Draft resolution

Resolution 1096


Communist Terror
National Agencies
Internet Sources

Sources > Articles

What befell Bulgaria in September 1944
by Professor Plamen S. Tzvetkov, Ph.D

Condemning communism - the Bulgarian example

by Professor Plamen S. Tzvetkov, Ph.D

Plamen Simeonov Tzvetkov was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1951. Since 1994 he has been a lecturer with the New Bulgarian University. In 1999 he presented a doctoral thesis and was awarded a Doctorate in History (D.Litt./D.Sc.). Until the year 2001 Dr. Tzvetkov was employed at the Institute of History of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and since February of 2002 is a Full Professor of Modern and Recent World History at the New Bulgarian University.
Prof. Tzvetkov’s academic interests largely cover the political and diplomatic history of Bulgaria, the Balkans, Europe and the world at large during the 20th century, as well as the early history of the Bulgarian people, more specifically the issue of the origin of Bulgarians.
Prof Plamen Tzvetkov has published more than 10 monographs, over 50 research papers and articles and well over 300 essays. Special mention is due to a major monograph A History of the Balkans: A Regional Overview from a Bulgarian Perspective, in two volumes, published in San Fransisco, USA, by The Edwin Mellen Press (1993), and his participation, in collaboration with Stéphane Courtois, Joachim Gauck, Alexandre Iakovlev, Martin Malia, Mart Laar, Diniou Charlanov, Lioubomir Ognianov, Romulus Rusan, Erhart Neubert, Ilios Yannakakis, Philippe Baillet, in a group effort titled Du passé faisons table rase! Histoire et mémoire du communisme en Europe [Let’s Make Tabula Rasa from the Past! History and Memory of Communism in Europe] (Paris, Robert Laffont, 2002), to which he contributed the article “Après Staline, Todor Jivkov!” [“After Stalin, Todor Zhivkov!”], essentially representing a view of European History from a Balkan perspective.
Prof. Tzvetkov has also authored a series of books on the smaller and medium-sized players in European politics on the eve of World War II, as well as a monograph bearing the somewhat defiant title, Are Bulgarians Slavs?
Married, with three children – a daughter and two sons.

Communism, as both an ideology and practice, is still very much the reigning political force in many countries around the globe, which may be one of the important reasons why any attempt at its official condemnation is met with fierce resistance. A brief comparison with Hitler's regime of nationalsocialism in Germany (1933-1945) or Mussolini's fascist dictatorship in Italy (1922-1943/5) should suffice, however, to demonstrate that the communist system established in Soviet Russia and the countries occupied by the Red Army following the end of World War II is in no way less cruel or less inhumane, or less efficient in the mass murder of human beings. In this respect, the plight of Bulgaria after September 1944 is a typical example of a territory vassal to Moscow that has had the misfortune to find itself along the outer border of the Soviet Empire and has therefore been subjected to far more stringent and ruthless control through KGB channels than nations belonging to the 'interior' of the Russian imperial zone, such as Poland, Romania or even Hungary. The Bulgarian State Security organization became the most subservient and disciplined foreign arm of the Soviet KGB. Thus any theorizing about the innate 'Russophilia' of Bulgarians or their 'slave mentality' is nothing but a propaganda device used by those circles, directly related to the old communist State Security apparatus, that have the national economy, political system and the mass media in their grip.

In the context of the draft resolution on 'the need for international condemnation of totalitarian communism', Bulgaria has suffered the brunt of 'killings of people without any judiciary process or the passing of death sentences after the fact of the killing'. The so-called 'People's Tribunal', set up in the early days following the invasion of Soviet troops into Bulgarian territory in September 1944, was in fact meant to give a modicum of legality to a small part of the murders committed by local communists on orders from Moscow. The Tribunal passed 2,700 death sentences, of which 200 on persons already killed, while the total number of people exterminated in the first months and years of Soviet occupation is estimated at some 30,000. Not unlike Hitler, who left it to local Bielorussians to commit most of the atrocities of genocide in nazi-occupied Belarus, Stalin apparently favored leaving the dirty work to Bulgarian fanatics. It is a telling fact that the term 'people's tribunal' is a literal translation from the German Volksgerichte, an institution set up by Hitler himself in 1944 to deal with any real or potential opponents of his regime.

