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Народна република България
Narodna republika Balgariya
People's Republic of Bulgaria

Flag Coat of arms
Mila Rodino
Capital Sofia
Language(s) Bulgarian
Government Socialist republic, Single-party communist state
 - 1946-1947 (first) Vasil Kolarov
 - 1989-1990 (last) Petar Mladenov
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
 - 1946-1949 (first) Georgi Dimitrov
 - 1990 (last) Andrey Lukanov
Historical era Cold War
 - Established September 15, 1946
 - Disestablished November 15, 1990
 - 1989 110,910 km2 (42,823 sq mi)
 - 1989 est. 8,990,055 
     Density 81.1 /km2  (209.9 /sq mi)
Currency Bulgarian lev

The People's Republic of Bulgaria (PRB) (Bulgarian: Народна република България, Narodna republika Balgariya) was the official name of the Bulgarian state from 1946 to 1990, when it was under the rule of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP). Bulgaria was an Eastern Bloc country and a Soviet ally during the Cold War, a member of the Warsaw Pact and the Comecon. After the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, BCP transformed itself in 1990, changing its name to Bulgarian Socialist Party.




Early years and Chervenkov era

Georgi Dimitrov

Although the Kingdom of Bulgaria Bulgaria its alliance and declared war on Nazi Germany on September 7, on September 9, 1944, a coup d'état, backed by Red Army troops, installed a new government led by the Communist Fatherland Front (FF). Despite its more active participation on the side of the Allies, the country came out of the war on the losing side. In 1946, Georgi Dimitrov, a close friend of Joseph Stalin, became prime minister. The same year a referendum was held, on which 95% of voters declared themselves against the monarchy and supported the establishment of a republic. Almost immediately after that Bulgaria was declared a people's republic. The young tsar Simeon II fled the country with his sister and mother. Vasil Kolarov was head of state until the adoption of a new constitution in 1947.

In 1950, after the death of Vasil Kolarov and that of Georgi Dimitrov an year earlier, Vulko Chervenkov became prime minister. Chervenkov started a process of rapid and forceful industrialization.

Yet, Chervenkov's support base even in the Communist Party was too narrow for him to survive long once his patron, Stalin, was gone. In March 1954, a year after Stalin's death, Chervenkov was deposed as Party Secretary with the approval of the new leadership in Moscow and replaced by the youthful Todor Zhivkov. Chervenkov stayed on as Prime Minister until April 1956, when he was finally dismissed and replaced by Anton Yugov.

The Zhivkov era

Todor Zhivkov ruled Bulgaria for the next 33 years, being completely loyal to the Soviets but pursuing a more moderate policy at home. Relations were restored with Yugoslavia and Greece, the trials and executions of Traicho Kostov and other "Titoists" (though not of Nikola Petkov and other non-Communist victims of the 1947 purges) were officially denounced. A limited degree of freedom of expression was restored and the persecution of the Church was ended. The upheavals in Poland and Hungary in 1956 did not spread to Bulgaria, but the Party placed firm limits and restraints on intellectual and literary freedom to prevent any such outbreaks. In the 1960s some economic reforms were adopted, which allowed the free sale of production that exceeded planned amounts. The country became the most popular tourist destination for the Eastern Bloc people. Bulgaria also had a large production basis for commodities such as cigarettes and chocolate, which were hard to obtain in other socialist countries.

"The friendship between the Soviet and the Bulgarian people — indestructible for eternity", a 1969 Soviet stamp commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Socialist Revolution in Bulgaria

Yugov retired in 1962, and Zhivkov then became Prime Minister as well as Party Secretary. In 1971, with the adoption of a new Constitution, Zhivkov promoted himself to Head of State (Chairman of the State Council) and made Stanko Todorov Prime Minister. Zhivkov survived the Soviet leadership's transition from Khrushchev to Brezhnev in 1964, and in 1968 again demonstrated his loyalty to the Soviet Union by taking part in the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Bulgaria became generally regarded as the Soviet Union's most loyal Eastern European ally.

Fall of the Communist regime

Although Zhivkov was never in the Stalinist mould, by 1981, when he turned 70, his regime was growing increasingly corrupt, autocratic and erratic, with a brief period of relative liberalisation coming to an end that year when his daughter Lyudmila died. This was shown most notably in a bizarre campaign of forced assimilation and persecution against the ethnic Turkish minority (comprising 10 percent of the total population), who were forbidden to speak the Turkish language[1] and were forced to adopt Bulgarian names in the winter of 1984. The issue strained Bulgaria's economic relations with the West.

