Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

Bibliography

Brown J. F., Bulgaria Under Communist Rule ( New York, 1970).

Zhivkov, Todor (1911-). Zhivkov was born in the village of Pravets, north of Sofia. He became an apprentice printer in his late teens and joined the Bulgarian Communist party in 1932. During World War II, he provided the link between the underground leadership of the local party workers and the communist guerrillas led by Dobri Dzhurov, who were active in the Pravets region. Legend had it that Zhivkov was the leader of the communist coup d'etat in September 1944; however, in 1989, it became clear that the legend was nothing but fiction. After the coup, Zhivkov entered Sofia with the guerrillas and immediately organized them as the new police force of the nation. They carried out murder on a large scale, eliminating all possible enemies of their party.

Zhivkov was soon rewarded for his "service to the people." He was made a candidate (nonvoting) member of the party's Central Committee in 1945. In 1948, he was promoted to regular (voting) membership in that organ. Two years later, he was appointed as a junior member of the Politburo and secretary to the Central Committee. He also worked as first secretary to the party's organization in the capital city of Sofia. In 1954, Zhivkov became secretary general to the Communist party. In April 1956, he formulated the so-called April line, which was a copy of the internal policies introduced in the Soviet Union by Nikita Khrushchev. In 1962, Zhivkov combined his post of general secretary with that of prime minister, taking control of both government and party organizations. In 1971, Zhivkov was instrumental in introducing a new constitution for Bulgaria, which created a State Council as the highest policy-making body. Zhivkov, as head of state, was also head of the State Council. He withdrew from the everyday running of the government and the party and concerned himself with policy formulation.

The Council of Ministers was charged with carrying out Zhivkov's policies, introduced through the State Council. Zhivkov was intent on making Bulgaria an inseparable ally of the Soviet Union. He often declared that the two countries were sharing a common circulation system. He did succeed in turning his country into a miniature replica of the Soviet Union. However, Zhivkov did not count on events taking a different turn than he had envisaged. When the Soviet economy began to deteriorate, Bulgaria also began to have economic difficulties. Zhivkov's regime borrowed heavily from Western banks and governments, using the funds to subsidize the production of substandard goods that could be sold only to the Soviet Bloc. His government also began trafficking in the illegal drug trade or, at least, provided transit for drug dealers for a fee. It also sponsored international terrorism. There were unconfirmed and unprovable reports that Zhivkov offered to incorporate Bulgaria into the Soviet Union as the sixteenth Soviet republic. If he made such an offer, it was not accepted. Zhivkov also maintained close relations with the murderous communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his clan in Romania. Copying the dynastic policies of

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