As the outcome of the trials and the severity of sentences were decided in advance in Moscow, the very notions of fair trial and due process were out of the question. The decree, elevated to the status of law, on setting up the institution of 'People's Tribunal' was in glaring contravention of the still valid Constitution of Bulgaria. The accused were denied even most basic legal representation or the possibility of defending themselves. It is not impossible that there were some criminal elements among them, but even the most hardened villain is entitled to fair trial and even-handed jurisprudence. Thus, in the 1970s, a court in the Federal Republic of Germany acquitted none other than Van der Luebe, caught in the act of arson while setting the Reichstag on fire in 1933, on grounds that his rights as a defendant had been violated since he had been subjected to torture and treated with psychotropic substances in order to extract a confession.

The elections for the 26th ordinary Bulgarian National Assembly conducted in 1945 were marked by flagrant electoral fraud, turning them into a mockery of democracy. The same can be said in even greater measure of the 'referendum' to abolish monarchy in favor of a 'people's republic' and the next parliamentary elections, for the 6th Grand National Assembly, both held in 1946. The raging, all-pervasive terror and the ongoing mass killings were more than enough to preclude any possibility of democratic process and a free and fair vote. According to some political observers and analysts, Stalin was forced against his will to allow this pseudo-democratic exercise in the Soviet-occupied countries as a token gesture to his Western allies, whose pressure he felt too weak to defy directly at this stage. It is far more likely, however, that the Russian dictator's aim was to find out what elements were less succeptible to Sovietization in the subjugated countries, in order to mark them down for subsequent extermination.

Indeed, towards the end of the 1940s Bulgaria was already dotted with a dense network of death camps. The total number of victims that perished in these camps, which remained operational until the early 1960s, may well have been in excess of 100,000. Opposition figures like BZNS (Bulgarian Agrarian Union) leader Nikola Petkov or relatively more nationalistically-minded (i.e. suspectedly less subservient to Russia) communist functionaries like Traicho Kostov were but the best known, though by far not the only, victims of the communist secret police's blood-curdlingly sadistic methods of extracting 'testimony' and 'confessions'. These two became known for their remarkable steadfastness in the face of torture, something quite rare in Soviet-occupied countries in those days.

A recurrent mistake is to define communism as an international movement, as opposed to Hitler's nationalsocialism, which is seen as the ultimate in Great German chaivinism. The creator of Bolshevism and the Soviet State, Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin, however, had long before raised the claim that Moscow was the center of 'world revolution' called upon to impose communism around the globe. In December 1922 he revamped the old Russian Empire into a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, designed as the 'prototype' of a future unification of all peoples on earth into a 'world socialist republic' lead by Moscow or the 'Russian proletariat'. In other words, what Lenin did was to give a communist ideological spin to the old dogma of Moscow as the 'Third Rome', predestined to usher all of mankind into the only 'true faith' of Eastern Orthodoxy. This may seem a little odd in light of the fact that Marxism-Leninism is characterized by its pathological godlessness, best summarized in the dictum that 'religion is the opium of the masses'. Obviously, such basic tenets of communist ideology threw the door open to all kinds of persecution on an ethnic and religious basis, which in the case of Bulgaria found expression in a series of deadly, pseudo-judicial lynchings of Orthodox and Catholic priests and Protestant pastors, as well as in the forcible name-change campaigns launched against Bulgarian Muslims in the late 1960s-early 70s and against Bulgarian Turks in the mid-1980s.

