the trust as a whole and for each branch; establish relations with suppliers, distributors, and financial institutions; and centralize research and development. Trusts have also [Pg 206]been charged with responsibility for providing operational guidance to their branches and for organizing the export of products that they manufacture. Branches remain responsible for the effective organization of operations, efficient uses of resources, and the conscientious fulfillment of tasks assigned to them by the annual plan.

Regulations governing the authority of trusts over their branches were intended to permit the establishment of flexible internal management organizations adapted to the particular needs of each trust. The trusts' policies were expected to be based on the rule that whatever the trust could do better than the branches should be centralized in it and, conversely, whatever the branches could do better than the trust should be left in their field of competence. Each trust was supposed to arrive at an optimal combination of management centralization and decentralization.

The transition to the new management system involved difficulties because of delays in issuing pertinent regulations, misinterpretation of the regulations by trust managers, and the reluctance of enterprise managers to acquiesce in the loss of their independence. Most of the organizational and personnel problems were reported to have been resolved by the end of 1971, and in March 1973 party chief Todor Zhivkov reported that further consolidation of the new management structure had been achieved. In the long run, greater efficiency of economic management is to be attained through pervasive automation of all management functions with the aid of a synchronized national network of electronic computers.

Under the new system of trusts, profits of individual branches are pooled and redistributed by the parent organization. Highly productive branches may thus find themselves in the position of having to share their profits with unproductive branches. This feature, some observers believe, may reduce incentives to raise the level of efficiency, increase output, and improve the quality of products.


National income (net national product, which excludes most services not directly related to production) was officially reported to have been 10.41 billion leva (for value of the lev—see Glossary) in 1971, compared to 10.53 billion leva in 1970. Nevertheless, the official index of national income growth showed an increase of 7 percent from 1970 to 1971. This example illustrates the difficulty of using official statistics to describe the structure and growth of the economy or structural changes over a period of time.

According to the 1971 statistical yearbook for Bulgaria, the respective shares of industry and agriculture in national income in 1970 were 49 and 22 percent. The yearbook issued in 1972, however, cited 1970 figures of 55 and 17 percent instead. According to the earlier source, the proportion of national income contributed by industry [Pg 207]increased by 6.5 percent in the 1960-70 period, whereas the subsequent source shows a growth of 17 percent for the same period. Similarly, the contribution of agriculture to national income was reported to have declined by 36.4 and by 33.3 percent. An upward trend in the contribution of trade to national income was shown in the earlier source, but a declining trend appeared in the latter.

The differences in statistical presentation resulted primarily from a major revision of wholesale prices, introduced by the government in January 1971. Price revisions made in earlier years, changes in the composition of individual statistical categories and other methodological modifications also contributed to the inconsistency of statistical time series in value terms. Because of differences in concept and coverage, Bulgarian national account data are not comparable with those of the United Nations or the United States systems of national accounts.

In the 1960-71 period national income at prices of 1957 was reported to have increased 2.25 times, which is equivalent to an average annual 7.7 percent rate of growth. The growth of national income was more rapid in the years 1966 through 1971 than it had been in the 1960-65 period. The official national income index implies an average annual increase of 8.5 percent in the latter period, compared to 6.7 percent in the earlier years. Reliable data on the growth of Bulgarian national income in Western terms are not available. Relatively high rates of economic growth are generally associated with early stages of industrial development.

In 1971 industry still lagged behind agriculture in terms of employment, although the proportion of the labor force employed in industry had been steadily rising, while employment in agriculture had been declining. In the 1960-71 period employment in industry rose from 21.9 to 31.2 percent of the labor force, and employment in agriculture declined from 54.7 to 33.4 percent of the total. During the same period employment in the services sector increased from 9.2 to 13.4 percent of the labor force, and gains in employment were made in all other economic sectors except forestry, including construction, transportation and communications, and trade.


Growth and productivity of the economy have been adversely affected by shortages of skilled labor and of adequately trained and experienced technical and executive personnel. In the words of the minister of labor and social welfare, the level of worker's current training is inconsistent with the country's industrial base; it lags behind the requirements of the scientific and technical revolution. The lack of required skills has contributed to frequent machinery breakdowns and to the output of low-quality products. As a means of upgrading the skills of workers and executives, a broad program for [Pg 208]training and retraining was launched in October 1972 with the cooperation of the Ministry of National Education. About half the number of persons undergoing training were below the age of thirty.

Other persistent shortcomings in the field of labor that have plagued the economy and have been the target of frequent criticism and administrative action by the leadership are inefficient organization of labor and poor labor discipline. Inefficient labor organization has been mainly an outgrowth of inferior management skills. Poor labor discipline has been a consequence of inadequate work incentives. In 1972 the minister of labor and social welfare estimated that more than 20 percent of the working time was lost through idling and other violations of labor discipline.

Adequate information on the structure of wages was not available in mid-1973. The main faults of the wage system that prevailed in early 1973 after repeated revisions, however, were outlined by the BKP leader, Zhivkov, and these faults were also discussed by labor ministry officials from the point of view of their effect on labor productivity. The basic wage constitutes the main incentive for work; bonuses, premiums, and honors play a minor role. Because of the large investment needs for industrial development and the corollary need to restrict consumption, wages have been kept low, and the rise in wages has been slower than the growth of productivity.

Basic wage pay has been based on the place of employment and not on the work performed. Wage scales for identical work have differed substantially between branches of the economy and industry. In industry, wage scales have been lower in branches manufacturing consumer goods than in branches producing capital goods; they have been lowest in textile mills. Wages have been determined by job classifications within economic and industrial branches, the workers' level of education, and length of service. Normal increases in pay for workers remaining in the same positions have therefore been infrequent.

Slow promotion and the disparity in wage scales contributed to excessive labor turnover because, under the prevailing conditions of scarcity, trained workers were able to improve their incomes through a change of jobs. It also led to irregularities in job reclassification by employers seeking to retain their workers through increases in pay. Wages have been raised from time to time by the government through general upward revisions of pay scales. This method, however, has no incentive value because it is not directly linked to an improvement in the workers' performance.

With a view to enhancing the stimulative effect of wages on productivity, Zhivkov proposed a basic reform of the wage system that would be carried out gradually in the 1973-80 period. In presenting his proposal to the BKP Central Committee plenum, Zhivkov dwelt on some of the major principles to be embodied in the new wage system. [Pg 209]The minimum wage must be higher, and the rise in wages must be more rapid than before. Increases in basic wages must be closely linked to individual performance and to overall labor productivity in general, pay would be based on performance rather than on formal qualification or length of service. To this end the sectoral approach to wage determination is to be abandoned in favor of a functional approach that would establish a uniform economy-wide wage scale for jobs in relation to their complexity and hardship and to the specific conditions of work. Rigid pay scales are to be replaced by flexible schedules providing a range of pay for each job depending upon the ability and performance of the worker.

The reform would also gradually eliminate the egalitarian aspect of the current wage system by providing appropriate differentials for workers with higher qualifications. Under the current system, for example, the salary of economists has been below that of engineers, and the salary of engineers has been equivalent to the wages of skilled workers. This problem has been repeatedly considered in the past, but its solution was delayed for lack of funds.

Zhivkov also cited shortcomings of the prevailing piecework system and suggested some long-range remedies for the ills. About 60 percent of all workers have been employed on the piecework system. Production norms under the system have been low because of technological advances and the infrequency of adjustment of norms. Under these conditions workers have been able to exceed the basic norms to such an extent that payment for work above the norm has become a large, and in some cases the predominant, portion of the workers' earnings. Striving to increase their wages, workers under the piecework system have often resorted to shortcuts that have lowered the quality of output.

Zhivkov's proposal for improvement included the introduction of more realistic and more flexible quantitative and qualitative production norms and a gradual transition to hourly rates of pay with bonus payments for superior work whenever the quantity and quality of output is not directly dependent on individual workers. Under these conditions bonus payments would be linked to the performance of the entire working personnel, and the importance of the bonus in wage payments would be enhanced.

The wage reform has been discussed in the context of a broad program, announced by the BKP Central Committee plenum in December 1972, for a general rise in incomes and an improvement in the population's level of living. In the process the difference between urban and lagging rural incomes is to be eliminated. Implementation of the program has been made contingent upon the attainment of greater productivity and output through workers' efforts to surpass production and efficiency targets set by the government. These more difficult targets must be embodied in what have been officially labeled workers' [Pg 210]counterplans. The BKP and the government have launched a new form of so-called socialist competition among workers and economic units, the aim of which is to exceed in performance the requirements of the counterplans.

Implementation of the standard of living program began with the introduction of wage increases, effective March 1, 1973, for workers employed under difficult or hazardous conditions, schoolteachers and university faculties, physicians and medical personnel, and employees of artistic and cultural institutions. Effective June 1 the minimum wage for all types of work was raised from 65 to 80 leva per month, and a level of 88 leva per month was decreed for all workers earning between 80 and 87 leva. The resultant distortion of the wage structure is to be eliminated over a period of several years.

Another important measure affecting labor was announced in March 1973—a gradual transition from a six-day, forty-six-hour workweek to a five-day week of forty-two and a half hours. Under the BKP directive the transition must be accomplished without loss in production; the loss in worktime must be compensated by a corresponding rise in productivity. The shorter workweek had been in effect on an experimental basis for about 17 percent of the industrial workers since 1968. In 1973 and 1974 it was to be introduced in enterprises of the material production sector, excluding agriculture, provided that the required rise in productivity has been assured. In 1975 the reduced workweek will be introduced in transport, for management of state economic enterprises, and for persons employed in the field of services other than health services and educational institutions. Preparations for experiments with a shortened workweek in these two areas and in agriculture are to be undertaken in 1974 and 1975. The decree on working hours gave formal approval to an established practice that requires workers to make up by work on Saturdays or Sundays for worktime lost whenever official holidays fall on weekdays.


The proportion of national income devoted annually to capital formation (net investment) rose steadily from 22.6 percent in 1961 to 35.4 percent in 1966 and 1967 and declined thereafter progressively to 26.8 percent in 1971. In absolute terms annual capital formation increased from 1.06 billion leva in 1961 to 3.06 billion leva in 1970, then declined to 2.74 billion leva in 1971. More than half the net addition to capital (from 46 to 67 percent annually) consisted of fixed assets; the balance represented equipment and inventories.

Gross investment at current prices increased from 1.4 billion leva in 1961 to 3.6 billion leva in 1971; investment was officially estimated at 3.9 billion leva in 1972 and was scheduled to reach 4.3 billion leva in 1973. The bulk of investment has been channeled into the material production sector (including trade). The annual investment share of [Pg 211]this sector increased from about 74 percent in 1960 to 79 percent in 1969 and declined to 76 percent in 1971. The proportion of investment devoted to housing and services declined correspondingly in the 1960-69 period from 26 to 21 percent and rose in the subsequent two years to 24 percent. The shift in the investment trend foreshadowed the formal directive issued by the Tenth Party Congress in April 1971 for the development of a program to raise the population's standard of living.

Industry has been the main beneficiary of investment funds; its share rose to almost 50 percent in 1969 but declined slightly thereafter. Agriculture received only about 15 percent of investment in the years 1969 through 1971, compared to 28 percent in 1960 and 19 percent in 1965. Residential investment declined from 14 percent in 1960 to an average of not quite 10 percent in the 1969-71 period.

Building construction and installation work absorbed the largest, though declining, share of investment—60 percent in 1960 and 46.4 percent in 1971. The share of investment spent on machinery and equipment rose by 50 percent in the 1960-69 period from 26 to 39 percent, but declined to 34 percent in 1970 and 37 percent in 1971. Imported machinery, mostly from the Soviet Union, constituted a major though declining proportion of investment in machinery—from two-thirds to one-half of the total in the 1965-71 period. Other investment expenses, including geological surveys, absorbed from 12 to 17 percent of annual investment.

New investment has been increasingly concentrated in state enterprises. In the 1960-71 period the proportion of investment absorbed by state enterprises increased from 68 to 83 percent, while the share of investment devoted to collective farms declined from 18 to 8.5 percent. Annual investment in artisans' collectives rose from 1.2 percent of total investment in 1960 to 2.7 percent in 1968 and declined to 1.1 percent in 1971. This trend paralleled the government's policy of initial encouragement and subsequent restriction of private artisan activities; it suggests that the government's restrictive policy may not have been limited to private artisans alone (see Organization, this ch.).

Private investment in residential construction declined from 12.7 percent of annual investment in 1960 to 6.5 percent in 1970 but rose to 7.2 percent in 1971. In absolute terms private investment increased from about 174 million leva to 262 million leva. By 1973, however, new restrictions were being introduced on housing construction by private individuals. As much as 90 percent of the residential construction in 1960 and 70 percent in 1971 was privately financed. In the 1968-70 period about half the private investment in housing was supported by bank loans or by loans from special funds of employing organizations.

The rise in the volume of capital per worker in the 1960-70 period as a result of the investment activity did not produce a corresponding [Pg 212]increase in labor productivity; that is, the efficiency of investment declined. Whereas the amount of fixed capital per worker in the sphere of material production increased at an average annual rate of 10.4 percent, and the volume of machinery and inventories rose by 12.5 percent per year, output per worker increased at an annual rate of only 7.7 percent. In an effort to increase the efficiency of investment, the Tenth Party Congress, convened in the spring of 1971, directed that 35 percent of new investment in the sphere of material production during the 1971-75 period should be used for the reconstruction and modernization of existing facilities. In 1972, however, the proportion of investment used for this purpose was only 18 percent.

In the context of the eventually abandoned program for economic decentralization, provision was made for reducing the role of the central government budget in financing investments and for increasing participation by investors with their own funds and bank credits. In the sphere of material production, excluding trade, budgetary allocations in 1965 accounted for 55 percent of investment, and bank credits made up 7 percent; in 1969 investment funds from these sources constituted 21 and 32 percent, respectively. The contribution from the budget, however, rose again after 1969 to 28 percent in 1971, whereas bank credits declined to less than 20 percent of the investment funds. The share of investors' own resources, including funds of local governments, increased from 36 percent in 1965 to 52 percent in 1971. Budgetary investment funds are being increasingly concentrated on projects in the fields of services and raw materials production.

A satisfactory explanation of the shifts in the pattern of investment financing is not feasible in the absence of adequate information on the changing methods of financing economic enterprises and organizations. The announced government policy is to shift financing progressively from the budget to the economic trusts. The shifts did not alter the fundamental fact that all investment funds, excluding the small private investment, remained public property subject to governmental controls and that the difference was merely one of bookkeeping. The change in the channeling of public investment funds was introduced in the hope of increasing the effectiveness of their use.

The realization of major investment projects, particularly in industry, has been made possible by very substantial technical and material assistance from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, serious shortcomings have been officially reported in the implementation of investment programs, both in industrial and in residential construction. The main problem has been posed by the initiation of building programs that exceed the capacity of the construction industry and the consequent scattering of limited resources. The situation has been aggravated by frequently poor project planning, inferior design, delays in the delivery of machinery and materials, poor organization of work, and slack discipline.

[Pg 213]As a result of the difficulties in construction, the completion and commissioning of new industrial plants has often been delayed, and housing construction has fallen chronically short of the volume planned—by as much as 25 percent in 1972. The consequent failure of the anticipated output from new plants to materialize created shortages in various areas, thereby affecting production and market supplies adversely and necessitating revisions of the economic plans. In an effort to minimize these difficulties, the government adopted various administrative measures in 1971 and 1972, including the formulation of a list of nationally important construction projects, direct supervision of which was assumed by the Council of Ministers. The number of projects included in the list for 1972 was variously reported as thirty-five and thirty-nine out of a total of more than 3,000 projects. The listed projects consisted mainly of plants for the production of industrial materials.


The budget constitutes the basic financial plan of the country's leadership. It is the monetary expression of the annual socioeconomic plan and provides for the financial flows implicit in that plan. The budget is comprehensive; it takes into account all aspects of the economic, social, and cultural activities of the country. In line with the government's policy of gradually placing economic trusts and their branches on a self-financing basis, a progressively larger share of the funds budgeted for the economy is being retained by the trusts rather than channeled to the budget. The sums thus retained by economic organization rose from about 3 billion leva in 1971 to a planned level of more than 5 billion leva in 1973. Ultimate control over the use of these funds, nevertheless, remains with the government, and their disposition is subject to the provisions of the budget.

The national budget is formulated by the Ministry of Finance along lines dictated by the BKP leadership and must be approved by the National Assembly. As a rule only very minor modifications are made in the process of legislative review. Budgets for local governments are prepared as a part of the national budget; in 1972 and 1973 their total amount was equivalent to about 17 percent of the overall national budget. The Ministry of Finance is also responsible for ensuring the scrupulous implementation of the budget. It is assisted in this task by a nationwide network of state and local inspectors and by agents of the banks. Actual budgetary results are directly affected by deviations from the annual economic plan and therefore seldom, if ever, correspond to the original estimates, which have the force of law.

Systematic publication of budgetary data was discontinued in the mid-1960s. Since then only scattered figures have become available through press reports on the presentation of the budget to the National [Pg 214]Assembly and occasional articles by the minister of finance or other ministry officials.

The annual budgets have grown steadily larger. The approved budget for 1973 called for revenues of 7,057 million leva and expenditures of 7,035 million leva. In 1970 actual revenues totaled 5,723 million leva, the expenditures amounted to 5,650 million leva. Usually about 90 percent of budgetary revenue has been derived from operations of the economy, and the remainder has been raised through a variety of levies on the population. The largest single item of revenue—more than 30 percent of the total—has been collected in the form of a turnover tax on sales that has been passed on to the ultimate consumer. The second most important revenue source has consisted of levies on enterprises in the form of a profits tax, a tax on fixed capital (interest charge) and miscellaneous other deductions from income. Social security taxes based on payrolls have been the third major source. Levied at a rate of 12.5 percent through 1972, the social security tax was raised by 20 percent in 1973 in order to meet rising costs. In 1972 about four-fifths of the turnover tax and two-thirds of the revenue from taxes on profits and capital was to be derived from industry.

In December 1972 the BKP Central Committee plenum embarked upon a gradual modification of the income tax system that would eventually lead to a total abolition of income taxes for wage earners and collective farmers by 1980. Initially, the existing system is to be improved by introducing unified taxation for all blue- and white-collar workers and collective farmers and by establishing a tax exemption equal to the official minimum rate of pay. Gradual elimination of all income taxes for these population groups in the 1976-80 period is to be synchronized with the contemplated reform of wage scales. At the same time a system of progressive taxation is to be introduced on incomes derived from activities in the private sector that are not in conformity with the amount of labor invested.

The most complete recent information on budgetary expenditures is available from the approved budget for 1972. Out of a total outlay of 6,514 million leva, 3,224 million leva was earmarked for the national economy, and 2,065 million leva was set aside for social and cultural needs. The remaining undisclosed balance of 1,225 million leva, or 19 percent of the total outlays, must have included expenditures for defense, internal security, and government administration. The social and cultural expenditures included; social security payments, 1,054 million leva; education, 532 million leva; public health, 303 million leva; culture and arts, 83 million leva; and science, 93 million leva, in addition to 235 million leva to be provided by research organizations and economic trusts.

Information on the budget for 1973 was more sketchy. No information had been disclosed on the magnitude of the expenditure on the national economy; the usually undisclosed residual was therefore also [Pg 215]not ascertainable. The increase in overall revenues and expenditures over those in 1972 was about 8 percent. Outlays for social and cultural affairs, however, were planned to increase by 11.8 percent, including increases of 18.8 and 15.7 percent, respectively, for public health and education. These figures reflected the government's announced program for increasing the well-being of the population.

The BKP and government leadership look upon the budget as a major tool for executing BKP economic policies. As expressed by the minister of finance in 1973, the budget contains a whole arsenal of financial and economic levers—levers that must be used ever more skillfully to raise the efficiency of economic performance, to improve the structure of production and consumption, and to bring about a well-balanced economy. The budget is also considered a tool for exercising effective control over the entire sphere of production and services, not only to ensure smooth current operations but also to inhibit any undesirable departures from official policy.

The disciplinary powers of the budget have yet to be more fully developed to cope successfully with the officially reported shortcomings in the economy. One step in this direction calls for the further intensification of what has been officially called financial and bank control through the lev, that is, the discretionary use of financial sanctions, including the denial of budgetary allocations or bank credits, to enforce strict compliance with specific plan directives. Another advocated measure is to intensify the public campaign against waste and the irresponsible attitude toward public funds and for tighter financial discipline. An implacable campaign is also to be waged against wrongs done to the citizens in the use of public funds, illegal formation and misappropriation of funds by economic organizations, irregularities in the supply of materials, failure to produce consumer goods despite the availability of needed resources, accumulation of excessive inventories, and pilferage.

Many apparent violations of economic and budgetary discipline arise because of the frequently inadequate knowledge or understanding by personnel at all levels of the economy of the constantly changing laws and regulations concerning the operation and interrelation of the diverse economic units, particularly in the area of finance. The changes in laws and regulations are the result of an unceasing search for a system that would provide effective incentives toward conscientious and efficient work to all gainfully employed persons.



Since early 1971 the country's banking system has consisted of the Bulgarian National Bank and two semi-independent banks attached to it: the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank and the State Savings [Pg 216]Bank. This banking system emerged after three reorganizations in the 1967-70 period and conforms to the general pattern of institutional and management concentration in the economy. In addition to serving as the central bank of issue, the Bulgarian National Bank, an independent agency under the Council of Ministers, is directly responsible for financing all sectors and phases of the economy other than foreign trade and consumer credit, in which fields it supervises the activities of the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank and the State Savings Bank. The bank is also responsible for exercising close control over the economic units that it finances, with a view to ensuring the fulfillment of all national economic plans and the scrupulous adherence to existing laws and regulations.

A minimum of current information was available in mid-1973 on the structure of the banks, the relationships between them, and their financial operations. Official statistics are limited to annual data on bank credits for investment and on the volume of outstanding short- and long-term loan balances for the banking system as a whole. Data on outstanding loans are broken down by type of borrower and, in the case of short-term loans, also by purpose. With minor exceptions, no information was available on the volume of loans extended, on loan maturities, or on interest rates after 1970. Statistics had also been published on the volume of personal savings in the accounts of the saving bank at the end of each year.

The total amount of loans outstanding at the end of the year increased from 3.6 billion leva in 1965 to 9.2 billion leva in 1971. The proportion of long-term loan balances rose from 24 percent of the total amount in 1965 to 40 percent in 1970 but declined to less than 36 percent in 1971. The increase in lending activity to 1970 was a direct consequence of the partial shift from predominantly budgetary financing of economic activities to a substantial measure of self-financing by enterprises and trusts. The subsequent decline was related to the tightening of investment credit in an effort to reduce waste in the construction program (see Investment, this ch.). Long-term loans have been granted predominantly, if not exclusively, for fixed investment purposes.

Of the 3.27 billion leva in long-term loans outstanding at the end of 1971, 2.61 billion leva was due from state and collective enterprises, and 660 million leva was owed by private individuals who had borrowed to finance home construction. Only 12.5 percent of the loan balances was due from collective farms—an amount equivalent to barely 62 percent of the sums owed by private individuals. Collective enterprises in industry and services had outstanding loans of only 13 million leva. In relation to the value of each sector's fixed assets in 1971, the proportion of outstanding long-term loans was: state enterprises, 11.3 percent; collective farms, 16.1 percent; and collective artisans, 2.9 percent.

[Pg 217]Nine-tenths of the short-term loan balances at the end of 1971 were owed by state enterprises, and one-tenth was due from collective enterprises. Wholesale and retail trade accounted for 36 percent of the outstanding loans; industry and construction were each liable for 28 percent. Short-term loan balances of agriculture amounted to less than 8 percent of the total sum, and balances of the services sector constituted less than 0.2 percent. The largest part of short-term loans was granted for working capital purposes, including the procurement of farm products. A balance of almost 1 billion leva, however, was outstanding on loans for the completion of building construction, including a small amount for housing.

A very small, though increasing, volume of consumer loans for the purchase of durable goods and clothing has been granted by the State Savings Bank. The volume of such loans—36.5 million leva in 1966, 48.2 million leva in 1967, and 45.4 million leva in 1968—was equivalent to slightly more than 1 percent of retail sales in the commercial trade network. The outstanding balances of consumer loans at the end of the year rose from 49.1 million leva in 1968 to 102.1 million leva in 1971. Consumer loans may not exceed the sum of 500 leva and may be used only for the purchase of designated goods. In 1969 the authorized list included twenty-three categories. A sample survey in 1969 indicated that about two-thirds of the loan volume was used to acquire television sets, furniture, and motorcycles; another 20 percent was spent on radios, sewing machines, and scooters.

Apart from consumer loans, the State Savings Bank grants small loans to licensed private craftsmen for working capital and to collective and state farmworkers and other qualified applicants for the purchase of productive livestock, seeds, fertilizers, small tools, and other farm perquisites. The bank also makes loans for adapting premises to the needs of tourism; for current building repairs; and for meeting personal emergencies, including loans to newlyweds for the acquisition of furnishings. Depending upon the purpose of the loans, loan ceilings range from 150 to 800 leva, and maturities extend from ten months to eight years.

The volume of consumer loans was reported to have reached 116 million leva in 1972. Under the economic plan for 1973, the State Savings Bank was scheduled to make loans to individuals for the purchase of consumer goods and other needs in the amount of 203 million leva and for home construction in the amount of 180 million leva. The bank was also expected to lend 141 million leva to people's councils.

Loan funds of the State Savings Bank have been derived from personal savings deposits and, presumably, from interest payments. The bank also conducts state lotteries for the benefit of the state budget. There is no evidence as to whether the bank retains a portion of the lottery proceeds for its own operations. Savings deposits increased almost fivefold in the 1960-71 period to a level of about 3.6 billion [Pg 218]leva—a sum equivalent to 64 percent of total retail sales or 150 percent of food sales through commercial and institutional channels in 1970. According to preliminary data, savings deposits rose by 630 million leva in 1972, and they were scheduled to increase further by 870 million leva under the economic plan for 1973. The bulk of savings deposits has been channeled into the budget.

The repayment record on loans by the State Savings Bank was excellent, at least through 1969. The proportion of delinquent loans was reduced from 3.1 percent in 1966 to 0.01 percent in 1969. This result was achieved by a regulation that provided for penalties to be imposed on paymasters throughout the economy who failed to withhold or to report to the bank monthly loan payments. According to a bank official, there had been no need to impose any penalties because the regulation itself proved to be an adequate deterrent.

The loan repayment record of enterprises, trusts, and other economic organizations has not been nearly so good and led to a tightening of credit provisions in 1971. The proportion of overdue short-term loans in the production sector increased from 10.7 percent in 1966 to 11.8 percent in 1971. Similar information on long-term loans has not been published.

The penalty interest rate on delinquent loans is 10 percent (it was 8 percent through 1970), compared to a normal range of 1 to 5 percent on loans for working capital. Whenever a bank loan or supplier credit is delinquent for more than three months and the delinquent amount exceeds 20 percent of the borrower's working capital, the borrower becomes subject to a special credit and repayment regime, the specific conditions of which are not known. The ultimate sanction is the refusal of credit and, at times, even the replacement of the trust or enterprise director. The special credit regime is also applied whenever a trust or its branch (enterprise) stockpiles unneeded inventories; procures materials for production without guaranteed outlets for the output; undertakes a construction program without adequate financial provisions; increases its obligations; or suffers a worsening of its financial condition for any other reason.

Interest costs in excess of those planned lower the economic organization's income and, under the prevailing incentives system, also reduce the funds available for the payment of wages, salaries, and bonuses. Loan delinquency and the associated penalty interest rate, therefore, often bring about the reduction or elimination of bonus payments and, in extreme cases, the withholding of a portion of regular pay. Application of the more severe sanctions entails a serious deterioration of the economic organization's finances that adversely affects its production program. Through close contact with borrowers and detailed supervision of their operations the bank endeavors to forestall delinquencies and the attendant losses to the economy. In December 1972 the Council of Ministers adopted a decision to enhance [Pg 219]the role of the banking system in administering the economy by intensifying its participation in the formulation of economic plans and by expanding its authority in monitoring plan fulfillment.


