Živkov’s relative reformism was expressed above all in a certain tolerance towards cultural debate. He himself loved meeting intellectuals, to whom he assigned salaries that his critics call “satraphs”, giving them a social status that divided them from society. Dissident G. Markov (who was killed in London by the Bulgarian secret police) used to sarcastically say that poets and writers “were paid not to write, but not to write”. This relative tolerance, however, prevented the formation of a broad and well-organized front of dissent and protest remained, in Bulgaria, an always isolated and fragmented phenomenon.
For a long time (from 1972 to 1981) the cultural sector was entrusted by Živkov to his daughter Liudmila, an intelligent and prepared historian who had also attended Oxford University. L. Živkova encouraged both an unconventional debate and relations with the West. Above all, it engaged intellectuals in the rediscovery of national history and traditions, sacrificed to the intrusiveness of ideology and ties with the Soviet Union. For Bulgaria political system, please check computerminus.com.
History was therefore rewritten, old heroes of the past were re-legitimized, even the pre-war ” bourgeois ” parties and their leaders were rehabilitated.branded for decades as ” fascists and reactionaries ”. There was also full reconciliation with the Orthodox Church which was officially recognized as having defended national values. And so, on national holidays, the portraits of Saints Cyril and Methodius marched together with those of Živkov and the other founding fathers of the regime and in 1981 Church and State celebrated together, in a sumptuous way, the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian state. When, in 1981, L. Živkova died suddenly (she was not yet 40), the cultural debate became less lively and many liberal intellectuals were sidelined. But the aspect of cultural renaissance continued to develop:
The annotation may serve to understand why – in the mid-1980s – Živkov exasperated the nationalistic element in a violent polemic against the Turkish minority. How many Bulgarians are considered to be of Turkish origin is difficult to ascertain, because, officially, this ethnic group does not exist: according to the calculations of the Council of Europe they would be at least one million, that is 10% of the population. In 1985 the regime ordered the Turks to ” Bulgarian ” their names, while the traditions of the Muslim religion (circumcisions, funerals and clothes) were banned and repressed. The intention was to erase all traces of the Turkish minority: a measure that enjoyed its popularity in a country long dominated by the Ottomans. Especially since the demographic growth of
The controversy with the Turks became harsh and violent in the summer of 1989, when they, encouraged by the democratic pressures that swept through the other Eastern countries, protested with large street demonstrations, violently repressed. Over 2000 Turks, considered the leaders of the protest, they were expelled and in a panic reaction 310,000 people fled the country en masse, taking refuge in Turkey and creating considerable problems for the Bulgarian economy. The government admitted that it had lost 5% of the workforce in just over three months, and especially in the countryside it was forced into civil mobilization. The repression and mass exodus brought Bulgaria to the international limelight in an uncomfortable and criticizable position, which, moreover, was not in harmony with the interests of Moscow, fearful that the crisis would act as a detonator in a delicate region like the Balkans, with uncertain ethnic borders and fragile nationalistic emotions.
Živkov’s replacement took place practically without any opposition; He was succeeded by a man who had been at the top of power for years but with a discreet and uncertain profile: the Foreign Minister P. Mladenov. 53 years old, a graduate of Moscow, for almost 20 years at the helm of Bulgarian diplomacy, for 12 in the political office, Mladenov was considered a technician, not very inclined to political-ideological displays. In recent times he had slipped even further from the scene because he did not share the exasperatingly nationalistic management of the crisis with Turkey.
Mladenov had pledged, in his investiture speech, to transform Bulgaria “into a modern democracy, governed by law” and to “dismantle the regime once and for all”. And the promises were kept: the Constitution was amended (abolishing, among other things, the leading role of the party) and laws on the civil and political rights of citizens were promptly passed. Mladenov was later elected by the old Parliament as President of the Republic, but was later embroiled in a past scandal and forced to resign.
A path towards democratization set, therefore, “from above”, led by the Communist Party in power. And this characteristic, more of reform than revolution, conditioned the first free elections, held in two rounds on 10 and 17 June 1990. The Communist Party, purged and renewed (changed its name to Socialist Party) played successfully the card of its new credibility and has cleverly exploited the mighty network of structures still under its control. It obtained 47% of the votes and an absolute majority (211) of the 400 seats in Parliament. The opposition, united in the Union of Democratic Forces (in which 15 parties are linked) managed to obtain 36% and 144 seats. Then the old peasant party (Unione Agraria, with the 8% and 16 deputies), one of the protagonists of the political debate before the advent of the communist regime. Representatives of the Turkish minority, present in the Movement for Rights and Freedom (6% of the votes and 23 deputies), also entered Parliament for the first time. But in the autumn of 1990 the first signs of a political crisis emerged linked to the difficult transition to the market economy. The government of A. Lukanov, in office for two months, resigned at the end of November, replaced by a coalition cabinet chaired by D. Popov and formed by the Socialist Party, the Union of Democratic Forces and the Agrarian Union. In February 1991, the trial began in Živkov, the first of the Communist leaders to be indicted.