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Bulgaria Modern History

After World War II, the monarchy was abandoned and Bulgaria became a Communist one-party state. The country cooperated closely with the Soviet Union. When Communism collapsed in Central and Eastern Europe 1989-1881, multi-party was held. A period of social and political unrest followed, but the situation stabilized gradually. Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. Since then, the country has been under special surveillance to deal with widespread corruption and organized crime.

By the time the Second World War ended, the Communists had seized power in Bulgaria. In 1946, Bulgaria was declared a people's republic after a questionable referendum and King Simeon fled. In the first elections of the same year, the Fosterland Front, dominated by the Communist Party, received over 70 percent of the vote. Communist Party Party Secretary Georgi Dimitrov became Prime Minister. In 1947, a new constitution was introduced following the Soviet model. The multi-party system was abolished, the Communist Party and its support party The Agrarian Party became the only allowed parties and dissenters were persecuted. Major purges were carried out and over 2,000 people were sentenced to death.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Bulgaria. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Through the Western Front, which also included trade unions, youth organizations and other mass organizations, the Communist Party controlled the entire society. After the death of Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1953, some of the most hard-line politicians disappeared from the party summit, but the abandonment of the policies pursued during the Stalin era went slower here than elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

A collective leadership following the Soviet model was introduced in 1954. The party leader post went to Todor Zhivkov, who came to dominate Bulgarian politics for over 30 years. The country became one of the most loyal allies of the Soviet Union. Planning economics were introduced, the land was collectivized and a heavy industry was built up.

Stagnation and democratization

Contemporary History of BulgariaIn the early 1980s, the economy began to stagnate, which increased dissatisfaction with the regime. Bulgaria was affected from the middle of the decade by the reform policy of the USSR's new openness in the Soviet Union. In 1987, Zhivkov launched a Bulgarian variant of the reform policy, perestroika, launched by Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev (see RUSSIA: Modern History). The Bulgarian opposition also began to act more actively for political reforms. In the 1988 local elections, the Communist Party allowed for the first time that independent candidates were nominated. These received about a quarter of the votes.

Political activity in the country increased dramatically. New opposition groups were formed, and journalists and cultural workers demanded greater transparency. The environmental movement Ekoglasnost was given an important role, as was the independent trade union movement Podkrepa and organizations that worked for human rights and increased religious freedom.

Now the Turkish minority also openly protested against the regime's repression. The Bulgarian Turks had been disadvantaged for almost the entire communist era, but their situation was made more difficult during the regime's "Bulgarian campaign" in 1984 (see Population and language).

When the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, the government was hard pressed by opposition forces and the reformist within the Communist Party saw a chance to act. In an internal " palace coup " Zhivkov was overthrown and replaced in November by Foreign Minister Petar Mladenov, leader of the coup. Following the takeover of power, Mladenov promised major political and economic changes as well as taking environmental problems seriously. In December 1989, the Communist Party renounced its power monopoly and gave opposition parties the right to operate freely. The authorities also abolished the 1984 laws that legitimized the discrimination of Bulgarian Turks.

First multi-party

A number of new parties merged in the Alliance of Democratic Forces Union (UDF). These were groups of diverse interests, united in the fight for continued democratization, for market economy and against communism. Alongside these parties were the Agrarian Party, which left its role as a support party to the Communists and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), which primarily served the interests of the Bulgarian Turks and Pomaks (see Population and Languages).

In February 1990, over 200,000 protesters in Sofia demanded that the Communists surrender power. The government was forced to introduce multi-party systems and announce elections. The Communist Party had then changed its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and switched to a more reform-friendly policy.

In the first democratic elections in June 1990, the BSP won a majority of the seats in Parliament. Shortly thereafter, Mladenov, who was named president in the spring, was forced to resign after it was revealed that in December 1989 he proposed that military be deployed against protesters. He was replaced by former dissident and philosophy professor Zhelju Zhelev, leader of the UDF.

Following a strike that threatened to cripple the entire society, in November 1990 the Socialist government resigned and was replaced by a broad coalition government, led by the lawyer Dimitar Popov.