The currency unit of the country is the lev, divided into 100 stotinki (see Glossary). It is a nonconvertible currency with a variety of exchange rates, usable only in domestic transactions. Since January 1, 1962, the lev has been officially defined to contain 759.548 milligrams of fine gold—equivalent to 1.17 leva per US$1 at that time. This exchange rate was valid only for commercial transactions. In the wake of the United States dollar devaluation on December 18, 1971, the official commercial exchange rate was set at 1.08 leva per US$1 (greenback—see Glossary). A further revision of the exchange rate was put into effect on February 13, 1973, which established a parity of 0.97 leva per US$1. The subsequent decline in the value of the dollar in foreign markets did not call forth another official exchange revaluation to mid-1973.

The official tourist exchange rate for so-called capitalist currencies underwent similar revisions and was set at 1.65 leva per US$1 on February 14, 1973. The noncommercial rate for ruble area countries, based on a parity of 0.78 leva per 1 ruble, was equivalent to 0.64 leva per US$1 until that date; thereafter, at the new ruble-United States dollar parity, it was equivalent to about 0.59 leva per US$1.

In addition to the official exchange rates, there are three varieties of clearing account rates. The multilateral transferable ruble is used to clear accounts with other European members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON—see Glossary). Socialist bilateral units arise from bilateral trade agreements with other communist countries. Neither of these two exchange varieties has private markets abroad. Bilateral clearing units arise from bilateral trade and payments agreements with about thirty noncommunist trading partners. These clearing units are traded sporadically abroad at varying rates of discount.

The lev has been traded on the black market in exchange for so-called capitalist banknotes or gold coins. The black market rate of the lev fluctuated between 4.60 leva per US$1 in January 1963 and 2.58 leva per US$1 in June 1972.

Except for small remittances or travel allocations to other communist countries, the lev is nontransferable for residents; resident status applies to all physical and juridical persons who have resided in the country for more than six months, regardless of their citizenship. Ownership of or trade in gold, foreign currencies, or so-called capitalist securities is prohibited, as is the import and export of Bulgarian banknotes. There are no investments by noncommunist country nationals in Bulgaria.

[Pg 220]Exchange transactions are administered by the Bulgarian National Bank jointly with the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank. Bulgaria is neither a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development nor of the International Monetary Fund. Statistics on currency in circulation, the public debt, foreign exchange reserves, gold stocks, and the balance of payments have not been published.


Foreign trade is a state monopoly. Trade policy is formulated by the BKP and government leadership; it is translated into a complex set of laws and regulations designed to encourage the expansion and qualitative improvement of production for export, to promote import substitution, and to bring about greater efficiency in production and foreign trade operations. Control over foreign trade is shared by the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Finance, and the Bulgarian National Bank through the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank.

Along with other elements of the economic structure, the foreign trade apparatus and the laws and regulations governing foreign trade have been frequently modified. As a result, there are two basic types of foreign trade organization: those attached to and serving individual economic trusts with a large export volume and organizations serving several trusts whose export activity did not justify a separate export department. Two foreign trade organizations that imported most industrial materials were attached to economic trusts responsible for the domestic distribution of supplies. Foreign trade organizations affiliated with trusts retain their legal identity and are not considered to be branches of the trusts they serve. Relations between foreign trade organizations and the trusts whose products they handle are governed by contracts, the framework of which is provided by official regulations. As a rule, foreign trade organizations carry on their activities for the account of the trust. There are a few organizations, however, that trade for their own account, and there are also a few economic trusts that have the right to engage in foreign trade activity directly.

Export plans are approved by the Council of Ministers for each economic trust in physical and value terms and by major trading areas, that is, member countries of COMECON, other communist countries, Western industrialized nations, and developing countries. Trusts pass their trade plans to foreign trade organizations. The plan of a single trust may be apportioned among several foreign trade organizations, and many foreign trade organizations receive plan assignments from several trusts so that their own foreign trade plan is a composite.

Under the regulations of 1971, as amplified in 1972, and unlike earlier conditions, the financial results of export operations are directly reflected in the producer's profit position. This circumstance [Pg 221]is counted upon by the leadership to motivate trusts toward attaining optimum efficiency in export production and toward adjusting output to foreign market requirements. Financial incentives to surpass official foreign trade targets are provided by allocating the producers and foreign trade organizations a portion of the receipts from excess exports and a portion of savings made on imports through import substitution. Excess exports may not be made by diverting output scheduled for the domestic market, and savings on imports may not be made at the cost of quantitative or qualitative deterioration of the domestic supply.

Producers for export are obligated both to produce the items called for by the export plan in accordance with specifications and to meet contractual delivery dates; with few exceptions, they have no direct contact with foreign buyers. It is the responsibility of the foreign trade organizations to seek out the most profitable markets and to handle all physical and financial details of the trade transactions. It is also their duty to keep producers currently informed about changing conditions in world markets and to make them aware of needed adjustments in production.

Standard subsidies per 100 leva, differing by trading area, are granted on all exports. These subsidies, in effect, modify the official exchange rate so that trade is actually conducted on a multiple exchange rate basis. Subsidies from the state budget are also provided for exports, the returns from which do not cover costs. Special bonuses are offered to economic trusts and their branches that fulfill or surpass their export assignments to noncommunist markets. Proceeds from exports are credited to the economic trusts and not to the foreign trade organizations.

Relations between economic trusts and foreign trade organizations are determined in broad outline by government regulations. Specific details, however, including precise financial arrangements that are the core of the relationship, must be worked out by the parties to the contract. This situation provides opportunities for friction that may be harmful to the export program. Trusts and export associations were therefore enjoined to undertake negotiations in a cooperative spirit and to avoid taking advantage of their monopoly position as producers or exporters. Disputes that threaten to involve financial losses are to be settled by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Finance.

Total trade turnover increased more than 3.5 times in the 1960-71 period to a level of 5 billion leva, including 2.55 billion leva in exports and 2.45 billion leva in imports. The growth of trade was erratic, particularly in the case of imports. Over the entire 1960-68 period, however, the average annual growth of exports and imports was almost identical—13.9 and 13.8 percent, respectively. In the subsequent three years exports rose almost twice as rapidly as imports, though [Pg 222]at a lower rate than in earlier years. The change in the relative rates of growth during the 1969-71 period—10.5 percent for exports and 5.6 percent for imports—helped reverse the consistently negative trade balance of the earlier period and produced trade surpluses in three consecutive years.

The great bulk of the trade has been carried on with communist countries, primarily the Soviet Union. The share of these countries in total trade, however, declined from 85 percent in 1961 to 78 percent in 1970; it had fallen to 73 percent in 1966. Communist countries outside COMECON, primarily Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), accounted for only 3 to 4 percent of the trade annually. The Soviet Union alone provided more than half the imports and absorbed an equal amount of exports. The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and Czechoslovakia were the main COMECON trading partners after the Soviet Union, but the volume of trade with these countries was very much lower. The share of East Germany in the total trade had been 10.5 percent in 1960 but ranged between 8 and 8.6 percent in the 1965-70 period. The proportion of trade with Czechoslovakia declined from 9.7 percent in 1960 to only 4.8 percent in 1970.

The orientation of trade toward the Soviet Union has been based largely on political factors but has also been dictated by the shortage of export goods salable in Western markets and the inadequacy of foreign exchange reserves (see ch. 10). Trade with COMECON members is conducted on the basis of bilateral clearing accounts that do not involve the use of foreign exchange. Furthermore, the Soviet Union has supplied Bulgaria with a large volume of industrial plants and equipment in exchange for the products of these plants. In the 1971-75 period trade with the Soviet Union is scheduled to increase by 60 percent over the volume in the preceding five-year period, and the share of the Soviet Union in the total trade volume is planned to reach 68 percent.

Trade with noncommunist countries rose from about 15 percent of the total volume in 1961 to 27 percent in 1966 but declined thereafter to 22 percent in 1970. From three-fourths to four-fifths of this trade was accounted for by Western industrialized nations, primarily the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Italy, France and Great Britain. The balance of the noncommunist trade was with developing countries, mainly India, the United Arab Republic (UAR), and Iraq. Trade with the United States has been negligible.

There has been a gradual shift in exports from agricultural to industrial commodities and from raw materials to manufactured and semiprocessed products. Yet in 1970 exports of agricultural origin still constituted 55 percent of the export volume, including 8 percent of raw farm products. The share of industrial exports rose from 25 percent in 1960 to 45 percent in 1970, of which 13 and 27 percent, [Pg 223]respectively, consisted of machinery and equipment. In 1972 the proportion of machinery and equipment in exports was reported to have risen to 34 percent.

Machinery and equipment have been exported almost exclusively to communist and developing countries. In 1968, the last year for which information was available, machinery and equipment constituted only 1.8 percent of exports to Western industrialized nations.

Imports in the 1960-70 period consisted predominantly of machinery and equipment, fuels, raw and processed industrial materials, and raw farm commodities. Imports of foods and industrial consumer goods were limited to about 10 percent per year. Machinery and equipment constituted from 40 to 44 percent of imports; fuels and industrial materials accounted for about one-third; and agricultural raw materials made up the balance.

In the 1960-70 period the country's overall trade balance was negative each year with the exception of 1969 and 1970. The trade deficit for the entire period amounted to 580 million leva, including 530 million leva in the trade with noncommunist countries and 50 million leva in the trade with communist partners. A breakdown of the trade balance by all four trading areas was available only for the 1965-70 period. For that period the overall trade deficit amounted to 278 million leva. Whereas trade with communist and developing countries had positive balances of 148 million leva and 154 million leva, trade with developed Western countries accumulated a deficit of 580 million leva. Almost all of this deficit was incurred in the years 1965 through 1967, when government controls over foreign trade were temporarily relaxed in an aborted economic reform. Under the system of bilateral agreements governing Bulgaria's trade, the surplus in the trade with communist and developing countries cannot be used to offset the deficit with Western trading partners.

Data bearing on the balance of payments have never been published. The Soviet Union has granted substantial loans to Bulgaria since 1946, some of which were used to finance imports from that country. Bulgaria, in turn, has made some loans to developing countries to help finance its exports. A portion of the deficit with Western trading partners may be offset by income from the rising Western European tourist trade, particularly with West Germany. A reputable Western source reported Bulgaria's indebtedness to Western nations to have been US$88 million in 1971, but the basis of this estimate and the degree of its reliability are not known.

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In the spring of 1973 the country's political and governmental leadership expressed serious concern about the uneven growth of agriculture over a period of several years. Although wheat production had progressed satisfactorily and reached a record level in 1972, and good results had also been obtained in the cultivation of tobacco and tomatoes—both of which are important export crops—the expansionary trend in fruit growing was reversed in 1968, and cattle raising had stagnated for at least a decade.

The situation was particularly disappointing to the leadership because in 1970 it had embarked on a comprehensive long-range program for raising agricultural productivity and output through the introduction of industrial production methods on the farms. To that end the country's farms were consolidated into 170 agroindustrial complexes intended to bring the advantages of scientific organization, concentration and specialization of production, mechanization, and automation to all phases of agricultural work. Planning for these complexes has been concentrated at the highest government level, and any modification of the obligatory plans requires the approval of the Council of Ministers.

In this process the traditional distinction between state and collective property has been blurred and is slated for gradual elimination; the same is true for the differences in status of industrial and farm workers. The new approach to farm organization was taken despite severe shortages of adequately trained management and technical personnel and in the face of the demonstrated superior productivity of tiny farm plots cultivated for their own benefit by individual farm and industrial workers.

It is difficult to arrive at a comprehensive and balanced assessment of agricultural development and of the situation in the 1972/73 agricultural year because of the continuing changes in the agricultural regime and the lack of essential data. All published information, including critical comments, emanates from controlled official sources. The press output tends to concentrate on problem areas, treating other aspects in uninformative generalities. Officials and press have been especially silent on the question of the farmers' reactions to the new agricultural order, beyond claiming the farmers' whole-hearted support for every new agricultural edict.


Natural conditions are generally favorable for agriculture. Fertile soils and a varied climate make possible the cultivation of a wide variety of field crops, fruits, and vegetables, including warm-weather crops, such as cotton, tobacco, rice, sesame, and grapes. Frequent summer droughts, however, lead to wide fluctuations in crop yields and necessitate extensive irrigation.

The Stara Planina (literally, Old Mountain), or Balkan Mountains, divide the country into several climatic and agricultural regions. The broad Danubian tableland that lies north of these mountains has a continental climate, except for a narrow strip along the Black Sea coast. Cold winter winds sweep across the plateau from the Eurasian land mass, causing prolonged periods of frost, which tend to damage orchards and vineyards. There are 180 to 215 frost-free days in the year, and summers are hot. A continental climate also prevails in the Sofia Basin and in the region surrounding the headwaters of the Struma River.

In the Thracian Plain, south of the Stara Planina, the continental climate is modified somewhat by the influence of the Mediterranean Sea. Compared to the Danubian plateau, winters are less severe, and summers are longer and warmer. The number of frost-free days per year ranges from 198 to 206. A near-Mediterranean climate prevails in the valleys of the lower Struma, Mesta, and Maritsa rivers; in the Arda basin; and on the southern slopes of the Rodopi (or Rhodope Mountains) (see ch. 3). The mountains protect the inland valleys and basins from strong winds; summers there are hot, and winters are mild. Yet winters are not mild enough for the cultivation of Mediterranean crops, such as olives and citrus fruits.

The Black Sea coast is warmer than the interior of the country in winter but cooler in summer; from 241 to 260 days in the year are frost free. Frequent gale storms and hot winds resembling the African sirocco, however, have an adverse influence on crops.

Although annual rainfall is reported to average about forty inches on the higher mountain slopes and to reach seventy-five inches in the Rila mountain range, precipitation in most farming areas averages only twenty to twenty-five inches per year. Rainfall measures even less than twenty inches in the Plovdiv area and in the coastal districts of the Dobrudzha region in the northeast. Most of the rainfall occurs in the summer months, but the amount and timing of precipitation are often unfavorable for optimum crop growth. Drought conditions reached crisis proportions in 1958 and 1963 and were serious also in 1968. In 1972 most crops were adversely affected by a spring drought and excessive rains in the early fall; the grape crop was an almost total loss.

Soils of superior and intermediate quality make up almost three-fourths of the country's surface. The Danubian plateau contains [Pg 227]several grades of chernozem (black earth), which gradually give way to gray forest soils in the foothills of the Stara Planina. A degraded chernozem called smolnitsa, or pitch soil, predominates in the Thracian Plain, the Tundzha and Burgas lowlands, and the Sofia Basin. This central region is encircled at higher elevations by a belt of chestnut and brown forest soils. Similar chestnut soils are also found in the Strandzha upland, in the basins of the eastern Rodopi region, and in the Struma and Maritsa valleys. Brown forest soils and mountain meadow soils occur in the Stara Planina and in the Rila, Pirin, and western Rodopi. Alluvial soils, often of good quality, are found alongside the rivers, particularly the Danube and Maritsa, and also in several basins.


In 1970 agricultural land comprised almost 15 million acres, or 53 percent of the country's land area. Sixty-nine percent of the agricultural land was suitable for field crops; 4 percent consisted of meadows; and about 6 percent was devoted to vineyards, orchards, and other perennial crops. Natural pastures constituted more than 20 percent of the agricultural land. Bulgarian economists have repeatedly pointed out that the per capita acreage of farmland in the country, excluding pastures, is among the lowest in the world.

According to official statistics the area of agricultural land increased by 840,000 acres in the 1960s as a result of the expansion of grazing areas by 1.1 million acres and the simultaneous loss of 270,000 acres of cultivated land. The loss of cultivated acreage was caused by the diversion of land to industrial and other uses and by severe soil erosion. The acreage devoted to vineyards and orchards nevertheless increased by 100,000 acres, or 12 percent.

Land Protection

More than half the cultivated acreage is subject to erosion. Increasingly large areas degraded by erosion have remained uncultivated each year, but they continue to be included in the annual statistics on farmland acreage. The unused area of plowland expanded from 720,000 acres in 1960 to 1.26 million acres in 1970. Another 1.5 million to 2 million acres have been reported to suffer from erosion to a degree that will make it necessary to abandon them unless corrective measures are quickly taken. Only 70 percent of the acreage under fruit trees and vineyards bore fruit in 1970.

The government has long been aware of the need to arrest the loss of cultivated farmland. An intensive program of reforestation has been carried on over many years, but the rate of replanting has not been high enough to halt the ravages of erosion. Proposals advanced by agricultural experts to clear abandoned mountain farmland of noxious [Pg 228]weeds and to develop these areas into improved pastures—measures that would also help control erosion—have not been acted upon.

In 1967 the continued loss of valuable farmland led to the promulgation of a special law for the preservation of land; details of this law are not available. In 1972 the Council of Ministers issued an order, effective January 1, 1973, that provided, in part, for payments to be made into a special land improvement fund in the event of diversion of farmland for construction purposes. Depending upon the quality of the land, payments into the fund range from 162 leva (for the value of the lev—see Glossary) to 48,560 leva per acre. Land used for afforestation, cemeteries, and housing or public works under the jurisdiction of town authorities is exempt from the payment requirement. The exemption also applies to land used for open pit mining on condition that the land is rehabilitated in accordance with plans and within time limits approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Industry (hereafter referred to as the Ministry of Agriculture).

In 1970 the government created special district councils for the preservation of cultivated land and, in May 1971, placed the councils under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture. The decree of 1971 required the ministry and district governments to take decisive measures for the increased protection of farmland. The decree also directed the chief prosecutor's office to increase control over the expropriation of farmland for construction and other nonagricultural purposes and to impose severe penalties on violators of the land protection law.

The land protection measures were not sufficiently effective. The acreage abandoned in the 1966-70 period was three times larger than the area abandoned in the preceding five years. In January 1973 an inspector of the Committee for State Control stated publicly that the farmland problem had become increasingly more serious and that the committee was obliged to intervene in order to identify shortcomings in the land preservation work and to assist in eliminating the deficiencies. At the same time the Council of Ministers reprimanded a deputy minister of agriculture and the heads of two district governments for grave shortcomings in the preservation and use of farmland.

In an effort to gain control over the deteriorating farmland situation, a new land protection law that replaced the law of 1967 was passed in March 1973. The new law explicitly provided that only land unsuitable for agricultural purposes or farmland of low productivity could be put to nonagricultural use. Under the law expansion of towns and villages was to be allowed only after a specified density of construction had been reached. Construction of country homes and resort facilities was restricted to land unsuitable for agriculture. Provision was made for regulations that would offer material and moral incentives to use unproductive land for construction purposes, and more severe [Pg 229]penalties were prescribed for violations that result in the waste of arable land.


Somewhat better results have been achieved in the expansion of irrigation. In the 1965-70 period the irrigable area increased at an annual average of 44,000 acres from 2.25 million to 2.47 million acres, or 21 percent of the cultivated land. Under the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) 494,000 acres are to be added to the irrigable area, raising the total irrigable acreage to 26 percent of the cultivated land. During the first two years of the plan period 124,000 acres were equipped for irrigation, and 80,000 acres were to be made irrigable in 1973. In order to complete the five-year irrigation program on schedule, therefore, it would be necessary to bring under irrigation 270,000 acres in the last two years of the plan period—a task not likely to be accomplished in the light of past experience and of available resources.

Only about 70 percent of the irrigable acreage was actually irrigated in the 1965-70 period. Although the irrigated area of 1.7 million acres in 1970 represented an increase of 21 percent of the acreage irrigated in 1965, it was 17 percent smaller than the acreage irrigated in 1968.

Primitive gravity irrigation is practiced on about nine-tenths of the irrigated area. Water is distributed over the fields from unlined earthen canals by means of furrows dug with a hoe. The work entails hard manual labor, and a single worker can handle only about 1.25 to 2.5 acres per day. The timing of the water application and the quantity of water used are not properly adjusted to the needs of the various crops, so that the increase in yields is only half as great as that obtained under optimum conditions, and about half the water is wasted. The network of irrigation ditches also impedes mechanical cultivation of the fields. Improper irrigation and drainage techniques have raised the groundwater level excessively in several districts and have caused various degrees of soil salinization in areas totaling more than 39,000 acres.

The five-year plan program for new irrigated areas calls for the construction of stationary sprinkler systems over 25,000 acres; 469,000 acres are to be provided with portable sprinkler systems. Reconstruction and modernization of existing basic facilities are to be limited to the lining of canals. The ultimate longer term goal is to establish fully automated stationary sprinkler systems in most irrigated districts. The main problems in carrying out the irrigation program, in the view of an irrigation authority official, are posed by the paucity of investment funds allotted for this purpose and the contradictory nature of some of the program's aims. Additional difficulties are presented by the shortage of irrigation pipes and materials for their fabrication, inadequate experience in the manufacture of advanced [Pg 230]irrigation equipment, and the lack of facilities for experimentation and testing.

Cropping Pattern

The area of field crops amounted to almost 9 million acres in 1970; it had declined by 887,000 acres after 1960. The proportions of this acreage devoted to the major types of crops were: grains, 62.5 percent; industrial crops, 14.6 percent; feed crops, 18.7 percent; and vegetables, potatoes, and melons, 4.2 percent. In accord with the government's policy of intensifying agricultural production, the acreage of bread grains had steadily declined, so that in 1970 it constituted somewhat less than half the total grain acreage. The area of feed grains remained fairly stable; a decline in corn acreage was virtually balanced by an increase in the acreage of barley. A slight reduction also took place in the acreage of pulses, but the area under rice expanded by 70 percent.

Whereas the total area of industrial crops changed very little in the 1960-70 period, a significant shift took place in the relative size of the individual crop areas. While the acreages of oilseeds and tobacco expanded significantly, the acreages of fibers, particularly cotton, and of essential oils and medicinal plants declined sharply.

The area devoted to vegetables expanded by 20 percent. The tomato acreage expanded at about twice that rate and accounted for one-fourth of the vegetable acreage in 1970; tomatoes constitute an important export crop. The potato acreage, on the other hand, declined by roughly 20 percent during the period.

The area of fodder crops suffered a substantial decline, particularly in the case of annual grasses and silage crops. The loss was only partially offset by the expansion of the perennial grass acreage.

Rapid expansion also took place in the areas of apple orchards and vineyards. The acreage of bearing apple trees increased by about 70 percent in the 1970-70 period. During the same period the acreage of producing vineyards grew by 24 percent, while the acreage of table grapes increased by 2.3 times. Fruits and grapes are also important export commodities. Expansion of the total acreage under fruit trees and berries, however, was much slower—17 percent in the 1960-68 period—and a decline in the acreage set in after 1968. In the spring of 1973 Todor Zhivkov, the communist party leader, called for decisive action to halt the unfavorable trend. He reported that plans for orchard and berry plantings were not fulfilled in 1972; that from 27,000 to 40,000 acres of orchards had been uprooted over a period of a few years; and that the vineyard acreage had declined by 25,000 acres compared with the acreage in 1968. Reasons for these developments had not been made public.

The little information available on the subject suggests that price considerations have been the major reason for the crop acreage [Pg 231]changes. The price system and official regulations governing farm production have not always operated in the manner planned by the government. Farms, for instance, have steadfastly refused to enlarge the acreage of irrigated corn to the extent demanded by the government, preferring to use irrigation for more profitable crops. In 1971 the farms failed to plant the prescribed acreage of feed crops or to expand the production of vegetables. Public statements by the government on the reasons for these problems have been most guarded. After a thorough review of the situation in the spring of 1972, the Committee for State Control issued a release that concluded by stating that the reasons for the problems were analyzed in detail and that, after discussion, specific proposals were made to the appropriate ministries.


The organizational structure of agriculture in all its aspects is in a state of transition, which will not be completed for several years. The reorganization was decided upon by the Central Committee of the BKP (Bulgarian Communist Party—see Glossary) in April 1970 on the initiative of Zhivkov. The latest of several laws and decrees published in this context appeared in June 1972 with an effective date of January 1, 1973. The new organizational policy represents a tightening of central controls over agriculture.

Agroindustrial Complexes

The basic unit in the new organizational system, which is relied upon to realize the leadership's agricultural policies, is the agroindustrial complex. The agroindustrial complex is an organization comprising several previously independent, contiguous collective and (or) state farms having similar climatic and soil conditions. The complex may also include other organizations that are engaged in the production, processing, and distribution of farm products or in other activities related predominantly to agriculture.

In the fall of 1972 there were 170 agroindustrial complexes formed through the consolidation of 845 collective farms and 170 state farms; including the private plots of collective and state farmers, they contained 92.5 percent of the cultivated land and accounted for 95.4 percent of the farm output. Except for a few experimental units created in 1969, most agroindustrial complexes were established toward the end of 1970 and in early 1971. Only a small number of private farms located in difficult mountain areas remained outside the new system.

The average agroindustrial complex is composed of five or six farms having a cultivated area variously reported as 59,000 to 68,000 acres and a permanent work force of about 6,500 people. Although the large size of the complexes has been questioned by several economists on grounds of efficiency, Zhivkov was reported to have suggested the [Pg 232]possibility of eventually merging the existing complexes into only twenty-eight districtwide units.

Types and Aims

The announced purpose of the reorganization is to increase productivity through concentration and specialization of agriculture on an industrial basis in accord with the requirements of the current scientific and technical revolution and with the achieved level of maturity of the country's economy. The reorganization is intended to increase output, improve quality, reduce costs, and increase the exportable surplus. It is also expected to bring about social improvement in the countryside by raising the farmworkers' incomes and helping to reduce the differences between town and country. Government officials intend to complete the transition to the new organizational structure by 1980.

The original aim of the new farm policy in the late 1960s was to create large-scale regional organizations to handle all aspects of the production, processing, and distribution of foods and the supply of machinery, fertilizers, and other farm needs through vertical integration of the consolidated farm organizations with industrial and distribution enterprises. This aspect of farm policy is to be realized gradually over a period of years. In the meantime vertical integration will be based predominantly on contractual relations.

A first step in vertical integration of agriculture and the food industry was taken in December 1972 with the establishment of an agroindustrial trust called Bulgarian Sugar. Seven agroindustrial complexes were to be created around an equal number of sugar mills grouped in the newly formed trust. The complexes were to average 100,000 acres in size, one-fourth of which would be used each year for the production of sugar beets. The first such complex was established in Ruse in January 1973. The crop rotation is to include wheat, corn, and fodder crops which, together with by-products from the sugar production, are to provide the feed base for livestock keeping. All farmlands in the new organization are to become state property, and farmworkers are to acquire the status of industrial workers subject to the provisions of the Labor Code.

Two basic types of agroindustrial complexes are provided for by the regulations. The first type is a membership organization in which the constituent farms retain their juridical identity and a certain measure of economic independence. The second type is a centralized organization in which the constituent farms are merged and lose their separate identities. A further distinction is made depending upon the nature of the constituent farms and other economic organizations. Agroindustrial complexes composed only of collective farms and other collective organizations are called cooperative complexes. Those constituted by state farms and other state economic organizations are known as state complexes. If both state and collective farms or other organizations [Pg 233]are members, the complex is referred to as state-cooperative. The distinctions have both legal and economic implications.

In early 1971 the form of the 139 agroindustrial complexes established up to that time was: collective, seventy-seven; state, seven; and state-cooperative, fifty-five. Six complexes were created as centralized organizations in which the constituent farms lost their legal independence. The largest of these complexes covered an area of 145,000 acres.

Legal and Economic Aspects

The legal and economic aspects of the farm consolidation are extremely involved, and most of the problems raised by consolidation have not been worked out even theoretically. Activities of cooperative and state-cooperative complexes are governed by the Provisional Regulation issued in October 1970 and by earlier regulations concerning collective organizations in matters not covered by the Provisional Regulation. State agroindustrial complexes are subject to the same regulations that apply to all state economic associations (trusts). The Ministry of Agriculture was directed to prepare a draft statute for agroindustrial complexes by the end of 1972, which was to be submitted at an indefinite future date to the first agroindustrial complex conference for discussion and adoption.

