Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview
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with the party. Even after the collapse of the communist system, the Bulgarian judges did not acquit themselves creditably. They failed to examine impartially the activities of former communist officials. It will take a long time before the rule of law will again be as respected in Bulgaria as it was at the establishment of the modern judicial systern.

A word about the supreme court is due here. This court was created by the Dimitrov constitution of 1946 (see Dimitrov Constitution) as the supreme judicial body in the land. This court also operated within the confines of Marxist-Leninist doctrines, and it was actually supervised by the Politburo of the Communist party. Together with twelve regional and ninety-three district courts, the task of the Supreme Court was the safeguarding of "socialist legality," a true oxymoron. The courts, including the supreme court, were composed of professional jurists and lay "judges" as well as lay assessors "elected" by the local Peoples Councils (see People's councils). The judges of the supreme court were ostensibly "elected" by the National Assembly, but they were approved by the party's Politburo. The prosecutor general was responsible for the enforcement of laws enacted by parliament and governmental decrees. He was especially responsible for pursuing "crimes against the state," a category that was never clearly defined.


Engelbrek Kjell, "Toward the Rule of Law. Bulgaria," Radio Free Europe Research Reports. 1.27 ( July, 13, 1992), pp.4-9.

Perestroika in Bulgaria. Initially, the Bulgarian communists welcomed Gorbachev and his new policies, breaking with the Stalinist past. The Bulgarian version of reconstuction led to a series of minor changes, especially a much heralded decree that permitted the formation of workers' self-management units in state-owned factories and collective farms. The party went so far as to encourage workers' initiatives in transferring the supervision of the operations of state firms to workers' collectives. The small private sector that had operated mostly underground, forming the ever-present "second economy"--a phenomenon that emerged in every centrally managed East European country in the 1980s--was finally legalized in Bulgaria. It suddenly came to life with such vigor that it surprised everyone. However, all this did not mean a fundamental change in the system still dominated by old-style communist bosses. The state retained for itself the final decisions in the management of the economy through the national bank and the central planning apparatus, the latter of which continued to issue directives and production quotas to industrial enterprises.

By 1985, however, thanks to the development of the educational system, a new generation of technical experts emerged, and its members resented the continuing stream of often unreasonable directives issued by the planning organs. Symptoms of universal skepticism toward utopian ideologies, especially and including Marx


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Dictionary of East European History since 1945
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