As a result of the regime change, it became clear that Bulgaria had major economic problems. The centralized economy with state-owned enterprises and collective agriculture was rigid and inefficient and growth was negative. The country was also drawn with a huge foreign debt. The problems worsened when the trading system in Eastern Europe collapsed. During the communist period, a large part of the trade took place through the exchange of goods within the eastern bloc. During the economic transformation that took place during the transition to a market economy, the countries were forced to start paying each other with hard currency, that is, money that has a secure value in the international market such as dollars, which was a scarce commodity in the Eastern Bloc.

The new powers in Bulgaria initiated economic reforms and a comprehensive privatization program. The reforms were largely in line with the loan terms set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to assist Bulgaria with loans.

Anti-Communists win

In a recent election in 1991, an anti-communist alliance between UDF and DPS prevailed. The first democratic presidential election in January 1992 was won by Zhelev.

The following period was marked by instability in Parliament, and promised privatizations came of age. In October 1992, the UDF government lost a vote of confidence in Parliament. The party politically unbounded Ljuben Berov then led a government, supported by BSP and DPS. Under Berov's rule, several former communist politicians and senior officials were charged with embezzling state funds. Among these were ex-President Zhivkov, who in 1994 was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The bereavement government resigned in the fall of 1994 after losing the support of BSP and President Zhelev. In December, parliamentary elections were held for the third time in five years. The BSP, which was still dominated by former communists, returned to power through promises of economic recovery without major cuts in social welfare.

In the mid-1990s, Bulgaria was characterized by demonstrations and social concerns. The privatization programs were not implemented, and the economy deteriorated, among other things, the government debt grew sharply and the currency, living, fell rapidly.

Economic crisis

In the wake of the economic crisis, protests against the government increased. Inflation was up in several hundred percent, the currency was in free fall and the central government debt was galloping. The banking system was in acute crisis. In some places the food shortage was so great that there was talk of famine.

Mass demonstrations continued throughout the country with demands for new elections to Parliament. The unrest culminated when protesters entered Parliament in January 1997. Violence erupted and around 200 people were injured.

The socialists now agreed on a new election, which was held in April. Victors became a bourgeois alliance in which the UDF was the core. UDF leader Ivan Kostov was appointed prime minister.

The new government accelerated economic reforms and privatizations. The economy began to stabilize slowly and positive growth was noted in 1998. At the same time, unemployment rose, which reduced the support for the government. To the discontent, in 1999 the government supported NATO's military alliance's intervention in the Kosovo crisis (see Foreign Policy and Defense). One consequence of the war there was that the EU wanted to accelerate membership of Balkan countries, and negotiations with Bulgaria began in early 2000.

Ex-king of power

The UDF-led government of 1997 became the first since the fall of communism to sit an entire term of office. Before the 2001 parliamentary elections, however, a new player emerged on the political scene - the former King Simeon II. He had settled in Spain after the national escape in 1946, at the age of nine. As an adult, he had established himself there as a businessman. At the age of 64, Simeon returned to Bulgaria and formed in April 2001 a political party, the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), who ran for election.

Simeon's election promises of higher living standards and the fight against corruption received support from the Bulgarians, who are tired of poverty and of the old corrupt politicians. In the election, NDSV received 43 percent of the vote and exactly half of the mandate. By accepting the post of prime minister, Simeon acknowledged Bulgaria's position as a republic. With his royal origins in the Saxon-Coburg-Gotha princes, his name became Simeon Sakskoburggotski.

A coalition government was formed by NDSV, DPS and two members of the Socialist Party. Simeon's government had several political successes during its four years in power. In the spring of 2004, Bulgaria became a member of NATO and in June of that year the negotiations for EU membership were basically completed. The economy improved and unemployment dropped significantly, but the government could not live up to the high expectations of the public. Corruption was still widespread, as was the crime and most Bulgarians did not experience an improved standard of living.

The return of the left

NDSV lost big when parliamentary elections were held in June 2005. Voter support more than halved. Victory made the Coalition for Bulgaria, a left-wing alliance dominated by the Socialist Party and won 31 percent of the vote. The ultranationalist dissatisfaction party , Attack, entered the Parliament with 8 percent.

A new center-left government was formed with BSP leader Sergei Stanisev as prime minister.