By definition, communism is intolerant to all forms of religious and ethic dofferences since according to the dogmas of Marx, Engels and Lenin nations are but a temporary product of capitalism, bound to wither away together with the abolition of capitalism itself. Moreover, communism goes as far as to deny the very existence of the human individual. According to Engles, the unique I of each human being is nothing but a 'combination of social relations'. There is hardly a more cynical definition of man in the history of mankind.

Armed with such quasi-theoretical props, the supreme leader, purportedly a genius, the ablest and infallible upholder of the public interest, can get away with anything: from mass murder of 'guilty nations' such as the Chechens or the Balkars (distant cousins of the Bulgarians), through the re-imposition of classic Russian serfdom in the form of 'citizenship' of a certain populated place, a tool for stripping people of their freedom of movement and the choice of a place to live; to the total abolition of basic civil rights and liberties such as free access to information or the freedom of association, public gathering, of conscience, thought and expression. The ultimate goal of genocide was to do away with ethnic and national differences while lumping together the survivors into a uniform mass under the unchallenged leadership of the Russian 'proletariat'. Therefore the first victims of the communist meat-grinder were exactly those individuals identified as bearers of national self-consciousness making up the spiritual, economic and political elite in each of the occupied nations. Thus the population of Poland, which prior to WW II numbered some 37 million, was reduced at one point after the war to 27 million - a feat in which the nazi occupiers also played no small a part. In turn, Romania and Hungary each gave some 600,000 prisoners of war, tossed somewhere into the whirlpool of the GULAG, of whom a mere 50-60 thousand came back alive. Some 17 million Germans were driven away from Eastern Prussia and Sudettenland; another 5 million perished or were killed during their flight to Germany.

Contrary to a widespread misconception, communism is notorious for its rabid anti-Semitism, which is by no means less sinister or exterminatory than that of the nazis. Granted, Hitler's anti-Semitism derives from the central dogma of his doctrine, which reduces the entire richness and diversity of being to a struggle between 'higher' and 'lower' races, a context in which the Jews are made out to be the lowest of all, a menace to the rest of humankind. In this sense the theoretical construct of communism, which proceeds from an oversimplified notion of history as a struggle between 'progressive' and 'reactionary' classes, is incomparably more flexible, since anyone can be branded a 'class enemy' or a 'covert enemy with a Party card'. Just because no one under the tight lid of the communist regime could feel secure for their life doesn't mean that Jews were not a special target for the communist thugs ever since Lenin's times. As is well known, in countries like Russia Jews were not allowed to possess landed property; therefore they opted for purely urban activities such as handicrafts, while a small Jewish elite could establish itself in positions of influence in banking and business. Thus in the early months and years following the Bolshevik coup d'etat in 1917, many Jews perished as 'exploiters of the masses' or simply as owners of private property. The fact that property ownership gave the individual a measure of independence from the State was totally at variance with Lenin's declared goal of turning everyone into hired workers, or 'proletariat'. In fact, the creator and supreme leader of the Soviet State took Marx a step further: instead of liquidating private property he busied himself liquidating private owners. This happened in a situation where alongside the Don Cossacks, who owned land, the other distinct group of owners of private property were the Jews.

Having eliminated all competition for Lenin's succession and insinuated himself as the unchallenged leader, Stalin took to setting up a special 'Jewish autonomous region' in the Far East, in the frozen Siberian wilderness. While the permanent population of the said 'Jewish autonomous region' varied between 100 and 200 thousand, the number of those who couldn't survive the inhumane conditions at those latitudes will remain forever unknown. It is a telling fact that, once Stalin and Hitler agreed on splitting Poland between themselves, among the 1.5 million Poles exterminated between September 1939 and June 1941 there were some 400 thousand Jews. In the late 1940s, Stalin launched another deadly campaign against the 'cosmopolitans', his plans to annihilate entirely the Jewish community in the European territories of the Soviet Union being checked only by his death in 1953. It would come as no surprise if it turned out that Lenin and Stalin were responsible between themselves for more Jewish deaths than Hitler himself.

