Bulgaria during the Second World War

Marshall Lee Miller


PART THREE. September 1943-September 1944


13. The Regency and Bozhilov  151

      - The Formation of the Regency
      - The Aegean Campaign
      - The Fatherland Front

14. Bombs and Peace Feelers  165

      - The Allied Bombing of Bulgaria
      - Peace Feelers

15. The Bagryanov Government  174

      - Bagryanov and His Cabinet
      - Negotiations with the Allies
      - The Soviet Union and Turkey
      - The Change in Policy Stalled
      - The Results of Rumania’s Defection
      - Moscow’s Double Game
      - Negotiations with the Fatherland Front

16. The Partisans  195

      - The Failure of the Resistance Movement in 1941
      - The 1943 Partisan Revival
      - British Assistance to the Partisans

17. The Last Phase  204

      - The Formation of a New Government
      - Muraviev’s Initial Actions
      - Clashes with the Germans
      - The Soviet Declaration of War
      - Communist Strides and Demonstrations
      - The Coup of September 9, 1944



Chapter 13. The Regency and Bozhilov



PROFESSOR Bogdan Filov had originally been chosen for the premiership because he was expected to be a “glittering court ornament” and a “ready tool of the King.” [1] After the death of Tsar Boris, however, he suddenly emerged as the leading political figure in Bulgaria. The opposition leaders also became more important as the country grew disenchanted with the government’s pro-German policy; it was expected to be only a matter of time before they came to power. But just as Filov and other government and opposition personalities were achieving greater prominence within Bulgaria, the fortunes of war steadily diminished their ability to influence events outside the country. Allied air raids, the Russian advance, and the anticipation of an Allied attack on the Balkans became the major factors determining Bulgaria’s fate.



The Formation of the Regency


When Boris died, his young son, Simeon, was only seven years old. According to Articles 27 and 143 of the Bulgarian Constitution, a special election should have been held for a Veliko Narodno Subranie —a Great National Assembly—to elect a Council of Regents to govern the country during the new Tsar’s minority. Filov was not eager to see an election campaign that might call government policy into question and endanger the stability of the state. He also desired that the dead Tsar’s brother, Prince Kiril, be named one of the Regents, even though the Constitution specified that they should be selected only





from leading government officials or people distinguished in public service. [2] Although realizing that the election of Kiril to the Regency might be unconstitutional, Filov argued that in a country which had been dominated from its inception by strong monarchs the presence of a member of the royal family on the Council of Regents would add greatly to the Regency’s prestige and authority.


Attempting to resolve these two issues, Filov consulted four of the former prime ministers: Alexander Tsankov and General Pencho Zlatev were against holding elections and favored Prince Kiril; Kimon Georgiev was for elections and strongly against Kiril; and Nikola Mushanov was for elections but was noncommittal about the Prince. With counsel divided, Filov chose to ignore the Constitution and follow his own inclination for he was confident of sufficient support in the Narodno Subranie. [3] However, since the parliamentary opposition was certain to protest when the matter came up for debate, Filov decided to resolve all the details beforehand so that the government could present a solid front. There were to be three Regents: Filov himself, Prince Kiril, and a third as yet unnamed.


The leading contender for the remaining position and, alternatively, for the premiership, was the Ambassador to Switzerland, Georgi Kioseivanov. Despite his previous undistinguished performance as prime minister (1935-40) and his Western education, the Germans favored his candidacy. [4] However, he had alienated the Macedonians in 1937 by concluding the friendship pact with Yugoslavia, and it was suggested that Filov considered him to be more valuable in Bern because of his contacts with the Allies. [5] Even more important, Filov had grown fond of power and was not eager to share it with the ambitious Kioseivanov. Filov finally selected General Nikola Mihov as the third Regent. Mihov, Minister of War since April 1942, was German-educated, an able officer, and not overly concerned with politics; in addition, he had recently been described as the “most sincere advocate of cooperation with the Germans.” [6] Filov favored Mihov because he sought not only the support of the army but also “full agreement between two Regents in order to counter possible influences over the Prince”—especially the influence of Kiril’s sister, Evdokiya.





The choice of Mihov was popular with the army and with the Narodno Subranie representatives, who did not want to see Kioseivanov returned to high office. [7]


On September 8, 1943, a special session of the Assembly decided that a Veliko Narodno Subranie should be postponed because of the war and the possibility of unrest. Bowing slightly to constitutionalism, the deputies stated that a Great National Assembly would be convoked after the war, or as soon as conditions permitted. When they met the following day to elect the Regents, however, a stormy debate broke out anew on this issue. Mushanov declared that there was no better time for the election of a Veliko Narodno Subranie to unify the Bulgarian people; and he read a statement by the various opposition leaders calling for unity, domestic tranquillity, and cooperation. [*] Tsankov replied that an election would divide rather than unify the country; Dr. Peter Shishkov pointed out that the British government had also postponed elections for the duration of the war. Finally, Dr. Ivan Vazov, who was soon to become minister of trade, argued that the manner of selecting the Regents was less important than the need for making an immediate choice. A vote was then taken and Filov, Mihov, and Prince Kiril were accepted by the Narodno Subranie. [8] The opposition denounced this election as illegal and refused to cooperate with the new government. [**]


The weak man in the Regency was Prince Kiril. He had a reputation as a Don Juan and was always surrounded by women who made use of his name and helped him spend his money. He was still heavily in debt from the time he had lived in Vienna after World War I, for both his father Ferdinand and his brother Boris had refused to set a precedent by paying off his debts. He had no interest in politics, but like his brother he was intrigued by mechanical things, especially racing cars. He and Boris were on very good terms, but the Tsar complained



*. The signatories were Dimiter Gichev, Konstantin Muraviev, Vergil Dimov, and Nikola Petkov (Agrarians); Atanas Burov and Hristu Pastuhov (Social Democrats); Kimon Georgiev and Petko Stainov (Zveno-Fatherland Front; and Nikola Mushanov (Democrat).


**. These statements were to embarrass many of them a year later when they accepted a mandate to form a new government from the “illegal” Regents.





that “Prince ‘Kiki’ will never amount to anything because he shows an interest in absolutely nothing.” [9] After becoming a Regent, Kiril completely neglected his official duties. Filov had to remind the irritated General Mihov that the Prince “has not acquired the habit of prolonged and concentrated work.” [10] They finally decided that the only way to deal with him was to agree beforehand and then confront him with a prepared opinion. As for Kiril’s feelings toward Germany, Beckerle reported in August 1943, “I believe that he has no particular opinions of his own, but that he can be described as friendly to Germany since this is the attitude around him. I see no grounds for saying he has Nazi tendencies.” [11]


The first tasks of the newly elected Regents were to appoint a prime minister and form a cabinet. To what extent did the Germans try to influence these decisions, and what was their reaction to the composition of the new government after it was formed? Just after Boris’s death, for example, Ribbentrop had ordered Staatssekretär Steengracht to go to Sofia and to “stay as long as you deem it necessary in order to bring your influence to bear upon the composition of the Regency Council and the appointment of the prime minister.... I consider it very desirable that Tsankov should become premier, if this is possible At any rate, Tsankov ought to be given a decisive share in the shaping of future Bulgarian policy.” [12] Yet the available evidence indicates that the Germans did not significantly influence the selection of the new government or even make a determined effort to do so; and their predictions about its composition were so wrong that it seems likely they were not even consulted.


Ivan Bagryanov, an Agrarian who had resigned from the government in early 1941, was considered by the Germans the leading contender for the premiership; they rated two little-known officials second and third. In fact, Filov had briefly considered Kioseivanov and Gabrovsky, although they had little support. The candidacy of Alexander Tsankov was never even in question. Filov was believed to be seeking the weakest person possible for the premiership so that he himself would be the undisputed leader of the government. Bagryanov was therefore eliminated because he was too independent and ambitious. [13]





Instead, Filov chose Dobri Bozhilov, the minister of finance since 1938. Bozhilov was fairly competent in his former post, but he was not qualified for higher office. He had been a high-level Freemason and was suspected of doubting a final German victory, but he was expected to be as much a tool of Filov as Filov himself had once been of Boris. All indications were that Bulgarian policy would continue unchanged. [14]


With the exception of Tsankov, however, Germany had not expressed a strong preference for any individual and was generally satisfied with the appointments. Goebbels’s reaction to the Bozhilov government, which Heiber cites, confirms the impression that Germany was not displeased: “His government consists exclusively of the friends of former Prime Minister Filov, who is now a Regent. As a whole we can be satisfied with this government. It has certainly no distinctive and strong face, but is nevertheless outspokenly pro-German.” [15] Beckerle described the cabinet as “not unpleasing” and expressed satisfaction at the exclusion of certain questionable persons. Although the Germans remained concerned about this first wartime government not directed by the Tsar, they considered Filov’s continued leadership the best guarantee that Bulgaria would remain pro-German. [16]


The cabinet was composed mainly of intelligent specialists rather than prominent political personalities. Foreign Minister Sava Kirov was perhaps the only eminent individual, for he had been Ambassador in Ankara, but within a month he was replaced for “defeatism.” Docho Hristov, who had been a relatively unimportant member of the Narodno Subranie, replaced the disliked and discredited Gabrovsky as minister of the interior. It was certainly the most colorless cabinet in many years.



The Aegean Campaign


The Bulgarians had expected an Allied invasion of Europe through the Balkans since the spring of 1943. The Allies were considering several such plans. One called for a landing on the Dalmatian coast in order to establish contact with the Yugoslav partisans and open





supply ports for them; it would make use of British troops not needed elsewhere. Another envisaged an attack at the head of the Adriatic directed against the Ljubljana Gap connecting Germany with the Balkans. [17] To President Roosevelt, however, Balkan operations seemed to be British schemes with more political than military significance, and he feared that they would cause difficulties with Russia. In his opinion, the cross-Channel attack (“Overlord”) deserved absolute priority. In November 1943, the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff drew up a statement aboard the battleship U.S.S. Iowa that established Allied policy toward the Balkans:


Recognizing that (1) the Balkan-Eastern Mediterranean approach to the European fortress is unsuitable, due to terrain and communication difficulties, for large-scale military operations, (2) the implementation of our agreed strategy for the defeat of Germany will require all available military means, and (3) our experience shows that the acceptance of limited objective operations, however attractive in themselves, invariably requires resources beyond those initially anticipated, we are agreed that our strategy will be best served by causing Germany to dissipate her defensive strength in maintaining her position in the Balkans-Aegean area.


So long, therefore, as the present strategic situation in this area remains substantially unchanged, operations in the Balkans-Eastern Mediterranean region will be limited to: (a) the supply of Balkan guerrillas by sea and air transport, (b) minor action by commando forces, (c) the bombing of vital strategic targets.


We agree that it is desirable to bring Turkey into the war at this time but this must be brought about without diversion of resources that would prejudice our commitments elsewhere. [18]


Two months earlier, in September 1943, Churchill had managed to persuade the American Chiefs of Staff to accept the British plan for an attack on the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean. This offensive, he had argued, would employ troops currently inactive in the Mediterranean area, would secure strategic airfields and bases, would damage German prestige, and hopefully would encourage Turkey to declare in favor of the Allies. It was thought that the German garrisons on these isolated islands would be unable to offer much resistance; an easy Allied victory was therefore expected. British troops





seized Castelrosso (a tiny island east, of Rhodes) on September 10, occupied Cos on the 12th, and then landed on Samos. Soon a number of islands had been taken and Churchill was pressing for an attack on Rhodes. In October, however, the Germans retook Cos, which “showed beyond all question that despite heavy commitments elsewhere, the Germans were determined upon bold counter-measures in the Aegean.” [19] The British campaign came to an ignominious end with the evacuation of Samos. Great Britain had lost over five thousand men, one hundred planes, six destroyers, and one submarine. Further Allied intervention in the Balkans was effectively discouraged. [20]


Bulgaria was naturally concerned about Allied activity so near at hand, and the newspapers reported the situation with alarm. On October 18, the Regents and Dimiter Shishmanov (the newly appointed foreign minister, who replaced Sava Kirov) went to Germany for their first meeting with Hitler since taking office. If Hitler had doubted them before, he was reported after the meeting to be “slightly reassured.” The Bulgarians, however, were not as satisfied with Hitler. Even the staunchly pro-German Filov had begun to harbor occasional doubts about Germany’s ability to remain indefinitely in the Balkans. [21] Hitler had pointed out that the line from Trieste to Rhodes was as long as the Eastern Front, and he had frankly admitted that there was no possibility of defending the whole area. Instead, he hoped to fortify only the most likely beaches and keep a mobile reserve of two German divisions at Skopie. Overlooking the fact that there were only a limited number of suitable landing areas in the Balkans, the Bulgarian delegation pessimistically concluded that an Allied invasion force could land, dig into strong positions, and build up considerable strength before Axis forces could intervene. Filov noted in his diary that “in general the Germans are not speaking of a decisive victory but more of a successful defense.” The only encouraging news Hitler could offer was that in the coming spring Germany would have new wonder weapons that would make a dramatic change in the war. [22]


Filov’s attitude had changed significantly from that of only a





month before, when he had intervened personally to persuade reluctant Bulgarian officials to recognize Mussolini’s so-called Salo republic. Since Mussolini’s deposition on July 25, 1943, Bulgaria and the other Axis states in Eastern Europe had maintained loose relations with the new Badoglio government, which officially was carrying on the war as before; but on September 8, 1943, Italy announced that it had signed an alliance with the Allies. On the 12th, a German airborne unit led by Otto Skorzeny carried out a dramatic rescue of Mussolini and took him to Said in northern Italy, where he set up a government in opposition to the one in Rome. [23]


The Germans immediately urged their satellite-allies to recognize the Said government, but the prestige of Germany had declined so drastically that these countries preferred a more cautious attitude until they could ascertain the effect of Italy’s withdrawal from the war. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister, Sava Kirov, was encouraged by Hungary’s reluctance to recognize Mussolini and attempted to fend off the German demand for as long as possible. This angered Filov, who still believed that Bulgaria’s future lay with Germany and that delay in recognition would only undermine German confidence in the new Regency. Kirov, Filov said, “is undoubtedly a defeatist, lacking in courage and afraid to take responsibility.... For him Germany has already lost the war I doubt that he will be able to remain minister much longer.” [24] As we have seen, he did not.


Kirov may have been aware of rumors reaching Bulgaria that certain high German officials—notably SS-General Kaltenbrunner— had advocated building up a strong fascist Albania and Serbia rather than wasting any more time with “soft” Bulgaria. [25] Frightened, Bulgaria finally recognized Mussolini’s government on September 28, but it took no action against those Italian diplomats in Sofia who supported the Badoglio regime and did not freeze their bank accounts as Germany had requested. [26]


Despite the German recovery of the Aegean islands that the British had temporarily held, Bulgaria never quite regained confidence in Germany’s ability or willingness to hold the Balkans at all costs.





Hitler met Prime Minister Bozhilov on November 5, 1943, and made little effort to paint a rosy picture of the military situation. Instead, he told the Bulgarian leader that there was no choice but to support Germany; the only alternative was the Bolshevization of the Balkans. The recent Moscow Conference, Hitler said, had placed the Balkans in the Soviet sphere of influence and had given Stalin a political veto over any Anglo-American military operations there. Thus, there could be no hope of averting Soviet domination by letting in the Western Allies, as some had advocated. [27]


The Bulgarian government decided to contact Turkey about military and political cooperation to counter the Soviet threat to the Balkans. Precisely what could be accomplished by this was never clear, but the Bulgarians at least wanted to reduce their dependence on Germany. Turkey was disturbed about the danger from Russia but had no wish to aggravate matters by allying with an Axis member. This would have been grist for the Soviet propaganda mill, which was already criticizing Turkey for not declaring war on Germany.


The Turks were hoping, as were many Bulgarians, to wait until the Allies were close at hand before turning on the Germans; they “suspected that the Russians wanted to push them into a disaster so that they would not be able to evade the Russian clutch after the war.” [28] Endeavoring to avoid any participation in the war, Turkey merely reassured Bulgaria that it had no intention of changing its policy of neutrality. In fact, though, the Turks had expressed a willingness to join the Allies but had made such impossible demands for arms and equipment, as well as for an impenetrable air defense system around Istanbul, that the British calculated that it would require over a year just to transport the material to Istanbul. [29]



The Fatherland Front


The decline of German military prestige coupled with the political and diplomatic uncertainty following the death of Boris provided the Bulgarian opposition groups, including the Communists, with a new opportunity to participate in the political life of the country. Whereas





the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 had divided the opposition, leading the Communists to make bitter attacks on the pro-Allied democratic groups, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 had once again provided the anti-fascist parties with a common enemy. Shortly after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the BKP had tried without success to organize a coalition of the anti-Nazi groups. Perhaps the memory of the BKP’s propaganda campaign against the Western Allies inspired the general reluctance among the democratic opposition leaders to participate; certainly the Communists’ demand for control of the coalition irritated the other parties. Attempts at cooperation during 1941 had finally collapsed when the leading members of the Communist Party were discovered and arrested by the police.