By the time the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program in the Soviet Union was felt in Bulgaria in the late 1980s, the Communists, like their leader, had grown too feeble to resist the demand for change for long. In November 1989, demonstrations on ecological issues were staged in Sofia, and these soon broadened into a general campaign for political reform. Part of the Bulgarian Communist Party leadership, realizing the need for urgent change, reacted promptly by deposing the decrepit Zhivkov and replacing him with foreign minister Petar Mladenov, on November 10, 1989. This swift move, however, gained a short respite for the Communist Party and prevented revolutionary change. In February 1990 the Communist Party voluntarily gave up its absolute hold on power and, in June 1990, the first free elections since 1946 were held, thus paving Bulgaria's way to multiparty democracy.

Government and politics

The headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist party in 1984

People's Republic of Bulgaria was a single-party Communist state. The Bulgarian Communist Party created an extensive nomenklatura on each organizational level. The constitution was changed several times, with the Zhivkov Constitution being the longest-lived. According to article 1, "The People's Republic of Bulgaria is a socialist state, headed by the working people of the village and the city. The leading force in society and politics is the Bulgarian Communist Party."

The PRB functioned as a one-party people's democracy, with the People's Committees representing local self-governing. Their role was to exercise Party decisions in their respective areas, and in the meantime to rely on popular opinion in decision-making.

In the late 1980s, the BCP had an estimated 1,000,000 members - more than 10% of the population.


After Bulgaria was proclaimed a people's republic in 1946, the military rapidly adopted a Soviet military doctrine and organization. The country received large amounts of Soviet weaponry, and eventually established a domestic military vehicle production capability. By the year 1988, the Bulgarian People's Army (Българска народна армия) numbered 152,000 men,[2] serving in four different branches - Land Forces, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces, and Missile Forces.

The BPA operated an impressive amount of equipment for the country's size - 3,000 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles, 2,500 large caliber artillery systems, over 500 combat aircraft, 33 combat vessels, as well as 67 Scud missile launchers, 24 SS-23 launchers and dozens of FROG-7 artillery rocket launchers.[3][4][5]


A 500 leva banknote of 1951, with a portrait of Georgi Dimitrov
Pre-fabricated apartment blocs in Mladost, Sofia

The economy of the PRB was a centrally planned economy, similar to those in other COMECON states. In the mid-1940s, when the collectivisation process began, Bulgaria was a primarily agrarian state, with some 80% of its population located in rural areas. Production facilities of all sectors were nationalised, although it was not until Vulko Chervenkov that private economic activity was completely scrapped. Despite negative effects in some other countries, the productivity of Bulgarian agriculture increased rapidly after collectivisation. Large-scale government subsidies were spent each year to cover the losses from the artificially lowered consumer prices.

Chervenkov's Stalinist policy led to a massive industrialisation and development of the energy sector, which is one of Bulgaria's most advanced economic sectors to date. His rule lasted from 1950 to 1956, and saw the construction of dozens of dams and hydroelectric powerplants, chemical works, Elatsite gold and copper mine, and many others. The war-time coupon system was abolished, healthcare and education were made free. All this was achieved with strict government control and organization, prisoner brigades from the labor camps and the Bulgarian Brigadier Movement - a youth labor movement where young people worked "voluntarily" (in fact, forced by the local Communist Party committees) on construction projects.

Vitosha, the first Bulgarian-made computer. The People's Republic of Bulgaria was a major producer electronics and computers, thus receiving the nickname "Silicon Valley of the Eastern Bloc"[6]

In the 1960s Todor Zhivkov introduced a number of reforms which had a positive effect on the country`s economy. He preserved the planned economy, but also put emphasis on light industry, agriculture, tourism, as well as on Information Technology in the 70`s and the 80`s.[7] Surplus agricultural production could be sold freely, prices were lowered even more, and new equipment for light industrial production was imported. Bulgaria also became the first Communist country to purchase a license from Coca-Cola in 1965, the product had the trademark logo in Cyrillic.[8]

Despite being very stable, the economy shared the same drawbacks of other countries from Eastern Europe - it traded almost entirely with the Soviet Union (more than 60%) and planners did not take into account whether there were markets for some of the goods produced. This resulted in surpluses of certain products, while other commodities were in deficit.

