Like other Central and East European countries, Bulgaria came under communist rule in the late 1940s. Shortly thereafter, Bulgarian communists transformed their country into an orthodox socialist dictatorship and a loyal Soviet satellite. By the early 1950s, the pattern of Communist Party rule for the next thirty-five years had been set.
Bulgarian communist leader Todor Zhivkov, in power from 1954 until the end of 1989, was an ideological hard-liner. During his rule, Bulgaria became one of the most repressive regimes in Eastern Europe, characterized by a harsh, censorship, an ubiquitous secret police, a ruthless suppression of dissent with no workers' strikes and no samizdat publications, and a Soviet-style highly centralized autocratic command economy involving a thorough destruction of free enterprise and the extension of state control over almost all aspects of Bulgarian economic life.
Bulgaria's repressive authoritarianism under the communists had deep roots in the country's history, in particular, the many centuries of authoritarian government under the Ottoman Turkish Empire and in the brief period of independence from 1909 until the end of World War II. Most Bulgarian people had little experience with and understanding of Western parliamentary democracy and less sympathy for political liberalism. For most of the communist era, the Bulgarian people tolerated without serious challenge the communist dictatorship forced on them by the Soviet Union after World War II.1