During the first part of 1942, however, a few secret meetings occurred between Kiril Dramaliev, a representative of the Communist Party, Kimon Georgiev of Zveno, and Nikola Petkov, a leader of the Agrarian Pladne wing. In June 1942, these three were joined by the Social Democrat Grigor Chesmedzhiev in forming the Fatherland Front (Otechestven Front). On July 17, 1942, the “Hristo Botev” radio station in the USSR broadcast what the Soviets demanded be the Front’s political dogma. The nonnegotiable character of this program for the Fatherland Front proved a serious obstacle in gaining the cooperation of other parties.


When the Vrabcha Agrarians were contacted about joining the Front, the Vrabcha leader Dimiter Gichev suggested that they mutually devise a compromise program to unite all those opposed to the pro-Nazi regime. The Communists, however, refused to negotiate their Moscow-dictated program and told Gichev that he would have to accept it as it stood or be branded as a fascist. Thereupon Gichev replied, “We are not going to be the fifth wheel of the cart,” and broke off discussions. [30] The non-Communist opposition was clearly reluctant to join with the Communists, however much they might deny it. The electoral coalition of 1938 had been successful but not harmonious, and the Communist line during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact had caused much antagonism. Furthermore, it was expected





that Tsar Boris would switch to the Allied side as soon as the opportunity presented itself; this created a wait-and-see attitude during the first half of 1943. Finally, many Agrarians were unable to forget that certain members of the Fatherland Front, particularly Kimon Georgiev and Damian Velchev, had participated in the 1923 coup against Stambolisky and had led the 1934 coup against the governing Agrarian coalition. [31]


The Democratic leader, Nikola Mushanov, was contacted twice during 1942 by the Fatherland Front, but he insisted that he could give no definite answer until he had toured the country to discover what the people were thinking. The Front then turned to the leader of the Radicals, Stoyan Kosturkov, but he fled abroad shortly afterward. Hristu Pastuhov, the Social Democratic leader, and Atanas Burov, leader of the small Narodnik Party, refused even to meet representatives of the Fatherland Front. In March 1943, the Front was able to arrange another appointment with Mushanov, but he cancelled it because he believed that Boris was planning an imminent change of policy. [32]


Despite these failures to broaden the Front by including prominent non-Communists in it, in June 1943 a Directorate (Rukovoden Tsentur) of the Fatherland Front was formed at a meeting that included Kiril Dramaliev (Communist), Grigor Chesmedzhiev (Social Democrat), Nikola Petkov (Pladne Agrarian), and Dimo Kazasov (Independent) . The other leaders were represented by deputies because the government had them in confinement. Petkov, in fact, was released just in time to attend the meeting that established the Directorate, and Kimon Georgiev remained in “domestic exile” confined to Burgas.


The various party leaders who adhered to the Front really had little popular following. Georgiev had the support of certain army officers, and Petkov had inherited some of the prestige of his brother (who had been assassinated in 1924), but these leaders alone were still too weak to be an effective opposition. Thus, another attempt was made to persuade men like Gichev and Mushanov to join the Front. Gichev persistently refused to participate alongside Georgiev and the





Zvenoists because of their role in the coups of 1923 and 1934, and the Fatherland Front was equally adamant in demanding that he accept the platform of July 1942 without discussion. Nikola Mushanov urged the Front to wait until the Allies were able to facilitate the Tsar’s withdrawal from the war; in the meantime, he felt there was no point in causing unnecessary suffering that could have but little result. Fie also opposed the plan for strong political agitation in the army, for he thought that it would potentially endanger the stability of the state. Once again, no basis for agreement could be found between the Fatherland Front “activists” and these democratic opposition “passivists.” [33]


Boris’s death destroyed all hopes for an early Bulgarian withdrawal from the war but did not reduce the reluctance of most opposition leaders to join the Fatherland Front. They now hoped for some form of Allied intervention—a hope encouraged by British operations in the Aegean, the rumors of an impending Balkan invasion, and the news of the Tehran and Cairo conferences. These moves by the Anglo-Americans disturbed the Fatherland Front, which preferred that Bulgaria be liberated by the Soviets. As long as two centers of opposition existed, “the Front did not have sole monopoly of political opposition and so could not claim sole right to rule the country when the Germans left.” [34] As a result, on November 19, 1943, the Communist Party (not the Front) sent identical letters to Mushanov and Gichev offering them a four-point program and renewing the request to join the Front. The four proposals were fundamentally unobjectionable and were a partial compromise with Gicliev’s objection to the Moscow-dictated 1942 platform. [*] The Communists even sent Dr. Ivan Pashov to meet Gichev when they received no answer to their letter. Gichev offered the usual objections, including the inadvisability of partisan activity at that time, and added that he personally disapproved of the prominence given to Nikola Petkov, who had no following and should be treated as a private person. Pashov countered



*. The proposals were (1) driving out the Germans; (2) concluding peace with Great Britain and America, and alliance with Russia; (3) withdrawing troops from Yugoslavia and Greece; and (4) sweeping out the fascist regime and creating a truly democratic administration.





that Gichev could not seriously object to cooperation with groups such as Zveno, since he had participated in the Agrarian coalition in the early 1930’s with some of the very people he now called the murderers of Stambolisky. Furthermore, said Pashov, the gravity of the situation warranted special efforts to achieve cooperation among all those opposed to the government’s policy. [35]


Of course, Gichev’s specific objections were less important than the general reluctance of the non-Communist opposition leaders to submerge themselves in the Communist-dominated Fatherland Front. They did not object to cooperation with the Communists, for Gichev made a counterproposal involving an agreement between the Communists and the Agrarians alone. This would have separated the Communists from their allies and allowed the Agrarians to be equal partners with the BKP rather than just another party in a Communist front. Nevertheless, it is clear that the opposition demanded terms to which they knew the Communists could not agree.


Near the end of 1943, Gichev was contacted by Peter Vranchev [*] and was once more asked to participate in an opposition cabinet in which he would be the prime minister. Gichev listened attentively to this idea of an underground government, but insisted that a government without territory was not a government. Fie agreed to participate only if the partisans could occupy enough territory to provide a secure base for the government; otherwise, a clandestine government had no chance of survival. He was well aware that the partisans were weak and fighting for their very existence; there was no possibility that they could seize and hold any considerable piece of territory. Moreover, Gichev and many of the opposition leaders objected to the partisan movement because they believed it accomplished little except to provoke government reprisals on innocent villagers who were usually members of the Agrarian Party. Only those people who were pursued by the police or who had escaped from the concentration camps should take up arms in the mountains, Gichev said. [**]



*. A Communist who was made a general after the September 1944 coup.


**. In the trial of Nikola Petkov after the war, the Communist Dramaliev testified that the partisan issue was the main point of disagreement between the Agrarians and the Communists. The Agrarians favored a coup at a decisive moment rather than a protracted partisan campaign. The Trial of Nikola D. Petkov, pp. 331-32, 339. Petkov’s trial was a farce, but this particular piece of testimony seems in accord with other accounts. Interview, Bulgaria; Kazasov, Burni godini, pp. 749-50.





Negotiations of this sort continued between the Fatherland Front and the other opposition groups, but the results remained unchanged. Mushanov, Gichev, and the others never did join the Fatherland Front, and as we shall see, they were never forgiven by it.






Chapter 14. Bombs and Peace Feelers



WHEN BULGARIA declared war on the United States and Great Britain in December 1941, the declarations were described as merely symbolic gestures to placate the Germans, thereby compensating for Bulgaria’s failure to participate actively in the war. Britain’s military power was said to be virtually destroyed; America was far away and unprepared for war. By September 1943, however, when Bozhilov became prime minister, the tide of war had turned against the Axis. Allied bomber attacks on Bulgarian cities were expected at any time. These attacks, when they finally came, had a devastating effect on Bulgarian morale and compelled the Bulgarian government to consider peace negotiations.



The Allied Bombing of Bulgaria


Until the summer of 1943, Bulgaria had been largely unaffected by the war. The British had made several air attacks on the country during the German invasion of Greece in 1941, but only a few planes had been involved and little damage had been done. Then, on August 1, 1943, the Allies sent a fleet of bombers over Bulgarian territory to attack the Rumanian oil fields at Ploesti. The bombers were tracked by a German radar station in Bulgaria, and Bulgarian fighter planes attempted to intercept them. The Bulgarian air force was mainly equipped with obsolete, Czech-made Avias, which had neither radios nor oxygen equipment. The Avias were unable to reach the bombers flying at 15,000 feet; three Allied stragglers returning from





the target, however, fell victim, to a Bulgarian squadron of modern Me-109s. For this exploit, three Bulgarian officers were decorated by the Tsar, [*] but Bulgaria minimized its role in this defense of Ploesti for fear of provoking Allied reprisals.


The Germans anticipated further attacks on Ploesti and provided the Bulgarian air force with 120 captured French fighters; these aircraft were only slightly less outmoded than the Avias, however, and were soon swept from the skies by the P-38S that escorted the Allied bombers. [1] In late October 1943, the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff suggested to General Eisenhower that Bulgaria should be given a “sharp lesson”; “the quickest way to promote resistance in Bulgaria and possibly to bring the country out of the war [is] to open a large-scale bombing attack upon it.” [2] Eisenhower accepted the suggestion. On November 14, 1943, 91 B-25S, escorted by a large number of P-38S, attacked Sofia. The marshaling yards and airfield were heavily damaged and 187 buildings in the city were reported destroyed. Casualties were not heavy, but Sofia was thrown into panic. [3] The myth of Bulgaria’s “symbolic war” was destroyed.


Two further air attacks were directed against Sofia before the end of the year. Bad weather prevented either from being very successful, but the Germans were irritated that such light and infrequent raids were able to paralyze the Bulgarian capital. There were several reasons for the disproportionate psychological effect of the bombings. First, unlike the Germans, the Bulgarians were not accustomed to air raids. Their initial reaction was to flee the city, and those who were unable to leave sent their families. This resettlement dislocated life in Sofia and caused confusion, overcrowding, and inflation in the villages. The government enacted legislation to curb the exodus, but the laws were generally evaded. Second, Sofia then had a population of only about 300,000 concentrated in a fairly small area. A hundred bombers could thus have relatively more effect on such a city than could a thousand on a city like Berlin. Third, Bulgarian antiaircraft defenses were weak and the most elementary civil defense measures were lacking.



*. Two of the three were later killed by die Communist government of Bulgaria; the third retired as a colonel in 1956.





As a result, morale in Sofia was lowered by the knowledge that Allied planes could attack the city with impunity and that the hurriedly built air-raid shelters were inadequate to protect the population. Prime Minister Bozhilov angrily denounced the Allies for killing “defenseless people who did not wish evil on anyone.” Citizens of Sofia, however, began to blame the government for bringing such misfortune on the country. [4]


The Allied air attack of January 10, 1944, impressed even the Germans. Several thousand people were killed, water and electrical connections were broken, many homes and buildings were reduced to rubble, and fires broke out all over Sofia. The railroad stations and roads were clogged with refugees, as what seemed the entire population of Sofia tried to flee the city. Filov, who had been out of the city at the time of the attack, said that on his return he passed “endless lines of cars with baggage; some people were carrying all their household possessions.” [5] This attack made all the previous ones look like mere practice raids. Filov described it as “the first great terror raid on Sofia.” This was the coldest time of the year and it was virtually impossible to find food and lodging in the countryside for the additional thousands of people; the living conditions of the refugees in many of the villages were shocking. A full week passed before even state employees could be induced to return to their work and before the basic public facilities could be restored. The government was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster; it could neither prevent the raids nor do much to help the people after they occurred. Germany’s prestige also suffered because of its demonstrated inability to protect its ally. Filov proposed to the German General Warlimont that Germany make a massive air attack somewhere, perhaps on Istanbul, to restore the prestige of the Luftwaffe, but the Germans were not enthusiastic about the plan. [6]


The raids, of course, made excellent propaganda for those who were actively opposed to Bulgaria’s alliance with Germany. The BKP issued several statements describing the devastation in Sofia and urged the “immediate conclusion of peace with England and America”; it was implied that a revolution would be needed, for





“our fascist government will not do this.” [7] The Soviets also attempted to take advantage of the political crisis created by the bombing. The Soviet Minister, Lavrishchev, told Bozhilov that the USSR was prepared to intercede to stop the bombing if Bulgaria would agree to withdraw its occupation corps from Macedonia and Thrace. The Bulgarian government declined for fear of antagonizing Germany. Filov, however, tried to use this Soviet offer to alarm the West and to show that the bombings were “water for the Communist mill.” [8] He requested that the Turkish government act as an intermediary to convince the British and Americans that a withdrawal of the occupation corps would not be in the Western interest because it would help Tito. His naive efforts met with no success, and Bulgaria nervously awaited the next aerial onslaught. [9]


On March 16, 1944, the Allies dropped incendiary bombs on Sofia. Eight days later, the royal palace at Vranya was deliberately attacked and burned to the ground. [10] Then, on March 29 and 30, the Allies launched a massive firebomb attack on Sofia. Strong winds fanned the flames, and the heat was so intense that books caught fire in buildings that were not afire themselves. The conflagration destroyed several of the ministries, the National Theater, the Holy Synod, and the city arsenal. Public services were interrupted for several weeks, and everywhere there were pleas for food. The plight of the evacuees outside the city had already become an open scandal; their condition now deteriorated even further as they were joined by thousands of new refugees.


The confusion in Sofia after the March 30 raid was intensified by rumors that the Communists were planning to attack the city the next evening. The government was completely disorganized, and all communication lines with the rest of the country had been severed. The partisans had lately increased considerably in numbers, although they were still weak; if they had made a maximum effort, they might have been able to seize the city temporarily. Filov was now convinced that the West and the Communists were in close cooperation: “The air attacks cannot be just terrorist actions. It is obvious that they have another purpose and this is probably the weakening of the home front





and the strengthening of partisan activity in order to support their eventual connections through Serbia and the people of Tito.” [11]


Sofia was not the only Bulgarian city to fall victim to Allied air attacks; other incidents generally went unreported by the newspapers, but information could be pieced together from such sources as the reports on public contributions to relief funds. Plovdiv was the second largest city in Bulgaria and a key communications point, but it was spared until April 18, 1944. Even before the attack the city had been described as panic-stricken, and many thousands of its citizens had fled to the mountains. The bombing inflicted little damage and only about sixty people were killed, but the morale of the city was shattered. [12]


As a result of the Allied air raids, the people of Bulgaria lost nearly all their faith in German power, and the Bulgarian leaders were discredited for having made the alliance with the Axis. The late Tsar Boris was not included in this public abuse because it was believed that he had wanted to remove Bulgaria from the war at the first opportunity. His successors seemed all the more inflexibly pro-Nazi. Although the Regent Mihov optimistically claimed that “the bomber squadrons are like flocks of birds who peck at the grains one by one but are not able to take the land,” it was already apparent that Bulgaria was once again on the losing side of a war. [13]



Peace Feelers


Bulgaria urgently needed an armistice to spare the country from the bombings and the approaching Red army. A major problem in negotiating any settlement, however, was that the Western Allies and the Bulgarian government had quite different views of the effect an armistice would have on Germany. If and when the Bulgarian government decided to seek peace from the Allies, it wanted to have a large Allied military force near at hand to protect the country from German reprisals. The Allies, on the other hand, had no desire to send troops to the Balkans; their strategy was to force the Germans to do so. If Bulgaria could be bombed out of the war, Allied planners expected that Germany would then have to occupy the country with





troops urgently needed elsewhere. This plan is clearly evident in a report by Air Marshal Sir John Slessor:


The best service we in this theatre can perform for Overlord is really to create hell in the Balkans by any means, air, land, and sea, that can be made available without embarking on major operations involving bridgeheads that have to be covered and supplied. ...


It appears certain that if the Balkan satellites are knocked out, the effect on German strategy would be catastrophic; and therefore, if heavy bombing seems likely to put them out, which I believe it would, the Hun would have to occupy them or accept their collapse, and he could not afford to do the latter. [14]


This does not excuse the Bulgarian government for its reluctance to negotiate or support the contention that the Allies were hypocritical; but certainly an armistice would have been militarily embarrassing to the Allies.


The Bulgarian government was maintaining contact with the Allies through M. H. Milev, the Bulgarian diplomatic representative in Geneva, and Ambassador Balabanov in Turkey, but little could be accomplished until the leaders in Sofia decided on a change of policy. Bulgaria was unwilling to surrender unconditionally, to withdraw from Macedonia and Thrace, to antagonize the Germans, or even to admit that the war was lost. The American OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the American equivalent of the British SOE), which was working in Istanbul to detach Bulgaria from the Axis, informed Balabanov on December 18, 1943, that it would listen to any proposals. Balabanov reported this to Sofia and on January 10, 1944, recommended that Bulgaria should “decide how we can get out of the war with the least damage in case of (God forbid!) a German defeat.” [15] No progress was made, however, until Balabanov went to Sofia at the beginning of February 1944 to speak with government and opposition leaders. Upon his return to Turkey, he informed the American mission that everyone had agreed that Bulgaria must withdraw from the Axis. The Americans suggested that a Bulgarian delegation be sent to Istanbul to open immediate discussions on “the conditions under which the Bulgarian Army would join the Allies as a combatant force.”





