This year Bulgaria is going to celebrate ten and seven years of being a NATO and EU member, respectively. Nevertheless, the country is still to get rid of its totalitarian past. The proof of this is the speech Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev delivered on the Day of Remembrance for Communist Regime Victims which was instituted in 2011. The Bulgarian head of state urged that all the documents related to communist secret services be archived, digitized, and submitted to the State Archive. “Certain forces are actively trying to make sure that nobody reads these documents, which makes it possible to manipulate the truth because this suits some people,” Plevneliev said at a ceremony to mark the events of February 1, 1945. It will be recalled that the first death sentence of the People’s Court formed after the liberation of Bulgaria from Nazi occupation by the Soviet Army was carried out on the night of February 2, 1945. Among those executed were Prince Regent Kyril Saxe-Coburg-Gotha of Preslav, Chairman of the Council of Ministers Bogdan Filov, General Nikola Mikov, and 17 ministers.
“There’s nothing left to hide after 25 years. Let everybody have access to these records, instead of having a mediator read the archives for us. There is no need for a mediator between us and the truth. All citizens and students in secondary and higher education have the right to learn the truth about the secret services of the totalitarian regime firsthand. Let us once and for all put an end to speculations surrounding the communist-era state security service, let us put it in the State Archives and provide universal access to it in an intelligent way, as European countries did a long time ago,” the president said in his address.
He also noted that the most serious drawback in Bulgarian transformations was failure to give an unambiguous appraisal of the crimes committed by the communist regime. “Instead of doing that, there have been unceasing attempts to create a parallel reality and myths about Todor Zhivkov being a man of the people, about ‘good’ security agents who did not work for the party but for the state, etc., conveniently forgetting about labor camps, prisons and the terror exercised by these same professionals over the Bulgarian people,” the president said.
Bulgaria’s President Rosen PLEVNELIEV: “There’s nothing left to hide after 25 years. Let everybody have access to these records, instead of having a mediator read the archives for us. There is no need for a mediator between us and the truth. All citizens and students in secondary and higher education have the right to learn the truth about the secret services of the totalitarian regime firsthand.”
In his address, the president also claimed that, in the years of transformation, a number of political parties had tried to keep the truth about the secret service of the totalitarian regime partially hidden. “Enough is enough! Let us close this page in a dignified way, for enough damage has been incurred through its half-hearted reading,” Plevneliev stressed.
“Today, we are paying tribute to the people who sacrificed their lives to have the right to propagate their ideas. Giving credit to these noble Bulgarians, we must work, spread and advance our ideas as freely as they used to do. We must defend our political views, observing democratic rules, and build a rule-of-law state,” the head of state noted. In his opinion, the Bulgarian national ideal of a “pure and sacred republic” can only be achieved by way of fair interpretation of facts.
As for the facts, Bulgaria saw the establishment of “people’s courts” during Soviet occupation, which passed almost 2,800 death sentences and almost 2,000 life sentences. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Communist Party-sponsored mass-scale killings and sufferings were not confined to “people’s courts” verdicts alone. Almost 5,000 families were exiled and about 10,000 people were kept in interment camps by the end of 1945, where there were harsh and inhumane conditions as well as tortures and murders. Historians estimate that 30 to 40 thousand Bulgarians were killed in the first years of the communist regime, but nobody will ever know the exact figures because records were destroyed and officials lied in the years of “socialist rule.”
Incidentally, certain steps to fight the totalitarian past have also been taken in Bulgaria before. In particular, the government resolved that people who had collaborated with the communist security services were barred from assuming high diplomatic offices.
A lot is also being done to this effect in other former “socialist” countries. A few months ago, the parliament of Hungary passed a law that allows opening secret police archives. In 2012, Lithuania’s Center for Genocide and Resistance Studies published a list of KGB reservists, including former members of major Lithuanian prewar political parties. A year ago, Moldova allowed free access to the files of Soviet communist regime crimes. Georgia has banned former KGB operatives and communist party functionaries from holding high governmental offices.
Ihor Kulyk, an expert on access to Liberation Movement Research Center archives, believes that declassifying Soviet secret services’ archival documents makes it possible not only to say the truth about the destiny of someone or his/her family, but also to prevent former KGB agents from coming to power and working in administrative bodies and educational institutions. “Declassifying archival documents on the Soviet totalitarian past will be an inoculation against dictatorship of the government and human rights violations,” Kulyk says on the Liberation Movement Research Center’s website.