Official statements and documents have emphasized the voluntary and democratic nature of agroindustrial complexes. Zhivkov's report to the Central Committee plenum stated that farms would be free to opt whether or not to join a complex and which complex to join if they decided to do so. They were also to have freedom of decision concerning the establishment of joint enterprises. The plenum's decision used a broader formulation by referring only to voluntarism in the formation of agroindustrial complexes on the basis of mutual advantage. The Provisional Regulation contains a clause that permits farms and other organizations to withdraw from the agroindustrial complex at their own request.

Other provisions governing the establishment of agroindustrial complexes, however, conflicted with the principle of voluntarism. The composition, size, and production specialization of each complex was to have a scientific foundation, and arbitrary decisions—as they were called—as to which farms to include in a particular complex were not to be tolerated. The requirement of territorial unity also nullified the right of independent choice for most farms. Except for those located on the borders of adjoining complexes, farms had perforce to join the complex formed in their area. The speed with which the agroindustrial complexes were formed throughout the entire country, with considerable loss of independence for the farms, also suggests that the voluntary nature of the complexes is a fiction. Available sources have contained no reference to any change in the affiliation of farms from one complex to another, let alone to the withdrawal of any [Pg 234]farm from a complex. The decree on the organization and management of agriculture that went into effect on January 1, 1973, contained no provision for a farm's withdrawal from an agroindustrial complex.

The major tasks assigned to the agroindustrial complexes include: the creation of large specialized units for the various types of agricultural production; the introduction of mechanized industrial methods of production; the efficient application of human and material resources; and the equitable distribution of income to workers and managers in a manner that will provide an incentive for conscientious work. Only preliminary official directives have been issued to guide the agroindustrial complexes in these matters. Economists, agricultural scientists, and officials have labored to develop a scientific basis for the effective solution of the problems of transition.

One of the basic issues raised by the creation of agroindustrial complexes concerns the ownership of land in the new organizations, particularly in complexes that unite collective and state farms. Legally, collective farm members retained ownership of the land they contributed to the collective, although they have been unable to exercise any ownership rights. Until 1961 collective farm members received a rental payment for the land in the annual distribution of the farm's income. There is an apparent official reluctance for political reasons abruptly to convert collective property to state ownership. Public statements have indicated that the difference between collective and state property may be eliminated by transforming both into national property. Under the prevailing economic system the distinction between state and national property is purely verbal.

Private Farm Plots

In the current reorganization of agriculture there is no intention to eliminate the time-honored institution of private subsidiary farm plots held by collective farm members, state farm and industrial workers, artisans, and other individuals. In the 1965-70 period private plots constituted only 10 percent of the farmland, yet in 1968 they accounted for 22 percent of the crop output and 33 percent of the livestock output. In 1970 the proportions of livestock products contributed by the private plots were: milk, 23 percent; meat and wool, 31 percent; eggs, 50 percent; honey, 70 percent; and silk, 89 percent.

Despite the support of private farm plots by the leadership, many local officials consider them to be incompatible with the socialist system and place various obstacles, often illegal, in the way of their operation. In the directives for the Sixth Five-Year Plan the party reaffirmed the importance of private farm plots as a reserve for the increase of farm output and particularly of livestock production. In a subsequently published decree, which lifted restrictions on livestock rearing on private plots, the party and government again stressed that [Pg 235]private plots will be an important source of products for their owners and for sale to the state.

The growing importance of private plots for collective farmers was disclosed by income data published in the spring of 1973. In the 1960-70 period the average annual income of permanently employed collective farmers from private plots increased from 251 leva to 620 leva, while the average remuneration for work performed on the collective property rose from 458 leva to 847 leva. Whereas the growth of income from collective farm work amounted to 85 percent, income from private plots advanced by 147 percent.


Agricultural planning has been highly centralized by the decree effective January 1, 1973. The system of planning has been made to conform to the system used for other sectors of the economy, with some allowances for the specific conditions of agricultural organization and production. Planning is to encompass long-range (ten to fifteen-years), five-year, and annual plans that must be coordinated with a general plan for regional development.

Planning in agriculture is to be based on the balancing of inputs and outputs and the use of government-determined long-range norms, limits, and indexes. Wide use is to be made of econometric models in the search for optimal solutions. The norms, limits, and indexes are to be elaborated in direct relation to the natural and economic conditions of individual agroindustrial complexes, crop varieties, kinds and breeds of livestock, farm technology, and the availability of physical resources and manpower. The norms, limits, and indexes are to be of such a nature as to contribute to a continuous upgrading of agricultural efficiency, that is, they will become increasingly more demanding as time progresses. They are binding for planners and managers at all levels from the central government authorities down to the farm.

In essence the agricultural plan consists of state-imposed production targets and estimates of resources to be allocated for their attainment, together with detailed directives for the use of the resources and for the introduction of technological improvements. Responsibility for fulfilling the planned tasks rests upon the management of the agroindustrial complexes. The planned targets and conditions for their attainment are formulated for each individual complex by the State Planning Committee together with the Ministry of Agriculture and the local district people's council; all plans are approved by the Council of Ministers.

Ten groups of norms, limits, and indexes enter into the formulation of plan targets. They specify progressive technical measures to be introduced; the physical volume of each crop and livestock product to be sold to the state; the volume of capital investment and its specific uses; consumption norms for all materials, parts, and products in [Pg 236]accordance with a list approved by the Council of Ministers; allowable expenditures for each 100 leva of farm products and for labor remuneration per 100 leva of total income; norms for the formation of various operating and reserve funds and for material incentives; and limits for the development of social amenities within the agroindustrial complex.

The five-year plan tasks are broken down by years and may be changed only in exceptional cases. The required changes may be made by the Ministry of Agriculture, with the approval of the State Planning Committee, upon request made by the executive committee of the district people's council. Whenever a specific change is introduced, all necessary corrections must be made to maintain the overall balance of the plan.

The agroindustrial complexes must distribute the planned tasks handed to them from above among their constituent units in accordance with standards and conditions spelled out by the Ministry of Agriculture. The district people's councils are required to take an active part in the process of coordinating the plan and in measures for its attainment among the units of the agroindustrial complex. On the basis of the state plan each agroindustrial complex and its constituent parts must prepare what has been called a counterplan, that is, a plan that sets higher goals than those officially established.

The large size and diversified operations of the agroindustrial complexes place a heavy demand upon the expertise of management. Most of the available specialists do not have the requisite training to solve the numerous problems posed by planning and operational direction under the new conditions. Adaptation of agricultural school curricula to the new requirements and speedy retraining of specialists are therefore considered to be most urgent.

Some optimistic agricultural officials place high hopes in the introduction of computer-based automatic control systems. An electronic computer center was established at the Ministry of Agriculture in 1969, staffed by a group of 104 enthusiastic young specialists. They undertook the task of developing a single automated control system for agriculture and food production in the entire country by 1975, to be based on a number of integrated local and regional computer centers. By the end of 1970 the computer center had worked out annual plans for several farms and a plan for hothouse production in the country. It was in the process of finding a solution to a basic problem of the feed industry—a solution that would also drastically reduce the industry's transportation costs.

Considerable attention has also been given to the problem of communication in connection with the internal direction of the agroindustrial complexes' varied activities. Here, too, the idea has been advanced for automated control centers from which instructions would be issued to all operating divisions and workers in the field [Pg 237]through radiotelephones or similar equipment. In this context a university instructor analyzing the management problems of agroindustrial complexes remarked that it was premature to speak of modern administrative and management methods as long as it was easier and faster to go by car from the farm center to any of the neighboring villages than to reach them by telephone.


Official data on manpower and employment in agriculture are incomplete and incommensurate. The number of people gainfully employed in agriculture in 1970 was reported to have been 35.2 percent of the total in the economy, compared to 54.7 percent in 1960 and 44.9 percent in 1965. Full-time employment on farms of the agroindustrial complexes in 1970 was reported as 1,117,000 people—a reduction of 278,000 from the 1,395,000 employed in 1965. Yet the number of female collective farmworkers alone in 1969 was reported to have been 1,682,000, more than 1 million of whom participated full or part time in the collective work of the farms. No explanation concerning the discrepancies in these reported figures was available. The Sixth Five-Year Plan is variously reported to call for the transfer of an additional 220,000 or 350,000 people from the farms to nonagricultural employment.

The out-migration, mostly of young people, from agriculture brought about a deterioration in the age structure of the remaining farm population. The proportion of the sixteen- to twenty-five-year-old age group on farms was only 9.2 percent in 1969, compared to 22.3 percent in industry. Conversely, the proportion of persons fifty-five years and older was 29.1 percent in agriculture, compared to 8.6 percent in industry. The program for the modernization and intensification of agricultural production and, more particularly, the planned high level of mechanization demand the employment of large numbers of highly skilled young people. A series of economic, social, and cultural measures is therefore urgently needed to halt the drain of young manpower from the farms.

By 1971 the agricultural school system had not adapted its training programs to the actual needs of the emerging agroindustrial complexes. At the same time a serious problem in the employment of available technicians was presented by the scornful attitude of many farm managers toward specialists with secondary education. In 1971 farms employed more than 4,000 people without the requisite training in various professional positions. Although some of them may have compensated by experience for the lack of training, the situation was considered deplorable by a number of agricultural economists.

Under previously prevailing conditions, payments to farmworkers differed widely, depending upon the income levels of the individual farms. Under the new law wages for all farmworkers are to be [Pg 238]gradually standardized on the principle of equal wages for equal work. Work input is to be measured on the basis of uniform labor norms differentiated according to natural conditions. In determining the wage level, consideration will also be given to increases in productivity, cost reduction, and the accumulation of investment funds by the farms. Distribution of the farm's income is to be carried out on the basis of a resolution by the Council of Ministers, details of which were not available in early 1973. Its main import is that the total remuneration of farmworkers, over and above their wages, will remain dependent upon the overall results of the individual farms. All farmworkers are entitled to a minimum wage of 80 leva per month, and members of previously independent collective farms retain their right to advance payments against their estimated final income shares.

Little substantive information is available on the current practice of remunerating people working on farms. The decree that went into effect on January 1, 1973, directed that the formation and distribution of incomes of all agroindustrial complexes and their constituent farms be based on a uniform system and on the principle that each farm must be fully self-supporting. Each farm must establish a wage fund calculated as a percentage of its total income. In the event that this fund is inadequate to cover legitimate wage requirements, the farms may draw upon two other obligatory funds or resort to bank credits.



In the 1960-71 period annual investment in agriculture increased from 381 million to 548 million leva, but it declined as a proportion of total investment from 28 to 15 percent. A substantial portion of the agricultural investment was used to equip new state farms established on previously collective farmlands. Investment funds were used for the construction of farm buildings, machinery repair stations, and irrigation facilities and for the acquisition of farm machinery. On the basis of cultivated acreage, state farms received more investment than collective farms, but the disproportion was gradually reduced and become quite small by 1970. In that year state farms had about 15 percent more fixed assets per acre of cultivated land than the collective farms.

With the formation of agricultural complexes discrimination in investment between the two types of farms is being eliminated along with other distinctions. Investment plans are to be uniformly based on the needs of the entire complex regardless of the former status of its constituent farms. Needs will be evaluated mainly on the basis of government programs for individual kinds of production, the availability of manpower, and the natural conditions of the farms and complexes.

[Pg 239]Agricultural investment in the 1971-75 period was planned at about 2.7 billion leva. This sum constitutes only 13.5 percent of the total planned investment and implies the maintenance of annual agricultural investment at the level of 1970. It also reflects the continued underinvestment in agriculture in favor of industry, despite the grandiose, plans for agricultural transformation, considering that agriculture contributed 22 percent of the national income in 1970. In that year a Soviet economist observed that the small proportion of national resources allotted to agriculture in the past was responsible for the slow growth of that important economic sector and that the increase in the mechanization of farms was not sufficient to offset the loss of manpower. The leadership's policy of placing agriculture on an industrial footing and mechanizing production demands increased investment in machinery and other physical facilities. The low investment decreed for the 1971-75 period is not in keeping with that policy.

A national conference on construction in agriculture, convened in the spring of 1972, was devoted to the study of shortcomings in capital construction. The underlying causes of unsatisfactory performance were analyzed, and persons responsible for the failures were identified. The findings of the conference were not published, but an account of the conference contained references to inadequate project planning, poor design, acceptance of inferior equipment, delays in the completion of construction, and cost overruns. A sympathetic foreign observer noted a disproportionately large allocation of investment funds to building construction compared with the funds allotted for farm machinery.


At the beginning of 1971 Bulgarian agriculture possessed about 53,600 tractors with a total of 1.4 million horsepower—the equivalent of about sixteen horsepower per 100 acres of plowed land. The horsepower of the tractor inventory increased by 2.3 times after 1960, but a portion of that increase was offset by the loss of more than 358,000 horses and buffalo. In 1970 Bulgaria had more tractor power per acre than any other Eastern European communist country except Czechoslovakia and more horses per acre than any of these countries with the exception of Hungary, which had a slightly larger number.

Grain combines on farms numbered 9,340, or 2.4 combines for each 1,000 acres of grain crops. In this regard Bulgaria ranked above the Soviet Union and at the average of the other Eastern European communist countries. Nevertheless, according to the minister of agriculture, only about 50 percent of the labor in wheat production was mechanized in 1972, even though wheat production was considered to be the most highly mechanized branch of agriculture. In other production branches the level of mechanization was extremely low.

According to scattered Bulgarian press reports the supply of farm [Pg 240]machinery is inadequate for the needs, unbalanced as to composition, and inferior in design and physical condition. Many of the available tractors and combines are overage and obsolete. The situation is aggravated by chronic shortages of spare parts for both domestic and imported equipment. Production of parts is inhibited by its relatively low profitability, despite incentives offered by the government.

Under the Sixth Five-Year Plan farm machinery valued at 780 million leva is to be delivered to agriculture from domestic sources and from the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON—see Glossary). This machinery is to include more powerful tractors and grain combines, milking machines, and sprinkler irrigation systems. Machinery is also to be provided for the harvesting of corn, sugar beets, cotton, rice, fruits, and vegetables and for the harvesting and processing of feed crops. Adequate information on the progress of the mechanization program during the first two years of the five-year period is not available, but there is evidence that shortages of spare parts and trained operators continued to immobilize substantial numbers of farm machines.


The marketing of farm products has been geared to the fixed five-year plan quotas for sales to the state. It is based on bilateral contracts between trusts in the food-processing industry and agroindustrial complexes or their constituent units. Contracts are concluded for a five-year period and are broken down by years. They cover the entire farm output specified in the counterplans at prices officially revised on January 1, 1973. The price system includes bonuses for quality; these bonuses are payable only after a specified portion of the contracted quantity has been delivered and vary in relation to the total volume of product delivered. The intent of the bonuses is to stimulate product improvement without encouraging production beyond the planned limits. Excess production would destroy the balance of the plan.

Provisions of the marketing contracts were worked out by the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Arbitration Commission with the agreement of the government departments involved. Provisions concerning the performance of contractual obligations were strengthened compared with those previously in force. They established financial incentives and sanctions not only for the contracting organizations but also for their top managers as individuals, based upon the end results of their joint work.

Each food-processing trust engaged in the procurement of farm products must establish a fund for the promotion of their production, for improving farming methods, and for modernizing the farm's physical facilities. The funds are to be used in the first place for stimulating the output of products required on the domestic market and for export. [Pg 241]The allocation of promotional funds is to be in accord with a program worked out jointly by the trust and the agroindustrial complex; the program constitutes an integral part of the procurement contract.

Farms, individual farmers, and private agricultural producers may sell some of their products at retail directly to consumers in cooperative markets at prices not exceeding those charged by state retail stores. In some instances and for some products sale on a commission basis through state and cooperative outlets is also allowed. The sale of meat, meat products, and alcoholic beverages in cooperative markets is prohibited as is also the sale of any product through middlemen. Cooperative markets are subordinated to the trade organs of municipal authorities. Violations of applicable regulations are subject to penalties the severity of which depends upon the nature of the offenses. Information on the total volume of direct sales by agricultural producers is not available. The share of collective farms in cooperative market sales, however, declined from 53 percent in 1959 to 16 percent in 1970.


Growth and Structure

As a result of continued emphasis on the country's industrialization, the share of agriculture in national income (net material product) was only 22 percent in 1970, compared to 31 percent ten years earlier. According to official sources, however, output continued to rise. It increased at an average annual rate of 4.8 percent in the 1960-67 period, declined by 10 percent in 1968, and regained the 1967 level in 1970. An increase of 8 percent in the next two years raised the farm output in 1972 to a level 50 percent above the output level in 1960. For the entire period the average annual increase in farm output was 3.4 percent.

Livestock production was reported to have increased more rapidly than crop production in the 1960-70 period; the respective average annual rates of growth in output were 4.1 and 2.9 percent. Crop output in 1970 was 33 percent larger than output in 1960, whereas livestock output was 50 percent higher. Available data are inadequate to reconcile the reported growth in the value of livestock production with a seemingly inconsistent rise in the physical output of livestock products and changes in livestock herds.

The structure of farm output in 1970 did not differ materially from the structure in 1960. The share of crops in the total output declined from 67.3 to 64.7 percent, while the share of livestock production rose correspondingly from 32.7 to 35.3 percent. The proportions of grains and technical crops were identical in both years. The share of vegetables, potatoes, and melons declined slightly, but the proportion of feed crops dropped from 9.2 to 6.2 percent. The lag in the growth rate [Pg 242]of feed production has contributed to the difficulties in the livestock sector.


With the exception of rye, potatoes, hemp, and cotton, output of all major crops increased substantially in the 1960s (see table 16). The production of rye declined sharply as a result of the diversion of rye acreage to the production of more valuable crops. By 1970 rye output had become insignificant—less than 1 percent of the volume of wheat produced in that year. The decline in potato production was minor, but the output of raw cotton declined by 15 percent. The largest increases were attained in the production of alfalfa and table grapes—crops that are important for livestock production and export, respectively. Barley output, important for livestock and beer production, rose by 82 percent. Wheat output surpassed 3 million tons in 1970; it reached 3.56 million tons in 1972.

Table 16. Bulgaria, Production of Major Crops, Annual Average,
Selected Years, 1958-60 to 1966-70, and 1970
(in thousands of tons)

Crops Average 1958-60 Average 1961-65 Average 1966-70 1970
Wheat 2,376 2,208 2,919 3,032
Rye      97      58      35      28
Barley    542    694    986 1,167
Corn (grain) 1,298 1,601 2,147 2,375
Sunflower seeds    281    338    462    407
Hemp (dry stem)      62      49      62      55
Cotton (raw)      54      39      46      36
Tobacco (oriental)      77    101    109    112
Sugar beets 1,328 1,440 1,862 1,714
Tomatoes    525    738    716    685
Potatoes    383    400    380    374
Alfalfa    598    951 1,443 1,719
Apples    265    315    402    363
Grapes    721 1,006 1,133    884
    (Table grapes)    (135)     (267)     (313)     (263) 
Source: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook, 1971, Sofia, 1971, pp. 120-122.

Virtually all wheat grown in the country is a hard red winter wheat of good quality, somewhat softer than durum wheat. Cultivation of durum wheat has been almost completely abandoned because of its low yield. The possibility has been suggested, however, that production of durum may be resumed eventually on the basis of newly developed, more productive varieties. Durum wheat requirements for the manufacture of noodles, semolina, and other products have been imported against payment in foreign currencies.

[Pg 243]Increases in the output and yields of crops were reported to have been achieved through the introduction of improved plant varieties and seeds, better cultivation practices, expanded irrigation, greater use of fertilizers, and more effective disease and pest control. The supply of fertilizers to agriculture, in terms of plant nutrients, increased from about 49,000 tons in 1956 to 842,000 tons in 1968 but thereafter declined sharply to only 692,000 tons in 1969 and 635,000 tons in 1971. In 1972 the fertilizer supply improved by a mere 10,000 tons. The bulk of the decline was in phosphates and potash, imports of which were drastically curtailed after 1968, presumably because of the shortage of foreign exchange.

The supply of pesticides also depends very largely upon imports. Deliveries to agriculture rose from less than 10,000 tons in 1960 to almost 12,900 tons in 1965, declined to 11,150 tons in 1969, and then surpassed the 1965 supply by 300 tons in 1971. The need for a drastic increase in the use of pesticides and fungicides is indicated by the official estimate that annual losses from crop diseases, pests, and weeds amount to from 150 to 200 million leva.

Despite the progress made, agricultural technicians continue to call attention to the persistence of faulty practices in all phases of crop production—practices that tend to lower crop yields and retard agricultural growth. Traditionally a single variety of wheat has been grown throughout the entire country, despite variations in soil and climatic conditions. Although yields generally rose with the successive introduction of better varieties, they remained low and of inferior quality in areas poorly adapted for the cultivation of a particular variety. Specialists have stressed the need for diversification of varieties, particularly under conditions of regionally defined agroindustrial complexes.

A task force for scientific and technical aid to agriculture, formed by the government at the end of 1965, uncovered the appearance and rapid dispersion of new grain diseases. Dry rot, which had assumed significant proportions in 1961, caused the most severe losses of wheat in 1970 and 1971, when 1.2 million acres were affected by the disease, mainly in the northern grain-growing part of the country. Wheat flower blight, long known in Bulgaria, became particularly widespread in 1965 after the introduction of a new wheat variety highly susceptible to that disease. Losses from this source reached about 15 to 20 percent.

Propagation of diseases has been aided by faulty cultivation practices. Excessively heavy seeding has been used increasingly to compensate for inadequate soil preparation. The resultant overly thick stands of grain are prone to lodging, which facilitates the spread of disease through greater contact of the wheatstalks. The tendency to lodging and, thus, to the spreading of disease is also encouraged by the improper use of fertilizers. To compensate for the shortage of phosphatic fertilizers an erroneous practice has developed of increasing the [Pg 244]application of nitrogenous fertilizers, thereby upsetting the proper balance of plant nutrients. The resultant excessive vegetative growth weakens the grain stalks and induces lodging of the grain. Lodging also causes heavy losses through the germination of kernels and through major difficulties in harvesting.

Damage to wheat and barley crops from improper use of phosphatic fertilizers has also been reported. Substantial losses have been incurred in the production of sunflower seeds through inexpert use of fertilizers and insecticides, inadequate thinning and weeding, improper crop rotation, and poor harvesting methods. The basic underlying cause of these difficulties is the widespread lack of familiarity with modern production methods and the inadequate supply of technically trained personnel to guide farmers.

Livestock and Livestock Products

Despite repeated government decrees concerning measures for raising livestock production, including various incentives, no significant success was attained in increasing livestock herds in the period 1961 to January 1971 (see table 17). The numbers of cattle, hogs, and rabbits actually declined; the flocks of sheep grew by less than 4 percent; and only the numbers of goats and poultry increased substantially. An increase in all categories of livestock other than sheep, however, took place in 1971. In comparison with 1948 the total number of cattle in 1971 was lower by 28 percent, and the number of cows had declined by 16 percent. The poor performance of the livestock sector, particularly with regard to cattle, has been a source of great concern for the leadership because of the leadership's promise of a better standard of living for the population and the obligation to meet export commitments to COMECON partners, particularly the Soviet Union. Exports of livestock are also important as a source of convertible foreign exchange.

Table 17. Bulgaria, Livestock Numbers, Selected Years, 1948-72* (in thousands)

Livestock 1948 1961 1970 1971 1972
Cattle   1,783   1,452   1,255   1,279   1,379
    (Cows)      (703)      (547)      (574)      (589)      (607)
Hogs   1,078   2,553   1,967   2,369   2,806
Sheep   9,266   9,333   9,223   9,678 10,127
Goats      720      246      350      335      318
Rabbits      128      470      164      277      350
Poultry 11,380 23,366 29,590 33,706 34,102
* Figure for 1948 as of December 25; for all other years, January 1.
Source: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook, 1971, Sofia, 1971, p. 124; and Statistical Yearbook, 1972, Sofia, 1972, p. 236.

[Pg 245]Although agriculture is almost entirely socialized, substantial numbers of livestock are nevertheless privately owned by farm and urban workers, artisans, and the few remaining individual farmers. In 1971 these groups possessed virtually all the goats and rabbits, more than half the poultry, and about two-fifths of the sheep. They also owned 27 percent of the hogs and 22 percent of the cattle, including 30 percent of the cows. On socialized farms all types of livestock were reduced in numbers during the 1961-70 period except for cows and poultry. Among private owners the decline in the numbers of cattle and hogs was more pronounced, but substantial gains were made in the stock of sheep, goats, and poultry. Government policies concerning prices, incentives, and feed allocation were mainly responsible for the differences in development within the socialized and private sectors.

Expansion of livestock herds and production has been hampered by an inadequate feed supply. The feed shortage in the 1966-70 period was estimated by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences to have approximated 30 percent. Domestically produced feed concentrates have been of poor quality and nutritionally unbalanced. In 1972 more than 45 percent of the mixed feeds and concentrates were substandard, and requirements for these feeds were met by less than 55 percent.

The production of feed crops increased in absolute terms during the 1960-70 period, but its rate of growth lagged by comparison with other crops and with official plans. In 1971 and 1972 the alfalfa acreage was supposed to be 990,000 acres, but only 840,000 acres were actually cropped. In 1972 only 57 percent of the requirements for alfalfa and meadow hay were met on farms of the agroindustrial complexes, and the quality of the hay was extremely low. The inadequacy of the feed supply in relation to the government's livestock program has been designated by the leadership as one of the most crucial problems of agriculture.

In the 1971-75 period improvement in the feed supply is to be achieved mainly through an increase in feed crop yields, but a certain increase in acreage has also been planned. Results in the first two years of the five-year period have jeopardized the attainment of the goal for 1975. Substantial investment funds are to be provided for the modernization of dairy barns and for the construction of feed mills with assistance from the Soviet Union. With a view to raising productivity and output, livestock production is to be increasingly concentrated on large specialized farms. This policy ignored the demonstrated superiority of livestock production on small farm plots.

Major problems in the expansion of cattle herds and livestock production are also posed by poor management and inadequate veterinary services. The reproduction rate of cattle is abnormally low because of the high percentage of old, sterile cows in the herds. The incidence of diseases of the reproductive system and of mastitis among cows is rapidly increasing, and mortality among cattle is high. Young breeding [Pg 246]stock is reared in unsuitable surroundings, is ill fed, and consequently remains underdeveloped. A large proportion of newly born calves succumb to various diseases. There is a shortage of trained veterinarians, but veterinarians stationed on farms and in district veterinary hospitals are reported to feel no responsibility for the deplorable conditions. The care of livestock also suffers from a lack of adequately trained workers and a high labor turnover in the livestock sections of the agroindustrial complexes. Managers and specialists at the higher levels of the agroindustrial complexes fail to provide systematic supervision and guidance and often exhibit a lack of interest in the livestock enterprise. These conditions were reported to the General Assembly by a deputy minister of agriculture.

Despite the shortage of feed, increased yields per animal were attained in the 1960-71 period. For agriculture as a whole the output of milk per cow rose from 1,482 to 2,281 quarts, the number of eggs per hen increased from ninety-one to 115, and the amount of wool per sheep rose from 5.3 to 7.4 pounds. In 1972, however, yields per cow and per hen declined. In the socialized sector the decline in milk yield had begun in 1968 and reached serious proportions in 1972; the egg yield remained stable through 1970 (data for later years were not available in 1973). In the private sector the milk yield continued to rise at least until 1970; the egg yield remained stable through 1969 and rose in 1970. In the spring of 1973 several agricultural officials, including a deputy minister of agriculture, were reprimanded by the Council of Ministers Bureau for permitting the decline in yields of milk and eggs.

A study of milk production during the 1965-67 period found that farms having milk yields of 2,110 to 2,640 quarts per cow sustained an annual loss of 56 leva for each animal, whereas farms with yields of 3,170 to 4,287 quarts earned a net income of 111 leva per cow. The reported national average milk yield per cow therefore indicates that most farms produced milk at a loss.