To expedite negotiations, Balabanov requested that the United States guarantee the national existence of Bulgaria and stop bombing for ten days until the delegation could reach Istanbul. [16]


Despite Balabanov’s efforts, his government did not respond to the Allied offer of negotiations. The late Tsar’s friend and adviser, Yordan Sevov, arrived at Istanbul at the end of February 1944, prompting speculation in the Turkish press that he would negotiate an armistice. Sevov had not come to Turkey for this purpose, but Balabanov was now desperate and asked the Allied mission “whether if for any reason his [Balabanov’s] Government found it inadvisable to send two qualified persons to Istanbul, he and Sevov would be acceptable.” [17] The Americans realized that this delay indicated that Sofia was not eager for negotiations and was not then contemplating a radical change in policy. They also were aware that Bulgaria was unwilling to relinquish its territorial gains. Feeling in Bulgaria on this issue was so strong that the American mission predicted, “The Bulgarian people at this time would be likely to turn against their leaders if they abandoned the still holy cause of unification.” The Allied demand for unconditional surrender and the proximity of German troops were other obvious obstacles to an armistice. [18]


Filov was losing faith in a German victory and had concluded that in the event of military operations against Turkey or on the Aegean coast, Germany would “not be able to give us any significant help.” Nevertheless, he had an almost suicidal determination to keep Bulgaria in the Axis alliance. “We have to remain loyal to Germany to the end, because we will have need of it, even if it is bolshevized, and because a small government has to preserve its honor; the Italians not only did not gain anything but now are even held in contempt by the Anglo-Americans. The matter may come to an unconditional surrender, but it is necessary to be honorable.” [19] There was still considerable pressure on Filov to maintain this attitude. Mihov remained confident of a German victory and pointed to the failure of Finland’s attempt to leave the Axis. “The Finns see that with the Russians it is not possible to have an agreement, and negotiations have been broken off.” [20] Slaveiko Vasilev, a former cabinet minister,





declared in the Narodno Subranie that the Axis was still strong; and as proof he pointed to the Japanese, who in their last campaign had inflicted 8,000 casualties on the enemy while losing only 260 men as prisoners. [21]


Hitler himself invited the Regents to Salzburg and told them that an unconditional surrender would place Bulgaria at the mercy of the Communists and the Western plutocrats. [22] Anthony Eden further stiffened Bulgarian resistance by stating in the House of Commons that “there is no question of offering Bulgaria any Greek or Yugoslav territory as an incentive to come out of the war.” [23] On the other hand, there was a growing demand for progress toward an armistice. The newspaper Mir provided excellent coverage of the war during this period and—despite the censorship—left little doubt that the Axis was destined for defeat. Kimon Georgiev (of Zveno and the Fatherland Front) and Ivan Bagryanov (an Agrarian leader who had been personally close to the late Tsar) joined forces long enough to send Bozhilov a letter advocating an end to Bulgaria’s participation in the war. A government supporter in the Narodno Subranie proposed that Bulgaria make a concession to the Allies by withdrawing troops from that part of Serbia to which Bulgaria had no claim—“a policy which will get Bulgaria out of the war will surely save Bulgaria from Bolshevism.” [24]


Pessimism extended even to the strongest government supporters. Lazar Popov, for example, appealed to Mihov that it was imperative to improve relations with Moscow and to bring men like Mushanov into the government. Mihov received these suggestions coolly, and likewise rejected letters from the opposition that in his opinion were “recommendations which cannot be fulfilled. It is as if the whole world revolved around us and anything we want will come true... Who does not want to have good relations with the Soviet Union, but the prior condition is that we become a Bolshevik republic.” [25]


No progress had been made toward the negotiations with the Allies. A Bulgarian industrialist, Georgi Kiselov, arrived in Istanbul on March 24, 1944, ostensibly for trade talks with the Turks, but he claimed to have conferred with Filov, Foreign Minister Shishmanov,





and Prime Minister Bozhilov before leaving Sofia. Kiselov’s main purpose was apparently to convince the Allies that the bombing was hurting their cause, as well as opening the way for a German occupation and enabling the Russians to draw Bulgaria into the Soviet orbit. He argued that Bulgaria would open immediate negotiations as soon as the Allies landed in the Balkans; but until then, the Germans could prevent Bulgaria from leaving the war. [26]


Balabanov was deeply discouraged over his government’s failure to take advantage of the opportunity for negotiations. Officially he followed government policy on the pernicious effect of the bombings and Bulgaria’s inability to act as long as Germany dominated the Balkan peninsula; the impression he conveyed to American representatives, however, was much more critical. He declared that his government “was fumbling and undecided and afraid of what happened to Hungary... The members of the Government lacked qualities of leader ship and rather than take action are hoping for a miracle.” [27]


Bulgaria’s unwillingness to withdraw prematurely from the war is understandable. Tsar Boris had joined the Axis above all to avoid a German occupation, and the fate of other Balkan states that had been invaded and occupied had convinced the Bulgarians that this policy was correct. The country’s autonomy had been preserved, and the social order remained intact. Bulgaria had attained its territorial goals, and despite the bombings it had suffered far less from the war than its neighbors. The Bulgarian leaders had no wish to jeopardize these gains by accepting an unattractive Allied offer of unconditional surrender and national humiliation, particularly since the Allies could not promise to protect the country if it withdrew from the Axis. The ultimate reason for the failure of negotiations was the attitude of the Bulgarian leaders, especially Bogdan Filov. Prime Minister Bozhilov was said to favor a break with Germany, but he was a poor leader whose days in office were numbered. A strong premier, if one could have been found, might have been able to gather enough support to withdraw Bulgaria from the war early in 1944.






Chapter 15. The Bagryanov Government



had failed to solve any of the major problems facing the country —Allied air raids, inflation, political disunity, and the threat of invasion. Whereas Tsar Boris had been opportunistic and flexible, especially in regard to Bulgaria’s relations with Germany, his successors were unimaginative and dogmatic Germanophiles. The Bulgarian people had supported the pro-German policy when it gave them the Southern Dobruja and Macedonia, but by mid-1944 they universally regarded the alliance with Germany as a millstone around the nation’s neck.


The Red army was advancing steadily toward the Balkans, prompting many Bulgarians to remember their traditional pro-Russian feeling. The Bozhilov government had established limited contacts with the Allies but felt no sense of urgency about negotiations; months had passed without any significant progress. Inflation had increased to disturbing proportions, with both raw materials and consumer goods in short supply. The partisan movement, though it had so far suffered heavy casualties without much success, was growing increasingly troublesome. The opposition groups, including the Fatherland Front, had gained the tacit support of much of the population and had substantial influence even in the bureaucracy. Time was running out for Bulgaria, and the government’s options had shrunk almost to the vanishing point.





Bagryanov and His Cabinet


Ivan Bagryanov seemed the ideal candidate for prime minister at this difficult time. He had been a close friend of the Tsar for over two decades and was highly regarded by the Royal Court. Because of his resignation from the government in early 1941, which the Allies had interpreted as a protest against Bulgaria’s adherence to the Tripartite Agreement, [1] he was not tainted by collaboration with the Germans. Yet he was also acceptable to the Germans, who regarded him as intelligent and pro-German; he had been educated in Germany and had commanded a German artillery battery on the Western Front in World War I. Moreover, he was also an Agrarian politician with a large following among the peasants—although the party leaders contemptuously called him a demagogue and an agent of the Tsar. Bagryanov, therefore, had considerable freedom of action in his dealings both with the Allies and with the Germans.


The new prime minister tried to be all things to all men; thus his personal views are not clear. He did realize the necessity of Bulgaria’s leaving the war and, according to Lukacs, had advocated such a move in a letter to Filov in February 1944. However, skeptics recalled the 1941 theory that his resignation from the government was prompted by Tsar Boris’s desire to hold him in reserve in case Bulgaria’s pro-German policy had to be changed. [2] The men whom Bagryanov selected for his cabinet, however, were closely linked with the previous pro-Axis governments. The foreign minister was Purvan Draganov, who had been Ambassador to Germany and was reputedly the late Tsar’s half brother. Minister of the Interior Alexander Stanishev was a Germanophile who had once been associated with IMRO. The Minister of Justice, Alexander Stalisky, had been a follower of Tsankov and had later founded his own nationalist party. Perhaps the most influential member of the new cabinet was Slaveiko Vasilev, former President of the League of Reserve Officers, who had been a leading participant in the coup against Stambolisky in 1923. He was bitterly hated by the Agrarians, who accused him of personally torturing





and killing some of their members. [3] As recently as March 23, 1944, in a speech in the Narodno Subranie, he had expressed his confidence in an Axis victory and had praised the Japanese war effort.


Bagryanov had tried to persuade several members of the democratic opposition to join his government; for a week or two he even left vacant several cabinet posts (including that of foreign minister) in the hope that the opposition would eventually accept them. However, the democratic politicians refused to serve with men like Vasilev, hoping to avoid the mistake of Alexander Malinov, who had compromised himself in 1918 by accepting power too soon. [*] Bagryanov’s only success was in persuading Professor Doncho Rostov to become minister of agriculture. Rostov was a biologist who had spent three years in the United States and had been a researcher in Leningrad University until 1943, when he returned to Bulgaria. His inclusion in Bagryanov’s cabinet was intended to be a conciliatory gesture toward the USSR, but when the Fatherland Front informed Rostov that his participation in the cabinet would aid the fascists, he resigned “for reasons of health.” [4]


The Bulgarian Communists were somewhat confused about the attitude they should take toward Bagryanov. He told the Communists privately that he intended to take Bulgaria out of the war and establish friendly relations with the USSR. He also tried to induce the BRP to participate in his cabinet by promising both to name a Communist as director of police and to abolish the concentration camps. This so impressed the BRP representatives that they informed him that he would also be their choice for prime minister. [5] Plans for cooperation between Bagryanov and the Communists ended almost immediately, though, when the “Hristo Botev” radio station in the Soviet Union broadcast an article by Georgi Dimitrov that stated: “The Bagryanov government is a pro-German government... The Fatherland Front exposes all kinds of illusions relating to this government



*. The case of Malinov made a strong impression on Bulgarian politicians. In May 1944, Bozhilov had asked Ambassador Kioseivanov to become foreign minister in a new cabinet he was trying to form. Kioseivanov referred to the fate of Malinov and said that it was both “too early and too late” to take office.





and calls with renewed force for a complete strengthening of the national liberation fight against the Hitlerists.” [6]


The Communists now would not be satisfied with any government not nominated by the Fatherland Front and complained that Bagryanov only sought to silence their criticism by “implicating them in his crime.” They were right: Bagryanov had no intention of allowing the Fatherland Front or the Communist Party to influence decisions of his government. Bulgaria’s international position was so precarious that he wanted to remove any threat from his domestic opposition, particularly from the armed Communist partisans. The BKP complained that he promised a democratic change in internal policy but was at the same time trying to crush the partisans. [7]


On June 1, 1944, shortly after the new cabinet was formed, the Regents assured Beckerle that there would be no change in Bulgaria’s foreign policy toward Germany. Bagryanov was a stronger man than Bozhilov, Filov told Beckerle, and would therefore be able to break off relations with the Soviet Union, as Germany was demanding. [8] For this reason, the Germans completely misinterpreted Bagryanov’s inaugural address of June 3. Full of platitudes and equivocal phrases, the speech was based on the theme that “the fate of Bulgaria is entirely in the hands of Bulgarians.” Opponents of the war assumed—probably correctly—that this was an assertion that Bulgaria would henceforth pursue an independent foreign policy. The Germans, however, strangely assumed that other vague phrases, such as “trying to create a new world of more truth and justice” and “our fatherland will take its place with dignity in the world,” meant that Bulgaria was planning to break relations with the USSR. [9]


Consequently, Germany remained favorably inclined toward the new government. The Neues Wiener Tageblatt, for example, described Bagryanov’s previous success as minister of agriculture and asserted, “The personality of the new Prime Minister Ivan Bagryanov is a significant guarantee for the conduct of the Bulgarian nation”; Bulgaria would be as firm an ally as it had been in the First World War, and the Bulgarians “will defend with rifles,.. .prepared for all eventualities, as they have often done in their history.” [10]





The precedent of Bulgaria’s staunch defense in World War I greatly influenced Germany’s evaluation of the political situation and soon led to a serious miscalculation. [11]


Bagryanov hoped to remain on good terms with the Germans while working behind the scenes for an armistice with the Allies. Like his predecessors, he faced the problem of how to take Bulgaria out of the war without provoking a German occupation. Bagryanov’s plan apparently was to arrange the armistice with the Allies but to refrain from consummating it until the Germans began to withdraw from the Balkans. Bulgaria would then change sides and mobilize its 25 divisions along the border to discourage either German or Russian interference. If the Bulgarians could make their move at exactly the right time, the two Great Powers might be so concerned with fighting each other that they would not wish to fight the Bulgarian army as well. If the move were made too early, the country would be occupied first by the Germans and then by the Russians; if it came too late, the Russians would sweep into Bulgaria and treat it as an enemy. Bagryanov’s plan was not new, but he was the first Bulgarian prime minister who had a reasonable chance of implementing it.


However, he made at least two important mistakes. First, he overestimated the amount of time he had available to carry out his plans, and therefore he did not act with sufficient haste to reach an agreement with the Allies. The Soviet army was still fighting on its own territory and all of Rumania lay between it and Bulgaria. The Bulgarian General Staff thought it possible that the Russians would not reach the Bulgarian border until the end of 1944, and a few generals (including General Mihov) believed that stiffened German resistance might delay the Russians until the summer of 1945. Bagryanov was not so unrealistic, but he did believe that for the next few months his task would be to avoid offending the Great Powers rather than to take positive action. His second mistake was to assume that he could remain head of an Axis state, preside over a cabinet of German sympathizers, collaborate with the Germans, and still be acceptable to the Allies. As discreetly as possible, he tried to convince the Allies that his government was markedly different from the preceding





ones, but he was too subtle and too half-hearted in his actions.


Soon after coming into office, Bagryanov launched an ambitious (his opponents said demagogic) economic program to win the support of the people. Since wartime inflation had inflicted severe hardship on those with fixed salaries, especially civil servants, he ordered wages for government employees to be increased 30 to 50 percent. Pensions were raised proportionately a few days later. This was hardly a cure for inflation, and most of his other plans similarly had more glitter than substance, but he was trying to stave off popular unrest as long as possible. Bagryanov also halted the shipment of food to Germany on the grounds that it was needed to supply the enlarged Bulgarian army. This move slightly improved the economic situation, gained popular support, and was interpreted abroad as the first action against the Germans. [12]


Bagryanov also took steps to reduce Germany’s use of his country as a military base against the USSR, a major concern of the Soviet government. German trains crossing Bulgaria to Rumania were reduced from eight a week to one, and the remaining one was to be eliminated. Bulgaria ordered the Germans to remove all their operational forces from the ports of Varna and Burgas and made arrangements for Soviet diplomats to verify the withdrawal (in fact, many German ships and support troops remained in the ports). Filov agreed to these actions and felt them “justified by the new situation in the Black Sea, in order to avoid if possible a new conflict in the Balkans with Russia and eventually also with Turkey, which will probably intervene if Russia breaks with us.” [13] The Soviets had given Bulgaria a virtual ultimatum about the German use of the Black Sea ports, and Draganov cabled the Bulgarian minister in Moscow that “an evasive answer will lead to a breaking of our relations with Russia, which is neither in our interest nor that of Germany and will cause a disaster in the Balkans.” He therefore formally requested Germany to evacuate the ports and thus “give Bulgaria the possibility of escaping the catastrophe with Russia.” [14] Germany complied without protest. This did not undermine Germany’s confidence in Bagryanov: “The new government is doubtlessly stronger both in





composition and also in the country itself than the Bozhilov government; it can therefore make urgent decisions with more energy and consideration.” [15] Germany remained confident that “the sympathies of the majority of the people are on the German side.” [16]



Negotiations with the Allies


The Western Allies expected that as soon as Bagryanov came to power he would attempt to lead Bulgaria out of the war. Bagryanov did place some limitations on the Germans, as we have seen, but he was very slow in contacting the Allies. On June 20, 1944, the Bulgarian Consul in Istanbul, Ivan Stanchov, was authorized to begin discussions with Dr. Floyd Black, who had been president of the American College in Sofia since 1926, and with another American professor. Stanchov asked for a definite Allied promise that Bulgaria would be allowed to keep the Southern Dobruja and a large portion of Macedonia, would not be subjected to Allied occupation, and would not be asked to drive out the Germans. He requested an immediate reply from the Allies. [17]


Final Allied terms were extremely generous in comparison with those in the earlier British draft version. They demanded that Bulgarian troops withdraw from all the territory occupied by Bulgaria since January 1, 1940 (which included the Southern Dobruja), but promised that this would be “without prejudice to the ultimate settlement of the disputed territorial claims.” Bulgaria would also be required to accept Allied occupation, to “make such reparation and restitution as the United Nations may require,” and to provide the Allies with war materials, transportation, information, and archives. Bulgaria would not be accorded the status of cobelligerent. The surrender would be unconditional, but the Allied negotiators were authorized to offer certain inducements: a guarantee of Bulgarian independence, assurance that neither Yugoslav nor Greek troops would participate in the occupation, and the retention of the Southern Dobruja. No compromise was offered on Thrace or Macedonia because of the great difficulty this would cause with Greece and Yugoslavia; the British position was that the Bulgarian claims were





“by no means convincing.” These were regarded as maximum concessions and would only be offered if Bulgaria defected from the Axis and surrendered the Germans on its territory. “If, on the other hand, Bulgaria should delay surrender until the defeat of Germany is imminent, the United Nations should make no concessions to Bulgaria except with respect to the ultimate restoration of its independence.” [18]


The Allied terms were reasonable but not very attractive. Bulgaria had expected to be able to change sides at the last possible moment and still avoid being treated as an enemy by the Allies. At worst, it expected to be required to participate in the war on the Allied side; at best it might be able to remain neutral. Bagryanov now found that the Allies wanted him to withdraw from the war immediately, even though he believed that this would be national suicide, and they would only offer him terms that he regarded as humiliating. Most important was the territorial issue: as long as the Allies would not guarantee that the newly acquired lands would remain a part of Bulgaria, Bagryanov was reluctant to make a final settlement.


