Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview
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Monarchy in Bulgaria. The monarchy, established at the same time as the long-forgotten Turnovo constitution in 1878, was an institution that created a great deal of controversy. The first tsar ( King), Alexander of Battenberg, a young lieutenant of the Prussian Guards in Berlin, lasted for about six months. A Protestant, not an Orthodox Christian, he did not really know how to handle a government that was totally alien to German traditions.

His successor, Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, started off his reign similarly. He was not recognized by the Russian tsar as legitimate Bulgarian king, but he did succeed in retaining his kingship. When a new Russian tsar, Alexander III, was crowned in 1881, after the assassination of his father by the terrorists of the secret organization, called The People's Will, Ferdinand succeeded in placating him by promising to baptize his heir, Boris, as an Orthodox Christian.

Ferdinand ruled Bulgaria through the disastrous Balkan wars and through the equally disastrous World War I. In each of these wars, Bulgaria lost territory and manpower. Ferdinand abdicated on October 3, 1918, in favor of his son, Boris, and left for Germany where he lived for the rest of his life.

Tsar Boris proved himself more skillful and cunning in manupulating the competing parties and movements than was his father. He survived the rule of the Agrarian Union (see Agrarian Union), headed by the anti-monarchy Alexander Stamboliiski, and he certainly benefited from the murder of the Agrarian leader in 1923. He also survived an assassination attempt made by communist terrorists who exploded a bomb in Sofia's cathedral in 1925 (see Communist Party of Bulgaria).

Boris was a Germanophile who engaged Bulgaria, for the fourth time in the twentieth century, on the losers' side in World War II. He died in 1943, after a visit to Adolf Hitler, and it was rumored that he had been poisoned by the Germans. It is, however, difficult to see the reason for such an action, since Bulgaria was a loyal German ally, and Hitler had no reason to distrust Boris.

Boris' successor was his six-year-old son, Simeon II, named after the most renowned tsar of the early middle ages. A regency of three men took over the rule and managed the country until September 1944. After the communist coup d'etat that took place on September 9, Simeon II left Bulgaria never to return. A communist-orchestrated plebiscite abolished the institution of the monarchy in 1946. After the collapse of the communist system in Bulgaria in 1989, the possibility of inviting Simeon II to take his father's throne was discussed in the Grand National Assembly, but unofficial inquiries elicited a strongly negative response from Simeon II.


People's, Marin, "Bulgaria," in Joseph Held ed. The Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century ( New York, 1992), pp. 65- 118.

People's Councils. Established by the Fatherland Front (see Fatherland Front) under communist domination in 1944 and 1945, the councils were the organs of local government in Bulgaria. Their membership was not elected but was appointed by the


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Dictionary of East European History since 1945
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