The officially reported meat output increased by 74 percent in the 1960-68 period but declined by 11 percent in the next two years. By far the largest increase in production to 1968—2.9 times—was reported for beef and veal, while production of poultry meat and of sheep, and goat meat almost doubled (see table 18). The decline in output after 1968 affected all types of meat except for poultry and rabbits. For the entire period of 1960 through 1970, meat output rose by 55 percent, including production increases of 150 percent for beef and veal, 160 percent for poultry, and 82 percent for sheep and goat meat. Pork production, however, had risen by only 10 percent, and the output of rabbit meat declined by about one-third. The reported increase in meat production cannot be correlated with available data on changes in the size of livestock herds. An improvement in the supply of all types of meat other than beef and veal took place in 1971.

Production of milk and eggs also increased substantially during the [Pg 247]1960-71 period (see table 19). Nevertheless, domestic market supplies of livestock products remained chronically and seriously short of demand, in part because of the magnitude of exports. Exports of agricultural raw materials and processed foods exceeded 1 billion leva in 1970; they had increased 2.7 times during the decade and were equivalent to 44 percent of agriculture's contribution to the national income. Exports of food products alone had increased more than 3.5 times during the decade to a total of 732 million leva.

Table 18. Bulgaria, Production of Meat, Selected Years, 1948-71 (in thousands of tons)

Meat 1948 1960 1968 1969 1970 1971
Beef and veal   41   37 105   94   90   85
Pork   74 134 194 167 148 169
Sheep and goat meat   45   45   88   87   82   88
Poultry   17   36   70   78   93 111
Other     1     4     2     2     3     4
    TOTAL¹⁻² 178 257 460 428 416 457
Edible offals   29   50   73   65   60   64
    GRAND TOTAL² 208 307 534 493 476 521
¹ Less offals.
² Columns may not add because of rounding.
Source: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook, 1971, Sofia, 1971, p. 127; and Statistical Yearbook, 1972, Sofia, 1972, p. 232.

Table 19. Bulgaria, Production of Milk, Eggs, and Wool, Selected Years, 1960-71

Year Milk
(thousand tons)
Cow's Milk
(thousand tons)
Raw Wool
(thousand tons)
(million dozen)
1960 1,120    744 21 102
1967 1,609 1,210 27 140
1969 1,580 1,205 28 127
1970 1,631 1,250 29 135
1971 1,620 1,290 30 146
Source: Adapted from Statistical Yearbook, 1971, Sofia, 1971, p. 128; and Statistical Yearbook, 1972, Sofia, 1972, p. 233.

[Pg 248]

[Pg 249]



In mid-1973 industry continued to expand, though at a significantly lower rate than in the mid-1960s. Industrial expansion was being increasingly restrained by the inadequacy of domestic raw material and skilled labor resources. Limits on an increase in imports of materials and essential machinery were placed by the insufficiency of foreign exchange reserve and by the need to reduce traditional exports of consumer goods in short supply on the domestic market. The Soviet Union continued to be the predominant supplier of raw materials, machinery, and technical and technological assistance.

To overcome the limitations on industrial expansion, the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary) and government sought to raise industrial productivity through concentration and specialization of production and through improvements in the management of material and labor resources. Strong emphasis was placed on the introduction of automation in both production and management processes. Heavy stress was also laid on the need to raise the quality of industrial products in order to increase their salability abroad and their acceptance in the domestic market.

The consolidation of industrial enterprises into a limited number of trusts, introduced in 1971 as a measure for increased centralized control in the search for greater efficiency, was being carried forward by means of further regulatory and clarifying edicts. The leadership's ultimate goal of an efficiently managed, technologically advanced, low-cost industry remained the driving force behind all industrial policy decisions.


Virtually all industry is state owned. In 1970 state enterprises possessed 98.6 percent of all industrial assets; they employed 88.8 percent of the industrial work force and produced 89.7 percent of the industrial output. Collective industrial enterprises owned the balance of 1.4 percent of the assets, employed 11.2 percent of the workers, and contributed 9.9 percent of the industrial output. Small private enterprises, mostly artisan shops, accounted for only 0.4 percent of the industrial output.

[Pg 250]Organization

Size and Location

In 1970 the industrial establishment (excluding the private sector, information on which is not available) consisted of 1,827 state enterprises and 644 collective enterprises, employing about 1.02 million and 129,000 people, respectively. More than one-half of the enterprises in the state industry employed over 200 people, and almost one-fourth employed more than 1,000 people. Enterprises with large numbers of workers predominated in metallurgy; in the glass and china industry; in clothing manufacture; and in the leather, shoe, and fur industry. Beginning in 1971 previously independent enterprises were transformed into branches of countrywide trusts organized along functional lines (see ch. 12).

The territorial distribution of industry during the 1950-70 period was determined in large part by the priority development of heavy industry, the location of which was dictated mainly by the sites of raw material sources and the location of major consuming centers. In this process several cities and districts, including Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, and Ruse, experienced a large population influx from rural areas and attendant shortages of housing and public services. At the same time many villages were deprived of their inhabitants, and homes and public facilities were abandoned.

In 1970 the Central Committee of the BKP laid down guidelines for a program of regional economic development, with a view to attaining an optimal distribution of productive resources (capital and labor). The aim of the program was to arrest excessive urban growth and the associated demands on the country's resources for new housing and other amenities and, at the same time, to help develop backward rural areas. Within these guidelines, decentralization of industry has been undertaken, and plans are being worked out for the socioeconomic development of individual districts under the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1976-80) and until 1990.

In this context the construction of new industrial plants in heavily populated areas has been restricted. Further production increases in these areas are to be attained through modernization of existing facilities and the introduction of more advanced technology. Special measures have also been adopted to promote economic growth in the relatively underdeveloped districts. In part, this program is implemented through the transfer of industrial activities, equipment, and labor from the congested cities and districts to rural areas. Transfers of this kind decreed by the Council of Ministers Bureau in December 1971 and July 1972 involved 195 production units and 25,000 workers and an annual output of 225 million leva (for value of the lev—see Glossary). Under existing plans lasting until 1975, however, industry and employment will continue to expand in some of the most heavily congested cities.

[Pg 251]Supply System

The organization of a smoothly functioning materials and equipment supply system for industry has been an elusive goal of the leadership ever since the inception of the controlled economy. Various approaches to the problem over a period of years have not succeeded in accomplishing the basic task of ensuring a dependable supply of material resources to industrial producers. As a result, the economy has been officially reported to suffer enormous losses through production shutdowns, substitutions of materials that lower quality and increase costs, and hoarding of scarce materials. Heavy losses have also been incurred through improper storage of materials, careless use that entails excessive waste, and pilferage.

Adequate information on the organization and functioning of the industrial supply system has not been available. The latest reorganization of the supply system was undertaken at the end of 1971 with a view to providing a normal flow of supplies for the economic trusts beginning in 1972. Until 1971 the supply organizations had dealt almost entirely with individual enterprises. The reorganization was accompanied by extensive consultations with producers of raw materials, importing organizations, and industrial consumers. The consultations were held in order to clarify the needs of consumers, ensure the availability of the needed supplies, and agree upon specific measures for timely deliveries of materials and supplies.

Particular attention in the reorganization was paid to the problem of reducing the inventories of materials in enterprises and concentrating them in the supply organizations. Decisive measures were taken to halt the former practice of making deliveries of materials large enough to cover requirements for three months or longer. Under the new system, supply organizations are required to make periodic deliveries to consumers on guaranteed time schedules, at short intervals, and in quantities that do not exceed one month's requirements. Adherence to the regulation is to be used as a standard in evaluating the performance of supply organizations.

One of the basic elements in industrial consumer-supplier relations has been the annual contract for estimated material and equipment requirements needed to complete the annual production quota. For a variety of reasons both suppliers and users have often failed to honor these contracts, and the penalties provided for breach of contract have not been sufficient to deter this practice. Breaches of supply contracts have been an important cause of economic difficulties. Supply difficulties have been particularly disruptive because of the traditionally stringent nature of the production plans and the limited availability of resources.

In 1972 the Ministry of Supply and State Reserves planned to take energetic measures to strengthen contract discipline and to use contracts as legal and economic instruments for exerting pressure on both [Pg 252]parties to fulfill their obligations. The minister considered it particularly important to put an end to the practice of contract cancellation, either under provisions of official regulations or by mutual agreement of the parties concerned—a practice that, according to the minister, caused huge losses to the national economy.


Manufacturing is the dominant sector of industry in terms of employment and output. In 1971 manufacturing accounted for 93.9 percent of the total industrial output and provided employment to 88.3 percent of the industrial labor force. Mining and energy production contributed 3.6 and 2.5 percent, respectively, of the industrial output and employed 10.3 and 1.4 percent, respectively, of the labor force. More than half the industrial establishment was devoted to the production of capital goods. In 1971 the capital goods sector employed 52.5 percent of the industrial labor force and produced 56 percent of the output. The relative importance of the capital goods sector had been rising over a period of years, from 36.7 percent of the output in 1948 and 47.2 percent in 1960. During the same period the contribution of the consumer goods sector to total output had declined from 63.3 percent in 1948 to 52.8 percent in 1960 and 44 percent in 1971. As a consequence of the priority development of heavy industry, the supply of consumer goods on the domestic market has been inadequate to meet consumer needs (see ch. 5).

In terms of their employment shares, the largest state industry branches in 1971 were: machine building and metalworking, 25.5 percent; food processing, 14.4 percent; and textiles, 11.3 percent. Next in importance, but with much lower levels of employment, were: timber and woodworking, 7.4 percent; chemicals and rubber, 6.1 percent; and fuels, 5.5 percent. Industrial branches that experienced the most rapid growth in the 1960-71 period included ferrous metallurgy, chemicals and rubber, machine building and metalworking, and fuels. Among the slowest growing branches were timber and wood processing, textiles, nonferrous metallurgy, and food processing.


Domestic resources of mineral fuels are inadequate for the needs of industry. Through the limitation that it places on electric power development, the fuel shortage—in the absence of a large hydroelectric power potential—may become a major factor inhibiting industrial growth. In 1968 the proportion of petroleum and natural gas in the fuel balance was somewhat more than 42 percent; it is planned to rise to about 60 percent in 1975 and to at least 65 percent in 1980. Virtually all petroleum and natural gas must be imported.

[Pg 253]Coal and Lignite

Reserves of anthracite and bituminous coal are insignificant; their production amounts to less than 2 percent of the annual coal output. Brown coal deposits that can be mined economically are nearing exhaustion, and brown coal production declined by about one-third in the 1960-70 period. Low-calorie lignite remains the major fuel base for thermoelectric power stations. Reserves of this inferior fuel are large.

Coal deposits are scattered in about twenty small deposits. Because of difficult geological conditions, however, only a few of the deposits are exploited. Anthracite is mined in the Svoge basin, located in the Iskur gorge area of the Stara Planina, north of Sofia. Bituminous coal is mined in the same mountain range, in the area between Gabrovo and Sliven. The deposit at Sliven was reported to contain a very small quantity of coking-grade coal—a quantity far below the needs of the iron and steel industry. In addition to large annual imports of coking coal, Bulgaria has also imported from 250,000 to 465,000 tons of coke per year.

The main source of brown coal for many years has been the Pernik basin in the upper Struma valley, about nineteen miles southwest of Sofia. In the 1971-75 period brown coal mining is to be substantially expanded at the Bobov Dol deposit in the Rila mountain range, south of the Pernik basin. The Babino mine in the Bobov Dol coalfield is scheduled to become the largest underground coal mine in the Balkans. Reserves in this deposit, however, are equivalent to only about five to six years' production at the 1970 rate of brown coal output.

Lignite is mined mainly in the Maritsa basin, near Dimitrovgrad in the Thracian Plain, and in the Sofia Basin. The Maritsa basin, particularly the area known as Maritsa-Iztok (Maritsa-East), has become the basic source of coal production, contributing about 50 percent of the country's output. Aside from planned new mine construction, the Maritsa-Iztok complex is to be rebuilt and modernized. Production problems at this mine have not yet been solved satisfactorily. Coal-bearing strata have not been fully identified; equipment is utilized to only about 40 percent of capacity; and the organization of labor is poor. Substantial improvement also remains to be attained in processing the coal for market, in view of its high ash and moisture content. Unsolved problems also remain in the manufacture of coal briquettes.

In the 1971-75 period substantial investment is to be devoted to the expansion and modernization of coal mines. New mines with an annual capacity of about 4 million tons are to be built. Three-fourths of the investment funds are to be concentrated on three major production centers. The relative investment shares of these centers were planned to be: Maritsa-Iztok complex, 41 percent; Bobov Dol complex, 25 [Pg 254]percent; and the Georgi Dimitrov mine at Pernik, 10 percent.

Production of marketable coal increased by 83 percent in the 1960-70 period to a level of about 29 million tons. The rise in output, however, was confined to lignite production, which grew more than fourfold during the decade. Production of bituminous and brown coal declined by 42 and 32 percent, respectively. Output of anthracite in 1970 equaled the output in 1960 but was 9 percent below the production level in 1966. Production of both anthracite and bituminous coal amounted to less than 400,000 tons in 1970. Strip mining has steadily grown in importance and accounted for 73 percent of the output in 1970.

The Sixth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) calls for a rise in coal output to 33 million tons—an increase of about 13 percent. In the view of the minister of heavy industry, the planned increase is not large, but its attainment is difficult considering the character and condition of the mines. Experience has justified the minister's assessment. In the first two years of the five-year period, coal output rose by less than 1 percent.

Crude Oil and Natural Gas

Deposits of crude oil are located at Tyulenovo in the Dobrudzha region and at Dolni Dubnik, east of Pleven. Natural gas fields have been discovered near Vratsa and in the area of Lovech, south of Pleven. Reliable information on the magnitude of crude oil and natural gas reserves is not available. Statistics on current imports and official projections of import requirements, however, indicate that domestic production of oil and natural gas will continue to cover only a small fraction of needs.

Production of crude oil rose from 200,000 tons in 1960 to 500,000 tons in 1967 but declined thereafter to 305,000 tons in 1971. Natural gas output, which had increased to 18.5 billion cubic feet in 1969, declined to 16.7 billion cubic feet in 1970 and 11.6 billion cubic feet in 1971. Imports of crude oil, mostly from the Soviet Union, increased almost 3-1/2 times between 1965 and 1971 to a level of 7.5 million tons. In 1972 the Soviet Union alone provided 95 percent of the country's requirements for crude oil and petroleum products. Imports of natural gas from the Soviet Union, through a pipeline still under construction, are scheduled to begin in 1974 at a level of 35 billion cubic feet and to continue at an annual rate of 106 billion cubic feet beginning in 1975. The planned 1975 import volume represents about three-fourths of the estimated requirements in that year.

Crude oil is processed in two refineries, located at Burgas and Pleven, with daily throughput capacities of about 16,500 tons and 5,500 tons, respectively. Except for the small domestic output, crude oil for the Pleven refinery is moved by rail from Black Sea ports. A pipeline network that will connect the refinery with the ports is under construction and is scheduled to enter into full operation in 1975. [Pg 255]By that date the capacity of the Pleven refinery is planned to attain 16,500 tons per day. A pipeline under construction for the transport of petroleum products from the Burgas refinery to consuming centers at Stara Zagora and Plovdiv is to be completed sometime in 1973.

The refinery output has not been sufficient to cover all the country's requirements for petroleum products. Net imports of petroleum products in 1970, including gasoline, fuel oils, and lubricating oils, amounted to 2.5 million tons. Ninety percent of the imports originated in the Soviet Union.

Electrical Energy

Installed electric generating capacity and production of electrical energy increased more than fourfold in the 1960-71 period but failed to keep pace with the country's growing requirements. Installed capacity in 1971 was 4.48 million kilowatts, including 3.65 million kilowatts in thermal and 0.83 million kilowatts in hydroelectric stations. During the period the proportion of hydroelectric capacity declined from 50 to 18 percent, and the production of electricity per kilowatt of hydroelectric capacity dropped by more than one-third. The utilization of thermal capacity declined by 13.5 percent.

New power from generating plants scheduled to begin operation in the 1971-75 period totals about 3 million kilowatts. Major power stations to be commissioned include: hydroelectric stations—with a capacity of 1 million kilowatts—on the Sestrimo cascade, in the upper reaches of the Maritsa River and at the Vucha cascade, southwest of Plovdiv; a thermal power plant with a capacity of about 620,000 kilowatts at Bobov Dol, fueled by local coal; and an atomic power station with a capacity of 880,000 kilowatts at Kozloduy on the Danube River, in the northwestern corner of the country. According to government plans, total generating capacity is scheduled to reach 7 million kilowatts in 1975 and 12 million kilowatts in 1980. The more distant plans include the construction, jointly with Romania, of a hydroelectric power complex on the Danube, at Belene on the Bulgarian bank of the river and Ciora on the Romanian side. The Soviet Union has provided large-scale technical and material assistance in the development of the electric power system.

Production of electrical energy amounted to 21 billion kilowatt-hours in 1971, of which 90 percent was generated by thermal stations. Energy output in 1972 reached 22.3 billion kilowatt-hours. The Sixth Five-Year Plan calls for an energy output of 30.5 billion kilowatt-hours in 1975, which is equivalent to an average annual increase in output of 9.4 percent during the five-year period. In the years 1971 and 1972 energy output rose by an average of 6.9 percent per year, so that an average annual rise of 11 percent will be needed in the remaining years to attain the planned goal in 1975. Consumption of electrical [Pg 256]energy in 1975 is planned to reach 33.5 billion kilowatt-hours. The planned deficit of 3 billion kilowatt-hours is to be covered by imports from Romania, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union.

The electrical transmission network is well developed, and further major improvements have been planned. The network is connected with the power grids of Romania and Yugoslavia. A 400-kilovolt power line from the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in the Soviet Union was reported to have been completed in mid-1972. There was no evidence nine months later that power had actually been transmitted over that line.

Eighteen percent of the total electrical energy supply in 1971 was used by the power stations or lost in transmission. Of the remaining net supply, almost 70 percent was consumed in industry and construction; agriculture received only 4 percent; and transport and communications accounted for little more than 3 percent. Households were allotted about 16 percent of the net electrical supply, and the balance of 7 percent was consumed in trade, public institutions, and street lighting. The major industrial users of energy were metallurgical enterprises and the producers of chemicals and rubber; each of these industrial branches consumed one-fifth of the energy supply to industry.

Expansion of electric-generating capacity and energy output at rates planned by the government has been hampered by a chronic lag in new construction and by inadequate maintenance of existing facilities. The lack of preventive maintenance and disregard of technical requirements in the operation of equipment result in frequent breakdowns requiring major repairs. Such repairs, particularly those involving boilers, turbines, and transformers, pose difficult problems because of the shortage of technically qualified repair personnel and ineffective organization of repair work. Efficiency of operation is also adversely affected by a high labor turnover and the difficulty of finding qualified replacements.

The lag in the completion of new power stations, equipment breakdowns, and insufficient water reserves for hydroelectric stations have caused frequent power shortages, particularly at peak load hours. Elaborate official measures have been introduced to regulate the consumption of electricity and to eliminate waste, including a bonus system for saving electricity. These measures have not proved sufficiently effective, and some enterprises have been reported to earn bonuses by the simple expedient of overstating their requirements in the formulation of the annual economic plans. The State Inspectorate for Industrial Power and Power Control, it was stated by officials, was not in a position to solve the problem of economizing electric power without the active cooperation of every enterprise, plant, and trade union. Additional unspecified measures affecting industry were reported to have been taken in 1973 to reduce peak power loads, and the [Pg 257]population was advised to use electricity more sparingly between 6:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M.


In 1970 about 54 percent of the manufacturing industry's output was based on industrial materials, and 46 percent was derived from agricultural raw materials; the proportion of industrial materials in manufacturing continued on its post-World War II upward trend in the 1960-70 period from a level of 24 percent in 1948 and 49 percent in 1960. This trend was sustained by the relatively rapid rise in the production and imports of industrial materials compared to the slower increase in agricultural output and imports. Because of the limitation of domestic resources, further industrial expansion will necessitate ever larger material imports.

Iron and Steel

The main deposits of iron ore are located at Kremikovtsi, northeast of Sofia, and at Krumovo in the lower Tundzha valley. Other small deposits of little or no commercial value are scattered in the Strandzha mountains, in the western Stara Planina, and at several locations in the Rodopi (or Rhodope Mountains). The ore in the Kremikovtsi deposit is of low grade; it has a mineral content of about 33 percent and requires beneficiation. Reserves at Krumovo were reported to be of better grade but much smaller. Available evidence suggests that mining at this deposit was discontinued after the mid-1960s. Its site is far removed from the country's two iron and steel mills.

Reserves at Kremikovtsi were estimated a number of years ago to contain from 200 million to 250 million tons of ore. An official Russian-language survey of Bulgaria, published in 1969, cited a figure of 317 million tons for total iron ore reserves but mentioned only the Kremikovtsi deposit as one being mined. In a review of the country's natural resources, published in a Bulgarian technical journal in mid-1970, it was stated that known reserves of iron ore would last another fifty years. At the average annual rate of iron ore output in the years 1968 and 1969 the reported life span of the deposits indicates a reserve of only 133 million tons as of 1970. Whatever the actual reserves may be, domestic iron ore has had to be supplemented by imports of about 1 million tons per year from the Soviet Union and Algeria to meet the requirements of the metallurgical industry.

Reserves of steel-alloying minerals are reported to be available, particularly manganese, chromium, and molybdenum. The quality of the manganese ores, however, is low, and reserves of chromium are insufficient for the needs of the economy. Output data are available only for manganese ore. Production of this mineral declined by about 60 percent in the 1957-70 period, which suggests the depletion of known reserves. The metal content of the manganese ore mined in [Pg 258]1970 amounted to 10,300 tons. In that year the discovery of new manganese deposits in the Obrocha area was reported, the eventual exploitation of which, it was said, would not only provide for all domestic requirements but would also make it possible to export manganese for an entire century.

Although small amounts of ferroalloys are also obtained as by-products of copper, lead, and zinc smelting, imports must be relied upon to cover substantial deficits. Imports of manganese ores and concentrates in 1969 and in 1970 were more than double the volume of domestic production, and imports of chromium and chromite amounted to 3,400 tons in 1969. Nickel and titanium were also imported.

Steel is produced at the integrated Kremikovtsi metallurgical combine and at the smaller integrated Lenin Steel Works in Pernik. With Soviet assistance the Kremikovtsi combine is being expanded to a planned annual capacity of 2 million tons of steel and 2.2 million tons of rolled products by the end of 1975. A third coking plant was put into operation in the spring of 1971, and the production of coke is scheduled to reach 1.4 million tons in 1975, compared to an output of 837,000 tons in 1970. The steel mill at Pernik is to be modernized, also with Soviet assistance.

Production of pig iron and steel increased about sevenfold in the 1960-70 period, reaching levels of 1.25 million tons and 1.8 million tons, respectively. The same was true of rolled steel products, the volume of which rose to 1.42 million tons. Nevertheless, Bulgaria remained a net importer of iron and steel throughout the entire period. In 1970 the import surplus amounted to 272,000 tons of pig iron and 96,000 tons of steel.

Nonferrous Metals

Reserves of nonferrous metals are reported to be more plentiful than reserves of iron ore. Unofficial claims have been made that copper reserves will meet requirements during the next fifty years despite the planned rapid growth in output. Similarly, known reserves of lead and zinc ores were said to be sufficient to supply the needs of available smelters until 1990. A foreign observer, however, noted that plans for large-scale expansion of nonferrous mining and smelting may be frustrated by the deteriorating quality of the ores being mined and that metal output may not rise much beyond the level attained in the late 1960s. In fact, mine output of lead and zinc in 1970 was not higher than it had been in 1960, although the mine output of copper increased at an annual rate of 7.1 percent from 1967 to 1971. In this context it is noteworthy that data on nonferrous metals were omitted from the official statistical yearbook published in 1972.

In 1972 the minister of heavy industry pointed out that the relatively small planned increase in the output of the nonferrous metals industry [Pg 259]in the 1971-75 period—22.8 percent—was dictated by inadequate supplies of raw materials. He stated that prospecting for new deposits would be intensified and stressed the urgent need to increase the degree of metal recovery from ores and the need to utilize fully all ore components. Nevertheless, the minister assured his audience that the requirements of the economy for copper, lead, and zinc in the 1971-75 period would be met from domestic production, except for 3 to 10 percent of certain types of rolled metal. He called for the construction of plants to extract the metal from the industry's tailings as a means for partially eliminating the troublesome shortage.

Copper is mined south of Burgas; in the Sredna Gora mountains near the town of Panagyurishte; and in the western Stara Planina mountains, south of Vratsa. A deposit is also being developed at Chelopets, near Sofia. The ore is concentrated locally and is smelted and refined in plants at Eliseyna, Pirdop, and the Medet complex near Panagyurishte. Production of refined copper from ores and reused scrap increased from 14,000 tons in 1960 to 24,000 tons in 1965 and 41,000 tons in 1971. More than half the copper output is processed into copper profiles, sheet, and wire at the Dimiter Ganev plant in Sofia—the only plant for manufacturing rolled products. Bulgaria has both imported and exported copper and copper products.

Lead and zinc are obtained from mines near the towns of Madan and Rudozem, in the eastern Rodopi, and in the western part of the Stara Planina, at Eliseyna and Chiprovtsi. A new lead mine is under development at Erma Reka, in the vicinity of Madan. The Rodopi mines account for the major portion of the ore output. The ore is processed in flotation plants near the sites of the mines and is refined at Kurdzhali, Plovdiv, and Kurilo.

Production of refined lead and zinc rose rapidly in the first half of the 1960s but leveled off in the second. Substantial amounts of these metals have been exported, mostly to Western Europe. Exports, however, have been declining both in volume and as a proportion of output. The decline has been more pronounced in the case of lead, and lead exports dropped from 65 percent of output in 1960 to 22 percent in 1970. The volume of lead exports fell from 53,500 tons to 22,100 tons in the 1965-70 period. Zinc exports declined from highs of 78 percent of output in 1965 and 58,100 tons in 1966 to 64 percent of output and 48,100 tons in volume in 1970.

Bulgaria also possesses small reserves of gold, silver, and uranium. Gold has been found near the town of Trun, not far from the border of Yugoslavia. Silver and uranium deposits are located in the western Stara Planina. The uranium ore is processed by the Rare Metals Combine near Sofia. Gold and silver are also obtained as by-products in the smelting of copper, lead, and zinc. Information on reserves and production of these metals is not available. Aluminum and tin must be imported.

[Pg 260]Other Raw Materials

There are reported to be adequate resources of nonmetallic minerals for the production of cement and other building materials, glass, and ceramics. Asbestos, salt, sulfur, and cement are produced in quantities large enough to allow some exports. The quality of asbestos, however, is low, and better grades must be imported for some uses. Exports of cement declined from 715,000 tons in 1965 to 153,000 tons in 1970. Timber and wood pulp from domestic sources are in short supply. Under an agreement with the Soviet Union, Bulgaria has supplied 8,000 workers to the timber industry of the Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic for the development of Siberian timber resources, in return for which the Soviet Union has undertaken to export to Bulgaria about 900,000 cubic yards of timber in 1973 and up to 2 million cubic yards per year after 1975. Similar arrangements exist with regard to paper pulp, iron and steel, natural gas, and other raw materials.

Domestic agriculture provides ample raw materials for the food processing industry, but only a fraction of light industry's needs for fibers and hides. In the 1968-70 period average annual imports of these materials included cotton, 60,000 tons; wool, 2,900 tons; synthetic fibers, 26,000 tons; and cattle hides, 7,700 tons. In addition to the raw cotton, cotton textiles in the amount of 63,000 tons were imported annually.

Because of the general shortage of domestic raw materials and the need to conserve scarce foreign exchange, strong emphasis has been placed on recycling waste materials. A decree on this subject was issued in 1960, and a special Secondary Raw Materials State Economic Trust was created in 1965. Another comprehensive decree was issued in November 1971 because, as stated in its preamble, the importance of collecting and using waste materials had been underestimated, and the needs of the economy were not being met. The new decree was intended to organize the collection and processing of waste materials, including metals, paper, rubber, textiles, and worn-out machinery and household equipment, on a modern industrial basis under the direction of the waste materials trust. Special provision was made in the decree concerning the handling of unused machinery and surplus materials held by economic enterprises, and sanctions were provided for failure to surrender or refusal to purchase such surplus equipment and materials.