It was clear to the Bulgarians that Greek and Yugoslav pressure would have much more effect on the British and Americans after the war than would the claims of a former enemy state. Bulgaria, therefore, had to obtain all the concessions possible while it was in a strategic position and still had bargaining power. Bagryanov decided to postpone a formal acceptance of the Allied offer in the hope that better terms could be obtained later. In the meantime, he sought to show the Allies that Bulgaria sincerely wanted to break away from the Axis as soon as possible.


On July 20, 1944, Nikola Balabanov, Bulgarian Ambassador to Turkey, brought from Sofia a note for the Allied negotiators in Istanbul outlining the general policy of the Bulgarian government. He attached great importance to this document and requested that it be kept absolutely secret to prevent the Bagryanov cabinet’s being replaced by one that was more pro-German. According to this note, the purpose of the government was “to get Bulgaria out of the war as soon as conditions make this purpose possible.” It claimed that German activities in Bulgaria had been sharply curtailed, especially





along the Black Sea coast, and that internal pacification had been largely achieved. Furthermore, the note suggested that Bulgaria was planning to withdraw military forces from Serbia (but not from Macedonia), to declare a general political amnesty, and to repeal the anti-Jewish legislation. The note concluded with the assurance that Bagryanov was “doing everything possible to get Bulgaria out of the war,” and said that the American government could help by offering its views on “the position of Bulgaria in the future political arrangements in the Balkans.” [19] Thus, after almost two months in power, Bagryanov had still not reached agreement with the Allies and seemed unlikely to do so until international events made it unavoidable.



The Soviet Union and Turkey


While dealing with the West, the Bulgarian government was also concerned about two threats from the East—Turkey and the USSR. Bulgaria was not at war with the Soviet Union, but the Soviets had expressed considerable dissatisfaction with Bulgarian policy. Bagryanov determined to improve relations with Moscow by reducing German military activity in Bulgaria, and this he did. The Soviet government was not satisfied, however, and demanded that Bulgaria allow the reopening of the Soviet consulate in Varna, which had been closed after a year of German pressure in 1942. They claimed this would wipe out the stain on Bulgarian honor caused by the unexplained killing of a Soviet diplomat there earlier in the war; but the real reason they wanted the consulate was to observe German naval movements in the port, where in June 1944 there were over 60 German vessels. [20] Bagryanov’s restrictions on the Germans had only limited their “offensive” activities; their “defensive” activities—if such a distinction can be made—were increasing as the Red army advanced toward the Balkans. Because such activity worsened relations with the Soviet Union, which was not Bagryanov’s intention, he conceded on July 29 to the reopening of the Soviet consulate in Varna and announced that everything incompatible with Bulgaria’s position of neutrality had now been swept away. [21]





Bulgaria’s neutral neighbor, Turkey, had cooperated with Germany throughout the war: it had made regular shipments of chrome ore to the Reich, and as recently as June 1944 had allowed German naval vessels to pass through the Straits. In the middle of July 1944, however, Bulgarian newspapers reported that Turkey was negotiating with the British and the Americans. By the end of the month, Turkey was engaged in discussions with the Soviets as well, and Bulgarian intelligence reports indicated that Turkey would make a major change of policy within a day or two. On August 2, 1944, the Turkish parliament, influenced by Allied pressure and the fear of being diplomatically isolated in the postwar world, voted to break off relations with Germany. [22]



The Change in Policy Stalled


On that same day, August 2, Prime Minister Churchill made a speech in the House of Commons strongly criticizing Bulgaria and implying that it, like Rumania, would have to make its peace primarily with the Soviet Union. Churchill made no distinction between the Bagryanov government and the previous pro-German governments, and indicated that Bulgaria would not fare well at a future peace conference.


Thrice thrown into war on the wrong side by a miserable set of criminal politicians, who seem to be available for their country’s ruin generation after generation, three times in my life has this wretched Bulgaria subjected a peasant population to all the pangs of war and the chastisements of defeat....


The moment of repentence has not passed, but it is passing swiftly. The whole of Europe is heading irresistably into new and secure foundations. What will be the place of Bulgaria at the judgement seat, when the petty and cowardly part she has played in this war is revealed, and when the entire Yugoslav and Greek nations, through their representatives, will reveal at the Allies’ armistice table the dismal tale of the work the Bulgarian Army has done their countries as the cruel lackeys of the fallen Nazi power? [23]


This accusation elicited a reply from a young member of the Narodno Subranie, Nikola Minkov, who quoted part of Churchill’s





speech and emphasized that some thought should have been given to the suffering of Bulgaria at the hands of the Greeks and Serbs. Bulgarian territorial claims, he said, were fully in accord with the principle of nationality, and Bulgaria still had a strong army. [24] The pressure on Bulgaria to negotiate, however, was growing stronger. At the beginning of August, the Allied forces in the West broke out of the Normandy beachhead and advanced rapidly across France. On the other side of the continent, Soviet forces were poised for an advance into the Balkans that German and Rumanian troops would find impossible to stop.


On August 12, a group of opposition leaders presented the Bulgarian government with a petition—the first since 1942 that contained the names of both Communist and non-Communist party leaders. The petition demanded that the government end the war with Great Britain and the United States, open genuinely friendly relations with the Soviet Union, withdraw troops from territory not claimed by Bulgaria (but not from the annexed territories), respect democratic rights, and form a representative and constitutional government. [25]


The main difficulty remained the territorial question, on which neither the Bulgarians nor the Allies would yield. Milev, the Bulgarian Consul in Geneva, informed Foreign Minister Draganov that the most that could be expected from the Allies, even if Bulgaria immediately left the war, was the pre-Marita (1941) boundaries. “They do not want to even hear about Thrace and the outlet to the Aegean. Now the Greeks are les infants gâtés and in no case will their territorial integrity be impaired.” [26] Bagryanov tried, however, to resolve the conflicting pressures by taking half measures, as he had been doing for over two months. On August 14, he removed former Prime Minister Bozhilov from his new position as Director of the National Bank. Although the official reason given was Bozhilov’s “ill health,” the move was taken to placate those who had complained that the present government had too many ties with the previous ones. Bagryanov also removed some of Bozhilov’s closest associates in the bank, including the administrator and assistant administrator. [27]





Two days later, Bagryanov, Draganov, and Filov met to discuss the proposed secret treaty with Turkey, by which they hoped to avoid a conflict between the two countries and prevent Bulgaria’s complete diplomatic isolation. A treaty with Turkey meant an alliance with a state that was at least technically allied with Britain. Furthermore, Bulgaria and Turkey shared a fear of a Soviet domination of the Balkans; the final text of the treaty included the sentence “The two Governments consider that a true and lasting peace in the Balkans will be possible only if established on a fair basis which leaves the Balkans to the Balkan people.” [28]


The Germans were aware of Bulgaria’s desire to dissociate itself from the Axis, and many of the German officers in the country regarded the situation as highly unstable. The German Commander-in-Chief in the Balkans, Field Marshal von Weichs, believed that Bulgaria would suddenly change sides in the war, as Italy had done, and he warned against too much dependence upon the Bulgarian army for the defense of the Balkans. He therefore recommended to Berlin that the army be disarmed so that it could not be turned against the Germans at a critical moment. [29] The official German attitude, however, continued to be influenced by the history of Bulgaria’s determined stand during World War I, when the small country had held at bay an expeditionary force of French, British, Serbian, and Russian divisions. Bulgaria was expected to do the same if Allied troops again appeared on the country’s border, and the two dozen Bulgarian divisions could greatly assist in Germany’s defense of the Balkans.


For this reason, despite the objections of a number of military and intelligence officers, Germany decided, to send additional weapons and equipment to the Bulgarian army, including much equipment badly needed by the German army. When 50 assault guns and 88 Mark IV tanks were sent to Bulgaria in early August, Colonel von Jungenfeldt, the chief training adviser to the Bulgarian army, made a strong objection to the Inspector General of Panzers, General Guderian. As a result, Guderian ordered that these armored vehicles be diverted to the 4th SS Division in the Balkans. At Hitler’s headquarters,





however, General Jodi countermanded this order and directed that the original instructions be followed. Not until August 25 did Germany begin to take “certain precautionary measures” against the possibility of Bulgaria’s defection from the Axis. [30]


Finally, on August 17, Bagryanov officially repudiated the policies of his predecessors. In a speech before the Narodno Subranie, he described the disasters that had been brought upon the country by following “the bloody path of chauvinism and war”—a policy he called shortsighted and “contrary to the will of the people.” He announced that henceforth Bulgaria would follow a policy of strict neutrality, and he promised a full political amnesty. [31] The Assembly greeted the new policy with the same tumultuous applause it had given the former pro-German policy. Newspapers devoted considerable space to the speech, and their headlines conveyed the impression that it was much more explicit than it actually was. The newspapers also disclosed that the former President of the Assembly, Stoicho Moshanov, had been sent to Cairo to negotiate a formal peace settlement. [32] (Actually, Moshanov went to Ankara, not Cairo.)


Bagryanov thus attempted to take Bulgaria out of the war not by surrendering, but simply by declaring the country neutral. Although it was doubtful that this would satisfy the Allies, Bagryanov’s alternatives were so unpleasant that the gamble seemed worthwhile. Nevertheless, some Narodno Subranie representatives criticized him for going too far. Alexander Tsankov argued that Bulgaria’s fate was bound up with that of Germany, and that the Reich would never capitulate; Lazar Popov objected to Bagryanov’s claim that he had saved the country by becoming premier and to the implication that Germany had lost the war; Dimiter Peshev, former Vice President of the Narodno Subranie, urged that no compromise be made on the territorial question, for Macedonia and Thrace were “not just dreams —they are national needs”; and former Prime Minister Nikola Mushanov said that Bagryanov should have adopted the more popular and realistic course of relying on Russia, although it was not clear to Mushanov or anyone else how this could be done. [33] Of greater importance was the unfortunate remark of Foreign Minister Draganov





that Bulgaria had been justified in joining the Tripartite Pact in 1941 and that “if Bulgaria found itself in the enemy’s camp, much of the blame lies with the Allies.” Draganov’s remark may have contained some truth, but it did throw doubt on Bulgaria’s sincerity and had a detrimental effect on the Moshanov peace mission. [34]


On August 14, Stoicho Moshanov approached the Counsellor of the British Embassy in Ankara with a request to speak to the Ambassador, Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugesscn. The Counsellor told Moshanov that the British position on Bulgaria was quite clear, but Moshanov replied that he was bringing an entirely new set of proposals. The British Foreign Office authorized Sir Hughe to listen to Moshanov’s proposals but advised him to take no action except to report them to London.


At the subsequent meeting with the British, on August 16, 1944, Moshanov stated that the Bulgarian government now desired to leave the war and wished to know the Allied conditions. Two factors affected the timing of the armistice, he said. One was the necessity of gathering as much of the harvest as possible beforehand, in case of German reprisals. The harvest was good but late, and most of the army reservists were working in the fields. The other factor was the need to secure unity in the country, which he claimed would take another week or two.


Knatchbull-Hugessen replied that time was running out; the war would not stand still until mid-September when Bulgaria gathered its harvest. Moshanov acknowledged that Bulgaria’s defection from the Axis would have significant military impact but objected that “it would be impractical to ask Bulgaria to break off relations with Germany and withdraw troops from Serbia and Greece at this stage.” In the meantime, he proposed that Bulgaria could show its sincerity by releasing Allied prisoners (mostly captured airmen) and by sending an emissary to Cairo not later than the end of August. [35]


The British vacillated on the strategic advisability of an immediate Bulgarian break with Germany. An Aide-Memoire from the British Embassy in Washington to the U.S. Department of State dated August 20, 1944, indicated that the time might not yet be ripe for such





a break; another Aide-Memoire, from the same source on the same day but dealing with Turkey, proposed that the Turkish and Soviet governments present Bulgaria with an ultimatum that “unless they expel the Germans from Bulgaria forthwith, sever relations with Germany and withdraw their troops from Allied territory they have occupied, Turkey and the Soviet Union will declare war on Bulgaria.” The plan stressed, however, that it was complementary to, and not in conflict with, the effort to reach an agreement with the Moshanov mission. [36]


Moshanov and the Bulgarian industrialist Georgi Kiselov presented their credentials to the Allies in Istanbul on August 23 and urged them to act immediately on the Bulgarian request for peace. Kiselov argued that the Bagryanov government had already taken considerable risks in attempting to dissociate itself from Germany and that German military intervention in Bulgaria remained a possibility. The Bulgarian emissaries, attempting to play the West off against Russia, emphasized that the Soviets would probably offer Bulgaria better terms but that Bulgaria was willing to make some sacrifice to ensure its “future status as a free democratic state.” They warned, however, that if the West proposed overly harsh terms the Bulgarian troops would turn to the Soviet Union and the government would be unable to resist. [37]



The Results of Rumania’s Defection


Events in Rumania gave the Bulgarian negotiations added urgency. On August 20, the Russians launched a massive attack on German and Rumanian defenses along the Rumanian border. By noon of that clay, Russian tank-mounted infantry were reported to be penetrating the Rumanian sections of the line and meeting almost no resistance. Marshal Antonescu, the dictator of Rumania, went to the front in an attempt to rally the dispirited forces. Upon his return to Bucharest on August 23, King Michael summoned him to report on the military situation and demanded that he come to terms with the Soviet Union. Antonescu refused and was immediately arrested on orders of the King, who thereupon ordered the arrest of the cabinet and the chief





of the German military mission. Rumania’s defection from the Axis left only four German divisions between Bulgaria and the advancing Red army. When word of the King’s coup reached Berlin, German units in Rumania were immediately ordered to occupy strategic areas and reinforcements were flown into the country. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe made aimless attacks on the Rumanian capital. But German strength was inadequate to resist the Russians and punish the Rumanians at the same time. The German reprisals only provoked the Rumanians to declare war on Germany on the 25th. [38]


On August 23, Bagryanov announced that Bulgaria was withdrawing completely from the war. Three days later, Draganov informed the Soviet chargé d’affaires in Sofia that all German troops fleeing into Bulgaria from Rumania would henceforth be disarmed and that German troops already in the country would be asked to withdraw immediately or be disarmed. The Western Allies, learning of this, requested that the Soviet government not encourage the Bulgarians to believe that neutrality would suffice in place of vigorous action against Germany. Moscow responded by opening a violent radio and press campaign against the Bagryanov government. [39]


Moshanov returned to Sofia for instructions on the night of August 24, while Kiselov remained in Turkey to urge the British and the Americans not to lose the opportunity to help Bulgaria out of the war. The Red army might appear on the Danube at any time, he stated; or a Communist regime might replace the present one in Bulgaria; or the Germans might intervene and prevent Bulgaria from leaving the Axis. The Allies and the Bulgarians blamed each other for the delay in reaching an accord. Draganov asked the Turks on August 25 to intervene diplomatically in order to hasten the armistice negotiations: “The Russians are approaching the mouth of the Danube... The British and Americans are acting much too slowly. To arrive at an understanding, speed is now essential.” [40]


In an attempt to expedite matters, the Allies decided to conduct the initial negotiations in Ankara, rather than in Cairo, and declared that in the meantime they would look favorably upon any pro-Allied actions taken by the Bulgarians. Specifically mentioned were the release





of Allied prisoners, the cessation of hostilities against the Allies (although this had already been done), the severing of diplomatic relations with Germany, and the expulsion of German troops from Bulgarian territory. These measures formed the basis of the official armistice terms that the Allies were now ready to present to Bulgaria. In addition, Bulgaria was required to withdraw from Greek and Yugoslav territory, to provide for the trial of Bulgarian war criminals, and to make reparations for war damage inflicted on the Allied nations. Bulgaria would, however, be given an oral promise that its independence would be respected, and Greece and Yugoslavia would merely assent to the treaty rather than participate in the signing. [41]


The negotiations now moved to Cairo, as originally planned; on August 30, Moshanov and Colonel Zheleskov (former Bulgarian military attaché in Istanbul) flew there, to be joined soon by the diplomat Ivan Stanchov and the pro-American former Director of Bulgarian Railways, Lyuben Boshkov. The Bulgarian representatives pointed out that the Bagryanov government had taken additional measures to prove its sincerity: almost five thousand German troops from Rumania had been disarmed, the Gestapo had been expelled from the country on August 27, the other Germans stationed in Bulgaria had been given a deadline of August 31 to leave, all anti-Jewish laws had been abrogated, and the Bulgarian occupation corps was being withdrawn from Serbia. Furthermore, Allied prisoners would soon be released, and the Narodno Subranie was to be dissolved in a few days. No action had been taken to break off relations with Germany, the delegation said, because this would not be in keeping with Bulgaria’s avowal of strict neutrality. [42]


The Bulgarians were aware that Germany knew of these moves and were apprehensive during the last week of August that the Germans would resort to military action against Bulgaria. Sofia was in panic and rumors spread that the city would be bombed. On the day of the Rumanian surrender, an Allied air raid on the Danube crossings greatly alarmed the Bulgarians, who thought that the Rumanians and the Red army were invading Bulgaria. Bulgarians were also worried because it was known that the German troops leaving Bulgaria proper





were taking up positions in Macedonia with the obvious intention of defending the Vardar and Morava valleys. Ambassador Beckerle, who had angrily left Bulgaria earlier in the month, returned on August 27 in a much calmer mood and said only that the Bulgarians would regret their mistake.