In September 2006, Bulgaria received the EU membership sign, albeit with several reservations. Brussels felt that the fight against corruption and organized crime was too slow and that legal security was still too weak. Therefore, as a member of the Union, the country would also be subject to scrutiny and continuously forced to report the fight against crime and corruption. Failure to meet the requirements would result in penalties in the form of withdrawn EU contributions.

EU membership

Bulgaria joined the EU on January 1, 2007. But the EU continued to express strong dissatisfaction. As early as the first year, the European Commission decided to withhold agricultural and regional aid due to lack of anti-corruption measures. Nevertheless, several corruption cases were invented and a number of high-ranking persons were allowed to leave their posts in 2007 and 2008. In several cases, it was about contacting mafia organizations and involvement in drug trafficking.

Among those appointed who were forced to resign were several ministers, including Interior Minister Rumen Petkov, who was charged with conspiracy with the mafia and involvement in drug trafficking. In the same vein, a writer who wrote about the mafia and a business representative were murdered, which helped the EU sharpen its tone against Bulgaria.

There were also suspicions that organized crime had infiltrated the EU's support system. In 2008, the EU first decided to withhold over € 500 million in funding so far, and later to withdraw almost half of the money. No other EU state had ever happened before.

The right wins the election

The Bulgarians were hit hard in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008. The left government was forced into cuts, which caused great dissatisfaction. Protests against poverty and corruption degenerated in early 2009 into riots, with many injured.

Prior to the July 2009 elections, large parts of the right-wing opposition gathered in a new Conservative party, Citizens for European Development in Bulgaria (Gerb). In the election, Gerb got 40 percent of the vote, which was almost enough for his own majority in parliament. The Left Alliance suffered a stinging defeat. Voter support more than halved. Another big loser was NDSV, which now became out of place in parliament.

The winner of the election was Gerb's leader Bojko Borisov, a former bodyguard who has been Sofia's mayor since 2005. Borisov now became the leader of a minority government, supported by some smaller right-wing parties.

In 2010, the budget deficit grew and the government tried to cut public sector spending, introduce wage cuts and reduce pensions, but the measures were met by protests and the government retreated.

The presidential election in autumn 2011 was won by Gerb's candidate Rosen Plevneliev, former Minister of Regional Development. With Plevneliev at the presidential post, Gerb got a strong grip on the country's politics, although the president's role is essentially ceremonial.

In the summer of 2012, the European Commission issued its most critical report to date on the shortcomings of the Bulgarian authorities' efforts to combat organized crime. According to the report, Bulgarian criminal leagues, which target human trafficking and credit card fraud, had settled into 15 EU countries. The EU wrote that the mafia networks had a "unique" position in the Bulgarian society with a great influence on the country's economy.

Protests and recent elections

In the winter of 2013, Bulgaria was shaken by protests in all major cities against sharply increased electricity prices. Soon, dissatisfaction was directed at austerity and politicians in general. When the violence in February broke out between protesters and police, the government resigned. New elections were announced in May.

The election ended with a deadlock in Parliament. Gerb was again given the most mandate but soon gave up trying to create a new government. The process ended with the formation of an expert government under the leadership of former Finance Minister Plamen Oresjarski. The government consisted of BSP and DPS, and counted with support in Parliament by the right-wing party Attack. The new government announced measures to reduce poverty after years of austerity and promised to work against corruption.

Just a few weeks after the government took office in mid-June, new street protests erupted. The reason was that the government appointed a corruption-suspected media mogul, Deljan Peevski, as the new head of the security service Dans. The reaction became so intense that Peevski immediately withdrew.

But the criticism did not subside and the demonstrations continued, against corruption, mismanagement and poor living conditions. A pent-up frustration after years of cuts took drastic expression. At least five people have died since they lit a fire on themselves in protest. Demonstrations continued throughout 2013.

The EU elections in May 2014 became a severe setback for BSP, which led to DPS withdrawing its support. A threatening banking crisis worsened the already difficult economic situation (see Economy) and by the end of July, Oresjarski resigned.

When the new elections were held in October, Gerb again became the largest party and could form a minority government with the newly formed right-wing Alliance Reformist bloc and the center-left group ABV. The government was supported in Parliament by the Nationalist Patriotic Front, which included right-wing Attack now. Bojko Borisov returned as prime minister.

 
 

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