History, no doubt, has known other regimes that killed off innocent people and restricted the exercise of basic human and civil rights. Under totalitarianism, however, human existence is not so much subject to restriction as to coercion. Just as in Hitler's Germany everyone was obligated to be a nazi, under communism, everyone was required to even bring up their children in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism. Thus, pursuant to Art. 38 paragraph 3 of the Constitution of the 'People's Republic' of Bulgaria (1971), 'parents have the right and the obligation to raise their children and provide for their communist upbringing'.

Under totalitarian law, there is no differnce between rights and obligations. The individual becomes a possession of the Party-cum-State apparatus, which by necessity presupposes the elimination of private property. Of the three functions associated with private property - ownership, disposal and use - Hitler abolished only the latter two, while Lenin's nationalization and Stalin's collectivization did away with all three functions of private property. The same model was applied with brute force in all countries occupied by the Red Army at the end of WW II.

Bulgaria was one of those vassal territories of the Soviet Union whose rulers were among the most obsequious to Moscow's will and, therefore, the most ardent supporters of sundry terrorist organizations and rogue regimes around the world. The long-time Moscow proxy Todor Zhivkov openly boasted of his 'close friendship' with strongmen like Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddhafi and Saddam Hussein. The Bulgarian arm of the KGB, the State Security apparatus, busily armed all kinds of terrorist groups, and in the 1970s and 80s enthusiastically responded to the latest Moscow directive to destabilize and 'Finlandicize' the West by developing and maintaining drug and arms smuggling networks that spanned the globe. It was the illegal arms trade and the long-time direct involvement of Bulgaria in drug trafficking that created the extensive infrastructure and channels which the communist nomenklatura started to use in the mid-1980s to syphon off the country's hard-currency resources, which it later used as the initial capital to set up 'honest private businesses' in the West.

One of the most repulsive features of totalitarianism is the extensive network of police informers instrumental in keeping the regime's tight grip on every individual. The fear that one's unflattering views of the authorities might reach their ears turned out to be an extremely powerful conditioning factor. At the same time, in their capacity as the backbone of the nomenklatura, the units and services of the repressive apparatus were the best informed in a system of tightly cointrolled information, a country that had virtually sealed its borders to any outside press, radio broadcasts or books. To the hapless subject of the Soviet Empire it was easier to get to the Moon than to a Western country. It was exactly its exclusive monopoly over the flow of information that enabled the cadres of the old State Security organization to usurp the powerful economic leverage that would cushion, at least for them, the inevitable collapse of communism. While communism is the mafia in office, the mafia is communism in opposition.

These same circles managed to gain control over most of the media, in order to continue brainwashing nations like Bulgaria. The very word 'democracy' became an obscenity, while the highest circulation daily newspapers are not above rekindling a kind of vague yet insiduous nostalgia for the communist past.

Communism continues to have too many influential advocates in both East and West, although in terms of the sheer number of its victims the communist system is not in any way inferior to nationalsocialism. The mumber of persons that were killed outright, died of tourture or perished in prison camps between the Bolshevik coup in 1917 and Stalin's death in 1953 is estimated at between 85 and 90 million. Once again, these estimates refer to Soviet nationals who lost their lives in peacetime, not counting the 20 to 25 million wartime casualties, or the foreign victims hunted down and killed off by Beria's special troops or by local Moscow stooges planted in the ranks of communist parties in territories occupied by the Red Army. By comparison, the total number of human individuals exterminated by German nationasocialism as 'untrustworthy' or as members of 'inferior races' bethween 1933 and 1945 did not exceed 25 million, which included victims in countries under nazi occupation. Even with such incomplete data it is easy to calculate that, while the annual 'quota'of human victims of the communist regime in Russia stood at some 2.5 million, in Hitler's Germany, using its advanced, 'industrial' extermination methods, the nazi machine managed to mow down a 'mere' 1.9 million human beings annually.