Germany could not permit Bulgaria to defect from the Axis, for this would cut off the units in Rumania and imperil Germany’s position in Greece and Serbia. To prevent this, the Germans had a contingency plan—appropriately called “Operation Hundessohn”— to be led by an SS police division. A Bulgarian puppet state would be created under Tsankov. (The Germans also briefly considered Ivan Mihailov, the leader of IMRO, for the role of administrator of Macedonia.) [*] But insufficient time and the rapid advance of the Red army made it impossible for Germany to carry out this operation with the small forces then available.



Moscow’s Double Game


The USSR was not at war with Bulgaria but had been consulted by the Western Allies about the peace negotiations and requested to send an observer. In mid-March 1944, Molotov had told U.S. Ambassador Harriman that he believed it was premature to discuss terms for a Bulgarian surrender because Allied forces were still too far away to support Bulgaria if it tried to leave the Axis. Western diplomats were still uncertain about Russia’s attitude toward Bulgaria and suspected that the Soviets might be planning to use Bulgaria to extend its influence into the Balkans. [**] A report prepared for the American Under Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius, summarized this possibility: “The Slavic tie between Russia and Bulgaria and Russia’s traditional ambition to have a dependable access to the Mediterranean combine to create interesting possibilities as regards the Soviet role in determining



*. Tsankov was soon to become the leader of a Bulgarian government-in-exile in Germany; at the end of the war, he fled to Argentina. Mihailov remained in Croatia for another few months, then went to Germany himself; after the war he set up a clandestine headquarters in Italy, where he reportedly lives today.


**. It was this same fear in 1878 that prompted Great Britain and the other powers to overturn the treaty of San Stefano and hold the Congress of Berlin, which greatly reduced the territory of Bulgaria.





the disposition to be made of Bulgaria. Will the Soviet Government, for example, insist on an enlarged and strengthened Bulgaria, reviving Bulgarian claims to North Dobruja and championing Bulgaria’s longstanding insistence upon an outlet on the Aegean?” [43]


The Soviets reportedly told the Bulgarians that a strong Slavic bloc would be created that would be the dominant force in world politics, and Bulgaria was advised to join while there was still an opportunity. The Soviet chargé d’affaires in Sofia was in close contact with the Fatherland Front and also met openly with the opposition leaders Mushanov and Gichev, who were adopting a favorable attitude toward Russia. Even the official Bulgarian government radio began once more to broadcast Russian music.


However, the evidence was growing that, in the words of one Western report, “Russia is playing a double game in Bulgaria.” [44] The Soviet government had accepted Bagryanov’s declaration of neutrality of August 17, but the Soviet Legation in Sofia had denied to the local Communists that such action had been taken. (The chargé d’affaires had left for Moscow, leaving only a Second Secretary who could provide little information on the Soviet position.) On the other hand, while seeking friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the Bagryanov government was making every effort to eradicate the Communist partisan movement; in Soviet eyes this branded Bagryanov a hypocrite and a fascist. [45]



Negotiations with the Fatherland Front


Bagryanov’s attitude toward the Communists changed rapidly following Rumania’s surrender. On August 23, he met Dimo Kazasov, a former leader of Zveno who had once been connected with Tsankov but was now in the Fatherland Front. According to Kazasov, Bagryanov was in obvious panic and wanted to arrange a meeting at once with the Fatherland Front. [46] Bagryanov had met with Front members soon after he came to power in May 1944 and had seemed willing to compromise on a number of issues. He had even admitted that the partisan movement had been necessary as the only way of opposing the Germans. More concretely, he had promised a full amnesty





and the opening of the concentration camps, and had requested that the Communists recommend someone acceptable to them as director of police. As we have seen, Bagryanov also had tried to induce members of both the democratic opposition and the Communist-dominated Front to accept portfolios in his new cabinet. But on orders from Moscow, the Front had refused to cooperate with him. Bagryanov also failed to keep his promises. The new director of police was not someone acceptable to the Communists, but Colonel Kutsarov, a fanatical fascist. The Minister of the Interior, Alexander Stanishev, was ardently pro-German and had given orders to crush the partisans. Under Bagryanov’s regime the concentration camps were fuller than before.


Thus there was a great deal of mistrust and ill feeling when Bagryanov met again with the representatives of the Front on August 24. The Front told him that Bulgaria could only be saved by turning over the government to “the true representatives of the people.” Bagryanov replied that a decision was impossible without the approval of the Regents, and he invited the Front to seek a meeting with Filov, Mihov, and Prince Kiril. The Front representatives refused, saying that it was the prime minister’s duty to speak with the Regents on this matter. Bagryanov then left for a short time and returned to say that the Regents had refused to grant any audience because there was no cabinet crisis. [*] The Zvenoist Petko Stainov proposed that the Front should support Bagryanov if he would agree to implement its program, but since this was totally unacceptable to the other Front representatives present, the meeting adjourned without results. [47]


This failure and the discouraging news from Rumania resulted in a redoubled Bulgarian effort to reach agreement with the Allies by the end of August. Bagryanov’s difficulty, however, lay in the fact that he was no more willing to make concessions to the Allies than to the Fatherland Front. On August 27, the Regents changed their position and invited the leading members of the opposition—ranging from the Communists to the Tsankovists—to a meeting. Since political



*. Bagryanov claimed to have replied “Then we will create one,” but this is implausible. Interview, Bulgaria.





parties had officially been abolished in 1934, these men had been invited as individuals and not as spokesmen for the different parties and factions. This was the cause—or the pretext—for the withdrawal of Ivan Pashov, Nikola Petkov, and Grigor Chesmedzhiev from the meeting, for they demanded to be recognized as representatives of the Fatherland Front. [*]


The other opposition leaders were not anxious to cooperate with the regime, because they believed that it had been largely discredited and because they expected to be called to power within a few days. Filov’s continued unwillingness to make any concessions was based upon the assumptions that the USSR would respect Bulgaria’s neutrality and that an armistice with the West was imminent. The Fatherland Front, on the other hand, was already planning a coup and was awaiting the appearance of Soviet troops on Bulgaria’s northern border. They did not have long to wait: on August 31, Soviet troops entered Bucharest and headed south.



*. Kimon Georgiev, who had just been released from internal exile in Burgas, had not had time to consult colleagues in the Front and did not walk out with them. The Fatherland Front had by this time approximately 3,600 members, organized in 670 cells (an average of five-and-a-half persons per cell), of which 57 cells were in Sofia. The National Committee had been increased to fifteen members in August; five were Communists, three were Agrarians (Pladne), two were Social Democrats, and five had other affiliations. Oren, “Bulgarian Communist Party,” pp. 335—36; Valev, p. 67; Rabotnichesko delo, 8.IX.49; interviews, Bulgaria.






Chapter 16. The Partisans



IN A CONVERSATION with the Vrabcha Agrarian leader, Dimiter Gichev, Bagryanov argued, “Well, at least I have bought three months for Bulgaria.” But Gichev’s rejoinder was more realistic: “You have lost three valuable months for Bulgaria!” [1] Among the beneficiaries of Bagryanov’s miscalculations were the Communists, whose ranks swelled with opportunists as the Red army approached the border. Before recounting the climactic events of September 1-9, 1944, a review of the Party’s history will help clarify its role in the war’s final phase.



The Failure of the Resistance Movement in 1941


The Communist armed resistance movement in Bulgaria was generally poorly organized, poorly armed, and poorly led. On June 24, 1941, two days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Bulgarian Communist Party formed a Central Military Commission (TsVK) and called for an armed struggle against the “German oppressors and their Bulgarian lackeys.” [2] But the Party rank and file were by no means enthusiastic about their new role, especially as they saw scores of their leaders quickly captured by the Bulgarian police. Those few leaders who remained were soon forced to conclude that the resistance was costing the Party far more than the results justified. According to one, Traicho Rostov, by trying to conduct a campaign of violence, the BKP was risking “isolation from the masses and the possibility of having to bear the burdens of the fight all alone.” [3]





Others argued that a better policy would be to wait until conditions became more favorable to partisan activity, and even the TsVK admitted that armed resistance at this time only served to bleed the Party white. [4]


Statistics vary widely on the number of partisan attacks during 1941, but a reasonable estimate would be two in July, about two dozen in August, and about one dozen in September. More than half of these attacks were in the “new lands”—the territories recently annexed to Bulgaria—and were therefore not attributable to the regular Bulgarian Communist organization. Calculations are difficult, but the total of all violent anti-government incidents during 1941 probably did not exceed 85, most of which were quite minor. Of these, 22 were against agricultural targets, 12 against factories, 11 against warehouses, and 10 against railroads and transports. About 40 percent were in the Sofia district, the most significant action there being the burning of a small fur company in the city. [5] Only two incidents during 1941 are worthy of particular mention. One was the attempt to liberate inmates of the Gonda Voda concentration camp: of two assaults made on the camp, the first, by 70 partisans on August 15, failed completely and the second, on August 31, was intercepted before the force ever reached the camp. [6] The second case involved an individual act of sabotage by Leon Tadzher, a Jewish Communist, who set fire to a large quantity of oil and gasoline at a depot in Ruse and killed an unarmed German soldier. After his execution for sabotage, he became a major hero of the resistance. [7] Tightened government security and the “temporary successes of the fascist armies on the Eastern Front,” however, discouraged any imitators. By the end of 1941, most partisan bands had either been destroyed or reduced to a handful of fighters. [8]


The Russians tried to assist the Bulgarian partisans by sending Bulgarian émigré agents into the country by submarine and parachute in August and September 1941, but they had no more success than the local Communists; the country was simply not ready for revolution. [9] A major handicap for the partisans was that Bulgaria was not an occupied country. Armed attacks and sabotage had to be directed not against the Germans but against fellow Bulgarians. With the Bulgarian government and army intact, there was no disintegration of





authority or availability of large supplies of weapons from a defeated army, as was the case in Poland, France, and Yugoslavia. Bulgaria was an island of peace in a sea of war; even those who were opposed to the Axis and unimpressed by the territorial gains could not deny that the Tsar’s foreign policy had enjoyed considerable success. Thus, during the early part of the war, the partisans were unable to gain much popular support. “They fought an isolated war, alone in a countryside riddled with informers, surrounded on every side by enemy troops, many hundreds of miles from their nearest allies, who had neither the resources nor the intent to give them aid. Only a handful of those who took up arms in 1942 survived to see the liberation of Bulgaria.” [10]



The 1943 Partisan Revival


The Russian victory at Stalingrad in January 1943 revived the demoralized Bulgarian Communists and led to renewed partisan activity. Such inspiration was desperately needed. The already decimated Party leadership had suffered a serious setback in the spring of 1942 when the police arrested Traicho Rostov, Anton Ivanov, the “submariner” Tsvyatko Radoinov, and other leaders during the “Zaimov Affair”—the abortive conspiracy of General Vladimir Zaimov (see Chapter 7). [11] Armed attacks on German soldiers in Sofia in December 1942 had only led to a police blockade of the capital and further setbacks. [12]


Even after Stalingrad, the struggling Bulgarian resistance movement did not suddenly blossom into a full-scale partisan campaign. Whatever the situation on the Eastern Front, the Tsarist government was very much in control within Bulgaria. The Communist Party remained plagued by a “capitulation attitude” so serious that a number of comrades released from the concentration camps chose to return to the camps rather than become partisans. Many BKP members continued to believe that the Party should conserve its forces rather than engage in activity that could endanger its cadres. The prevailing attitude among the rank and file was to “wait and see,” to neither resist nor collaborate. [13]





Resistance consequently took the form not of partisan warfare—as in Yugoslavia or Greece where large bands roamed the countryside— but of urban terrorism and sabotage conducted by small groups of three to six men and women. Members of these “fighting groups” (boini grupi), unlike partisans, usually had jobs and legal residences in the cities. On February 13, 1943, the extreme nationalist leader General Hristo Lukov was shot dead by a fighting group allegedly led by a 19-year-old girl, Violeta Yankova. (As mentioned in Chapter 9, the identity of the assassins was a matter of much speculation at the time.) An unsuccessful attempt was made on Lukov’s secretary on April 6; and on April 15,1943, a fighting group killed Sotir Yanev, the chairman of the Narodno Subranie’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Two weeks later, on May 3, the Yankova team killed Colonel Pantev, the head of the Sofia Military Tribunal. [14] The Party leadership had always harbored serious misgivings about the program of political assassinations and even after the war was reluctant to claim credit for the murders of Lukov and others. After the spring incidents of 1943, the increased police activity and the Communist losses discouraged the Party from further efforts at urban terrorism. “After these actions, the position of the fighting groups in Sofia became more difficult. Only in Sofia did individual fighters remain.” [15]


In dissolving these units, the Party relinquished a valuable weapon that required little effort to operate but was extremely difficult to counter. The partisan units in the countryside had much less impact and, at least during 1943, were little more than an irritation. Other assassinations did occur, most notably that of the Deputy Governor of Plovdiv in July 1943, but in general thereafter the only officials in danger were those in remote areas. The urban terrorist campaign and the resulting setbacks contributed to the growth of the partisan movement by forcing many Communists to flee to the mountains. They were joined there by others, inspired by Stalingrad. Their number was not large, but their growth rate was impressive: the police estimate of 180 partisans in January 1943 doubled by March and doubled again by June. [16] Accomplishments were less impressive. Although the number of “partisan” attacks during this period rose from 12 in January





to 58 in March to 145 in June, most of these were of slight significance, and the majority were minor acts of sabotage rather than attacks by partisan bands. [17]


An average band (cheta, pl. cheti) numbered about a dozen members, who, during this period at least, were necessarily much more concerned with their own survival than with partisan operations. In the Turnovo region, for example, the total accomplishment of the four partisan bands during 1945 was the killing of a policeman and a village mayor, and the seizure of two dozen rifles and some food. [18] In the Burgas zone, one of the twelve Insurrection Operation Zones (VOZ) into which the Communists divided the country in March 1943, only five partisan units (otryadi, which were larger than cheti) were active during 1943. Otryad No. 1 repeatedly suffered heavy losses and by the end of 1943 had practically disappeared. Otryad No. 2 had greater success—it raided a coal mine in August and in September briefly occupied the town Golyamo Shivachevo and executed its mayor—but reverses in December weakened the unit for several months. The other three units were of virtually no significance in 1943. [19] Then during the winter of 1943-44, the partisans suffered heavy losses. In particular, the famous partisan unit “Anton Ivanov” was destroyed in the Rhodope Mountains in March 1944; 135 of its 153 members were killed in action or captured and beheaded by the gendarmerie. [20] With the return of the warm weather, however, partisan ranks were swelled by volunteers from the cities. Most members of the BKP and the Communist youth organization RMS—Rabotnicheski Mladezhki Suyuz (Union of Young Workers)—had hitherto not answered the Party’s call to arms; now, as prospects brightened for an Allied victory, they flocked to the mountains.