Apart from the Soviet Union, other main trade partners were East Germany and Czechoslovakia, but non-European countries such as Mongolia and various African countries were also large-scale importers of Bulgarian goods. The country also enjoyed good trade relations with various non-Communist developed countries, most notably West Germany and Italy.[9] In order to combat the low quality of many goods, a comprehensive State standart system was introduced in 1970, which included precise and strict quality requirements for all sorts of products, machines and buildings.

The People's Republic of Bulgaria had an average GDP per capita for an Eastern Bloc country. A comparative table is given below. At least on paper, average purchasing power was one of the lowest in the Eastern Bloc, mostly due to the larger availability of commodities than in other socialist countries. Workers employed abroad often received higher payments, thus could afford a wider range of goods to purchase. According to official figures, in 1988 100 out of 100 households had a television set, 95 out of 100 had a radio, 96 out of 100 had a refrigerator, and 40 out of 100 had an automobile.[10]

Per Capita GDP (1990 $[11]) 1950 1973 1989[12] 1990
United States $9,561 $16,689 n/a $23,214
Finland $4,253 $11,085 $16,676 $16,868
Austria $3,706 $11,235 $16,305 $16,881
Italy $3,502 $10,643 $15,650 $16,320
Czechoslovakia $3,501 $7,041 $8,729 $8,895 (Czech)
$7,762 (Slovak)
Soviet Union $2,834 $6,058 n/a $6,871
Hungary $2,480 $5,596 $6,787 $6,471
Poland $2,447 $5,334 n/a $5,115
Spain $2,397 $8,739 $11,752 $12,210
Portugal $2,069 $7,343 $10,355 $10,852
Greece $1,915 $7,655 $10,262 $9,904
Bulgaria $1,651 $5,284 $6,217 $5,552
Yugoslavia $1,585 $4,350 $5,917 $5,695
Romania $1,182 $3,477 $3,890 $3,525
Albania $1,101 $2,252 n/a $2,482


Culture in the People's Republic of Bulgaria was strictly controlled by the government, although there have been some periods of liberalization. The thaw in intellectual life had continued from 1951 until the middle of the decade. Vulko Chervenkov's resignation and the literary and cultural flowering in the Soviet Union encouraged the view that the process would continue, but the Hungarian revolution of fall 1956 frightened the Bulgarian leadership away from encouragement of dissident intellectual activity. In response to events in Hungary, Chervenkov was appointed minister of education and culture; in 1957 and 1958, he purged the leadership of the Bulgarian Writers' Union and dismissed liberal journalists and editors from their positions. His crackdowns effectively ended the "Bulgarian thaw" of independent writers and artists inspired by Khrushchev's 1956 speech against Stalinism.[13] During the People's Republic of Bulgaria a Thracian-Bulgarian continuity[14] was emphasized and this carried on after the fall of Communism. Nationalism[15] became a doctrine that the ruling party promoted. Thracology had become a national[16] concern in Bulgaria.

See also

  • Transition of Bulgaria to democracy and market economy


  1. ^ Crampton, R.J., A Concise History of Bulgaria, 2005, pp.205, Cambridge University Press
  2. ^ Bulgaria - Military Personnel
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ IT Services: Rila Establishes Bulgarian Beachhead in UK,, June 24, 1999
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ Living Standards
  11. ^ Madison 2006, p. 185
  12. ^ Teichova, Alice; Matis, Herbert (2003). Nation, State, and the Economy in History. Cambridge University Press. p. 138. ISBN 0521792789.  
  13. ^ Intellectual life
  14. ^ The wars of the Balkan Peninsula: their medieval origins by Alexandru Madgearu,Martin Gordon,2008,ISBN-0810858460,page 154,"during the Zhinkov regime and after the fall of communism the illusory Thracian-Bulgarian continuity was emphasized."
  15. ^ Ethnologia balkanica,Tome 10,2006,page 9,"In Bulgaria nationalism became a doctrine that was more or less discretely promoted by the ruling party"
  16. ^ The wars of the Balkan Peninsula: their medieval origins by Alexandru Madgearu,Martin Gordon,2008,ISBN-0810858460,page 154,"Thracology became a national concern in Bulgaria"



  • Maddison, Angus (2006), The world economy, OECD Publishing, ISBN 9264022619

External links


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