And yet, to this day communism has has not been condemned in any form similar to the condemnation meted out to nazism and fascism in the wake of WW II. Much of the blame for this incongruity lies with the guilty conscience of the West, led by the United States. Indeed, during the Second World War the Americns were faced with the all too real threat of Hitler conquering the European coast of the Atlantic Ocean, while the Japanese ruled over the Pacific rim; therefore their only realistic option was to team up with Stalin in order to stop Hitler. In the cynical words of British PM Churchill, Russia was a hungry beast that needed to be fed, so the Eastern Europeans had to be thrown in as food. From an American and Western perspective, this was clearly the lesser evil.

Another fact that should not be ignored is that the Nuremberg trials condemning the nazi crimes against humanity were much compromised by the Soviet presence among the accusers. A member of the International War Tribunal on behalf of the USSR was I.I. Nikitchenko, known as the right-hand man of the sinister Soviet prosecutor Vyshinsky, a principal player in the rigged Moscow show trials of 1936-38. In other words, Nikitchenko's entire legal experience amounted to extracting confessions from falsely accused victims, using methods that would get them to 'confess' to even the most phantasmagorical 'crimes' attributed to them. In the circumstances, it was small wonder that the Nuremberg Tribunal conveniently avoided any mention of the crimes against humanity jointly perpetrated by the nazis and the communists between August 24th, 1939, and June 22nd, 1941, when the bosom buddies Hitler and Stalin split the whole of Europe between tnemselves.

As was already mentioned, what with the generous allowances that Moscow lavished not only on its spies but also on its eloquent mouthpieces the paid advocates of communism, that 'most fair of social systems', communism is yet to receive its long-overdue international condemnation. Such leniency is due, last but not least, to the strong positions of influence widely enjoyed by the former communist nomenklatura in almost all countries of the former Eastern Bloc, and mostly in Russia. True, the agreements reached between the last Societ leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the then US President George Bush Sr., by the shores of Malta in 1989, amounted to complete capitualtion for Soviet Russia, since the proptocol of their meeting clearly states that 'in the name of the survival of civilization, the two sides mutually undertake to turn the societies of both states into societies with a free market economy, based upon private property, governed by a freely elected parliament and independent judiciary.' In other words, it was no one else but Russia and its Eastern European vassals that committed themselves to adopting the form of governance and the political system of the United States and the rest of the Western democracies. Apparently, however, in order to avoid cornering the communist nomenklatura in such a way as to leave it no other possibility of survival but to try and keep its grip on power with fire and bloodshed, the Bush administration decided to leave it all its assets and the freeeom to use them as its sees fit. In the text of the Malta agreements there is not a peep about any prosecution of the communist dictators and their machinery of repression, the KGB and its Eastern European affiliates. The Washington administration knew very well that the money of the red chieftains and apparatchiks came mostly from drug trafficking, arms sales and the ruthless plunder of the peoples who had the misfortune to find themselves trampled by the red boot. Thus the bulk of an economy already restructured along market principles fell into the hands of the old communist dignitaries, and mostly of the cadres of the previous repressive apparatus, while the communist parties swifly renamed themselves socialist in order to remain legitimate and central players in the new political systems. Indeed, the alternative to that would have been an all-out civil war, compared with which the clashes accompanying the disintegration of Yugoslavia would have looked like child's play. Therefore, in the name of a 'peaceful transition' the responsible factors in the West preferred to turn a blind eye on the crimes of communism at the risk of having their own countries permeated by the tentacles of a mafia far more dangerous than the Italian or the American. In combination with the nostalgia for the past, skilfully rekindled by the old communist functionaries that control the most influential media in the countries in transition, this poses a direct threat to the very faoundations of Euro-Atlantic civilization, not only to the eastern half of Europe. Therefore, the proper and categorical condemnation of communism is of vital interest not only to the new European democracies but to the West as well.

Translation from Bulgarian by Boyan Damyanov

  About this site   Contact us   Copyright   Partners