The Bulgarian partisans created the first two brigades in Bulgaria proper in April 1944, followed by two others in May. Although Filov noted in his diary in March that the growing Communist forces still posed no threat, by late April he and his co-regent General Mihov had become concerned at the number and scope of partisan successes. Both Mihov and the German advisers in Sofia described much of the Bulgarian military planning as “hidebound, detailed, and bookish,”





and the Germans criticized the army’s inadequate reconnaissance and poor radio discipline (Klartextfunken). [21]


The partisans themselves were not fully effective, owing to a lack of arms and adequate training. Thus they remained only a potential threat rather than an actual danger. This was demonstrated by their most dramatic raid during the month of June 1944—the raid on the Kazanluk-Plovdiv train. The train was halted by the partisans at a small village on the edge of the Sredna Gora, the range of mountains where guerrilla forces were most concentrated. The passengers and crew were ordered out of the train to be searched. Among the passengers, but apparently unrecognized, was the Vice President of the National Assembly, Peter Kioseivanov, the brother of the former premier. Before the partisans discovered him, they were interrupted and put to flight by the arrival of an army rescue force from a nearby town. The rescue force consisted of a lieutenant and four soldiers. [22]



British Assistance to the Partisans


The British government sought to aid the Bulgarian partisans with arms and advisers but had little success. As early as the summer of 1943, the Special Operations Executive (SQE) tried to establish contact with the partisans. A team under Major Mostyn Davies parachuted into Serbia in August 1943 and laboriously made its way to the Bulgarian border, where it was joined in January 1944 by Captain Frank Thompson, a Communist sympathizer who spoke fluent Bulgarian. This team set up a liaison with Vlado Trichkov of the partisan general staff and prepared for other advisory teams to follow. Disaster overtook the mission in March 1944, however, and Mostyn Davies was killed. Thompson escaped, but in May he and most of the other members of the Second Sofia Partisan Brigade were killed by Bulgarian troops. Undaunted, the SOE sent John Elarrington into Thrace (Belomorie) with the “Jampuff” mission, followed by Ian Macpherson’s “Mizzen” team and “Triatic” under Donald Riddle. These teams did not join up until August 1944 and consequently had little effect on events in Bulgaria before the country left the war. [23]


The British also promised the partisans large-scale air drops of arms





and supplies. But because of the shortage of aircraft, bad weather, inaccurate supply drops, and faulty communications, the deliveries were much smaller than expected. During one period, only three of the fifteen promised drops were made. The partisans were already highly suspicious of British motives and attributed these failures to a deliberate policy of curbing Communist strength. This was not British policy, but the Communist suspicions were heightened in June 1944 when Ivan Bagryanov’s assumption of the premiership coincided with a diversion of Allied transports and bombers to support the Normandy invasion. The aircraft remaining in the Balkans gave priority to Yugoslavia, where the partisan effort was most effective. The Bulgarians were told that the already infrequent supply drops would come even less frequently, which seemed to confirm all the partisans’ suspicions. [24]



The government’s policy toward the Communists and other troublemakers was strangely inconsistent. On the one hand, the police acted with exceeding brutality against captured partisans and freely used terror and torture against villages suspected of being sympathetic to the insurgents. On the other hand, a significant number of apprehended Communists were released at various times throughout the war, especially in 1942. Lazar Popov protested in the Narodno Subranie in August 1944 that there seemed to be no rational policy: “One time we forgive them, another time we persecute them, yet another time we persecute even those suspected of aiding them.” [25]


The deputies to the Assembly were themselves part of the problem, for even some of the staunchest anti-Communists would occasionally intercede for incarcerated constituents. Filov complained in July 1944 that when the leader of one band was wounded and captured by the police, a cabinet minister, Vasilev, persuaded the authorities to release him. [*] In 1942, the Tsar himself had interceded for the First Secretary of the BKP Central Committee, Traicho Rostov, commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment—an act that ironically was used



*. There were two Vasilevs in the Bagryanov cabinet; it is not clear to which Filov was referring. Filov, Dnevnik, 7.vii.44.





against Kostov in the 1949 Communist purge but that was apparently the result solely of personal, not political, reasons. [*]


A German intelligence report of July 1, 1944, estimated that partisan forces had grown to 12,000, half of whom operated in the occupied territories. These forces, the report stated, still posed “no serious danger” to the regime but were growing rapidly in strength. [26] This strength was not necessarily reflected in action by individual partisan units. The “Georgi Dimitrov” Brigade, for example, was blockaded in the mountains by large army units from May to September and accomplished very little. The “Vasil Levsky” band in the Varna area was one of the most active partisan units—the authorities estimated its strength at 3,000, although it actually had only 150 members—but its total reported accomplishments during July and August were the killing of five men and the seizure of two dozen rifles. The band’s losses were far more severe. In the last half of August it was repeatedly attacked by strong army units, food ran short, and deserters thinned the ranks. One turncoat led a police attack on the guerrillas during a political meeting, and in the ensuing battle the band was decimated. [27] The partisans alone, therefore, were not in a position to topple the government without assistance from either the Soviet or the Bulgarian army.


Prime Minister Bagryanov felt that the partisan movement had to be defused one way or another—either assimilated or destroyed—before the Red army came much closer to Bulgaria; characteristically, he chose both alternatives. He offered an amnesty to the partisans at the beginning of August, and at the same time launched a massive effort (“Operation Bogdan”) to destroy the partisan bands in the Sredna Gora. Both efforts failed. [28] Encouraged by the Russian advance into the Balkans, the partisan movement continued its rapid growth. The total number of partisans climbed from an estimated 4,000 in



*. According to Oren, Kostov was a close friend of the son of A. Balan, a distinguished philologist and adviser to the Tsar. Balan argued that Kostov was a bright young man whose life should be spared, and, after much hesitation, Boris agreed. Interview with Nissan Oren in Jerusalem, Israel; The Trial of Traicho Kostov and His Group, pp. 68-71.





early summer 1944 to approximately 10,000 by late summer. [*] Compared with the partisan forces in Yugoslavia and Greece, however, they were an almost insignificant force. A German intelligence report on the Balkans in mid-August 1944 listed the strength and location of each major partisan unit in Yugoslavia and Greece, and identified two partisan units in Bulgarian-occupied Vardar Macedonia. No units at all, however, were shown for Bulgaria proper. [29]


The Bulgarian partisans, even at their peak strength, were too weak to seize control of the state by themselves. Yet they felt that it would be humiliating for a party that so prided itself on its revolutionary tradition to wait passively for liberation by the Red army. They also believed that they must act immediately to ensure their position in the postwar government. Therefore, the Communists sought the support of the Bulgarian army, which had long persecuted the partisans but was now paralyzed by fear of the Russian advance.



*. Present-day Bulgarian statistics vary widely on the estimated number of partisans, ranging from approximately eight thousand estimated by the historian Voin Bozhinov to thirty thousand suggested by a former Deputy Minister of Defense, Diko Dikov (Bozhinov, p. 117; Rabotnichesko delo, 22.ix.58). These and other estimates are fully discussed in Oren, “Bulgarian Communist Party,” pp. 271-84. The estimates given in the text above are based on a detailed examination of the available records, both published and unpublished, of the various partisan units and the reports of partisan activity in each of the twelve VOZs. This analysis also indicated that the individual units were often much less active than the total figures on partisan actions would suggest. Archives of the Museum of the Revolutionary Movement, Sofia.






Chapter 17. The Last Phase



ON AUGUST 30, 1944, the USSR announced that it refused to accept Bulgaria’s August 17 declaration of neutrality. Even as Moshanov and Colonel Zheleskov were flying to Cairo for negotiations with the Western Allies, the underlying assumption propping up the Bagryanov regime—that the Soviets would respect Bulgaria’s neutrality—was destroyed. On the 31st, with reports reaching Sofia that Soviet troops were streaming south from Bucharest, Foreign Minister Draganov played his last card: he informed the Russians that German ships in Varna and Burgas had been disarmed and that all German troops would be out of Bulgaria by midnight. This was not quite true, but the Germans were leaving without offering any resistance. [1] The next day, as the situation continued to deteriorate, Bagryanov and his cabinet resigned. In Cairo, negotiations with the Allies were broken off until Moshanov could receive new credentials from Bagryanov’s successor. The Red army was approaching the Danube; there could be no question of selecting another prime minister who was closely associated with the previous regimes. The pro-Allied democratic opposition must at last be brought to power in order to secure an armistice and save Bulgaria from a Soviet occupation.



The Formation of a New Government


The most obvious choices to head the new government were Dimiter Gichev, Nikola Mushanov, Konstantin Muraviev, and (a distant fourth) Georgi Kioseivanov. Gichev was intelligent, honest, ambitious,





and strongly pro-Allied; he had been a theology student before becoming an Agrarian politician, and his firm principles sometimes hampered his effectiveness as a political leader. Despite his attitude toward the Fatherland Front, Gichev was not against cooperating with the Communists; throughout the war, he and Nikola Mushanov had been the only Bulgarian politicians who dared have regular and open contacts with the Soviet diplomats. Mushanov, the leader of the small Democratic Party, was 62 years old and the senior statesman of the democratic opposition. He had been in the Narodno Subranie since 1902 and had served as prime minister from 1931 to 1934. Thus far during the war, he and Petko Stainov had been the backbone of the weak opposition group in the Assembly. Konstantin Muraviev was the nephew of Stambolisky, who had named him minister of war when only 29. Muraviev’s incompetence and his neglect in 1923 of reports that a coup was imminent were partially responsible for Stambolisky’s downfall. Muraviev held cabinet posts again in the Agrarian coalition government (1931-34), and had matured into an intelligent and capable politician, although he still tended to be lazy and careless.


The Regents’ selection of Muraviev for prime minister was a surprise to almost everyone, especially to Gichev, who had expected to be chosen. Muraviev’s acceptance of the premiership and the opposition’s decision to form a government under Filov’s Regency required a substantial compromise of principles; in September 1943, only a year before, Muraviev along with the other opposition leaders had denounced the formation of the Regency as illegal because no Great National Assembly had been convoked and the Constitution had been disregarded. However, they now realistically decided that they could be of more service to the country by taking office than by adhering to a narrow legalistic position that would virtually preclude the formation of a non-Communist government acceptable to the Allies. Weighing heavily on the minds of the opposition was the fear that otherwise the Regents might suicidally invite a pro-German government to take power. [2]


On the eve of his coming to power, Muraviev drew up two lists for his cabinet: the first included members of the Fatherland Front, the





second did not. For the sake of national unity, Muraviev felt it essential for all the opposition groups (excepting, of course, Tsankov’s pro-German supporters) to participate in the new government; hence, when the Regents called on him to be prime minister, he tried to form a cabinet from his first list. Petko Stainov, a Russophile leader of Zveno with ties to the Fatherland Front, was asked to become foreign minister and agreed, but a number of other opposition leaders were unexpectedly reluctant to take positions in the new government. Although Hristo Pastuhov, the Social Democrat leader, accepted readily enough, others conditioned their acceptance upon the participation of the Communist Party and Fatherland Front in the government.


The Front, however, was unwilling to take part in a cabinet it did not dominate. Although Muraviev and his supporters genuinely wanted peace and the establishment of a democratic society, the Front immediately initiated a campaign against them. In fact, the first indication of the Front’s unwillingness to cooperate with a new government came in a broadcast from the “Hristo Botev” radio station in the USSR on August 30, even before Bagryanov resigned. This broadcast warned the Front against joining any coalition that did not accept the Front’s program or that would weaken its influence.


When Stainov was informed that the Front did not wish him to participate in the Muraviev government, he immediately withdrew, whereupon the Agrarian Nedelko Atanasov and others also declined to serve. Pastuhov wanted to participate despite the disapproval of the Fatherland Front, but the executive committee of his Social Democratic Party forced him to withdraw. This was a heavy blow to the plan for a truly representative national government. The Communists believed that Muraviev was trying “to isolate the Communist Party from its allies, break up the Fatherland Front by discrediting the Agrarians working with it, and make Vrabcha the sole representative of the Agrarian party.” [3] Despite this major obstacle, Muraviev formed a government from his second list that had a reasonable chance of securing an armistice. Gichev, Mushanov, and Atanas Burov were made ministers without portfolio. Vergil Dimov, Gichev’s brother-in-law,





became interior minister; and the distinguished old Democratic politician and historian Alexander Girginov was named minister of finance. The other posts were held by men who were relatively unknown, although mention should be made of the Minister of War, General Ivan Marinov, who was secretly conspiring with the Communists. The ministries of trade, of railroads, and of education were left unoccupied so that they could be filled by members of the Fatherland Front if the opportunity arose. Muraviev himself held the position of foreign minister but was prepared to relinquish it if the Front could be persuaded to accept it. Two other cabinet ministers were also prepared to resign if their places were needed for a broader coalition.


It quickly became clear that the coalition was in difficulty. On the very day that Muraviev formally took office, the BKP issued a statement strongly attacking the new government for not having taken a firm stand against Germany:


Bulgaria has a new government headed by K. Muraviev. But be on the alert! This government has not come by the will and wishes of the Bulgarian people but by the favor of the Bagryanovites! It does not represent the organized forces of the Fatherland Front.


Patriots! The government of Muraviev does not give any guarantee that it will take to heart the destinies of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people. Because of this, do not believe his words, but judge by his actions! Why has the Muraviev government not broken immediately and decisively with the Germans? [4]



Muraviev’s Initial Actions


On September 3, the government issued an executive order halting the execution of political prisoners. On the following day, it announced a twelve-point political program that included the following provisions: a constitutional administration was promised, all fascist institutions were abolished, a complete amnesty was offered to all who had opposed dictatorship, the Narodno Subranie would be dissolved, Bulgarian troops would continue to withdraw from Serbia, and negotiations for an armistice with the Allies would be given priority. Muraviev repeated Bagryanov’s mistake, however, in insisting on





a policy of neutrality toward all the belligerent countries, including Germany, unless they took hostile actions. He particularly sought to avoid a clash with the retreating Germans that might push Bulgaria into the war and bring the “support” of nearby Russian troops, who would occupy the country. This procrastination, however, enabled his opponents to question the sincerity of his desire to abandon the Axis. [5]


As mentioned earlier, the negotiations in Cairo had been suspended following the resignation of Bagryanov. Moshanov had told Bagryanov in mid-August that he would arrange an armistice if the latter would form a new cabinet. Since no new cabinet was forthcoming, though, Moshanov decided to conclude an armistice without waiting for the change. Unfortunately, he only made the decision on September 1, just before he learned of Bagryanov’s resignation. When he took power, Muraviev cabled Moshanov to continue the negotiations, but Moshanov noted that the new cabinet did not include certain opposition groups who were “apparently hanging back so that Muraviev can bear the odium of accepting possibly severe terms, after which the Left will oust his government.” The Allies offered no hope of softer peace terms merely because a pro-Allied government was now in power in Bulgaria, and as a politician Moshanov was reluctant to associate himself with such a harsh and unpopular settlement. Therefore, the British requested that he be allowed to return to Turkey and be replaced, if possible, by Balabanov. [*]


The Soviet attitude toward Bulgaria continued to be somewhat ambiguous. By September 3, the Red army had reached the Bulgarian-Rumanian border in the Dobruja and along the Danube. However, it had been ordered not to advance without further instructions; not even standard reconnaissance missions were permitted—whether on the ground or in the air—because they would violate Bulgarian borders.



*. The Allies are sometimes blamed for this delay because supposedly they refused to deal further with Moshanov until he had obtained a new set of credentials. Authorization did have to be obtained from the incoming government, but this problem was less important than the attitude of Moshanov. Charge to the Greek government-in-exile, Shantz to Hull, Cairo, i.ix.44, 4.1X.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 388-94. See also Turkish criticism of the British for delays in the negotiations with Bulgaria in Steinhardt, Ankara, 2.ix.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 392-93.





As a result, the Commander of the Third Ukranian Front, General (later Marshal) Sergei Biryuzov, had little information on the situation in Bulgaria and had to be satisfied with radio interceptions and the reports of a few partisan leaders. [6] The Soviet Union had requested permission to enter Bulgarian territory on September 1, but Bagryanov’s resignation had delayed an official reply and Muraviev had taken no action on the request. [*] The Russians hoped to enter the country once again as liberators, rather than as invaders. It was presumably for this reason that they postponed their attack for several days, although this allowed the escape of many small German units. [7]



Clashes with the Germans


A number of German units had not yet left the country. The official Bulgarian position was that the Nazis should be encouraged to leave as quickly as possible and that no obstacles should be placed in their way. However, control of the situation was slipping from the hands of the government. On September 3, a German force of about 400 men was halted at the railroad station in Ihtiman, a town on the Sofia-Plovdiv line about 30 miles southeast of Sofia. The German soldiers offered no resistance and allowed themselves to be interned in a nearby schoolhouse, although many retained their weapons. On the 6th, another German unit of about 200 men arrived in the town and tried to free the soldiers in the school, but after a brief battle they too surrendered. [**] The Muraviev government took no action. [8]


German passivity during the withdrawal suggested that there was, in fact, little danger of a Nazi attack on Bulgaria, but the threat persisted. On September 4, German troops in Macedonia captured and disarmed many of the units in the Bulgarian occupation corps, but fighting broke out when two Bulgarian regiments at Byala Palanka refused to disarm. This provocation gave Bulgaria justification for satisfying Allied demands for stronger action against Germany, but Muraviev failed to seize the opportunity. Nonetheless, on the morning of September 5, Muraviev decided to break off relations with Germany



*. The Allies believed that the Soviet request had been the cause of Bagryanov’s resignation, but this is not absolutely certain: see Berry, Istanbul, 1.ix.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 387.


**. The Bulgarians turned these men over to the Russians on September 14.





many and was seriously considering a declaration of war. However, the Minister of War, General Marinov, recommended that the declaration be postponed 72 hours in order to allow the remaining Bulgarian forces in Macedonia to withdraw and avoid capture by the Germans. [9] This advice had great significance: Marinov was secretly in contact with the Communists, who were planning a coup d’état. [*] If Muraviev had declared war on Germany, the Communists would have found it more difficult to convince others that his government was fascist. The planned coup might have had to be canceled or else it would have seemed absurd. [10]



The Soviet Declaration of War


At three o’clock on the afternoon of September 5, the Regents and the cabinet met to discuss the severing of diplomatic relations with Germany. Such a move seemed a political and military necessity, but it was hotly debated in a session that lasted until midnight. Filov was strongly opposed to breaking off relations and threatened to resign; General Mihov still hoped for a German victory. The Minister of Justice, Boris Pavlov, later said that the decision to break relations was made at four or five o’clock in the afternoon; Mihov, on the other hand, stated that it was made only at midnight. The timing is of some importance, for at 9 P.M. came the startling news that the Soviet Union had declared war on Bulgaria. Just two hours earlier, Molotov had informed the Bulgarian Ambassador in Moscow that the Soviet government had been patient thus far because it realized that a small country like Bulgaria was not in a position to oppose a powerful nation like Germany. For this reason the Soviets had also tolerated the fact that Bulgaria was being used as a base for German military operations against the Soviet Union. However, Molotov had continued, now that Germany was facing disaster on every side and had ceased



*. Marinov was the only member of the cabinet not indicted by the People’s Court in December 1944, after the Communists came to power; instead, he was appointed Army Chief of Staff. He was Ambassador to France during 1946 and 1947, held a minor post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1948 to 1950, and taught in the Rakovsky Military Academy from 1950 to 1953. In 1953, at the age of 57, he was retired and transferred to the Army Reserve.





to be a major threat, there was no excuse for Bulgaria’s failure to declare war on Germany. Therefore, the Soviet government was forced to declare war on Bulgaria.