Industry's share of total annual investment rose steadily from 34.2 percent in 1960 to 47.3 percent in 1969 but declined in the next two years to 43.9 percent. In absolute terms and in current prices, annual investment in industry increased from 466.3 million leva in 1960 to 1.6 billion leva in 1970 and declined to 1.58 billion leva in 1971.

[Pg 261]More than four-fifths of the industrial investment in the 1961-71 period was devoted to the expansion of producer goods industries. The proportion of investment funds allotted annually for this purpose was slightly lower in the 1966-71 period than it had been in the preceding five years; it ranged between 84.7 and 87.8 percent in the 1961-65 period and between 81.2 and 85.5 percent thereafter, except for 1970, when it declined to an atypical low of 78.5 percent.

The bulk of industrial investment was channeled into heavy industry, including fuel and energy production, ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, chemicals, and machine building and metalworking. In the 1960-65 period fuel and energy production were the major recipients of investment funds; in subsequent years machine building and chemicals became the primary targets of investment activity. Ferrous metallurgy was among the five largest investment recipients through 1967, but nonferrous metallurgy dropped from this group after 1964. Beginning in 1967 substantial investment funds were also devoted to food processing—the major export industry and earner of foreign exchange.

Investment allotments to consumer goods industries ranged between 12.2 and 18.8 percent of industrial investment, except for an unusually high allocation of 21.5 percent in 1970. In 1971, however, the investment share of consumer industries dropped sharply to only 14.5 percent. The predominance of investment in heavy industry reflected the leadership's basic economic policy tenet that, with minor temporary exceptions, the production of capital goods must develop more rapidly than the output of consumer goods.

Construction of industrial plants has frequently fallen behind schedule, causing losses of planned production and disruption of the five-year plans. The situation became critical in the fall of 1972 because of the failure to commission on time new facilities that were counted upon to produce in 1973, among other products, 0.5 million tons of rolled steel; 0.4 million tons of mineral fertilizers; 30,000 tons of synthetic fibers; 20,000 tons of cellulose; 11,000 tons of polyethylene; 0.3 million kilowatts of electric generating capacity; and a large volume of machinery and equipment.

The main reasons for the construction lag were delays in the supply of materials and a shortage of construction workers. In an effort to expedite the completion of the most essential projects that were under the direct supervision of the Council of Ministers because of their national importance, the council created a special operational bureau for the coordination and control of the construction activities associated with these projects. At the same time 6,000 workers were transferred to the priority projects from less important construction jobs. These measures did little to solve the basic problems and merely shifted the incidence of construction delays from one category of projects to another.

[Pg 262]LABOR

The labor force in state and collective industry numbered 1.17 million workers in 1971, of whom 542,000—or 46 percent—were women. The labor force had increased by 54 percent compared with its size in 1960, and the number of women workers more than doubled. About 88 percent of the workers were employed in manufacturing; the remaining 12 percent were engaged in mining and energy production. Production of capital goods provided employment for 52.5 percent of the workers, and consumer goods industries absorbed the remainder. One-fourth of the labor force was concentrated in machine building and metalworking, and another one-fourth was occupied in food processing and textile production (see Organization and Structure, this ch.).

By far the largest proportion of women workers—26 percent of their total number—were employed in the textiles and clothing branches of industry, where they constituted 77 percent of total employment. Women constituted the majority of workers in food processing—53 percent—and accounted for 21 percent of the workers in machine building and metalworking. Substantial numbers of women were also employed in chemical and rubber plants, in logging and woodworking, and in the production of leather shoes and furs. Four-fifths of all women working in industry were in blue-collar jobs.

According to official statistics, 95 percent of the workers in 1971 were directly engaged in production; the rest were employed in various auxiliary occupations, such as maintenance and warehousing. Yet in outlining means for raising industrial labor productivity in the fall of 1972, the minister of labor and social welfare included as an objective a reduction in the proportion of auxiliary personnel to about 30 or 35 percent of the number of production workers in industry. About 17 percent of the production workers were in white-collar jobs; information on the total number of white-collar workers has not been published.

The majority of industrial workers are paid on a piecework basis, but the importance of piecework has been declining and has varied widely among industrial branches. In 1971 almost 62 percent of the workers were paid on this basis—a significantly smaller proportion than the 80 percent of workers remunerated in this manner in 1957. The proportion of workers employed on the piecework basis in 1971 was highest in the manufacture of clothing—89.5 percent—and lowest in the production of coal and petroleum—25.2 percent. In construction, 84.6 percent of the workers were paid on the piecework basis.

The average annual wage of all industrial workers in 1971 was 1,526 leva, compared to an average of 962 leva in 1960. On the whole, wages of production workers were somewhat higher than wages of auxiliary personnel, and the pay of white-collar production workers was higher than that of blue-collar workers. The average wage of [Pg 263]workers in capital goods industries was 21 percent higher than the wage of workers in consumer goods industries. The wage was highest in mining and lowest in manufacturing. Within the state industrial branches, average annual wages ranged from 2,009 leva in the production of coal and petroleum to 1,196 leva in the manufacture of clothing. Wages in collective industry were generally lower than in state industry; the difference between the average annual wages in these sectors was 12 percent.

Industrial productivity and growth have suffered from a shortage of trained workers and technical personnel. The supply of skilled workers in the fall of 1972 was reported to be only half the number needed to fill available positions. Responsibility for this situation has been placed, in part, on the lack of coordination between the industrial ministries and the Ministry of National Education concerning technical and vocational training programs. There has been a pronounced disproportion in the numbers of trainees in the various technical specialities, and technical training generally has not been up to the level demanded by modern technology. Enterprises themselves have been slow in undertaking to train their own workers. The scarcity of skilled personnel has been accentuated by the export of trained workers to the Soviet Union to help develop the exportation of mineral and timber resources in return for raw material imports.

Poor labor discipline and excessive labor turnover have aggravated the shortage of skilled workers. The turnover has been particularly high among younger workers. Dissatisfaction with the job, or with living and transportation conditions, and the search for better pay have been cited as the main reasons for the turnover. Progressively severe measures have been introduced to enforce stricter labor discipline, but their effectiveness has been weakened by lax application. One of these measures concerning movement of labor gave workers the right to quit their jobs freely but stipulated that any worker seeking reemployment had to do so through district labor bureaus set up for that purpose. The bureaus would direct the job applicants to industries and positions where labor was most urgently needed. Because of the shortage of skilled labor, however, enterprise managers continued to hire new labor without regard to the requirements of the law.

The shortage of adequately trained personnel adversely affects the utilization of available capacity; it entails frequent breakdowns of machinery and inhibits multishift operation of plants. More than 20 percent of worktime is usually lost through idling, and equipment is used at no more than 50 to 60 percent of capacity. New plants completed in 1967 had not reached full production in 1972. Productivity has also been kept low by the lack of mechanization of auxiliary activities, such as loading and unloading, inter- and intrashop transport, and warehousing. In 1972 the minister of labor and social welfare stated that labor productivity in Bulgarian metallurgy was only half as high [Pg 264]as in some of the advanced industrial states.

The presence of unemployment has never been officially admitted, but a certain degree of unemployment and underemployment, nevertheless, exists in several rural areas of the country. Recognition of this fact was evident in the decision of the BKP Central Committee plenum, published in March 1970, on the territorial redistribution of production forces (relocation of industry) and in subsequent economic studies concerning this subject.


Gross industrial output amounted to about 13.9 billion leva in 1970 and reached 15 billion leva in 1971. According to official data, industrial output more than tripled in the 1960-71 period. The high average annual growth rate of 11.1 percent was accounted for, in part, by the low initial level of industrial development, as a result of which relatively small absolute increases in output were equivalent to high percentage rates of growth. The contribution of industry to national income (net material product) rose from 46 percent in 1960 to 50 percent in 1969 but declined to 49 percent in 1970.

The most rapid growth occurred in basic industries that were given priority in the allocation of investment and labor. Production of the iron and steel industry rose almost ninefold, and the output of fuels, chemicals, and rubber increased more than sixfold. The output of machine building and metalworking industries increased 5-½ times, and the production of electric power, building materials, and cellulose and paper rose about fourfold. Preferential development of basic industries continued through 1972.

The lowest growth rates among basic industries were attained by the timber and woodworking industry and nonferrous metallurgy. Some foreign observers have wondered when the available nonferrous ore reserves have not been exploited more intensively. As for timber production, its volume has been restricted by the limitation of forest resources. Production by consumer goods industries generally increased by from 2.1 to 2.7 times, except for glass and porcelain wares, the output of which rose almost fivefold.

By far the most important industries in terms of output value in 1970 were food processing, and machine building and metalworking; these industries accounted for 25.4 and 20.2 percent of total output, respectively. Next in importance, with 9.1 percent and 7.5 percent of the total were the textile and the chemical and rubber industries. The output of the clothing industry—4.9 percent of total output—surpassed the production of fuels. The contributions of other industries to the total industrial output ranged from 0.9 to 3.7 percent. The structure of industrial output in value terms reflects, in part, the system of prices used in valuing the output.

Although the country's industrial development has had a history of [Pg 265]only two decades, industry produces a wide variety of industrial and consumer products, including machine tools, ships, computers, automatic telephone exchanges, and television sets (see table 20). Bulgaria was also reported to possess the largest plant in Europe, and second largest in the world, for the production of electric forklifts and similar industrial vehicles. The quality of many products, however, though improving, has not measured up to average world standards. In 1972 the chairman of the Administration for Quality Standardization, and Metrology stated that his organization was confronted with a difficult long-term task of developing an effective quality control system and of catching up and keeping pace with the constantly rising world quality standards. In his view, attainment of these goals required a fundamental improvement of domestic quality standards, effective organizational and technical measures, well-conceived incentives, and an enormous amount of indoctrination of the personnel involved in production. The chairman was confident, nevertheless, that the country's industry would eventually outstrip the qualitative standards of developed industrial nations in the same way that it had succeeded in outstripping these nations' industries with regard to quantitative growth.

[Pg 266]Table 20. Output of Selected Industrial Products in Bulgaria, Selected Years, 1960-71

Product Unit 1960 1965 1968 1970 1971
Electric energy million kilowatt hours   4,657 10,244 15,451 19,513 21,016
Coal (cleaned)¹ thousand metric tons 10,630 10,116   9,930   7,280   6,450
Lignite do   5,356 14,926 20,967 21,971 20,558
Coke do        20      733      817      837   1,091
Crude oil do      200      229      475      334      305
Natural gas million cubic yards    ...        94      662      619      428
Iron ore² thousand metric tons      188      585      870      792      993
Manganese ore² do          7        13        12        10        12
Pig iron do      136      547   1,064   1,195   1,329
Crude steel do      253      588   1,461   1,800   1,947
Rolled steel do      193      431   1,028   1,420   1,752
Steel tubes do        11        10        19      114      136
Copper ore² do        11        30        37        42      n.a.
Lead-zinc² do      173      180      168      173      n.a.
Electrolytic copper do        14        24        37        38      n.a.
Lead do        40        93        93        97      n.a.
Zinc do        17        66        75        76      n.a.
Cement do   1,568   2,681   3,512   3,668   3,880
Timber thousand cubic yards   5,046   5,680   5,140   5,166   4,923
Paper thousand metric tons        54        85      187      200      215
Nitrogen fertilizers³ do        84      246      276      287      306
Urea³ do          2        15      228      315      256
Superphosphate⁴ do        41        94      136      148      146
[Pg 267] Pesticides⁵ do          2          6        12        15        16
Automobile tires do      172      327      333      546      730
Internal combustion engines thousand horsepower      155      179      280      229      250
Metalcutting machine tools thousand units   3,145   8,063 11,160 13,945 14,636
Presses do      203    609    944    977    763
Textile looms do      505      555   1,088      676      437
Tractors do      ...   2,800   2,961   3,493   4,668
Freight cars do   2,007   1,583   1,550   1,991   2,016
Electric forklift do   3,104 16,562 22,673 29,641 30,202
Telephones do        80        57      245      349      416
Ships do        12        11        26        27      n.a.
Radio sets do      157      130      139      145      148
Television sets do      ...⁶        74      158      193    158
Refrigerators (domestic) do          3        41        91      134      140
Electric washing machines (domestic) do        38        89      184        56        57
Cotton textiles million yards      239      355      349      349      355
Woolen textiles do        20        31        25        29        31
Footwear⁷ million pairs   7,534 10,062 15,671 13,627 16,095
    Leather shoes do   (4,251)   (5,154)   (5,781)   (4,105)   (4,694)
Rubber footwear do 11,239 12,683 13,485 12,805 13,683
n.a.—not available.
¹Anthracite, bituminous, and brown coal.
²Metal content.
³Nitrogen content.
⁴PO content.
⁵Active ingredients.
⁶Fewer than 400 units.
⁷Excluding house slippers and rubber footwear.

[Pg 268]

[Pg 269]




To maintain order and to retain control of the population, party and governmental authorities rely on a number of police and security organizations that are able to exert physical force and, also, upon a group of large social organizations that are able to apply social pressures. When individuals, in spite of the efforts of the law enforcement agencies and the social organizations, engage in antisocial or criminal behavior, the courts are charged with handing down appropriate sentences, and the penal institutions are concerned with rehabilitating the individuals for eventual return to society as cooperative and productive members.

People's Militia units throughout the country are the local police forces that enforce the laws, combat crime, and monitor the population. They are assisted in local law enforcement by part-time voluntary paramilitary auxiliaries and, in serious situations, by a small, centrally organized, full-time internal security force that can act as a light infantry unit and move quickly to any part of the country. State security police, evolved from the secret police of the 1940s and 1950s but much reduced in size, deal with crimes that are national in scope or that pose a threat to the society or its institutions. Authorities credit the security police with having almost eliminated the possibility of large-scale subversive activities. The militia, its volunteer auxiliaries, and the security units are organized within the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Border and construction troop organizations are administered separately. The Border Troops, charged with defense of the country's boundaries and with control of a border zone around the country's periphery, are a part of the Bulgarian People's Army and are under the Ministry of National Defense. The Construction Troops are labor forces, but the bulk of their personnel comes from the annual military draft, and they are organized into regular military units and are subject to military regulations and discipline.

The rights of the individual citizen are defended in the 1971 Constitution and in the Criminal Code of 1968, which was not altered by the constitution. The latter states that a crime can only be an act so identified in the code and for which a punishment is prescribed. [Pg 270]These principles can and have been abused—the state is set above the individual, and the judicial machinery is within an agency of the executive branch of the government—but those who exercise the machinery have become increasingly responsive to its guiding statutes. The limits on punishments that are set down in the code allow somewhat greater sentences to be handed down upon those committing crimes against the state or state property than upon individuals or private property.


State and Internal Security Forces

During the time of readjustment after Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, Bulgaria's police state period gradually came to a close. In the postwar period until then, the country had had police machinery modeled on that of Stalinist Soviet Union, with state security troops (secret police) and garrisoned interior troops equipped like mobile army infantry units. The state security troops, the garrisoned interior troops, and the regular police forces are estimated to have totaled about 200,000 men.

Although state and internal security organs have been shifted among ministries and renamed, and there has been an occasional move to abolish them, they continue to exist in Bulgaria. Although the organizational form is probably much the same as before, that is, an internal security force and a state security police, the security apparatus has only a fraction of its former personnel and has been shorn of its more arbitrary powers. According to some observers, Bulgaria has emerged from a police state, wherein security forces held arbitrary powers of arrest that instilled fear in the people, to a police bureaucracy in which the militia meddles in peoples' lives to the point of public frustration. People no longer have reason to fear the tyranny of a secret police, but they have developed a strong resentment of the petty militia regulations that affect their daily lives.

State security functions—those that deal with espionage, treason, and the group of so-called political crimes aimed at undermining or upsetting the system—have been performed by a separate secret police organization that was typical in communist systems, particularly during the Stalinist period. An overriding preoccupation with state security has not been as prevalent in Bulgaria as in many communist countries, because the communist government had established itself firmly in control of the country in a relatively short time. Nonetheless, a sizable secret police force existed for many years and, after a reign of terror lasting until 1948, the secret police contributed to a general atmosphere of repression that lasted until the mid-1950s. After that time most police functions were assumed by the People's Militia, and the secret police faded into the background, greatly [Pg 271]reduced in size and importance but still functioning within one of the government ministries.

After the unsuccessful coup d'etat of April 1965, there was a resurgence of secret police activity with the creation of the new Committee of State Security. As the political situation stabilized in the late 1960s, the Committee of State Security was reabsorbed into the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where the remaining units of state security police continue to operate. They are evidently considered necessary in order to take care of relations with foreigners, to collect some military intelligence at the governmental level, and to monitor any potential espionage or criminal activities that might pose a threat to the state. The day-to-day role of the small remnant of the internal security force is unknown. This elite, militarized unit, however, is probably held as a bulwark against any large-scale, organized dissension.

The People's Militia

The People's Militia (local police) deals with crime and maintains routine day-to-day contacts with the people. The militia operates under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and has intermediate administrative offices at the level of the okrug (district) and local police stations at the rayon (municipal) or obshtina (urban borough or village commune) level. Although the primary control descends from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, all militia organizations have a degree of responsibility to the people's councils at their levels.

Local militia forces ordinarily work only in the areas under the jurisdiction of their people's councils. In urgent circumstances they may be called upon the Ministry of Internal Affairs to assist the militia in neighboring areas, and they may even cross okrug lines. To operate outside their own areas on their own volition they must have the permission of an agency in the ministry.

The police are charged with maintaining order, enforcing the laws, protecting personal and public property, and regulating traffic. They assist governmental and party agencies in the execution of their various resolutions, orders, and instructions. They monitor the rules of residence and the collection of taxes. In the event of natural disasters or major accidents they are equipped to rescue, to give first aid, and to transport victims to medical facilities. They supervise observance of quarantine measures imposed by health authorities. They monitor drinking establishments to ascertain that alcoholic beverages are not served to alcoholics, obviously drunken persons, juveniles, and drivers of motor vehicles. They are instructed to combat rowdy and irresponsible behavior—hooliganism, begging, and vagrancy—and other antisocial manifestations. They see that unsupervised and stray children are provided for.

[Pg 272]Many militia functions are peripheral to the primary police duties of law enforcement and criminal investigation. Such functions include social controls having diverse objectives ranging from gun control to keeping undesirables off Sofia streets during visits of foreign dignitaries. The police have unusual powers in dealing with beggars, vagabonds, and others in the category that they classify as socially dangerous. Some of the controls are directed at preventing crime; others appear intended to reduce the possibility of incidents on occasions when the presence of such persons could be embarrassing. The regulation allows the police to prohibit individuals from visiting specified towns or areas or even from leaving their residences for a twenty-four-hour period. Some may be prohibited from meeting certain other specified persons or from frequenting certain parts of towns. Such restrictions can be for definite or for indefinite periods of time. Persons may be denied the use of common carriers or the privilege of attending sports events or of visiting certain public institutions. Some, prostitutes for example, may be denied the right to become telephone subscribers. If they think it advisable, the police may require some persons whom they are monitoring to report to them on a daily or other regular basis.

Individually held weapons, ammunition, and explosives are accounted for and are registered with the militia. Certain forestry and farm personnel, hunters, sportsmen, and youth organizations are authorized to retain controlled weapons. Explosives are permitted when they are required in, for example, construction projects. By law there is no production of cold weapons—brass knuckles, daggers, scimitars, and the like—in the country.

The police collect or maintain a major share of local records for the obshtina people's councils. These records deal with vital statistics, citizenship, identification, travel visas, registration of residences, licenses and permits, and employment data. A person acquires Bulgarian citizenship in the circumstances that are accepted in most other countries—by ancestry, place of birth, or naturalization—but there may be somewhat more than the usual number of situations in which he may lose it. Persons are deprived of citizenship if they leave the country unlawfully, leave lawfully but fail to return within a reasonable time after their visas expire, go abroad to avoid military service, acquire foreign citizenship in a manner not specified in Bulgarian law, or if they conduct themselves abroad in ways that are contrary to Bulgaria's interests or that are unworthy of a Bulgarian citizen. Persons not ethnically Bulgarian are released from their citizenship upon emigration, although they are not released unless all of their obligations in the country are settled.

Laws governing the stay of foreigners in the country also are administered and enforced by the militia. According to the revised law that took effect in 1972, the whereabouts of a foreigner is subject [Pg 273]to the same rules that apply to Bulgarian citizens. His hotel or other local address, therefore, must be reported to the militia within twenty-four hours of his arrival at each stop. Tourists are usually unaware that such detailed records of their stays are being maintained, because hotel personnel ordinarily take care of the reporting. If the visitor stays at the home of a Bulgarian, that citizen must report his presence on the same twenty-four-hour basis.

A foreign visitor may travel freely otherwise, except that he may not go to certain restricted areas or to the border zone at any place other than at one of the designated crossing points. He must leave the country when the time specified in his visa has expired unless he has a criminal charge against him and is awaiting trial, has been sentenced and is serving a term in prison or at a correctional labor camp, or has the obligation to provide support for a person in the country.

Border Troops

The Border Troops are part of the Bulgarian People's Army and are organized within the Ministry of National Defense. Border units resemble regular military forces more than they do the police. They are considered militarized security units, and some 15,000 men serve in them.

Their mission is described as safeguarding the country's frontiers against penetration or illegal crossing. Because they are a part of the regular armed forces, it is presumed that in time of war they would work in coordination with those forces. If the enemy were to penetrate into Bulgaria, the Border Troops would be expected to control the area immediately behind the ground forces. If Bulgarian armies were driving the enemy beyond the borders, they would probably remain at the old border or establish a new one if the leadership expected to retain any newly occupied territory.

The most strictly defended borders are those shared with Greece, Turkey, and Yugoslavia, but the border with Romania is also defended. The Border Troops operate a number of patrol boats, both on the Danube River, where it forms the border with Romania, and along the Black Sea coast. The troops also control the movement of people into and within a border zone, which is a strip approximately eight miles wide in from the border. Smuggling, however, even large-scale smuggling, is the concern of the Ministry of Internal Affairs customs police and not of the Border Troops.

Construction Troops

A Bulgarian institution that is unique among the Eastern European communist countries is the organization known as the Construction Troops. Thousands of young men who are not called for service in the regular armed forces are drafted into the Construction Troops, from [Pg 274]which the government derives productive labor at the same time that it instills military discipline and political indoctrination into a large segment of the young male population. Similar organizations have been maintained since the establishment of the original Labor Service in the early 1920s, which was a means of circumventing the World War I peace terms that prohibited large conscript military forces. Obligatory military service was restored during the 1930s and, as part of the change, the Labor Service was militarized. It was made a part of the army and remained so during World War II, when it became known as the Labor Army.

Two types of compulsory labor forces emerged after the communist seizure of power in 1944. The Labor Army continued in existence and, following the example of the Soviet Union under Stalin and of the other states in the Soviet post-World War II orbit, Bulgaria also placed those of its citizens considered politically dangerous in forced labor camps. These were the prison colonies populated by victims of the secret police, persons who might or might not have had proper trials but who were considered to be enemies of the party or the government. Some camps were temporarily located at sites where large numbers of manual laborers were needed, but more often camps were at permanent locations. Buildings at all camps were flimsy, and facilities were minimal. In the early period, while the Communists were establishing their control over the country, about 1 percent of the population was imprisoned at hard labor in such camps at any given time.

In the early 1970s the Construction Troops organization that had evolved from the Labor Army was military in form and character. Its men were provided from the annual draft and were subject to military regulations and discipline. Its officers, who had regular military ranks, were provided from the armed forces or had been prepared for that specific assignment in the Construction Troops own school. The headquarters of the organization, however, was a main administration responsible directly to the Council of Ministers; it was not within either the Ministry of National Defense or the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Furthermore, the work of the organization was heavy construction and, at least in peacetime, the greatest portion of it was unrelated to any requirement of the armed forces. The Construction Troops worked on various construction projects on a five-day-week basis but assumed a military routine on Saturdays, which were devoted to platoon and company drill and to political education classes.

Until the mid-1960s the troops were used mainly in roadbuilding and land reclamation. By the early 1970s more than one-half of their work was in factory, housing, water supply, and other such construction. Its 1972 projects included building a tire manufacturing plant and a resort hotel complex and harnessing a river for hydroelectric power, recreation, and supplies of irrigation water and city water. One of [Pg 275]the organization's spokesmen claimed that there was not a large-scale project underway anywhere in the country where its troops were not at work.

The men acquired in the annual draft serve two years, which satisfies their military service obligation. Almost all of the conscripts in the Construction Troops work as unskilled laborers. During or at the end of their two-year tours, those who enjoy or show a special aptitude for construction work may volunteer for extended duty tours and serve as noncommissioned officers. Some of those who are accepted are sent to technical schools for further education.

Career officers who are educated in the Construction Troops service academy are expected to serve for ten years after graduation. This school, the full title of which is the General Blagony Ivanov People's Military School for Officers in the Construction Troops, offers a so-called semihigher course of instruction. Applicants to it must have completed their secondary education, and its three-year course can be used for undergraduate transfer credit toward a university-level degree elsewhere. Many graduates continue their education at the Higher Institute of Construction and Engineering in Sofia, from which they may receive a further career specialization and bachelor's or advanced degrees.


Authorities responsible for the civil defense program justify their efforts by arguing that modern warfare has virtually eliminated the difference in importance between the armed forces at the front and their support in the rear areas. They stress that it is essential to provide for continued production and delivery of supplies, primarily foodstuffs, that are needed for survival. Such arguments have been effective in Bulgaria, and civil defense training is compulsory for all citizens from twelve to sixty years of age.

The civil defense organization is staffed at all administrative levels in the country. It is within the Ministry of National Defense in the national government and has committees under the people's councils in each okrug and rayon or obshtina. Committees or working teams are also set up in manufacturing plants, enterprises, schools, and collectives. Indicative of the importance placed upon civil defense activities, its national chief in the early 1970s was one of the deputy ministers of national defense, a level shared with only the topmost officers of the military establishment.

Civil defense tasks are divided into three categories. The first includes provision of shelters and defense for the population, providing warning of attack, and training of the people for implementation of dispersal and evacuation plans and for defense and salvage work. The second includes implementation of measures intended to maintain production and to keep transportation, communications media, and [Pg 276]power supplies in operation. The third includes industrial salvage, restoration of production, fire fighting, decontamination, and provision of medical assistance.

Specific work assignments vary widely in differing locations and enterprises. For example, industrial teams train to maintain or restore production. Agricultural teams work to save crops, farm animals, or to protect feed and watering spots. People's councils at all levels, party and youth groups, and the mass organizations are instructed to assist in specific ways and to volunteer in other ways as opportunities arise.

Enthusiasm for civil defense activities varies widely. One town with a population of just over 1,000, for example, built or modified areas to shelter 6,000 people. In more typical situations tasks such as those of civil defense that have little to contribute to the needs of the moment receive much lower priority.


The Communist Party and Social Organizations

The most important element in establishing control of the country at the inception of the post-World War II communist government was the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP—see Glossary), with the iron discipline it held over its carefully chosen members and its single-minded planning and direction. After gaining control, the party attempted to retain its exclusive character, insofar as possible recruiting as members only those whose loyalty was unquestioned and who could organize and lead.

To maintain control based on a broader segment of the population, the party then encouraged the development of a number of social and special-interest organizations, designed to appeal to the interests of as many of the people as possible and to enlist them in activities that shape public opinion, regulate the conduct of the people, and support the party and its policies. These organizations ranged in size from the extremely large Fatherland Front and the trade unions to the painters, writers, and composers unions, whose memberships numbered between 100 and 800 (see ch. 9).

With the exceptions of the party, the Fatherland Front, and the small artists unions, these groups are called mass organizations. The small unions do not qualify because they are far from massive in size; the party and the front have the requisite membership, but they are set apart from the others. The Fatherland Front attempts to gather members from all other socially or politically active organizations in the country, combining as many as possible of them within it. Its membership includes nearly one-half of the country's population. The party, although ostensibly a member organization of the Fatherland Front, is set above all other organizations. It controls and directs [Pg 277]the others and requires them to support it in general and specific ways (see ch. 9).

