When on 10 November 1989 T. Živkov, secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (PCB) and head of state, was forced to resign from the leadership of the PCB, the surprise was considerable in both domestic and international public opinion. Živkov was at the head of the country since 1954 (a record of longevity in power equaled, in Europe, only by Franco in Spain) and his personality has certainly conditioned and shaped the development of contemporary Bulgaria
The country was taking the road of democratization according to an unexpected and in a certain sense surprising development. A week earlier, led by the environmentalists of the so – called Eco-Glasnot, groups of dissidents had demonstrated in the center of Sofia to demand freedom and democracy. But it was a matter of a few thousand people (no more than 4000), a number far from those tumultuous crowds who, in the same days, contested and pressed on the communist regimes. Živkov therefore seemed to be able to resist the wind of liberalization that was shaking the countries of the East. For Bulgaria history, please check ehistorylib.com.
Many foreign observers, to explain the surprising results of the November 10 meeting, speak of a palace coup prompted by Moscow and hastily organized under the pressure of the fall of the Berlin Wall the day before, which made Gorbachev dangerous and anachronistic. survival of that epigone of orthodoxy in the country closest to Moscow.
In his long farewell speech, a kind of self-criticism, Živkov himself offered a key to understanding his abrupt departure: he conceded, in essence, his failure in attempting to introduce those economic and political reforms he had long promised. The decentralization and liberalization of the economy were blocked – as had happened in other Eastern countries – by the demands of power of the apparatus and by the fear of social upheaval.
The political reform – to which Parliament had committed itself in the summer of 1987 – had limited itself to producing a few non-communist candidates in the municipal elections of March 1988. A hint of opening promptly balanced – in July – by the removal from the CC and from the political office of the most convinced and incisive reformists and by the granting of the highest honor of the country to some personalities long removed from the party for Stalinism. Živkov’s initiative thus tended to detach from Moscow, in an unusual and unprecedented discrepancy in relations between the two countries.
The Bulgaria is in fact the only country of the communist bloc that has never known a serious crisis in its relations with its powerful neighbor, the only one who has not lived as an alienation, a ” wound ” to its traditions, to its cultural identity, the political-ideological hegemony that came from Moscow. Živkov himself liked to say that the two countries “have a single circulatory system” and the rhetorical emphasis has never given him the hostility and sarcasm that it would have aroused in the population of the other socialist countries. Both Slavic peoples, both of Orthodox religion, there is an undoubted relationship of respect and sympathy between the Bulgarians and the Russians (despite the fact that the royal monarchy had sided with Hitler). The Russians had also freed Bulgaria from Ottoman Empire and Nazi domination. Compared to other Eastern regimes that had always sought a minimum of social consensus by exploring the limits of autonomy and diversity granted by Moscow, Živkov had made affinity and loyalty towards the Russians the basis of his regime and his’ ‘political philosophy”. In return, it received massive economic and technological assistance, in particular a privileged and constant supply of energy.
The Bulgarian industry has received an undoubted advantage from the privileged relationship with Moscow: this is one of the main factors to explain the constant development of the country’s economy, which has recorded the longest and most consistent period of growth among the COMECON countries (exceeding unscathed, thanks to Soviet supplies, even the oil crisis of the early 1970s). The Soviet Union therefore remains the most faithful and important economic and commercial partner, with which the great majority of Bulgarian export-import takes place.
But loyalty to Moscow and the lack of mutual suspicions that have often made relations between the USSR and “satellite” countries problematic, have allowed Živkov a prudent but continuous reformism. He has intensified economic and commercial relations with the West; introduced a level of privatization in agriculture unknown in the USSR (private individuals ” cover ” 13% of cultivated land and produce a quarter of all agricultural production); was finally able to launch an economic reform plan, the NEM, which, between retreats and small advances, held up until the mid-1980s, when the “ technological revolution ” blew up the stunted production balances, placing the regimes of ‘ East facing the dilemma between their survival and the need for profound economic and political reforms, as the only way out of the crisis. Živkov too, like the others leaders of the East, he preferred to avoid drastic and radical decisions and was therefore forced to drain the internal market to buy new Western technologies and try to restore oxygen to an economic structure that was becoming more and more obsolete. However, to the detriment of the internal market, Bulgaria managed to control its external debt (8 billion dollars), one of the lowest among the countries of Eastern Europe.