The Allied diplomats in Moscow learned of this declaration only shortly before the Bulgarians did, and were not at all certain that it was warranted by the situation. Sir Archibald Clark Kerr was instructed to inform the Russians of the British government’s astonishment that the USSR had declared war on Bulgaria “without previous consultation and at a time when Bulgaria appeared to be anxious to make peace with the Allies.” [11] Muraviev first heard of the declaration when it was broadcast by the Russians at nine o’clock. Upon receiving the news, he immediately sent two high-ranking officials from the Foreign Ministry to contact the Soviet chargé d’affaires, Yakovlev, and tell him that Bulgaria had already decided to break off relations with Germany and was on the verge of declaring war on the Axis. Yakovlev was surprised by the Bulgarian request for an armistice because he had not been informed that his government was planning to declare war.


The Bulgarian government almost immediately issued a communiqué stating that owing to events in Macedonia, the cabinet had decided to take “firm measures against the provocative action of the German units”; the implication was that war would be declared on Germany that very evening. The meeting finally adjourned, however, after it had been decided to sever relations with Germany but not to declare war. The Communists charged that even this decision had been taken only after the announcement of Russia’s declaration of war on Bulgaria, and they criticized Muraviev for acting on the basis of the recent incident in Macedonia rather than on a general opposition to fascism. [12]


The Soviet Union may have declared war for the reason given by Molotov, but it is more likely that other considerations were involved. The West believed at the time that Russia declared war in order to have an equal voice in the peace negotiations with Bulgaria. It now seems that the real motive was to enable the Red army to enter Bulgaria and assist in the creation of a Communist state. The USSR





realized that if the members of the Muraviev government were not discredited as fascist but were able to conclude a peace treaty with the Allies, they would be in a strong position vis-a-vis the Fatherland Front. Nevertheless, this does not excuse the Bulgarian cabinet’s failure to take an action that was so clearly a political necessity. A strong leader would have pushed aside any objections to a declaration of war on Germany and would have welcomed the resignation of all those opposed to the change in policy. Muraviev was not such a man.



Communist Strides and Demonstrations


Communist strikes and demonstrations heightened the political tension within Bulgaria. The first demonstration occurred in Sofia on September 4 in front of the Ministry of Justice. From there the demonstrators marched to the Soviet Embassy, where they sang and also shouted slogans such as “Muraviev is a Hitlerite agent.” The crowd was dispersed by the police and a number of the demonstrators were arrested, but not before part of the crowd had attacked the German Embassy. The demonstration, composed largely of pro-Communist students, was only partially successful, for it attracted few of the townspeople.


On the evening of September 5, following the Soviet declaration of war, the leaders of the Communist Party organization in the Sofia district, including the future premier Todor Zhivkov, decided that the long-discussed coup would be carried out in the early hours of September 9. In the meantime, all efforts would be made to dislocate the political and economic system by partisan attacks, strikes, and political demonstrations. The next evening, they gathered to protest the continued presence of German soldiers in Bulgaria. A crowd massed in front of a Sofia hotel where German officers were staying and was reportedly fired upon by the officers there. The police arrested over 300 of the demonstrators. [13]


September 6, 1944, also marked the beginning of a series of military uprisings that shook the government’s faith in the army’s loyalty. Military police in Dedeagach had uncovered a Communist cell among the occupation troops there and had arrested its twelve members;





but as the prisoners were being taken through the center of the town they were freed by a large group of sailors. During the same period desertions greatly increased and several small military units defected to the partisans. [14] Also on September 6, a strike of streetcar operators and factory workers began in Sofia and continued into the following day despite energetic police activity. On September 7, the miners at Pernik began a serious strike, which erupted into violence when the police intervened; six strikers were killed in the clash and 23 were wounded. The purpose of this strike, according to one historian, was to divert the government’s attention in order to facilitate the coup in Sofia. [15] Strikes also erupted on the 7th in other cities. The tobacco workers in Plovdiv, who had been responsible for the country’s last major strike in June 1940, were joined by railroad employees and other workers in Pleven, Silistra, and Varna. The strikers in these cities stormed the prisons and released political prisoners. In Sofia a large demonstration took place in front of the main railroad station. When the police tried to break up the crowd, armed partisans who had slipped into the city opened fire. A number of policemen and demonstrators were killed in this brief skirmish. [16]



The Coup of September 9, 1944


The Muraviev government was still in control of the country, but its future was dismal. Beginning on September 6, it made a frantic effort to repeal the laws and change the administrative personnel that connected it with the previous government. The anti-Jewish laws, the 1934 law abolishing political parties, and other repressive statutes were formally repealed. [*] The prefects of six of the provinces were replaced, as were a number of officials in the Foreign Ministry. General Lukash (the Chief of Staff), General Trifonov (the Commander of the Fifth Army), General Stoyanov, and several other high-ranking military officers either resigned or were removed.


War Minister Marinov informed the commander of the German Military Mission on the evening of September 6 that all German



*. The laws against the Jews had been declared null and void by Bagryanov, but they had not been officially repealed.





troops, without exception, must be gone from Bulgaria by the morning of the 7th. The Germans acknowledged this warning but made no promises. [17] The Bulgarians also requested the Germans to pass through Sofia only at night in order not to provoke a resumption of Allied bombing on the capital. [*] The Soviet Union was unimpressed by these efforts and not unjustly criticized the Muraviev government for being evasive. The prime minister had informed the Soviet chargé d’affaires on the night of September 5 that Bulgaria was breaking relations with Germany; the next day, however, he announced that he had asked the USSR for an armistice but made no mention of relations with Germany. A Soviet communique commented: “Such a contradictory situation cannot but arouse in the Soviet Government mistrust of the position of the Bulgarian Government. In view of this, the Soviet Government was unable to consider the request of the Bulgarian Government for an armistice.” General Tolbukhin, the commander of the Soviet forces massing on Bulgaria’s border, issued a proclamation on September 7:


The Red Army has no intention of fighting with the Bulgarian people and its Army, because it considers the Bulgarian people as a brother people. The Red Army has one task—to defeat the Germans and bring a general peace as soon as possible.


For this it is necessary that the Bulgarian Government cease to serve the German cause, that it break all relations with the Germans immediately, and go over to the side of the coalition of democratic countries. [18]


Despite the frequent Soviet references to Bulgaria’s relations with Germany, it is doubtful that they were the deciding factor behind Soviet actions. Vasil Kolarov, a leading Bulgarian Communist who was to become prime minister in 1949, gave a lecture in Moscow at this time on Soviet policy toward the Muraviev government. He sharply denounced Muraviev for his supposed refusal to include representatives



*. The Allied air forces were heavily attacking the routes used by the Germans in evacuating Bulgaria: Nish was repeatedly hit, and a total of 1,373 heavy bomber sorties were made on the retreating Germans during the first week of September. TsDIA, f. 284, op. 1, a.e. 8735, 8737, 8740; People’s Court, Sustav I, 4: 1510-11; Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” pp. 16-17; Zarya (Sofia), 6.ix.44; Dnevnik (Sofia), 7TX.44; TsDIA, f. 370, op. 1, a.e. 1572.





of the Fatherland Front in his government (by which Kolarov meant that Muraviev would not allow the Front to dominate the government), but he made no mention whatsoever of Bulgaria’s delay in breaking relations with Germany. [19]


Bulgaria finally severed diplomatic ties with Germany on September 7, 1944. On the morning of the 8th, the cabinet met to decide on a declaration of war on Germany. But Muraviev had delayed too long; shortly after the cabinet meeting began, Russian troops crossed the border into Bulgaria. The Bulgarian soldiers had been instructed to offer no resistance, but it is unlikely that they would have fought even under orders from the government. As a result, there was nothing to stop the Red army’s drive on Varna, Burgas, and Shumen. In these circumstances, with the German danger gone and in the face of the long-feared Russian occupation, the government might have been expected at last to take prompt and decisive action. Yet the decision to declare war on Germany was not made until two o’clock that afternoon. Filov resigned rather than approve the declaration, which was to go into effect at six o’clock that evening, September 8, 1944. Bulgaria was now at war with Germany, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. [20]


The military garrison at Burgas openly rebelled against the government and arrested its own officers; the 4th Border Regiment in Varna went over en masse to the partisans; the 24th Infantry Regiment revolted; and the occupation forces in Thrace were no longer reliable. On September 8, the National Committee of the Fatherland Front urged the Bulgarians to welcome the Russians as liberators and claimed: “in Moscow and in other capitals of the Allies it has been declared that only a government of the Fatherland Front can have the confidence of the Powers, in whose hands the fate of Bulgaria lies.” [21] With Communist forces on the verge of a takeover in Bulgaria and with the Muraviev government almost completely discredited, the Soviet Union surprisingly agreed to a cease-fire. “In view of the fact that the Bulgarian Government has broken relations with Germany and has turned to the Soviet Union with a request for an armistice, Soviet troops will cease military activity in Bulgaria from ten o’clock





in the evening of 9 September.” The reason for this action is not clear. Was Russia mainly interested in facilitating the advance of the Red army, or was the cease-fire agreed to with the knowledge that Muraviev would be overthrown before it came into effect ? The most likely explanation is that the Russians assumed that the Fatherland Front was too weak to overthrow the government, since it had not already done so. General Tolbukhin, who accepted by radio the Bulgarian request for an armistice, apparently knew nothing of the plans for a coup; representatives of the Fatherland Front had merely assured him that the Red army would be enthusiastically welcomed by the Bulgarian people. Russian forces would soon be in Sofia, so a coup seemed unnecessary. [22]


For internal political reasons, however, it was important for the Fatherland Front itself to seize power from Muraviev. The Bulgarian army was demoralized and the government no longer enjoyed the confidence of the people. Much of the Sofia garrison had been dispersed to outlying villages as a result of Allied air attacks. Thus the government was extremely vulnerable to a coup. At two o’clock on the morning of September 9, 1944, a heterogeneous force of rebellious soldiers, cadets from the Sofia Military Academy, and partisans occupied strategic positions in the capital. With the help of General Marinov, the minister of war, the rebels arrested Muraviev, Gichev, and other government leaders. Within an hour the operation was completed. [*] At six o’clock that morning, Georgiev announced on the radio that the old government had been overthrown and that he had been named prime minister. “A new government was immediately formed by the Fatherland Front under the leadership of Kimon Georgiev, in which there were four Communists. The real power, however, was in the hands of the Bulgarian Communist Party.” [23]



*. The coup was organized by Kimon Georgiev and Damian Velchev, who had also led the coup of 1934 and who had participated in the coup of 1923. Deveti Septemvri: Spomeni (Sofia: 1957).







Chapter Thirteen


1. Kazasov, Vidyano, pp. 610-11.


2. Article 29 of the Constitution; Black, Establishment, pp. 250-53, 315-19.


3. Filov, Dnevnik, 1.ix.43; Kazasov, Vidyano, p. 658.


4. Steengracht to Ribbentrop, Budapest, 6.ix.43, IMT, NG-118.


5. Heiber, “Der Tod,” pp. 406-10; Haucke, Bulgarien, p. 53.


6. Filov, Dnevnik, 10.vii.43.


7. Ibid., 6.ix.43.


8. XXV-NS, 6th extra, sess., 2d and 3d sittings, 8.ix.43 and 9.ix.43, pp. 1-17.


9. Testimony of Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 26.xii.44.


10. Filov, Dnevnik, 10.xi.43.


11. SD-Ber., Beckerle, Sofia, July 1942 and 27.viii.43, T120 1305.485602-3 and IMT, NG-2609; Draganov, Madrid, 30.viii.43, SSF, T120 255 series; testimony of Pavel Gruev and Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 21.xii.44 and 26.xii.44. One should avoid the mistake of Charles and Barbara Jelavich (The Balkans, p. 105), who imply that Kiril was the only Regent and speak of his “increasingly pro-German actions.”


12. Ribbentrop to Steengracht, IMT, NG-092.





13. Beckerle and Schönebeck, Sofia, 11.ix.43, SSF, T120 241.181108; Altenburg, Athens, 11.ix.43, SSF, T120 241 series.


14. SD-Ber., Berlin, 25.xi.42, T120 1305 series. However, the German historian Helmut Heiber insists that this new government “did not correspond to the German desires” and “was as much a slap [Bruskierung] at Germany as was possible in a country where the Wehrmacht was much in evidence”: see Heiber, “Der Tod,” p. 413.


15. Heiber, “Der Tod,” p. 413.


16. “Goebbels-Tagebuch,” 15.ix.43, pp. 2667f; SD-Ber., Beckerle, Sofia, 14.ix.43, T120 1305.241.


17. Feis, pp. 75, 127, 152; Churchill, Second World War, 5: 133-37, 6: 66; Sherwood, p. 780.


18. FRUS, Cairo and Tehran Conferences, p. 210; Roosevelt, pp. 134-44.


19. Buckley, Five Ventures, pp. 225-27.


20. Ibid., pp. 229-42; Zora (Sofia), 10.xi.43 and 20.xi.43; see also Churchill’s speech in the House of Commons, 22.ii.44, Hansard’s, Vol. 397, col. 707.


21. Filov, Dnevnik, 23.x. 43. Filov’s growing pessimism was also shared by the leader of the Fascist-inclined “Otets Paisii” organization, Professor Georgi Genov. Sofia, 15.ix.43, SSF, T120 241.18128-29.


22. Filov, Dnevnik, 23.x.43; Schmidt, pp. 266-68; Pundeff, “Bulgaria’s Place,” p. 456.


23. Deakin, Brutal Friendship, Vol. 2, The Last Days of Mussolini; Skorzeny; Foley, pp. 28-49.


24. Filov, Dnevnik, 27.ix.43; Macartney, October Fifteenth, 2: 194-95.


25. Lukacs, pp. 520, 537.


26. Pundeff, “Bulgaria’s Place,” p. 455.


27. Schmidt, pp. 266-68.


28. Feis, p. 279.


29. Churchill, Second World War, 5: 286; Papen, p. 516; Filov, Dnevnik, 10.xi.43 and 23.xii.43.


30. Kazasov, Burni godini, pp. 727-28; interview, Bulgaria.


31. Interviews, Bulgaria.


32. Mushanov memoirs, “Spomeni,” No. 1839, pp. 27-46, in Central Party Archive, Sofia, cited in an article by N. Gornenski in Istoricheski pregled, 1964, No. 4, p. 48; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 725; Istoriya na Bulgaria, p. 396.


33. Istoriya na Bulgaria, p. 396; interview, Bulgaria.


34. Barker, Truce, p. 42.


35. Kazasov, Burni godini, pp. 727-28; Barker, Truce, p. 42; interview, Bulgaria.





Chapter Fourteen


1. Dugan and Stewart.


2. Combined Chiefs of Staff to Eisenhower, 23.x.43, in Craven and Cate, 2: 584.


3. Sweet-Escott, Baker Street, p. 201; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 736; interviews, Bulgaria.


4. For details, see Sexton to McCarthy, 15.xi.43, Air Ministry Weekly Intelligence Summary, pp. 221-22, in Craven and Cate, 2: 584; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 736; speech of Bozhilov, XXV-NS, 5th reg. sess., 13th sitting, 24.xi.43, p. 121; Moyzisch, p. 140.


5. Filov, Dnevnik, 19.1.44.


6. Ibid.


7. Nelegalni, p. 283; Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, pp. 401, 408.


8. Filov, Dnevnik, 30.1.44.


9. Ibid., 31.1.44.


10. Testimony of Pavel Gruev, People’s Court, 21.xii.44; Mihov, Dnevnik, 25.iii.44; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 746.


11. Filov, Dnevnik, 30.iii.44 and 31.iii.44 ; Mihov, Dnevnik, 29.iii.44 and 1.iv.44; speech of Todor Kozhuharov, XXV-NS, 5th reg. sess., 37th sitting, 24.iii.44, p. 620.


12. KTB der Heeresleitung in Bulgarien, Sofia, 17.iv.44, 18.iv.44, 21.vi.44, T501 293.297, .300, .498; Mihov, Dnevnik, 18.iv.44.


13. Mihov, Dnevnik, 21.iv.44. The attitude of Sofia toward Filov was reflected in a cartoon published shorly after his downfall. The former archeology professor is shown standing amid the ruins of Sofia saying, “I brought Sofia to this condition not from sycophancy or servility but from a love of excavation!” Narod (Sofia), 19.x.44.


14. Slessor, p. 596.


15. AMVnshR, Sofia, II, I/II, p. 4; Bozhinov, pp. 45-46.


16. Stettinius to Harriman in Moscow, Washington, 10.ii.44, FRUS 1944, p. 300 (see other reports on pp. 300-304); AMVnshR, Ankara, 1944, Vol. I, No. 91, in Bozhinov, p. 48.