The largest of the mass organizations are, in descending order, the trade unions, the Bulgarian Red Cross, the Dimitrov Communist Youth Union (Dimitrovski Komunisticheski Mladezhki Suyuz—commonly referred to as the Komsomol), the Bulgarian Union for Physical Culture and Sports, and the Bulgarian Union of Tourists. Their memberships range from about 1 million to approximately 2.5 million. The Bulgarian Agrarian Union, the Bulgarian Hunting and Fishing Union, the Teachers Union, and the Scientific and Technical Union are much smaller, having memberships between 100,000 and 200,000. The Fatherland Front attracts nearly 4 million people; the party has 700,000 members.

Youth Programs

The first sizable leftist youth organization in the country, then called the Union of Working Youth, was formed in 1926, and by 1940 it had a membership of approximately 15,000. It and the party furnished most of the partisan fighters that harassed the Germans and the pro-German government of the country during World War II. Both the party and the youth group grew stronger during the war, largely because the partisan cause was more popular than that of the government.

The youth organization became the Dimitrov Communist Youth Union after the war. The new name did not come about from a major reorganization or reorientation of the group; transition to its postwar status was smooth, but it saw fit to honor Georgi Dimitrov, who had by then become the most powerful and famous of the party's leaders. Even after its renaming in Dimitrov's honor, the organization has usually been referred to, in official government communications as well as in conversation, as the Komsomol, which is the name of the Soviet Union's youth organization.

The Komsomol became the organization through which the party reached the nation's youth. Its responsibilities were expanded, and its membership grew rapidly. In the ideal situation the entire youth segment of the population of eligible age, both male and female, would be members of the organization. In 1970 its 1.16 million members did include about 77 percent of those between fourteen and twenty-four years of age. Some of the organization's leaders, instructors, and exceptionally active members stay in the group beyond the upper age limit of twenty-four, but their number is too small to alter the membership statistics significantly. Male members outnumbered female members by a large margin; 88 percent of the eligible males were members, only 66 percent of the females. The disparity in membership by sex reflects the fact that more of the organization's activities—sports and premilitary training, for example—appeal to or are [Pg 278]oriented toward the future needs of the males. Membership is either a prerequisite for admission to higher educational institutions or makes admission much easier.

Statistics notwithstanding, party and other national leaders complain that Komsomol membership is lower than it should be, but they have greater concern about the number who are members merely for expediency and who are apathetic toward the organization's activities. A low point in the Komsomol's appeal was reached during the 1960s and, sensing an urgent need to reattract the cooperation of the nation's youth, its programs were given a major reevaluation and overhaul beginning in about 1968.

The youth problem in 1968 was probably less serious in Bulgaria than it was in many Western countries and other communist countries, but it had reached proportions that warranted action. Among symptoms cited by the authorities was apathy toward education, work, and party ideology. Young people in rural areas seemed anxious to move to the cities, where idleness, crime, and so-called parasitic living were increasing. Consumption of alcohol by young people was up markedly.

Many young people were described as silent nihilists, persons who were characterized by unresponsiveness and vast indifference. No expression of group youth protest, for example, was recorded between the inception of the communist government and the late 1960s. When individual complaints were solicited, however, they appeared to come out freely. Some said that they would have cooperated but spoke of the anemic and empty lives of the youth organizations where the dull, boring meetings consisted largely of upbraiding sermons full of pious admonitions and reprimands. Others assumed an offensive posture, indulging in self-praise, pointing out shortcomings in party work, complaining about the lack of individual freedom and the lack of opportunity for showing initiative, and criticizing the older generation.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages is common enough in typical families so that early exposure to it is considered natural, but its use by young people became excessive enough to be considered a national problem in the mid-1960s. According to a survey published in 1971, more than 50 percent of the students in Sofia secondary schools consumed alcohol regularly. Percentages were considerably higher in provincial secondary schools. Few of the youthful users had consumed it over a long enough period to have become addicted, but more than one-half of the inebriated persons brought to sobering-up facilities in Sofia hospitals and clinics were young people.

Authorities blame advertising of alcoholic beverages, imitation of Western fashions, disillusionment, and monotony in daily living for most of the increase in youthful drinking. They also blame lax parental control, but the surveys concluded that the influence of contemporary [Pg 279]social habits and the pressures of peer groups were forces more powerful than those exerted by the family.

Measures have been undertaken to reduce the so-called parasitic element that according to party and governmental spokesmen, is composed of those who neither study nor work. As early as 1968 the minister of national education was given six months to organize a nationwide program to cope with the problem, and the Center for Amateur Scientific and Technical Activities among Youth and Children was created to coordinate planning. The Committee for Youth and Sports, the State Committee on Scientific and Technical Progress (renamed the State Committee for Science, Technical Progress, and Higher Education), the Komsomol, and the trade unions were charged with contributing ideas and assistance. As a result of the center's activities, the next year each okrug was directed to organize schools with three-month-long vocational training courses and to canvass its area for young people who required the instruction. Enterprises in the okrug were directed to cooperate by indicating the skills they most needed, by furnishing facilities and, finally, by hiring those who completed the training.

As of 1972 the program had achieved spotty or inconclusive results. Most spokesmen considered it as satisfactory as could have been expected. They did not consider that it reflected badly on the effort when a few groups reported that about 30 percent of the students who completed their classes never reported to the jobs for which they had been prepared and that others stayed at work for only a short time. Other observers consider that the authorities are concerned over a problem much of which does not exist or that is blown out of proportion to its seriousness. For example, 85 percent of the offending group were girls or young women. A few of them were undoubtedly ideological malcontents, members of youth gangs, prostitutes, or criminals, but a large majority considered themselves living inoffensively at home or, at the worst, were working at small family enterprises. In rural areas they might have been attending the family's private agricultural plot or the privately owned livestock.



The country's most widely quoted authorities on crime view it as a social phenomenon, that is, actions by people within society against the interests of the society as a whole or against the principles directing it. Combating crime, therefore, becomes a matter both of law enforcement and of social edification and persuasion. Although they adhere to the argument that in a developing communist society most of the crime is related to holdover attitudes from the old society and to unavoidable contacts with such societies still existing, they do not [Pg 280]expect to eradicate crime according to any existing timetable.

Petty crime is an irritant to the leadership, not so much for the damage or lasting effects of the individual criminal acts, but because such acts reflect an attitude on the part of the perpetrators indicating that they hold the society, if not in ridicule or contempt, at least in less than proper respect. Such attitudes prompted an official in the Ministry of Internal Affairs to state, "Social democracy does not take a conciliatory attitude toward petty criminals, or tolerate individuals who disturb the public order or who are engaged in a parasitical life." The actual amount of petty crime is less worrisome to the authorities than the fact that it is increasing. Also disturbing are statistics showing that most of those apprehended for it are in the eighteen-to-thirty-year age-group.

Authorities have found themselves facing a problem in relation to petty crime that is in no way unique to Bulgaria. Misuse of government property, including theft and pilfering, has become rampant and is considered forgivable by those who are guilty because "everybody does it." The courts have become reluctant to hand down harsh sentences upon people who consider that they have done no wrong and, at least in the opinion of some government spokesmen, lenient court sentences have helped foster a view that theft of public property is wrong only because it is so described in certain of the laws.

The authorities also point out that statistics accumulated on such thefts reported in 1970 are revealing in other respects. Almost 90 percent of those recorded fell into the category of petty crime, but about one-half of them were carried out by overcoming locks or other barriers protecting the property. Over one-half of the persons apprehended for such thefts were repeaters. Analysis of other records also indicated that in all but a very few cases the most serious crimes were committed by individuals who had begun their criminal careers by stealing.

At the same time the courts were handing down sentences of the minimum punishment for theft or even less than the prescribed minimum. More often than not, the culprits were given suspended sentences. Of those convicted of serious theft, less than one-half were sentenced to a period of deprivation of freedom considered appropriate—that is, the six months or more prescribed in the criminal code.

More serious are the crimes of violence, political crimes, and economic crimes involving abuse of management positions or large amounts of property. In the period since the mid-1950s crimes of violence have increased; political and serious economic crimes have decreased.

Citizens convicted of political crimes no longer constitute the bulk of the prison population, as they did during the early post-World War II period. Active or aggressively vocal opposition to the regime is usually called ideological subversion, diversion, or revisionism, and it is [Pg 281]described as activity or expression of thoughts related to the old society and not in accord with the policies of the new. It is still listed among the more serious crimes. Officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs blame both external influences and dissident internal factions for having caused the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and the Czechoslovak troubles in 1968. They say, however, that such events are unlikely in Bulgaria because the ministry's state security agencies are busy combating foreign intelligence efforts and the native elements that would bore from within. The success of their efforts is credited with having reduced political trials to only a few each year.

Economic crimes include those of dishonest or illegal operation of an enterprise, the misuse of socialist property by its management or workers, currency manipulations, and improper sale or transfer of property. If inefficient management practices are serious enough to result in less than optimum production, they are considered criminal, but sufficient guilt has been difficult to prove, and those accused are rarely, if ever, prosecuted. They are occasionally reprimanded, transferred, or dismissed for bureaucratic practices. Management personnel who are brought before the courts are usually tried for corruption, using their positions for personal enrichment, or violation of administrative or financial regulations.

Workers can be prosecuted for theft, waste, willful damage, or illegal use of materials. Poor labor discipline, shirking on the job, or nonmalicious negligence may result in individuals or entire work shifts being brought before party groups or trade union committees. Action in such cases usually involves counseling, social pressure, or the like.

Consumption of alcohol is not excessive when compared with that of other European countries, but it has been increasing steadily and has been a major contributor to crime and antisocial behavior. During the 1960s per capita consumption of absolute alcohol increased by a factor of nearly 50 percent, from 4.01 quarts per person annually to 5.93 quarts. Strenuous efforts on the part of the country's leadership to combat the trend resulted in a decrease between 1968 and 1970, but the dip in consumption was temporary. Per capita consumption in 1971 reached the highest level yet recorded.

Police are involved in aspects of the programs combating the rise in consumption of alcohol and alcoholism because alcohol has figured increasingly in crime. Nearly 90 percent of those charged with rowdiness or disturbing the peace were under its influence, as were increasing percentages of those apprehended on rape, assault, and murder charges.

Many more men than women have alcohol problems, but the percentage of women problem drinkers has risen more rapidly. Similarly, consumption by youths is less than that of adults, but the numbers of youths becoming habitual drinkers has been increasing. Many of [Pg 282]the campaigns against the use of alcohol are also directed against smoking and drugs, although neither of these is considered a cause of serious concern. Smoking is viewed as an evil that may be damaging to the user's health but that has no serious social consequences. By 1973 drugs had not become a serious problem.

The police monitor a large number of alcoholics whose conditions are chronic but who can work. These persons get a period—ordinarily from six months to a year—of compulsory treatment. This may include work therapy in groups that are supervised to the degree necessary to prevent the members from acquiring alcoholic beverages.

Increasing tourism has resulted in special problems in resort areas. Spokesmen note that what they refer to as petit bourgeois attitudes toward moneymaking have shown up, especially at the new Black Sea coastal resorts. Local people inflate prices for tourists, accept and encourage tips, and buy and sell merchandise illegally. On some occasions the Bulgarians exploit their guests; at other times the foreigners exploit the local population. Most seriously viewed of the adverse tourist influences are the introduction of unacceptable ideology and foreign encouragement of moral laxity which, according to the authorities, pervades the area. Occasionally, however, there is an example of an ideological diversity in a direction opposite that of lax morality. One group of tourists was evicted from the country after distributing what the police described as forty Bibles and 150 godly booklets. Many tourists enter the country by automobile; traffic has become congested, and violations of traffic laws are more numerous than the police can cope with.

Criminal Code

The criminal code's preamble states that its purpose is to protect the society and the state, the person and the rights of its citizens, the economy, and the state's property and laws and to educate the citizens in the rules of life in the socialist society. It defines crimes as socially dangerous acts that are identified and declared by law as punishable.

In addition to the qualification that a crime must be set down as such and declared punishable, the individual is further protected by the stipulation that he may be punished only when he has been found guilty of one of the listed crimes by a proper court. The punishment may be only what is set down in the code and declared consistent with the crime, and it may be imposed only by the court trying the case.

Adults, eighteen years of age or older, are criminally liable. Minors, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, are criminally liable if they are judged capable of understanding the act and its significance and of controlling their actions. Juveniles under fourteen years of age and mentally deficient persons unable to understand the nature or [Pg 283]significance of a criminal act are not criminally liable.

Courts may hand down punishments of eleven different varieties. In addition to fines, confiscation of property, and confinement, they may sentence a guilty person to corrective labor or compulsory residence without confinement. They may deprive an individual of the right to occupy certain governmental or public positions, of the right to practice certain professions or activities, of the right to residence in a specified place, or of the right to earn decorations and awards. If he is on duty with the military, a court may remove his rank. It may also administer a public reprimand, alone or in combination with another type of punishment. The sentence, however, should be within the upper and lower limits in the amounts of fines or the time period for which the other sentences may apply. Such limits are set down in the code.

The death penalty is never a mandatory sentence in peacetime. It is optional for a considerable number of crimes, but it is handed down only if the circumstances of a particular crime that is before the court are exceptionally serious. When the maximum sentence is deprivation of freedom and does not include a possible death sentence, the duration of the sentence will be no longer than fifteen years. If the maximum sentence can be death, twenty years deprivation of freedom may be substituted for execution.

The stipulated sentences for crimes against the state tend to be more severe than sentences for crimes against individuals. Theft of public property is punishable by confinement of up to eight years, of private property by no more than three years. Robbery involving public property may result in a sentence of from three to ten years; if it involves private property, the range is from three to eight years.

Although the individual's rights appear to have more than ample safeguards, the situation may be less utopian than the wording of the criminal code would suggest. For example, a 1973 amendment to the laws pertaining to personal property states that "when a citizen is found to possess more property than he could reasonably have acquired from his regular income, he is considered to have acquired it illegally unless he can prove to the contrary."


All of the formal judicial machinery of the country is within the governmental organization under the Ministry of Justice, but special courts—such as those of the military establishment—may be administered separately and independently in their lower echelons. Although the ministry serves as a part of the executive branch of the government, as the interpreter of laws it can check upon their compatibility with the constitution and other legislation. It might also function as a check upon the powers of the legislature and upon the other ministries in the executive branch. So far as is known, however, [Pg 284]during the framing of legislation its professional expertise is used only to provide technical advice on the phrasing or structure of the text, to make sure that it says in legal terms what the framers intend (see ch. 8).

The Ministry of Justice is responsive to the policies of the BKP, although the minister appears to be chosen for his professional qualifications. In the early 1970s the incumbent was one of the very few important officials in the government who did not also have a high-ranking party position, and only one of his immediate staff was a member of the Central Committee of the BKP. None of the others is believed to have had an equivalent party status.

Each people's council has a legal department or a group that provides it with legal counsel. The chiefs of such departments at obshtina level are appointed and relieved by the okrug people's council.

The size and legal qualifications of the legal staff vary with the population of the okrug or obshtina. The departments at okrug level and those of the larger obshtini have staffs that are relied upon for competence in a wide range of criminal and administrative procedures; the legal problems that are encountered by a remote rural obshtina are usually minor.

Legal departments are charged with monitoring the activities of the people's councils and their committees to keep them consistent with the law; with interpreting laws for the people's councils and for inhabitants in the area of their jurisdiction; with strengthening the contractual and financial disciplines of the people's councils and of enterprises within their areas; and, as a by-product, with tightening the safeguards on public property. Most of the daily work of the departments consists of giving legal counsel to the people's councils and of reviewing the councils' resolutions to ensure that they conform to national laws and party policies.

Penal Institutions

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the overall administration, activities, and security of prisons. Outside guards are provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to the regulations, the primary responsibilities of prison administrators are to rehabilitate and to reeducate inmates.

Reeducation includes political reorientation, general education, and vocational training. All inmates are obligated to receive political indoctrination, which is intended to reorient them toward becoming cooperating members of the community. All of them are also required to perform useful labor—for vocational training, prison income, and benefit to the state. General education is compulsory for all prisoners under forty years of age who have not completed eight years of primary schooling. Vocational training, other than that derived from prison labor, varies with facilities available.

[Pg 285]The physical facilities for confinement are classified as prisons, labor-correctional institutions, and correctional homes. The correctional homes are for minors. According to the seriousness of the offense and other factors, a prisoner may be confined in light, general, strict, or enforced strict disciplinary regimes, one of which is specified in his court sentence. The light regime is prescribed for first offenders who are serving time for minor crimes. The enforced strict regime is applied to recidivists, as an alternative to the death sentence, or to those considered dangerous or willfully and excessively uncooperative. The stricter regimes have less comfortable cells and furnishings, more rigid discipline, fewer individual privileges, and tighter security.

Prisoners are segregated by age, sex, and disciplinary regime. Women and minors serve their sentences in separate prisons or correctional homes. They are subject to much the same schedules as those in the prisons for male adults, except that theirs have no enforced strict regime. According to the law, those serving in different regimes are to be confined separately, and repeaters are to be confined in separate prisons from first offenders. Because there are a limited number of prisons, it may be necessary to meet the law's requirement for separation of prisoners by having different regimes in wards or buildings of the same prison complex.

The law on prison labor states that prisoners have the right to employment and political education and, at the same time, that they have the obligation to do the work and receive the political indoctrination. Inmates are given work assignments within seven days of their arrival at a prison. Their wages are based on the norms for the same kind of work done in enterprises throughout the country, and the same work and safety regulations apply. Inmates receive 20 percent or more of their wages. None except minors, incapacitated persons, or individuals who would work but who are for some reason unemployed may receive money from the outside.

Prisoners have the right to communicate with the prosecutors and courts that investigated and tried their cases and to submit petitions to them and to the Ministry of Justice. They may also see the chiefs of their prisons, correctional homes, or labor-correctional institutions in person. Other rights include time outdoors, exercise, visitors, correspondence, food parcels, possession of personal effects, and meetings and special correspondence with lawyers or other persons having a status or authority relative to their sentencing or confinement. The amount of time outdoors and correspondence and the numbers of visitors and parcels allowed vary with the severity of the inmate's disciplinary regime.

Correspondence and parcels are opened and inspected by prison officials. Visits are monitored; conversation must be in Bulgarian unless the administration has or can find a person who can understand [Pg 286]the language to be spoken. Inmates are not allowed to gamble, consume alcohol, use narcotics, or sell or exchange personal property with other inmates. Minors may not smoke. Prisoners and their property may be searched.

Prisoners are rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad. When his pattern of conduct has become apparent over a period of time and it appears appropriate, a prisoner may be moved into a lighter or more severe disciplinary regime. If he has insufficient time remaining in his sentence to be moved into a different regime, he may be given extra privileges or be denied some of those to which he would ordinarily be entitled. Commitment to solitary confinement is limited to two weeks at any one time.

A number of sentences do not involve confinement. For a group of offenses related to poor working discipline, an individual can be given a corrective labor sentence. This usually involves harder work, somewhat longer hours, and strict supervision on the job. The law also provides for sentences that restrict the movement of an individual. In the most severe of these, he may be banished to and be required to remain in one certain area. In other situations he may be prohibited from visiting specified areas or, in the least severe case, he may visit but not take up residence in some specified locality.

Another such sentence involves "internment without deprivation of liberty." This sentence restricts the individual to his place of residence or to another specified place. The term is usually from one to three years but, in the case of a repeated crime or in some other special circumstance, it can be for as long as five years. The essence of the penalty is that it consists of a restriction to the confines of the area within which the offender lives and works. He may not hold a job outside of the area, but he does not live in a special billet, nor is he isolated from his neighbors and local society. The usual objective, when this type of sentence is handed down, is to keep the individual in his home environment, where he retains responsibility for his share of the family support and is subject to its influences.

[Pg 287]



Bulgaria's regular military forces are organized within the Bulgarian People's Army (Bulgarska Narodna Armiya) and are subordinate in the governmental system to the Ministry of National Defense. Approximately 80 percent of the personnel are in the ground forces. Of the remaining 20 percent about three-quarters are in air and air defense units, and about one-quarter are naval forces.

Although Bulgaria is possibly the most staunch and sympathetic of the Soviet Union's allies in Eastern Europe, the country has no common border with the Soviet Union nor with any other of its Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) allies except Romania. Because Romania has succeeded in establishing a precedent prohibiting movement of any foreign forces across its borders—even those of its closest allies—Bulgaria is to a large degree isolated from pact affairs. Unable to participate in more than token fashion in pact training, short of skilled men to care for complex equipment, and possibly restricted from an ability to become engaged during the early days of a combat situation, Bulgaria has undoubtedly lost some Soviet matériel support.

Because of this the forces have only small armored units, although the military establishment as a whole is large in relation to the population of the country. The air forces have been supplied with a few modern aircraft, but most of its airplanes are older than those of its pact allies. Naval forces are small. Even though logistic support has been meager, morale has been considered good, and the men and their leaders have been considered ideologically reliable.


The communist leadership considers only a few incidents in the history and tradition of the armed forces before World War II to be significant. Even in respect to that war, the sole esteemed service is that of the partisans in their resistance movement against their own government and against German troops in the country. Driving out the Turks to gain national independence in 1878 is remembered, as is the abortive uprising of the leftists against the government in September 1923. Emphasis on only these few historical events is encouraged, at least in part, because in much of their other warfare Bulgaria's fighting men frequently experienced frustration or defeat, sometimes violent and humiliating.

[Pg 288]As no indigenous armed forces had been allowed during the five centuries of Ottoman occupation, there were no national forces at the time that independence was gained. The uprising by the local population two years earlier, in 1876, had been heroic, and it contributed to the weakening of the Turkish grip on the land, but it was a failure at the time. It is still, however, remembered. On ceremonial military occasions a roll call of the local men killed in the uprising is read aloud at memorial rites.

Participation in four wars between 1912 and 1945 produced negative results for the country. Bulgarian forces were engaged in a major share of the fighting during the First Balkan War (1912) but, from its standpoint, the country received an inadequate share of the spoils at the peace table. A year later, when Turkey and its former allies joined forces against Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria was defeated.

Allied with Germany in both world wars, Bulgaria experienced defeat twice more, although the situation was somewhat different in World War II. The government and nationalists bent on acquiring territory they considered theirs—primarily from Greece and Yugoslavia—succeeded in joining in the war on Germany's side. The population was generally far more sympathetic to the Soviet Union, however, and during the years of German success in the early part of the war, Bulgarian forces did little in support of their ally. In the latter days of the war, as the Germans were being driven back, the Bulgarians joined the armies of the Soviet Union. In fact, the 30,000 casualties they claim to have suffered in campaigns against the Germans were far more than were suffered in their support (see ch. 2).

After World War II, when the Communists had gained control of the country, training and unit organization were modeled on those of the Soviet army; heavy matériel items were supplied by the Soviet Union; and all other equipment was made to adapt to Soviet specifications. Personnel considered unreliable by the new regime were weeded out as fast as possible, and rigorous measures were taken to ensure that political orientation considered correct in the new atmosphere would be adhered to by those who replaced them.

Equipment received first was surplus to the needs of the Soviet Union as three-quarters or more of its massive wartime forces were demobilized. Replacement matériel came more slowly, having to await the reequipping of Soviet units, but by the late 1950s the most essential combat weapons had been upgraded.


The armed forces are subordinate to the Ministry of National Defense, which is one of the governmental ministries whose chief is a member of the Council of Ministers. Administration and routine [Pg 289]operational controls are accomplished through government channels. The party, however, has policy authority and ultimate operational control. Division of authority is more apparent than real because nearly all high-ranking governmental officials are also important party members. The minister of national defense in 1973, Army General Dobri Dzhurov, was also a member of the party's Central Committee. Almost without exception the higher ranking military officers are party members, as are nearly 85 percent of the officers of all ranks. The 15 percent who are not in the party are junior officers who are still members of the Dimitrov Communist Youth Union (Dimitrovski Komunisticheski Mladezhki Suyuz), commonly referred to as the Komsomol. Only a small percentage of Komsomol members become party members, but all except a very few of the young officers are selected for party membership when it becomes apparent that they probably will be successful career officers.

Political education is given priority equal to that of combat training at all levels in the military organization. Party cells are formed in all units where there are three or more party members; Komsomol cells exist in virtually all units. In 1972, 65 percent of the armed forces participated in scientific-technical competitions, symposia, conferences, reviews, exhibitions, and other Komsomol activities.

One-man command has superseded the dual control system of the 1950s. In those days a political officer was placed alongside the commanding officer of all units to ensure the reliability of the forces. The political officer was in many ways equal in authority to, and independent of, the commander. The unit commander has allegedly reassumed a position where he is described as the central figure, leader, planner, and organizer; he is responsible for the discipline and combat effectiveness of his unit and for fulfilling its party tasks. The unit commander's deputy is still a political officer in most units and, although there is no question of his subordinate position, the political officer is still responsible in part directly to the Main Political Administration of the army.


The several military forces under the Ministry of National Defense are referred to collectively as the Bulgarian People's Army. The army includes the ground, naval, and air and air defense forces and also the Border Troops (see ch. 15). Tradition prevails in common usage and even in official pronouncements, so that when the term army is used alone, it invariably refers to the ground forces or the directorates and service organizations that are common to all of the forces. Naval and air forces are frequently referred to as though they were separate service branches.

Uniformed military personnel permeate the Ministry of National Defense. All deputy ministers and, with the exception of the medical branch, all major administrative chiefs are military officers. During [Pg 290]the early 1970s the first deputy minister of national defense was also chairman of the General Staff and chief of the ground forces. One of the deputies was chief of the air and air defense forces, and all of the others were generals. Following the pattern of other Warsaw Pact armed forces organizations, the political, rear services (logistics), training, armor, artillery, communications, engineering, and chemical sections are directorates, administrations, or branches responsible to the minister of national defense. This is the case in spite of the facts that such branches as armor and artillery are concerned primarily with the ground forces and that others—training, for example—must be tailored to widely different kinds of operations of all the individual services.

Bulgaria is the point of contact between the Warsaw Pact nations and Greece and Turkey, which are the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries on the southern flank of the Soviet alliance. Although little is known of Warsaw Pact war plans, it is probable that Bulgarian forces would be charged with containing an attack from the south. Statements of military leaders indicate that considerable thought has been given to the problems they would face in a nuclear war. They apparently anticipate involvement in the initial engagements but, if nuclear weapons are used, they would employ holding tactics, staying alert to exploit any opportunities that might develop. Their pronouncements repeatedly affirm a determination to perform their pact mission to the best of their capabilities.

Ground Forces

The ground forces have approximately 120,000 men. Their major units consist of eight motorized rifle divisions and five tank brigades. There are also various smaller special purpose units and support organizations. The forces are distributed among three territorial commands having headquarters at Sofia, Plovdiv, and Sliven. The division is the basic organizational unit in Warsaw Pact combat forces and has about 10,000 men. Five of Bulgaria's divisions are believed to be near combat strength, but three probably have only skeletal strengths and would be built up with the mobilization that would accompany a major national emergency.

Each of the other Warsaw Pact armies has a number of tank divisions. The fact that Bulgaria has only tank brigades, which are probably one-half or less the strength of divisions, reflects the austerity of its armed forces. Motorized rifle divisions have one tank regiment, one artillery regiment, and three motorized rifle regiments. The tank brigades, because they are smaller, probably have fewer tanks than the motorized rifle divisions.

Most of the tanks used by the Bulgarian army are the early post-World War II model T-54. There are some newer models in the inventory, and a few of the older World War II T-34s are still being retained. [Pg 291]Artillery pieces include guns and gun-howitzers from 82 mm to 152 mm, antitank weapons up to 100 mm, and small antiaircraft guns. Some units are equipped with short-range missiles and unguided rockets. There are enough personnel carriers or self-propelled weapons so that all men in a unit can be transported simultaneously.

Air and Air Defense Forces

The air and air defense forces have approximately 20,000 men, 250 combat aircraft, an assortment of antiaircraft guns, a few surface-to-air missiles, and a modest quantity of air defense radar and communications equipment. Combat aircraft are organized in squadrons, usually with twelve airplanes each. In 1973 there were six fighter-bomber, twelve fighter-interceptor, and three reconnaissance squadrons.

