Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


Capital : Sofia

Size: 43 000 sq m Popn: 8 963 000


This area near the Black Sea was on the edge of the Classical Greek world when it incorporated Thrace and Moesia. Thrace was considered an uncivilized country even by the neighbouring Macedonians who were seen as barbarians by the civilized Greeks. It was plundered and partially settled by the Celts up to 200 BC and was conquered by Rome to become the provinces of Thracia and Moesia Inferior by AD 46. After the fall of Rome, it was fought over by the Huns under Attila and the Visigoths. Slavs occupied it from the C6th AD and the modern Bulgarian language is derived from theirs. The Bulgars arrived from Asia in the C7th and the Bulgarian Empire was established to the north. Khan Boris was converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 865 and the Bulgaria became a leading power under his son, Simeon, (893-927).

It was ruled the Byzantine or East Roman Empire from the C11th and although a second Bulgarian Empire was founded in the C14th, it became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the C15th. The northern area became a principality in 1878 and independent in 1908, gaining Eastern Rumelia to the south in 1885 and parts of Greece and Thrace in 1913. Bulgaria allied itself with Germany in WWI. After the war, the leftist Agrarian Party government brought in land reforms but was overthrown by a fascist coup in 1923. Greece regained Western Thrace in 1919 and the two countries were in conflict over Macedonia in 1925. In 1934, King Boris III established a fascist dictatorship.

Bulgaria allied itself with Germany again during WWII, becoming an Axis satellite under Hitler's Reich. It was occupied by the USSR in 1944 and abolished the monarchy in 1946. The Fatherland front, an alliance with communist leanings led by Georgi Dimitrov, proclaimed a republic and Bulgaria reverted to almost the same frontiers as it had in 1919. In 1947, it adopted a Soviet-style constitution, introducing nationalized industries and co-operative farming. From 1950-4, Dimitrov's brother-in-law, Vulko Chervenkov, was the dominant political figure, introducing a Stalinist regime. Under his more moderate successor, Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria became one of the most loyal satellites of the USSR.

The economy ran into problems during the 1980s, mostly because of the rising costs of energy imports. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev encouraged administrative and economic reforms from 1985-9 but these were not enough to satisfy reformists either inside or outside the Bulgarian Communist Party. In November 1989, as democratization movements swept Eastern Europe, foreign secretary Petar Mladenov ousted Zhivkov with army and USSR backing. He became leader of the BCP and president of the state council and began to promote political pluralism. Legislation was passed in December 1989 to end the BCP's 'leading role' in the state and allow political parties and trade unions. Political prisoners were released and the secret police abolished.

During 1989, a programme of 'Bulgarianisation' had led to worsening relations with neighbouring Turkey. Turks in Bulgaria were resettled and forced to adopt Bulgarian names and 300 000 Turkish refugees fled to Turkey. When Mladenov's new government announced the ending of the assimilation policy, there were protests by anti-Turk nationalists but most of the refugees returned and relations with Turkey improved. The reformer Alexander Lilov was elected party chief in 1990 and Andrei Lukanov became prime minister. Zhivkov was imprisoned on charges of corruption and abuse of power. In February, a decree made private farming legal and the lifting of price controls as a drive towards a market economy began in April, resulting in huge price rises and food shortages. The BCP renamed itself the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Mladenov resigned in July and opposition leader Dr Zhelyu Zhelov was elected president in August. Lukanov's government resigned in November 1990 after mass demonstrations in Sofia, a general strike and a boycott of parliament by opposition deputies. He was replaced in December by a caretaker coalition government under Dimitur Popov, a non-party politician and the strikes ended.

In July 1991, a new constitution defined Bulgaria as s parliamentary republic with a 'democratic, constitutional and welfare state' but by October prices had risen by ten times and unemployment increased. The general election that month resulted in a hung parliament and in November, a minority government was formed by the right-of-centre Union of Democratic Forces under Filip Dimitrov. It was the first entirely non-communist government for 46 years and Western aid increased significantly. Zhan Videnov replaced Lilov as leader of the BSP in December 1991 and in January 1992, Zhelev became Bulgaria's first directly elected president with 53% of the vote. An associate agreement with the EC was made in 1992.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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