17. Berry, Istanbul, 3.iii.44, FRUS 1944, pp. 306-7.


18. Ibid., p. 307.


19. Filov, Dnevnik, 26.ii.44 and 13.iii.44.


20. Mihov, Dnevnik, 16.iii.44.


21. XXV-NS, 5th reg. sess., 35th sitting, 23.iii.44, p. 595.


22. Filov, Dnevnik, 16.iii.44 and 17.iii.44.


23. Hansard’s, Vol. 398, col. 832.


24. Lukacs, p. 578; XXV-NS, 5th reg. sess., 33d sitting, 26.i.44, p. 480.





25. Mir (Sofia), March 1944 issues; Mihov, Dnevnik, 23.iii.44 and 11.iv.44.


26. Berry, Istanbul, 25.iii.44, FRUS 1944, pp. 317-19.


27. Squires, Istanbul, 16.v.44, and Steinhardt, Ankara, 16.v.44, FRUS 1944, pp.328-29.



Chapter Fifteen


1. SD-Ber., 10.ii.44, 3.iii.44, and 7.iii.44, T120 1305.485424, .485430, .485433; Padev, Dimitrov, p. 33; interviews, Bulgaria.


2. Lukacs, p. 578.


3. Interviews, Bulgaria.


4. Interviews, Bulgaria; Kazasov, Burni godini, pp. 748-49; Istoriya na Bulgaria, p. 414; KTB der Heeresleitung in Bulgarien, Sofia, 21.vi.44, T501 293.496; Todorov, Balkan Firebrand, p. 269.


5. Kazasov, Burni godini, pp. 750ff; testimony of Petko Stainov at the trial of Pastuhov, People’s Court, 11.vi.46; Oren, “Bulgarian Communist Party,” p. 333. This idea of a Fatherland Front government headed by Bagryanov was revived briefly at the end of August 1944, but was then totally unacceptable to the Bulgarian Communists.


6. Govori radiostantsiya “Hristo Botev,” Vol. VI, 2.vi.44 and 5.vi.44; see also Materiali, p. 221.


7. Pospelov et al., 4: 299; interview, Bulgaria.


8. Vasilev, p. 480; see also KTB der Heeresleitung in Bulgarien, Sofia, 21.vi.44, T501 293.496.


9. Zarya (Sofia), 4.vi.44.


10. Neues Wiener Tageblatt, 5.vi.44.


11. Zarya, 18.vi.44.


12. Finance Minister Dimiter Savov announced many of the measures on Radio Sofia, 19.vi.44, and they were printed in the newspapers the next day; see Zarya, 20.vi.44 and 30.vi.44; Padev, Dimitrov, pp. 33-34.


13. Filov, Dnevnik, 18.vi.44; see also Berry, Istanbul, 21.vii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 348-49.


14. Draganov to Zagorov in Moscow, Sofia, 18.vi.44, Bozhinov, pp. 79-80.


15. KTB der Heeresleitung in Bulgarien, Sofia, 21.vi.44, T501 293.496.


16. Ibid., T501 293.497.


17. AMVnshR, Sofia, polit. direk., 11.15.221, op. 4, por. no. 38, dok. 1, in Bozhinov, p. 102.


18. “Proposed Terms for the Surrender of Bulgaria,” 17.vi.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 341-44. Bretholz, p. 53, says that Sevov went to Ankara in June 1944 on the pretext of inspecting the plans for the construction of the Bulgarian Embassy there; the Allies reportedly refused to deal with him because they had lost confidence in Bagryanov.





19. Berry, Istanbul, 21.vii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 348-49.


20. AMVnshR, Sofia, polit. direk., 11.15.216, ruski konsulat, dok. 50, in Bozhinov, pp. 80-82.


21. Vneshnyaya politisa SSSR, 2: 198.


22. Zarya (Sofia), 3.iii.44, 16.vii.44, 21.vii.44, 30.vii.44, i.viii.44, and 2.viii.44. Filov, Dnevnik, 1.viii.44; note of Gen. Popov-Gen. Gade meeting, 5.v.44, T501 293.397; Bozhinov, p. 83.


23. Hansard’s, Vol. 402, 2.viii.44, cols. 1483-84.


24. XXV-NS, 7th extra, sess., 4th sitting, 20.viii 44, p. 76.


25. XXV-NS, 7th extra, sess., 2d sitting, 18.viii.44, p. 29.


26. Milev to Draganov, Geneva, 16.viii.44, AMVnshR, Sofia, polit, direk., 11.15.219, op. 1, p. 4, por. no. 40 and dok. 3, p. 2, in Bozhinov, p. 102.


27. Zarya, 15.viii.44.


28. Filov, Dnevnik, 16.viii.44; instructions to Draganov, 17.viii.44, and text presented to Sarachoglu on 21.viii.44, Bozhinov, pp. 85-86.


29. A. Clark, p. 405.


30. Ibid.; Guderian, pp. 366-67; KTB of Army Group F, “Die Grosse Absetzbewegung in Südosten,” DBA, H 11-16.


31. XXV-NS, 7th extra, sess., 1st sitting, 17.viii.44, p. 9; Zarya, Mir, Zora, and others, 18.viii.44. The headline of Zarya on that day was “Bulgarian People Never Desired to Become Involved.”


32. Pundeff, “Bulgaria’s Place,” pp. 466-67; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 753; FRUS 1944, 3: 358.


33. XXV-NS, 7th extra. sess., 2d, 3d, and 6th sittings, 18.viii.44, 19.viii.44, and 22.viii.44.


34. Kazasov, Burni godini, pp. 754-55; Pundeff, “Bulgaria’s Place,” pp. 466-67.


35. British Embassy in Washington, D.C., to U.S. Dept, of State, Aide-Mémoire, 20.viii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 358-60.


36. Ibid., pp. 360-61.


37. Berry, Istanbul, 23.viii.44 and 24.viii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 363-64.


38. This brief account is based on a large number of sources, including Kissel; Matsulenko; Friessner, pp. 1-100; A. Clark, pp. 404-5; Hillgruber, Hitler, König Carol, pp. 209-31; KTB of Army Group F, August 1944, DBA, FI 11-16.1.


39. Pospelov et ah, 4: 299; Materiali, p. 234; Padev, Dimitrov, p. 35; Harriman, Moscow, 25.viii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 376-77; Woodward, p. 295.





40. FRUS 1944, 3: 370.


41. Ambassador Wint in Great Britain, London, 25.viii.44 and 27.viii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 367-70, 374-76.


42. Steinhardt, Ankara, 28.viii.44 and 29.viii.44; and Berry, Istanbul, 30.viii.44, FRUS 1940, 3: 376-80.


43. Memo by the Division of Southern European Affairs for U.S. Under Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Washington, D.C., March 1944, FRUS 1944, 3: 304-5.


44. Harriman, Moscow, 19.iii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 316-17.


45. Berry, Istanbul, 25.iii.44, 22.vi.44, 21.vii.44, and 30.viii.44, FRUS X944, 3: 318, 340, 350, 381-82.


46. Kazasov, Burni godini, pp. 750ff.


47. Ibid.; testimony of Petko Stainov at the trial of Pastuhov, People’s Court, 11.vi.46; Oren, Bulgarian Communism, p. 333; BKP Central Party Archive, Sofia, f. 65, op. 1, a.e. 8-v; “Appeal of the National Committee of the Fatherland Front to the Bulgarian People,” 25.viii.44; interview, Bulgaria.



Chapter Sixteen


1. Interview, Bulgaria.


2. G. Dimitrov, Suchineniya, 2: 196; Materiali, pp. 165-68. The meeting place at 48 Aksakov Street in Sofia is now a shrine.


3. Rostov, pp. 5-8.


4. Vukmanovich, “Memoirs,” Politisa, 8.ii.71; article by Anton Yugov in Novo Vreme (September 1953), pp. 59-75; Oren, Bulgarian Communism, pp. 88-89.


5. TsDIA, f. 370, op. 1, arh. ed. 1088; Boris Stoinov, “Rum vuprosa,” p. 19; Boris Stoinov, “Boinite grupi,” p. 138.


6. Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, p. 34; Narodna armiya (Sofia), 4.ix.54.


7. Police report on Leon Tadzher, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 59; German military attaché Bruckmann to Lt. Col. Rostov in Bulgarian Ministry of War, Sofia, 6.XL41, in Archive of the Museum of the Revolutionary Movement, Sofia; monthly report to German Wehrmachtbefehlshaber Südost, September 1941, RGMA T501 292.230; Stoimenov and Georgiev, p. 40; Evrei zaginali—date incorrectly given as September 28 rather than October 28.


8. Bochev, “Rum vuprosa,” p. 91; Pozolotin, p. 24; Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, pp. 67-69; Rühnrich, p. 120; Borachev, pp. 4-5; Valev, pp. 55—56.


9. Istoriya na BKP (1970 edition), pp. 451-52; Vidinski; Vinarov, pp. 557-72; Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, pp. 86-87.





10. Thompson, pp. 175-76.


11. TsDIA, f. 370, op. 1, a.e. 1097, p. 50; Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, pp. 71, 122-24; Istoriya na BKP, p. 454; Boris Stoinov, Nespokoen til, pp. 21-23; Stoimenov and Georgiev, pp. 44-74. Zaimov’s story is related in Poptsvyatkov; Radoinov’s experiences are given in Dragolyubov.


12. “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers,” Lageberichte, 31.xii.42, Vol. IV, p. 1, DBA; Beckerle to Ribbentrop, in Reile, pp. 327-29; exchange between Interior Minister Gabrovsky and Representative Petko Stainov, XXV-NS, 4th reg. sess., 43d sitting, 23.ii.43, 2: 858-59; Borachev, pp. 12-13.


13. Borachev, pp. 12-13; Iribadzhakov, p. 273.


14. Violeta Yankova was captured and executed in 1944. Boris Stoinov, “Boinite grupi,” pp. 145-46; Materiali, p. 199; Beckerle, Sofia, 14.ii.43, 18.ii.43, 20.ii.43, 4.v.43, SSF, T120 255.173815-16, .173818-19, .173824, .173904-5; Filov, Dnevnik, 3.v.43, 5.v.43; testimony of Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 27.xii.44.


15. Filov, Dnevnik, 3.v.43, 5.v.43; Kazasov, Burni godinv, SD-Ber., Beckerle, Sofia, 3.v.43, T120 1305.485655; testimony of Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 27.xii.44; Boris Stoinov, “Boinite grupi,” pp. 145-46; testimony of Pavel Gruev, People’s Court, 21.xii.44.


16. Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, p. 137.


17. TsDIA, f. 370, op. 1, a.e. 1303, p. 36; Ganevich, Bor’ba, p. 140; Kiihnrich, p. 424; “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers,” Lageberichte, 28.ii.43, Vol. V, p. 1, DBA.


18. Iribadzhakov, pp. 262ff.


19. Bogdan Atanasov, pp. 84-134.


20. Koev; Serkedzhiev. For every partisan head, the government paid the substantial bounty of 50,000 leva.


21. See Oren, Bulgarian Communism; Filov, Dnevnik, 9.iii.44, 27.iii.44; Mihov, Dnevnik, 27.iii.44, 27.iv.44, 23.iv.44; KTB der Heeresleitung in Bulgarien, Sofia, 18.iv.44, T501 29.369.


22. Report by German police attaché Hoffman, Sofia, 11.viii.44, TsDIA, f. 370, a.e. 1578, pp. 257-64; “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers,” Sofia, i. vii. 44, Vol. XI, DBA.


23. Thompson, pp. 176-80; Sweet-Escott, Baker Street, pp. 188-219; Vasilev, pp. 564-73; Ganevich, p. 237; Struggle, p. 79; Doinov and Draev, Za svobodata, pp. 268-80; Oren, Bulgarian Communism, pp. 253-63.


24. Sweet-Escott, Baker Street, pp. 213-15; Ganevich, pp. 238-39; Valev, p. 30; Slavka Petrova, “Neuspehut,” p. 9, n4; Rabotnichesko delo, 7.ix.47; Wolfgramm, 8: 513; Maclean, pp. 402-3; Shterev, pp. 97-104; Georgi Dimitrov, Spasitelniyat, p. 61 ; Lambrev, pp. 253-70, describes the assistance by the partisans to downed Allied airmen.





25. XXV-NS, 7th extra, sess., 2d sitting, 18.viii.44, p. 37.


26. “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers,” Sofia, i.vii.44, Vol. XI, DBA.


27. Borachev, pp. 26-32.


28. Slavka Petrova, “Neuspehut,” pp. 20-39. The Regents strongly opposed the amnesty on the grounds that it would impair the antipartisan campaign.


29. KTB of Army Group F, DBA, H 11-16.1.



Chapter Seventeen


1. Berry, Istanbul, 30.viii.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 381; SD-Ber., Schellenberg, 27.viii.44, T120 1305.485684; Zarya (Sofia), 22.viii.44; IMT, NG3912; AMVnshR, Sofia, 11.15.220, dok. 9; Bozhinov, p. 99; Pundeff, “Bulgaria’s Place,” p. 469.


2. See manuscript of Muraviev entitled “Events and People,” People’s Court transcripts, Sustav I, 4: 1579-80, 1608 (see also 5: 1623—24); Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” pp. 8-13; Dellin, p. 117; Dnevnik (Sofia newspaper), i.ix.44; Slovo (Sofia), 2.ix.44; TsDIA, f. 370, op. 1, a.e. 1572, p. 147.


3. TsDIA, f. 456, op. i, a.e. 12, pp. 97-109; Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” pp. io-n. See also Kunyu Kozhuharov, “60 godini,” Istoricheski pregled, 1960, No. 1, p. 35; this article, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Agrarian Party, refers to the “Muraviev-Gichev clique, which headed the last fascist government.”


4. Appeal of 2.ix.44, in Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, pp. 644-45; see also Padev, Dimitrov Wastes No Bullets, p. 27, for comments.


5. Two somewhat different versions are given in Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” pp. 15-16; and Berry, Istanbul, 5.ix.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 396-97.


6. Biryuzov, p. 172.


7. Ibid., pp. 171-202.


8. Petkov, pp. 92-96.


9. Marinov has related his account in “Pet dni v pravitelstvo na K. Muraviev,” Istoricheski pregled, 1968, No. 3, pp. 81-102.


10. Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” pp. 23-24; People’s Court, Sustav I, 4: 1468, 5: 1615; Dellin, pp. 118, 121; Naroden sud (Sofia), 18.xii.44; Kratka Bulgarska Entsiklopediya, “Marinov,” 3: 347; commentary of Jacobson and Hillgruber in Telpuchowski, p. 391: The delay, according to Telpuchowski, served “to give the Soviets the opportunity to declare war on Bulgaria—a motivation that represented the ultimate in hypocrisy” [translation mine].





11. People’s Court, Sustav I, 4: 1516; TsDIA, Sofia, f. 370, op. 1, a.e. 1572; Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” pp. 24-25; Woodward, p. 295; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 764; Vneshnyaya politika SSSR, 2: 18183; Harriman, Moscow, 7-ix.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 401.


12. People’s Court, Sustav I, 5: 2015-16; Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” p. 24; TsDIA, f. 284, op. 1, a.e. 3736, p. 1; Zarya (Sofia), 6.ix.44, and Steinhardt, Ankara, 6TX.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 397-99. The Sofia newspapers the next morning quoted a broadcast by Radio Sofia that shortly before midnight predicted war would be declared. The headlines of September 6 gave prominence to the German action against the occupation corps in Macedonia and placed in smaller type the heading “The Soviet Union considers itself in a state of war with Bulgaria.”


13. Materiali, pp. 236-38; Radulov, p. 85; Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” p. 27; Georgieff and Spiru, pp. 372-74.


14. Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, pp. 668-70; Otechestvenata voina, 1: 156.


15. Bozhinov, p. 127.


16. Materiali, p. 238; Istoriya Bolgarskoi kommunisticheskoi partii, p. 381; Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, p. 688; Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” p. 27; Bozhinov, p. 127; Gornenski, “Materiali i publikatsii,” lstoricheski pregled, 1950, No. 1, p. 93.


17. Craven and Cate, pp. 473-74; KTB der Heeresleitung in Bulgarien, 6.ix.44, T501 294.-71.


18. Gornenski, Vuoruzhenata borba, p. 673; Zarya, 9.ix.44; Soviet Foreign Ministry communiqué, 9.ix.44, quoted in FRUS 1944, 3: 406-7.


19. Details of Kolarov’s lecture are given in Harriman to Hull, Moscow, 9.ix.44, FRUS 1944, 3: 408; see Matsulenko, p. 101.


20. Zarya, 9.ix.44; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 766; Biryuzov, p. 1770.


21. Georgieff and Spiru, pp. 374-75.


22. Biryuzov, pp. 172, 179; Gornenski, “Materiali i publikatsii,” p. 93; Zarya, 9TX.44; Barker, Truce, pp. 45-46; TASS statement, 9.ix.44, Vneshnyaya politisa SSSR, 2: 201-2; Bulgarian historians seldom admit that the Muraviev government declared war on Germany and almost never mention the fact that Russia accepted Muraviev’s appeal for an armistice; an exception is Ilcho Dimitrov, “Poslednoto pravitelstvo,” p. 29.


23. Vrachev, “Vuoruzhenata borba,” p. 29; Petkov, p. 92; Prinosut, p. 61.


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