The fighter-bomber squadrons use the MiG-17, an aircraft that is obsolescent but that performs well in a ground support role. About one-half of the fighter-interceptors are also MiG-17s, but three of the interceptor squadrons have the newer MiG-21. The only bomber aircraft in the air forces is the near-obsolete Il-28. The Il-28 squadron has a reconnaissance role. A few old cargo or passenger planes provide a minimal transport capability, but there are about forty helicopters that can perform shorter range personnel and transport functions.

Air defense forces are positioned to provide protection for the country's periphery as well as for a few cities and air installations. Ground and naval forces have antiaircraft weapons to defend their own units. Early warning radars are located mainly along southern and western borders, and their communications lines are presumably linked with the Warsaw Pact air defense warning network.

Naval Forces

Naval forces, with only about 7,000 men, constitute less than 5 percent of the armed forces' personnel strength. They man a variety of vessels, however, including escort ships, patrol boats, torpedo boats, two submarines, and miscellaneous supply and service vessels. They also include a contingent of naval infantry, or marines. Some of the smaller craft make up a Danube River flotilla. Other than the torpedo- and missile-carrying patrol boats, the major offensive strength consists of the submarines, which are Soviet-built W-class medium boats, and about twenty landing craft. All of the larger vessels built since World War II have been Soviet built or designed.

Although the naval mission includes tasks confined to the portion of the Black Sea near Bulgaria's coastline, a few fleet units have joined the Soviet fleet for maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea, and the naval cadet training ship sails any of the high seas. For example, it visited Cuba on its 1972 summer cruise.


Bulgaria joined the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Albania in bilateral treaties of friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance during the early post-World War II period and added another with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) a few years later. This group became the tighter and more formal Warsaw Pact military alliance in 1955. Albania dissociated itself from the pact in the early 1960s, and its treaties with Bulgaria and the other members have not been renewed since then. Bulgaria's treaties with the remainder of the original allies have been renewed regularly and are the cause for official observances each year on their anniversary dates.

Although Bulgaria may be the most loyal and reliable of the Soviet Union's allies, military cooperation between the two countries is limited by their geographical separation. Even if Romania were to permit Bulgaria's forces to cross its territory in order to participate in Warsaw Pact training, it is probable that Bulgaria's role in a future European war would be limited to southeastern Europe, an area that would be of less immediate concern at the outset of a war between the Warsaw Pact members and NATO. In any event, air and sea transport is in limited supply and is not used for the delivery of large numbers of Bulgarian troops to exercises in an area where they probably would not be employed. As a consequence, Bulgaria sends only token forces and observers to the larger pact exercises.

Bulgaria is not a warm proponent of ideological coexistence but is strongly in favor of arms reductions and limitations on future weapons. It was a member of a United Nations disarmament committee in the early 1970s, and much space in the printed media is devoted to support of proposals for restricting deployment and use of nuclear weapons in certain areas.



Interpolations of the United Nations estimate of the country's 1973 population indicate that there were about 2.3 million males in the fifteen- to forty-nine-year age-group, which Bulgarian authorities consider military age. There were also about 70,000 in the annual groups that were reaching the draft age of nineteen each year. Those conscripted serve two- or three-year duty tours. The basic ground force tour is two years; that of special units and air and naval forces is three years.

Approximately 70 percent of the military age groups, or 1.6 million males, are considered physically and otherwise fit for military duty. Any number of them could be called up in the event of an emergency requiring total mobilization, but it is likely that many of the group would be occupying positions having higher priority than basic military [Pg 293]duty. A somewhat larger proportion, or about 75 percent, of the nineteen-year-olds are in satisfactory physical condition. Most of them are drafted; a turnover of one-third of the 150,000-man regular armed forces each year would require nearly all of the group. Because there is very little room for flexibility, a young man's education is interrupted unless he was actually enrolled in a university or college before he reached the age of eighteen. In this case he continues his education but serves his military obligation upon completion of his education. Occupational deferments were eliminated by law in 1970, and other deferments are given infrequently and reluctantly. Young men unfit for military duty or for work in the Construction Troops, but who are fit to earn a living in some other work, pay a military tax (see ch. 15).

Those who have had military service and who have not reached the age of fifty are considered reserves. Officers remain in the reserve until the age of sixty. Various factors—primarily occupational situations, physical condition, and lack of reserve training—operate to erode this force, and those considered useful, or trained, reserves constitute one-half or less of the group. Most of the some 250,000 men released in the latest five-year period, however, are available, physically fit, and familiar with the weapons and equipment in use by the armed forces.


In common with its Warsaw Pact allies, Bulgaria uses equipment that is produced or designed in the Soviet Union or that is compatible with Soviet designs. The training program is patterned after that of the Soviet army because the Soviet equipment dictates the training required to maintain and operate it, and joint maneuvers participated in by any or all of the pact forces make it necessary to employ standard procedures and tactics.

The program is carried on in an annual cycle. Immediately after induction a conscript's time is spent in so-called individual or basic training. Physical exercise is rigorous, and the soldier is initiated into the care and use of individual weapons, military drill, and the various aspects of military existence with which he had not been familiar and to which he must learn to adjust. He also learns individual actions that may become necessary in group or combat situations, ranging from personal combat techniques to first aid treatment for battle wounds or exposure to gas or nuclear radiation.

As the cycle progresses, the individual usually becomes part of a crew manning a larger weapon or a more complex piece of equipment. When the crew knows its equipment, it then becomes involved in exercises of increasing size, in which it learns to employ weapons and equipment in coordination with other systems. The training cycle culminates in late summer or autumn with the largest of the year's maneuvers. Although the more important Warsaw Pact maneuvers have been held in the [Pg 294]northern group of Eastern European countries, smaller exercises are held in Bulgaria and are occasionally participated in by visiting Soviet or Romanian forces.

Air defense crews with small-caliber antiaircraft guns and tracking radar practice in conjunction with the early warning network and air defense communications. After target identification they practice holding their weapons on the aircraft by radar or visual sighting. Target aircraft average about 450 miles per hour and fly just above the treetops.

Ground forces train with a wide variety of weapons and in many situations, but they claim special capabilities and excellence in mountain and winter exercises. These maneuvers are scheduled to exploit the long winter nights and fog, snow, or blizzard conditions to teach troops how to achieve surprise in encircling movements. Troops exercising in the snow are provided a white outergarment for camouflage.

Combined arms exercises are held when all support units are engaged in supporting offensive operations led by tank and motorized rifle groups. In such exercises the equipment is used as realistically as possible, with blank ammunition and training grenades. Ultra-shortwave communication equipment, whose normal fifty- to sixty-mile range would suffice more than adequately in small maneuver areas, is relayed over long distances to simulate a more typical combat situation.

Political education is the responsibility of a main administration of the Ministry of National Defense and has status on a par with the other most important ministry functions. The administration states its mission as "cultivating moral-political and combat virtues that train men and units for skillful and selfless action under the conditions of modern warfare." Its leaders stress the point that, although large forces and massive firepower are employed in modern combat, the complexity and use of weapons is such that individual initiative is increasingly important. A small group left alone to employ a highly complex weapon must be able to make decisions and must be motivated to do the best that is possible under any kind of unpleasant circumstances.

Political indoctrination is also aimed at combating potentially subversive elements. Political instructors urge stronger "ideological vigilance" and act to counter the influences of, for example, Western radio stations.

Schools and the Komsomol, with the various youth clubs and organizations that it sponsors, are charged with preparing predraft-age youths for military service. A preliminary training program was reorganized and revitalized in 1968. National leaders had noted that the physical condition of the average conscript was becoming less satisfactory each year and that the idea of serving in the armed forces appeared to be meeting with resistance from a small but increasing number of youths. They also were aware that juvenile crime was increasing. [Pg 295]Sensing that poor physical fitness, a reluctance to perform military duty, and increasing crime could be related and have common causes, they attributed much of the problem to a change in youth attitudes. Political indoctrination and ideological subjects, presented in an attempt to encourage a more proper attitude are, therefore, given highest priorities in the new program.

The formal portion of the program initiated in 1968 consists of a schedule of premilitary training, obligatory for all young men and women between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Facilities for it were made available in schools for those who were students and at cooperative farms, enterprises, or anywhere that groups of working youths were employed. Young army officers on active duty and reserve officers in the local area were made available for classroom and field instruction.

The party's Politburo issued a statement in March 1971 to the effect that the Komsomol had successfully organized the required program. It cited statistics on recreational facilities, among which were camps that were preparing to accept 125,000 boys and girls for that summer. Camp programs feature political instruction, physical training, sports activities, military field training, and a wide variety of specialized subjects. Other Komsomol cells sponsor aero clubs for those interested in air force service and rowing, sailing, and diving clubs for those interested in the navy. Radio communication, vehicle driving, marksmanship, and many other subjects are sponsored at year-round classes in local areas.

Other than preinduction orientation, conscripts get their basic training, weapons and skills specialization, and combat training while in the service. Noncommissioned officers may also come up from the ranks and be prepared for better positions at in-service schools, but they may also attend special schools and enter regular military units for the first time with a noncommissioned officer grade. Noncommissioned officer secondary schools were provided for in a 1971 law. The schools were to be available to acceptable applicants who had completed the eighth grade and were seventeen years of age or younger. The courses would last a minimum of three years, during which students would be considered to be on active military duty and after which graduates could continue in the service as noncommissioned officers. If an individual did not go on with a military career, he would be credited with a completed secondary school education and also with the completion of his regular required military service. Under any but exceptional circumstances, however, graduates would be obligated to serve in the armed forces for at least ten more years.

Cadet programs in several university-level higher military schools provide officers for the services. Applicants to these schools must have completed secondary school, be active members of the Komsomol, and indicate an intention that, upon graduation, they would accept appointment to serve in one of the armed services. They must also be single, in [Pg 296]excellent physical condition, and under twenty-four years of age. Many apply during their tours of conscript service but are accepted only if they have the prerequisite educational qualifications.

Line officers for infantry or armored units and logistics officers have four-year courses. Engineer, signal, transportation, artillery, electronics, and other technical specialties are five-year courses, as are those that fit candidates for air and naval careers. The men are commissioned in a common ceremony shortly after they have graduated.

Morale and Conditions of Service

The basic ingredients of good morale are present in good measure in Bulgaria's armed forces. The vast majority of the troops believe in their overall mission, take their obligation for granted, enjoy a respected status, and receive valuable training. The country's principal ally, the Soviet Union, is a long-standing friend and is held in high esteem. Greece and Turkey, the countries that the men are taught to expect to fight, are traditional enemies; so also is Yugoslavia.

In addition to being obligatory, military service is nearly universal, and it is difficult to evade. Service life is extolled in the media, and no widespread criticism, either of the forces as a whole or of individuals as servicemen, is aired. Military experience provides vocational training, much of which is beneficial to the individual and to the national economy.

Special social benefits are available to the forces' personnel. If their service results in unusual hardships for their dependents, the families are given extra consideration. Monthly benefit payments to wives or parents experiencing financial problems exceed those to nonmilitary families by 30 percent. Wives who remain behind get preferential treatment for prenatal or child care or while job hunting. As the men come to the end of their duty tours, they are assisted in their transition to civilian life, in their search for educational opportunities, or in job placement. If disabled in the service, a veteran gets a pension that is more liberal than usual for the same disability acquired elsewhere and continuing assistance that includes free transportation on public transport as well as medical treatment and care of such things as orthopedic apparatus.


The medical service provides treatment and preventive medicine for military personnel and, in certain circumstances, for dependents and for persons employed by the military. Its services are also available to the public at large during individual emergencies, if they are the most immediately available, and on a larger scale during epidemics or natural disasters. Military personnel may also avail themselves of emergency facilities in nonmilitary hospitals or clinics.

Since about 1960 the medical service has been upgraded in several [Pg 297]major respects. That year saw the formation of a higher military medical institute, located on the site of the army's general hospital, for advanced, specialized training of physicians. In addition to providing better training for military doctors, the objective was to establish a research center for in-depth study of the special military aspects of medical science. A more pragmatic objective was to initiate long-overdue improvement in medical services for the armed forces. In its first ten years the institute gave advanced instruction to 6,500 medical personnel and an additional specialty to some 200 medical officers.

After the formation of the higher medical institute, the medical services were given considerably broader authority over sanitation and hygienic conditions throughout the military establishment. They determine standards to be maintained and make inspections of living quarters, food services, water supplies, bathing and laundry facilities, and training and recreational areas; they give instruction in personal and group hygiene. They also participate in the planning and design of new barracks and any other buildings where troops work or train.

Appropriate to the enhanced status and authority of the medical service, its section of the ministry was upgraded and has become one of the dozen more important branches under the minister of national defense. Its chief has been a doctor, the only major staff member who has been neither a general officer of one of the armed services nor a high-ranking party official.

Military Justice

Military courts, or tribunals, are special courts but are part of the national judicial system and subject to the same codes as are the civilian courts. In the same kind of relationship, military crimes are a special category of crime but are listed within the overall Bulgarian criminal code. The separation of military justice from the rest of the judicial machinery is almost complete, however, although jurisdiction in a criminal situation could be in question and, in its early treatment, a case could be transferred from the jurisdiction of a military to a civil court or vice versa. Once tried before a military tribunal, the proceedings and sentence of a trial might be reviewed by a higher military court or might go to the Supreme Court, but it would be extremely rare for a case to be reviewed by a civil court. Within the Supreme Court a review would be accomplished only by a military panel of that court.

Military crimes are those committed on military installations or those that relate to the performance of military duty, to military property or personnel, to military honor, or to certain aspects of national security. Servicemen of all ranks, military reserves during their training or whenever they are under military control, personnel of the police or any of the other militarized security units, or any other persons involved in military crimes are liable to military justice. [Pg 298]In general, sentences for military crimes are more severe than for equivalent crimes tried before civilian courts. For example, failing to carry out the order of a superior is punishable by up to two years' deprivation of freedom, and conviction for "clearly indicating dissatisfaction with an instruction" can result in a year's confinement. On the other hand, in many such crimes the perpetrator's fate is subject to the discretion of his commander. If the commander determines that the offense does not "substantially affect military discipline," he may administer some lesser punishment without a trial, or he may refer the case to a Komsomol or party cell in his unit and allow it to take whatever action it sees fit. In times of war or under combat conditions possible sentences are much more severe, and the death penalty may be handed down for many more crimes.


Bulgaria's armed forces cost the country considerably less per man than do those of its allies, and the amount spent on equipment and maintenance is relatively austere. This is also indicated by the composition of its forces, in which all armored units, for example, are of less than division strength.

Nearly all heavier and more complex items of military hardware are produced in the Soviet Union, and Bulgaria receives only those items that are being replaced in the Soviet forces' inventory or that have been produced in quantities greater than needed in Soviet units. Older equipment, however, is seldom retained after it has become obsolete. Armies engaged in combined operations must have compatible equipment, and maintaining supply channels required for indefinite maintenance of old items can become more costly than replacing them.

Each of the Warsaw Pact allies produces ammunition, small arms, some vehicles, and spare parts for a portion of its matériel that was originally produced elsewhere. Bulgaria, with its less developed industrial base, produces a relatively small amount of military equipment locally. In order to preserve items on hand, much of the training schedule is devoted to proper storage and handling of equipment. Because the standard of living in the country is low, most of the troops are familiar with few luxuries and get along with fewer nonessentials than do the forces of its more relatively affluent allies.

Ranks, Uniforms, and Decorations

Ground and air forces use the same system of ranks although, at least during peacetime, the four-star army general rank has no equivalent in the air or naval forces. Below the army general there are three general grade, three field grade, and four company grade officer ranks. In descending order the general grades are colonel general, lieutenant general, and major general; the field grades are colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major; and the company grades are captain, senior [Pg 299]lieutenant, lieutenant, and junior lieutenant. Naval officer ranks include three admiral, four captain, and three lieutenant grades. The ground and air forces have six enlisted grades: four sergeant and two private. The naval forces have equivalent petty officer and seaman grades.

According to military spokesmen there has been a continuing program to improve uniforms since about 1958, when the forces began to replace Soviet World War II styles with locally designed and manufactured models. Most of the changes adopted since the original change-over have consisted of improvements in the materials used and increasing the number of clothing items issued to each man. Until the early 1960s, for example, the same uniform was used by several classes of draftees. Each draftee now receives a complete new issue and receives new trousers and footwear each year.

New styles, several including changes in materials and minor changes in color, were shown and tested in 1970. Issue of the newer varieties to the forces was begun in 1972. Most changes involved tailoring details and the use of more wrinkle-resistant and lighter, tighter woven cloth. The aim has been to improve the appearance of the men with as little as possible sacrifice in long-wearing qualities.

Officers continue to wear a service uniform consisting of a tailored blouse with patch pockets and trousers that tuck into high boots. A Sam Browne belt and sidearms are optional. The styles introduced in the early 1970s have a vent in the blouse to make it fit in a better tailored fashion, and they are a lighter green than their predecessors. Ground forces have stripes and piping on caps and rank insignia that vary in color to identify their branch of service (armored forces, infantry, transport, engineer, and others). The enlisted men's uniform is similar in design but has different quality material and less ornate trim. Air forces have the same uniforms but may be identified by their blue stripes and piping. Naval personnel wear the traditional navy blues and whites.

Rank insignia on the uniforms seen most frequently consists of stars or stripes on shoulder boards. Officer ranks are identified by varying numbers of stars. The boards themselves become progressively more ornate with higher rank. Those of the company grades are relatively plain; those of the generals are highly ornate. Enlisted grades are shown by stripes. Privates have none, their shoulder boards are plain; and the number and width of the stripes increase with promotion to higher grades.

Decorations and medals are awarded profusely, and most of them are ornate and colorful. The highest ranking and most respected, however, is a simple gold star, which identifies its recipient as a Hero of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. The Order of Georgi Dimitrov and the newer Stara Planina medal, which has been declared equal to the former in seniority, are the next most important. These three most highly cherished decorations are awarded in only one class each. The [Pg 300]highest of the orders that are presented in several classes are the Order of the People's Republic of Bulgaria and the Madarski Konnik medal, which are equal in seniority. They are awarded in three and two classes, respectively.


Bulgaria's gross national product (GNP) is only about one-third the average of the other Warsaw Pact allies, and during the late 1960s and early 1970s Bulgaria spent a smaller proportion of its GNP on defense than did any of its allies. Although its 1973 estimated population was less than one-half the average of its allies, it maintained about five-sixths as many men in its regular forces. On the surface, therefore, it would appear that the armed forces were a less-than-average financial burden but a greater-than-average manpower burden.

The appearances may be misleading to some degree. The country has been the slowest of the pact nations to industrialize, and its standard of living has been the lowest. It is probably, therefore, less able to afford its relatively moderate defense costs. Its labor force is large enough for the level of the country's industrialization, but there is a shortage of skilled workers. The training and experience that young men receive in the armed forces broaden their familiarity with complex mechanical and electronic equipment and provide many of them with skills that are of value to the national economy. The regime also considers that the disciplinary habits and the political orientation acquired in military service are of positive social value, outweighing the time that young men are withheld from the labor force.

When extraordinary measures are required in an emergency situation—such as during the 1972 drought—the armed forces are able to provide a mass labor force and to contribute the use of a considerable amount of heavy mechanical equipment. In 1972 force units were called upon to get maximum efficiency from irrigation systems and to add to the sources of irrigation water whenever possible. Military units also do field work on public projects. They are encouraged to contribute the days before public holidays, the holidays themselves, and other time that does not interfere with training schedules.

[Pg 301]


Section I. Social

ABC World Airways Guide, CDLV, May 1972, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, England: ABC Travel Guides.

Anderson, Raymond H. "Bulgarians Like Zip in Wash Cycle," New York Times, May 21, 1973, 7.

Apanasewicz, Nellie, and Rosen, Seymour M. Studies in Comparative Education. (OE-14115.) Washington: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, 1965.

Baldwin, Godfrey (ed.). International Population Reports. (U.S. Department of Commerce, Series P-91, No. 18.) Washington: GPO, 1969.

"Big Prospects for Education," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XX, No. 8, August 1971, 6.

Blumenfeld, Yorick. Seesaw: Cultural Life in Eastern Europe. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968.

Brown, James F. Bulgaria Under Communist Rule. New York: Praeger, 1970.

Bulgaria. State Information Office with the Council of Ministers. Statistical Pocket Book 1970. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1970.

"Bulgaria: History." Pages 385-400 in Encyclopaedia Britannica, IV. Chicago: William Benton, 1969.

"Bulgaria." Pages 41-50 in Moshe Sachs (ed.), Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, V: Europe. New York: Harper and Row, 1967.

"Bulgaria." Pages 225-233 in World Survey of Education, V. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1971.

"The Buyers' Market," East Europe, XIV, No. 2, February 1965, 11-14.

Carver, Elena Borikova. Bulgarian Folk Tales. New York: n. pub., 1964.

Cary, William. Bulgaria Today. New York: Exposition Press, 1965.

Davis, Fitzroy. "Bulgarian Filmmakers: Looking for a Place in the Cinematic Sun," East Europe, XX, No. 3, March 1971, 29-35.

Dellin, L. A. D. (ed.) Bulgaria: East-Central Europe Under the Communists. New York: Praeger, 1957.

Egbert, Donald D. "Politics and the Arts in Communist Bulgaria," Slavic Review, XXVI, No. 2, June 1967, 204, 216.

The Europa Yearbook, 1972. London: Europa Publications, 1972.

Evans, Stanley G. A Short History of Bulgaria. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1960.

[Pg 302]Georgeoff, John. "Elementary Education in Bulgaria," School and Society, XCIV, February 5, 1966, 71-74.

Georgeoff, Peter J. The Social Education of Bulgaria Youth. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1968.

Georgiev, Emil, et al. Bulgaria's Share in Human Culture. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1968.

Grant, Nigel. "Education Reform in Bulgaria," Comparative Education, VI, No. 3, November 1970, 179-191.

——. Society, Schools and Progress in Eastern Europe. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1969.

"He Who Laughs," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XVI, No. 10, October 1967, 25-26.

Hoffman, George W. The Balkans in Transition. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1963.

——. "Transformation of Rural Settlement in Bulgaria," Geographical Review, XL, No. 1, 1964, 45-65.

Ivanov, Vicho. "Vladimir Dimitrov—The Master," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XXI, No. 5, May 1972, 20-21.

Jane's World Railways, 1968-69. (11th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969.

Jelavich, Charles, and Jelavich, Barbara (eds.). The Balkans in Transition. (Russian and East European Studies.) Berkeley, University of California Press, 1963.

Jordanov, Lyubomir, and Nikolov, Yuri. The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, A Guide. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1971.

Kaiser, Robert G., and Morgan, Dan. "Housing Blight Plagues Planners in East Europe," Washington Post, December 19, 1972, A1, A20.

Katsarova, Raina D. Dances of Bulgaria. New York: Crown, 1951.

Kossev, D.; Hristov, H.; and Angelov, D. A Short History of Bulgaria. Sofia: Foreign Languages Press, 1963.

Lauwerys, Joseph A., and Scanlon, David G. "Education in Cities," The World Year Book of Education, 1970. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1970.

Manning, Clarence A., and Smal-Stocki, Roman. The History of Modern Bulgarian Literature. New York: Bookman Associates, 1960.

Mishev, Dimitur. The Bulgarians in the Past. New York: Arno Press, 1971.

Mladenov, Lyubomir. "International Recognition," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XXI, No. 7, July 1972, 15.

Monov, Georgi. "Semi-Boarding Schools," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XX, No. 8, August 1971, 7-8.

Morgan, Dan. "Bulgaria Moving Cautiously to Better U.S. Ties." Washington Post, March 29, 1973, A15.

Moser, Charles A. A History of Bulgarian Literature 1865-1944. New York: Humanities Press, 1972.

"National Revival Architecture," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XXI, No. 7, [Pg 303]July 1972, 16-17.

"The New Architecture," East Europe, XIV, No. 4, April 1965, 7-15.

Newman, Bernard. Bulgaria Background. London: Robert Hale, 1961.

Olson, Kenneth E. The History Makers. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1966.

Oren, Nissan. Bulgarian Communism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

——. Revolution Administered: Agrarianism and Communism in Bulgaria. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.

Oshavkov, Zhivko. "Religious Belief in Bulgaria," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XVI, No. 10, October 1967, 20-22.

Parkin, Frank. Class Inequality and Political Order. New York: Praeger, 1971.

Perl, Lila. Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria. Camden: Thomas Nelson, 1970.

Petrov, Staian. The Struggle of the Bulgarian Communist Party to Organize the Social Basis of the Revolution. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1970.

Pounds, Norman J. G. Eastern Europe. Chicago: Aldine, 1969.

"The Professional Gap," East Europe, X, No. 10, October 1969, 40.

Rizov, Alexander (ed.). Bulgaria, A Survey. Sofia: Foreign Languages Press, 1965.

Rose, Harold. Your Guide to Bulgaria. London: Alvin Redman, 1964.

Rothschild, Joseph. Communist Eastern Europe. New York: Walker, 1964.

Rusinov, Spas. Bulgaria: A Survey. Sofia, Sofia Press, 1969.

Sanders, Irwin T. Balkan Village. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1949.

Schöpflin, George (ed.). The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. New York: Praeger, 1970.

Severin, R. Keith. "Bulgaria's Agricultural Economy in Brief," U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Foreign Agriculture, (ERS-Foreign 136.) September 1965, 1-11.

Sharp, Samuel L., and Fedlam, Fruzsina H. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1972. (The World Series.) Washington: Stryker-Post Publications, 1972.

Staar, Richard F. The Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe (Rev. ed.) Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971.

The Statesman's Year Book, 1972-73. (Ed., John Paxton.) London: Macmillan, St. Martin's Press, 1972, 789-797.

Statistical Yearbook, 1971. Sofia, National Information Office, 1971.

Statistical Yearbook, 1972. Sofia, National Information Office, 1972.

Stavrianos, Leften S. Balkan Federation: A History of the Movement Toward Balkan Unity in Modern Times. (Smith College Studies in History, XXVII, Nos. 1-4.) Northampton: Department of History, Smith College, 1942.

Stillman, Edmund (and the Editors of Life). The Balkans (Life World [Pg 304]Library Series.) New York: Time, 1964.

Stoyanov, Lludmil. "Poet, Humanist and Fighter," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XXI, No. 7, July 1972, 22.

Sylvester, Anthony. "The Bulgaria Paradox," East Europe, XVII, No. 1, January 1968, 15-19.

Todorov, Nikolai. "Pencho Koulekov, an Original Master of Graphic Art" Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XXI, No. 5, May 1972, 32.

UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, 1971. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1971, 59.

U.S. Department of Army. Communist Eastern Europe: Analytical Survey of Literature. (DA Pam 550-8) Washington: GPO, 1971.

U.S. Department of Commerce. Office of Technical Services. Joint Publications Research Service—JPRS (Washington). The following items are from the JPRS series Translations on Eastern Europe: Economic and Industrial Affairs.

"Analysis of Changes in Average Family Budget Made," Otechestven Front, Sofia, March 27, 1973. (JPRS 58,842, No. 874, 1973.)

"Dynamics of Personal Income Described, 1965-70," Ikonomicheski Zhivot, Sofia: December 16, 1970. (JPRS 52,476, No. 424, 1971.)

"Household Income, Consumption Statistics Given," Statistika, Sofia, No. 5, September-October 1970. (JPRS 52,106, No. 397, 1971.)

"Light Ministry Plans to Supply Lacking Goods Revealed," Otechestven Front, Sofia, May 7, 1972. (JPRS 56,742, No. 727, 1972.)

U.S. Department of Commerce. Office of Technical Services. Joint Publications Research Service—JPRS (Washington). The following items are from the JPRS series Translations on Eastern Europe: Political, Sociological, and Military Affairs.

"Admission Rules to Foreign-Language High Schools," Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, June 8, 1971. (JPRS 53,764, No. 396, 1971).

"Aspects of Standard of Living Analyzed," Statistika, Sofia, No. 3, 1969. (JPRS 48,717, No. 126, 1969).

