Revolution and Change in Central and Eastern Europe: Political, Economic, and Social Challenges

By Minton F. Goldman | Go to book overview
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satisfaction over the gradual departure from power of communists like Lukanov and the appointment of the country's first noncommunist leadership in over forty years. But Bulgaria still has a way to go in its political development before it can expect to receive the same kind of attention from the United States that has been shown to Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Washington is concerned with the resilience of the BSP and with the slowness of Bulgarian governments in moving the country toward a free-market economy.90 In fairness to Bulgaria, the pace of change is slow because of political instability. Neither the BSP nor the UDF, which are committed to a dismantling of the state-controlled economy and the development of capitalism, seems able to keep a grip on power long enough to implement significant change.

The civil war in Yugoslavia has recently complicated Bulgaria's relations with the United States. Bulgaria has lost a lot of money upholding U.N. sanctions against the rump state of Yugoslavia. But if it had refused to support sanctions, Bulgaria would have antagonized Washington and compromised its chances of receiving financial support from the World Bank and the IMF. Many Bulgarians believe some sort of compensation for their trouble is due them, and the United Nations has agreed in principle to this idea.91


The transition away from communism to noncommunist leadership occurred without the kind of violence seen in Romania largely because of the pragmatism of the last cadre of party leaders, Mladenov and Lilov. After the stubbornness of Zhivkov, reformers in Bulgaria showed a flexibility that set them apart from their predecessors and from communist leaders in other Central and East European countries, notably, Romania's Ceauşescu and East Germany's Honecker. But reformer communists moved too slowly to assure their survival. Although they tried very hard to hold on to power by going to great lengths to liberalize their party organization and the governments they led, and although they had a surprising resilience in the early 1990s, raising the possibility of survival as Communist parties in other Central and East European countries were deprived of power by voter majorities in parliamentary elections, Bulgarian reformist leaders had to accept the reality of their failure to improve living conditions in the short term. Their reformism was too little too late. Yet the socialists still have a broad appeal, because Bulgarian society is very conservative, fearful of radical change, and reluctant to abandon the security and stability they had under communism.

The BSP return to power, however, should not arouse fears of a return to the dictatorship and isolation of the communist era. The BSP is committed to reform, albeit at a slower pace than preferred by the UDF. It wants a free-market economy and has people in its ranks who have benefited from the dismantling of state control over the country's economic life. Moreover, Bulgaria has rejected the single-party dictatorship, embraced political pluralism, and begun reforms


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