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New International, December 1949


Purges in Bulgaria


From The New International, Vol. XV No. 8, December 1949, pp. 226 & 241.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A correspondent of The Economist (London) writes in its issue of November 5, 1949:

The purges in the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party are assuming enormous and surprising proportions. They amount, indeed, to a total and violent change of the leadership of the party and the state machine. The axe has so far struck down the following:

The acting Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the party (Rostov); the Finance Minister (Stefanov); the Minister of Industry (Kunin), who was also Minister of Finance for two months after the arrest of Stefanov; the Governor of the National Bank (Tsonchev); the Minister of Public Works (Sekalarov); the Minister of Transport (Tonchev); the deputy Foreign Minister and Director of the Communist Propaganda Services (Topencharov); the Foreign Under-Secretary (Andreychin); the Chief of the General Staff (General Kinov); the Chief of the Army Political Department (General Balgaranov); the chairman of the Control Commission of the Communist Central Committee (Pavlov).

Apart from these prominent figures, nearly a dozen other ministers, under-secretaries and generals, the whole railway directorate and a great number of provincial party secretaries, local army chiefs, police chiefs and inspectors have been involved. Moreover, the all-powerful deputy premier, Anton Yugov, for five years Interior (Police) Minister, has also completely disappeared from the Sofia scene in the last three weeks. This is presumably the first sign of his impending downfall.

Impeachment of Ministers

Ten days ago the National Assembly, which had been disbanded in September, was quickly summoned for a short half an hour session to vote a new law which is certainly unique in the world: it is a special law for the trial of Cabinet Ministers and members of the Government. A new “Supreme People’s Court” is created which has to try the accused not later than one week after the publication of the indictment. There is, of course, no appeal, and Ministers and members of parliament can be arrested “without the prior removal of their parliamentary immunity.”

The purged men are now accused of “Kostovism,” which – to quote the present Communist dictator in Bulgaria, Valko Chervenkov – is “nothing but Titoism on Bulgarian soil and just like Titoism, it grows on treason and espionage.” As for Rostov himself, his “immediate trial,” announced last August, has again been postponed, a fact which shows his remarkable endurance (he was arrested in March) and which has undoubtedly raised his prestige within the Communist rank and file. Rostov was not, like Rajk, just one of the leaders of the Communist Party; he was the universally accepted leader after Dimitrov. A member of the Central Committee since 1924, a member of the Politburo since 1935, secretary of the Central Committee since 1940, and Secretary-General of the whole party since 1944, Rostov was, above all, responsible for the building up of the party machine. All party secretaries, inspectors and functionaries were his men. At the last party congress in December, 1948, he presented the party political programme, which presumably is still in force. As chairman of the cabinet committee co-ordinating all economic ministries, he was the virtual economic dictator of the, country, the author and supreme chief of the five-year plan. On his fiftieth birthday, in 1947, the Central Committee sang his praises in the following manner:

“Great are your achievements, Comrade Rostov, as the builder of the party, as the teacher and instructor of the party members. Under your leadership and inspired by your heroic life, thousands of Communists were educated into unquestionable loyalty to the party.”

Titoism in the Villages

Inefficiency and opposition in the country are obviously part of the background of the present political transformation. Official Communist figures published in the last two months reveal an alarming economic state of affairs and chaos in the transport system. The passive resistance of the peasants to the dictates of Sofia is obviously the Government’s greatest problem. The autumn requisition quotas for wheat and rye have been met with 90 per cent, and for oats with 80 per cent delivery. It is most interesting and significant, however, that the districts round the Black Sea and the Rumanian border (the districts nearest Russia) have fulfilled their quotas with deliveries of 143, 112 and even 219 per cent. The districts bordering on Jugoslavia, however, are seriously lagging behind: for example, Breznik 22 per cent, Tran 27 per cent, Belogradchik 20 per cent. Even more revealing are the figures for the Macedonian districts – 59, 54, 42 and 20 per cent. Clearly, the “Tito influence” does exist in Bulgaria, and especially in Bulgarian Macedonia.

The Usual Scapegoats

For the defects in the transport system “Nationalistic and anti-Soviet elements” are blamed. The goods trains are said to have been running at an average speed of 1½ miles per hour. Special “railway tribunals” have been set up now for “the quick investigation and trial” of wreckers. “Soviet transport specialists” are to “help the reorganization of the transport system.”

As Chervenkov appears to have the complete confidence and support of the Soviets his ruthless regime is there to stay. How many Cabinet ministers and Central Committee members will be actually executed for treason, espionage and spying is a matter of speculation, but Chervenkov obviously wants to frighten the remaining Communists into complete submission. His purge has drastically affected the army, the police, the party machine and the economic ministries – the pillars of the Communist dictatorship.

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