"Caloric Intake of Blue-Collar Workers and Cooperative Farm Members," Khranitelna Promishlenost, Sofia, No. 2, 1968. (JPRS 45,795, No. 8, 1968).

"Causes for 1961-65 Infant Mortality Reviewed," Statistika, Sofia, December 1969. (JPRS 49,929, No. 187, 1970).

"Census Studies Bulgarian Educational Level," Statistika, Sofia, November-December 1968. (JPRS 47,697, No. 81, 1969).

"Class Influence on Consumption Analyzed," Ikonomicheski Zhivot, Sofia, October 10, 1968. (JPRS 46,866, No. 42, 1968).

"The Communists and the Family," Partien Zhivot, Sofia, XVI, November 1971. (JPRS: 55,275, No. 485, 1972).

"Decree on Post-Graduate Training for Specialists Issued," [Pg 305]Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, February 20, 1973. (JPRS 58,807, No. 700, 1973).

"Economics of Higher Education Reviewed," Novo Vreme, Sofia, September 1970. (JPRS 50,328, No. 280, 1970).

"Health Minister Describes Public Health Plans," Zdraven Front, Sofia, June 19, 1971. (JPRS 54,178, No. 421, 1971).

"Improvements in Standard of Living Traced," Ikonomicheski Zhivot, Sofia, November 1970. (JPRS 52,321, No. 310, 1971).

"Military Training for Secondary Students," Narodna Mladezh, Sofia, March 20, 1972. (JPRS 55,828, No. 516, 1972).

"Minister Cites Progress in Public Health Service," Khigiena i Zdraveopazvane, Sofia, No. 1, January-February 1969. (JPRS 48,333, No. 110, 1969.)

"New Model for Secondary Polytechnical School," Vecherni Novini, Sofia, January 25, 1972. (JPRS 55,447, No. 495, 1972).

"Party Policy at Center of Educational Work," Armeyski Komunist, Sofia, December 1972. (JPRS 58,368, No. 676, 1973).

"Physicians' Attitude Toward Polyclinics Surveyed," Suvremenna Meditsina, Sofia, No. 12, 1970. (JPRS 52,840, No. 337, 1971).

"Religious Survey in Plovdiv Okrug Taken," Filosofska Misul, Sofia, VI, June 1968. (JPRS 46,478, No. 30, 1968).

"Schools Experiment with New Educational Program," Zemedelsko Zname, Sofia, July 24, 1968. (JPRS 46,334, No. 25, 1968).

"School Statistics," Uchitelsko Delo, Sofia, September 7, 1971. (JPRS 54,419, No. 435, 1971).

"Serious Shortage of Medical Personnel Reported," Pogled, Sofia, July 19, 1971. (JPRS 54,004, No. 409, 1971).

"Shortages of Schoolteachers in Some Areas Noted," Trud, Sofia, August 21, 1971. (JPRS 54,094, No. 415, 1971).

"Sociological Legal Analysis of Divorce," Khigiena i Zdraveopazvane, Sofia, III, 1970. (JPRS 51,271, No. 250, 1970).

"Specialization, Training of Polyclinic Physicians Discussed," Zdraven Front, Sofia, June 12, 1971. (JPRS 53,958, No. 407, 1971).

"Statistics on Rising Living Standard Given," Naruchnik na Agitatore, Sofia, No. 24, December 1972. (JPRS 58,480, No. 851, 1973).

"Status Prospects of Medical Science Discussed," Zdraven Front, Sofia, April 24, 1971. (JPRS 53,482, No. 375, 1971).

"Study of Services in Burgas Area Reviewed," Narodni Suveti, Sofia, No. 1, 1970. (JPRS 50,150, No. 197, 1970).

U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Educational and Cultural Exchanges Between Communist and Non-Communist Countries in 1970. (Research Study RSES-34.) Washington: 1971.

U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs. Office of Media Services. "Educational and Cultural Exchange Between Communist [Pg 306]and Non-Communist Countries in 1971." (News Release.) December 8, 1972.

U.S. Department of State. Geographer. Office of Research in Economics and Science. Bulgaria-Greece Boundary. (International Boundary Study, No. 56). Washington: 1965.

Wolff, Robert Lee. The Balkans in Our Time. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.

World Christian Handbook, 1968. (Eds., H. Wakelin Coxill and Kenneth G. Grubb.) New York: Abingdon Press, 1967.

World of Learning, 1972-73. London: Europa Publications, 1973, 207-212.

World Population Data Sheet, 1972. Washington: Population Reference Bureau, 1972.

Yovkov, Yordav. Short Stories. (Trans., Monco Mincoff and Marguerite Alexieva.) Sofia: Foreign Language Press, 1965.

(Various issues of the following periodicals were also used in the preparation of this section: Bulgaria Today [Sofia], 1967-1972; and East Europe [New York], 1965-1973.)

[Pg 307]Section II. Political

Antonoff, Nicolas. The Bulgarian Crisis. New York: Mid-European Studies Center, 1953.

——. The Constitutional Evolution of Bulgaria. New York: Mid-European Studies Center, 1953.

Black, Cyril E. The Establishment of Constitutional Government in Bulgaria. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1943.

Blemenfeld, Yorick. Seesaw: Cultural Life in Eastern Europe. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968.

Bromke, Adam. "The CSCE and Eastern Europe," World Today [London], XXIX, No. 5, May 1973, 196-206.

Brown, James F. "Bulgaria." Pages 11-15 in Richard F. Staar (ed.), Yearbook on International Communist Affairs, 1973. Hoover Institution Press, 1973.

——. Bulgaria Under Communist Rule. New York: Praeger, 1970.

Bulgaria. Central Council of the Trade Unions. Bulgaria Traditions, Sofia, 1971.

Bulgaria. Laws, Statutes, etc.

Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1971.

Bulgaria. State Information Office with the Council of Ministers. Statistical Pocket Book, 1970. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1970.

"Bulgaria," East Europe, XVII, No. 2, February 1968, 25-26.

"Bulgaria: History". Pages 385-400 in Encyclopaedia Britannica, IV. Chicago: William Benton, 1969.

"Bulgaria: Introductory Survey." Pages 570-588 in The Europa Yearbook, 1972,I. London: Europa Publications, 1972.

"Bulgarian Books Abroad," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XVI, No. 10, October 1967, 10.

"Bulgarian Television," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XV, No. 2, February 1966, 36-50.

"Bulgaria." Pages 41-50 in Moshe Sachs (ed.), Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, V: Europe. New York: Harper and Row, 1967.

"Bulgaria." Pages 789-796 in Statesman's Yearbook, 1971-72. London: Macmillan, 1973.

"Bulgaria." Pages 205-206 in The World of Learning, 1972-73. London: Europa Publications, 1973.

Cary, William. Bulgaria Today. New York: Exposition Press, 1965.

Costello, Michael. "Bulgaria." Pages 135-157 in Adam Bromke and Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone (eds.), The Communist States in [Pg 308]Disarray, 1965-71. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

Davis, Fitzroy, "Bulgarian Filmmakers: Looking for a Place in the Cinematic Sun," East Europe, XX, No. 3, March 1971, 29-35.

Dellin, L. A. D. (ed.) Bulgaria: East-Central Europe Under the Communists. New York: Praeger, 1957.

Dinkova, Maria. The Social Progress of the Bulgarian Woman. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1972.

Dobrev, Georgi Mihailov. "Library Organization in Bulgaria," UNESCO Bulletin for Libraries, IX, No. 8-9, August-September 1955, 161-164.

Editor and Publisher International Year Book, 1972. New York: Editor and Publisher, 1971.

"Exposing the 'Pseudo-Marxists'," East Europe, XVIII, No. 7, July 1969, 29-30.

Feron, James. "Ideology on Decline in Eastern Europe," New York Times, March 22, 1973, A-15.

Fischer, Lewis A. "COMECON and the Brezhnev Doctrine," East Europe, XXI, No. 10, October 1972, 4-7.

Georgeoff, Peter J. The Social Education of Bulgarian Youth. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1968.

Gloghinski, Bogdan (ed.). Meet Bulgaria and Its Trade Unions. (Trans., Petko Drenkov, et al.) Sofia: Profizdat, 1966.

Gsovski, V. (ed.) "Bulgaria: Motion Pictures Under New Regulations," Highlights of Current Legislation and Activities in Mid-Europe, II, No. 3, March 1, 1954, 55-60.

Gyorgy, Andrew. "External Forces in Europe." Pages 221-235 in Adam Bromke and Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone (eds.), The Communist States in Disarray 1965-71. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

Kane, Robert S. Eastern Europe: A to Z. New York: Doubleday, 1968.

Karadelkov, Petko. "The Fires of Mount Bouzloudja," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XX, No. 8, August 1971, 3-4.

——. "The Founders of the Bulgarian Communist Party," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XX, No. 8, August 1971, 2.

Kharalampi, Georgiev H. The Bulgarian Agrarian Union: Seventy Years Since the Foundation. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1970.

Koritarova, Roza. "The Role and the Position of Trade Unions in the System of Social Administration at the Contemporary Stage: A Report." (A report delivered by Roza Koritarova, President of the Central Council of the Trade Unions at the Tenth Plenum of the Central Council of the Bulgarian Trade Unions.) Sofia: Profizdat, 1969.

Kraus, Wolfgang. "Is Bulgaria Closing the Gap?" East Europe, XV, No. 4, April 1966, 2-11.

Larabee, F. Stephen. "Bulgaria's Politics of Conformity," Problems of Communism, XXI, No. 4, February 20, 1972, 42-53.

[Pg 309]Lauwerys, Joseph A., and Scanlon, David G. "Education in Cities," The World Year Book of Education, 1970. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1970.

"Liberals Under Fire," East Europe, XXI, No. 5, May 1972, 35.

Morgan, Dan. "Bulgaria Moving Cautiously to Better U.S. Ties," Washington Post, March 29, 1973, A15.

Mossechkov, Nedyalko. "University Library," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], X, No. 7, July 1961, 25-26.

Newman, Bernard. Bulgarian Background. London: Robert Hale, 1961.

Olson, Kenneth E. The History Makers. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1966.

Oren, Nissan. Revolution Administered: Agrarianism and Communism in Bulgaria. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.

Ostoich, Peter D. The Bulgarian Communist Party—Builder of a People's Democratic State. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1970.

Perl, Lila. Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria. Camden: Thomas Nelson, 1970.

Popoff, Emil. "Bulgaria's Young: The Silent Nihilists," East Europe, XVII, No. 7, July 1968, 7-11.

Rakowska-Harmstone, Teresa. "Patterns of Political Change." Pages 323-347 in Adam Bromke, and Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone (eds.), The Communist States in Disarray, 1965-71. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

Rothschild, Joseph. Communist Eastern Europe. New York: Walker, 1964.

——. The Communist Party of Bulgaria: Origins and Development, 1883-1936. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.

Rusinov, Spas. Bulgaria: A Survey. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1969.

Schöpflin, George (ed.). The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. New York: Praeger, 1970.

Sharp, Samuel L., and Fedlam, Fruzsina H. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1972. (The World Series.) Washington: Stryker-Post Publications, 1972.

Sokolski, Alexander. "A Glance at the New Bulgarian Films," Bulgaria Today [Sofia], XXI, No. 7, July 1972, 28-29.

Staar, Richard F. The Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967.

——. The Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe. (Rev. ed.) Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971.

The Statesman's Year Book, 1972-73. (Ed., John Paxton.) London: Macmillan, St. Martin's Press, 1972, 789-797.

Statistical Yearbook, 1972. Sofia, National Information Office, 1972.

Stavrianos, Leften S. Balkan Federation: A History of the Movement Toward Balkan Unity in Modern Times. (Smith College Studies in History XXVII, Nos. 1-4.) Northampton: Department of History, Smith College, 1942.

[Pg 310]Sylvester, Anthony. "The Bulgarian Paradox," East Europe, XVII, No. 1, January 1968, 15-19.

"Television in Eastern Europe," East Europe, XV, No. 4, April 1966, 12-15.

Toma, Peter A. (ed.) The Changing Face of Communism in Eastern Europe. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1970.

Triska, Jan F. (ed.) Constitutions of the Communist Party-States. Stanford: Hoover Institution, 1968.

United Nations. "Delegations to the General Assembly and the Councils Delegations to the Twenty-fifth Session of the General Assembly 15 September-17 December 1970." Page 1083 in Yearbook of the United Nations, 1970. New York: U.N. Office of Information, 1972.

UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, 1971. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1972, 700-731.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. World Communications: Press, Radio, Television, Film. (4th ed.) New York: UNESCO, 1964.

United Nations. Office of Public Information. Press Section. "United Nations Bodies and Their Membership, 1972." (Press Release ORG/ 713.) May 1, 1972, 1-58.

U.S. Department of the Army. Communist Eastern Europe: Analytical Survey of Literature. (DA PAM 550-8.) Washington: GPO, 1971.

U.S. Department of Commerce. Office of Technical Services. Joint Publications Research Service—JPRS (Washington). The following items are from the JPRS series Translations on Eastern Europe: Political, Sociological, and Military Affairs.

"Aspects of New Constitution Interpreted," Novo Vreme, Sofia, January 1969, 1. (JPRS: 47,959, No. 93, 1969).

"Attention Called to Problems of Working Women," Trud, Sofia, March 14, 1972. (JPRS 55,798, No. 514, 1972).

"BCP Greetings Message Outlines Tasks of Bulgarian Propaganda," Sofia, December 3, 1971. (Speech by Georgi Bokov recorded on Sofia Radio.) (JPRS 54,763, No. 458, December 22, 1971).

"Book Publication Circumstances Criticized," Partien Zhivot, Sofia, II, February 1970. (JPRS 50,510, No. 197, March 25, 1970).

"Communist Party Courts Full Support of KOMSOMOL," Rabotnichesko Delo, Sofia, March 27, 1971. (JPRS 52,862, No. 339, 1971).

"Constitutional Problems of People's Councils Viewed," Narodni Suveti, Sofia, No. 4, 1971. (JPRS: 54,667, No. 388, 1971).

"Control Committee Scores Serious Lack of Textbooks," Otechestven Front, Sofia, August 1, 1970. (JPRS 51,187, No. 246, August 18, 1970).

"Czechoslovak Normalization Process Discussed," Literaturen Front, Sofia, No. 39, September 19, 1968. (JPRS 46,866, No. 42, [Pg 311]November 14, 1968).

"Development of TV Relay Station Network Discussed," Radio i Televiziya Sofia, No. 11, 1969. (JPRS 50,112, No. 268, March 20, 1970).

"The Effectiveness of Ideological Propaganda at the Contemporary Stage," Politichecka Prosveta, Sofia, July 1972. (JPRS 57,025, No. 592, 1972).

"Facts, Figures on Printed Broadcast Media Published," Rabotnichesko Delo, Sofia, November 25, 1971. (JPRS 54,716, No. 456, December 16, 1971).

"Further Upgrading of Role of Fatherland Front," Novo Vreme, Sofia, No. 7, July 1970. (JPRS 51,271, No. 250, 1970).

"Greater Role Urged for People's Councils," Otechestven Front, Sofia, August 10, 1972. (JPRS: 57,149, No. 600, 1972).

"Ideological Peaceful Coexistence Criticized," Literaturen Front, Sofia, April 18, 1968. (JPRS 45,428, No. 346, May 17, 1968).

"Importance of Leading Role of Party Emphasized," Politicheska Prosveta, Sofia, December 1970. (JPRS 52,298, No. 309, 1971).

"Improvement in Construction Troops Work Urged," Trudovo Delo, Sofia, January 23, 1973. (JPRS 58,600, No. 690, 1973).

"Increased National Assembly Role Foreseen," Pravna Misul, Sofia, No. 2, 1971. (JPRS: 53,656, No. 387, 1971).

"Medicosocial Problems of the Antialcoholism Campaign," Nevrologiya Psikhiatriya i Nevrokhirurgiya, Sofia, XI, No. 2, 1972. (JPRS 56,973, No. 589, September 7, 1972).

"Military Training for Secondary Students," Narodna Mladezh, Sofia, March 20, 1972. (JPRS 55,828, No. 516, 1972).

"Minister Stoilov's Keynote Address at World Conference on Pollution," BTA, Sofia, April 27, 1972. (JPRS 55,907, No. 520, May 5, 1972).

"National Conference on Party Propaganda Reviewed," Politicheska Prosveta, Sofia, No. 5, May 1970. (JPRS 50,880, No. 233, 1970).

"New Television Studio Opens in Ruse," Zemedelsko Zname, Sofia, November 6, 1972. (JPRS 57,590, No. 631, November 24, 1972).

"The Obshtina Party Committees and Organizations—Political Leaderships," Partien Zhivot, Sofia, No. 18, December 1968. (JPRS 47,447, No. 69, 1969).

"Party Application of Democratic Centralism Discussed," Partien Zhivot, Sofia, No. 8, June 1970. (JPRS 51,534, No. 257, 1970).

"Party Guidance of the Fatherland Front," Partien Zhivot, Sofia, No. 9, 1972. (JPRS 57,109, No. 598, 1972).

"Patriotism and Internationalism Defined," Trudovo Delo, Sofia, April 16, 1969. (JPRS 48,138, No. 100, 1969).

"Political Knowledge of Working People Analyzed," Partien [Pg 312]Zhivot, Sofia, February 1972. (JPRS: 56,081, No. 530, 1972).

"Qualifications for Party Membership Analyzed," Novo Vreme, Sofia, April 1969. (JPRS 48,428, No. 114, 1969).

"Radio, TV Development, Progress Viewed," Transporten Glas, Sofia, April 7, 1971. (JPRS 53,205, No. 471, May 24, 1971).

"Special TV Program for Tourists Inaugurated," Otechestven Front, Sofia, July 30, 1972. (JPRS 56,813, No. 579, August 18, 1972).

"State Council Formation Discussed," Pravna Misul, Sofia, No. 2, 1971. (JPRS 53,656, No. 387, 1971).

"Strengthening of Contemporary Ideological Struggle Needed," Rabotnichesko Delo, Sofia, August 4, 1972. (JPRS 56,851, No. 582, August 23, 1972).

"Study of Religiousness of Socialist Society Made," Politicheska Prosveta, Sofia, No. 10. (JPRS 47,047, No. 52, December 10, 1968).

"Twenty-Five Years of Publishing Reviewed," Bulgarski Knigi, Sofia, September 1969. (JPRS 49,166, No. 152, October 30, 1969).

"Youth Warned Against Western Psychological Warfare," Mladezh, Sofia, No. I, January 1973. (JPRS 58,807, No. 700, April 19, 1973).

U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Intelligence and Research. "Bulgaria." Pages 61-63 in World Strength of the Communist Party Organization, (23rd annual edition.) Washington: GPO, 1971.

U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Public Affairs. Office of Media Services. "Educational and Cultural Exchange Between Communist and Non-Communist Countries in 1971." (News Release.) December 8, 1972.

Verin, Velko. "Getting Into Print in Bulgaria," East Europe, XVIII, No. 1, January 1969, 22-24.

Women in the People's Republic of Bulgaria. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1971.

World Radio-TV Handbook, 1973. (Ed., J.M. Frost.) Hvidovre: World Radio-TV Handbook, 1973.

"Youth Time" East Europe, XXI, No. 10, October 1972, 23-24.

[Pg 313]Section III. Economic

Alton, Thad P. "Economic Structure and Growth in Eastern Europe." In U.S. Congress. 91st, 2d session. Joint Economic Committee. Economic Development in Countries of Eastern Europe. Washington: GPO, 1970.

Costello, Michael. "Bulgaria." Pages 135-157 in Adam Bromke, and Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone (eds.), Communist States in Disarray, 1965-1971. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

Dellin, L. A. D. (ed.) Bulgaria: East-Central Europe Under the Communists. New York: Praeger, 1957.

Dobrin, Boguslav. Bulgarian Economic Development Since World War II. New York: Praeger, 1973.

Koleva, M. "Size, Structure and Efficiency of Production Funds Invested in Dairy Cattle Breeding." Ikonomika Selskoto Stopanstvo [Sofia], August 1971, 71-83.

Narodna Respublika Bulgariya. Tsentralno Statistichesko Upravlenie pri Ministerskiya Suvet. Statisticheski Godishnik na Narodna Respublika Bulgariya, 1963. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1963.

——. Tsentralno Statistichesko Upravlenie pri Ministerskiya Suvet. Statisticheski Godishnik na Narodna Respublika Bulgariya, 1966. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1966.

——. Tsentralno Statistichesko Upravlenie pri Ministerskiya Suvet. Statisticheski Godishnik na Narodna Respublika Bulgariya, 1968. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1968.

——. Tsentralno Statistichesko Upravlenie pri Ministerskiya Suvet. Statisticheski Godishnik na Narodna Respublika Bulgariya, 1971. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1971.

——. Tsentralno Statistichesko Upravlenie pri Ministerskiya Suvet. Statisticheski Godishnik na Narodna Respublika Bulgariya, 1972. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1972.

Osborne, R. H. East-Central Europe. New York: Praeger, 1967.

Pick, Franz. Pick's Currency Yearbook, 1972. New York: Pick Publication, 1972.

Pounds, Norman J. G. Eastern Europe. Chicago: Aldine, 1969.

Rusinov, Spas. Bulgaria: A Survey. Sofia, Sofia Press, 1969.

Selucky, Radoslav. Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe. New York: Praeger, 1972.

Starodubrovskaya, V. N. Kooperativnaya sobstvennost v selskom khozyastve sotsialisticheskikh stran. Moscow: Nauka, 1970.

Statistical Yearbook, 1971. National Information Office, Sofia, 1971.

[Pg 314]Statistical Yearbook, 1972. National Information Office, Sofia, 1972.

Statisticheskii Ezhegodnik, 1971. Moscow: Tipografiia Sekretariata SEV, 1971.

U.S. Congress. 91st, 2d Session. Joint Economic Committee. Economic Developments in Countries of Eastern Europe. Washington: GPO, 1970.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service. The Agricultural Economy and Trade of Bulgaria. (Bulletin ERS-Foreign 256.) Washington: GPO, February 1969.

U.S. Department of the Interior. Bureau of Mines. "The Mineral Industry of Bulgaria." Washington: GPO, n.d. (Preprint from 1971 Bureau of Mines Minerals Yearbook.)

Wilczynski, J. Socialist Economic Development and Reforms. New York: Praeger, 1972.

Yearbook of National Account Statistics, 1971. New York: United Nations, 1973.

[Pg 315]Section IV. National Security

Baldwin, Godfrey (ed.). International Population Reports. (U.S. Department of Commerce, Series p-91, No. 18.) Washington: GPO, 1969.

Bulgaria. State Information Office with the Council of Ministers. Statistical Pocket Book 1970. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1970.

Cary, William. Bulgaria Today. New York: Exposition Press, 1965.

Dellin, L. A. D. (ed.) Bulgaria: East-Central Europe Under the Communists. New York: Praeger, 1957.

The Military Balance, 1972-73. London: Institute for Strategic Studies, 1972.

Newman, Bernard. Bulgarian Background. London: Robert Hale, 1961.

Oren, Nissan. Bulgarian Communism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Perl, Lila. Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria. Camden: Thomas Nelson, 1970.

Popoff, Emil. "Bulgaria's Young: The Silent Nihilists," East Europe, XVII, No. 7, July 1968, 7-11.

Pounds, Norman J. G. Eastern Europe. Chicago: Aldine, 1969.

Rothschild, Joseph. Communist Eastern Europe. New York: Walker, 1964.

U.S. Department of Commerce. Office of Technical Services. Joint Publications Research Service—JPRS (Washington). The following items are from the JPRS series Translations on Eastern Europe: Political, Sociological, and Military Affairs.

"Bulgarian Criminal Code," Sbornik postanovleniya i razporezhdaniya na Ministerskiya suvet na NRB, Sofia, May 1968. (JPRS: 45,757, No. 5, 1968).

"Bulgarian Customs Operations," Otechestven Front, Sofia, 1971, (JPRS: 55,110, No. 475, 1972).

"Civil Defense Plans and Tasks," Narodna Armiya, Sofia, February 21, 1972. (JPRS: 58,495, No. 685, 1973).

"Crime Treatment in Socialist Society," Filosofska Misul, Sofia, 1971. (JPRS: 53,920, No. 405, 1971).

"Execution of Court Sentences," Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, April 15, 1969. (JPRS: 48,065, No. 98, 1969).

"History of Military Medical Institute," Voenno Meditsinsko Delo, Sofia, No. 5, 1970. (JPRS: 52,242, No. 308, 1971).

"Intermediate-Level Service School Entrance Exams," Trudovo Delo, Sofia, May 12, 1970. (JPRS: 50,783, No. 228, 1970).

[Pg 316]"Internment Without Deprivation of Liberty," Pravna Misul, Sofia, 1971. (JPRS: 56,452, No. 550, 1972).

"Law Governing Stay of Foreigners in Belgium," Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, November 28, 1972. (JPRS: 58,035, No. 658, 1973).

"Law on Universal Military Service," Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, August 11, 1970. (JPRS: 51,354, No. 257, 1970).

"Medicosocial Problems of Alcoholism," Nevrologiya Psikhiatriya i Nevrokhirurgiya, Sofia, 1972. (JPRS: 56,973, No. 589, 1972).

"Military School Cadet Entrance Exams," Narodna Armiya, Sofia, May 17, 1970. (JPRS. 50,687, No. 224, 1970).

"Military Training for Secondary Students," Narodna Mladezh, Sofia, March 20, 1972. (JPRS: 55,828, No. 516, 1972).

"New Medals," Armeyski Pregled, Sofia, September 11, 1969. (JPRS: 48,790, No. 129, 1969).

"New Training Year," Armeyski Pregled, Sofia, December 1969. (JPRS: 49,929, No. 187, 1970).

"New Uniforms for Officers and Noncoms," Pogled, Sofia, March 22, 1971. (JPRS: 53,014, No. 347, 1971).

"Party Program for Defense," Otechestven Front, Sofia, July 8, 1971. (JPRS: 53,641, No. 386, 1971).

"People's Councils Legal Departments," Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, March 6, 1970. (JPRS 50,415, No. 210, 1970).

"Pre-Induction Military Training Reorganized," Narodna Armiya, Sofia, August 8, 1968. (JPRS: 46,551, No. 31, 1968).

"Provisions for Servicemen, Families," Narodna Armiya, Sofia, February 8, 1973. (JPRS: 58,336, No. 676, 1973).

"Regulations on Obshtina Militia," Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, May 12, 1970. (JPRS: 50,920, No. 236, 1970).

"Scientific Training for Youth," Durzhaven Vestnik, Sofia, December 6, 1968. (JPRS: 47,136, No. 56, 1968).

"Significance of CEMA Defense Programs," Narodna Armiya, Sofia, September 22, 1971. (JPRS: 54,261, No. 549, 1971).

"Winter Defense Exercise," Armeyski Pregled, Sofia, December 1969. (JPRS: 49,929, No. 187, 1970).

Wolff, Robert Lee. The Balkans in Our Time. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.

[Pg 317]


BKP—Bulgarska Komunisticheska Partiya (Bulgarian Communist Party). Party dates its origins from the founding of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party in 1891. Through many years of factional splits, coalitions, changes of designation, underground operations, and front organizations, the BKP finally emerged from World War II (with Soviet backing) as the only viable political force in the country.

COMECON—Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Economic alliance founded in 1949 to further cooperation among member states. Members are Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Headquarters is in Moscow.

Fatherland Front—An umbrella organization for all other mass organizations; provides a structure for democratic electoral processes but, actually, is controlled by the BKP.

greenback—United States legal tender. Term used in international monetary transactions since convertibility of the United States dollar into gold was suspended on August 15, 1971.

lev (pl., leva)—Basic unit of currency; divided into 100 stotinki (q.v.). Officially rated at the artificial level of 0.97 per US$1. Lev is nonconvertible and is actually exchanged at several different rates depending on type of transaction.

stotinki (sing., stotinka)—100 stotinki equal one lev.

Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact)—A military alliance founded in 1955. The Soviet minister of defense is traditionally the supreme commander of the joint pact forces. Members are Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union.

[Pg 318]

[Pg 319]