The Other Europe: Eastern Europe to 1945

By E. Garrison Walters | Go to book overview

13
Interwar Bulgaria

BULGARIA WAS ONE of interwar Eastern Europe's two defeated nations, and like the other vanquished power, Hungary, the peace treaties severed from Bulgaria lands that all Bulgarians considered to be not merely physical parts of the country but also central components of the national cultural heritage. Bulgarians could no more accept the Treaty of Neuilly than Hungarians the Treaty of Trianon. But the similarities of these two revisionist states did not go much beyond irredentism. Bulgaria continued with the same constitution, governmental structure, and leaders that she had had before the war; she was the only country of Eastern Europe that had no need for major internal struggles over land reform or the status of minorities. Yet, despite this good fortune, Bulgarians found plenty of things to worry and quarrel about: the bureaucracy was corrupt to the point of provoking rebellion; the country lacked an economic raison d'être; and the problem of the "lost provinces" distorted debate on every issue and in the end was instrumental in causing the nation to fall prey to the Nazis.

Bulgaria was a thoroughly peasant country: some 75 percent of the population was dependent on agriculture. 1 But it was also very different from all of the other agrarian countries (with the partial exception of Yugoslavia) in that it was a land of peasant proprietors, a very large proportion of whom had the potential to produce for the market. Bulgaria did have a land reform after the war, but it was a comparatively minor affair which served to reduce the holdings of the state, the church, and a very few wealthy farmers rather than to break up great estates. The process of land distribution had actually been completed a generation earlier when the newly liberated Bulgarians dispossessed the Turkish landlords. There had been no opportunity for a class of native nobility to take the place of the Turks.

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