A hypothesis has it that if the Tsardom of Bulgaria had resisted the troops of the Soviet Union in September 1944, Southern Bulgaria might have ended up in the Western sphere, rather than the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War. Map: Wikipedia
Bulgaria could have become the third nation to be divided between the West and the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War – not unlike the former West and East Germany and the still existing North and South Korea – as the government of the Tsardom of Bulgaria (1878 – 1944/46) is said to have had a plan to resist the troops of the Red Army in 1944 which may have left Southern Bulgaria in the hands of the West, according to a report.
The implementation of the alleged plan may have resulted in the Soviet Union’s occupation only of Northern Bulgaria (i.e. north of the Balkan Mountains) at the end of World War II, while Southern Bulgaria might have ended up in “the Western sphere", the report hypothesizes.
Communist Bulgaria, formally known as the People’s Republic of Bulgaria (1944 – 1989), came into being after the Tsardom of Bulgaria (1878 – 1944), the successor of the medieval Bulgarian Empire, was occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.
After then Bulgaria’s elites were persecuted and purged, a puppet communist regime was installed which became an obedient Cold War satellite of the Soviet Union within the Communist Bloc, and its two formal organizations, the military Warsaw Pact, and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon).
The intelligence and secret police services of communist Bulgaria, known as the DS (“State Security"), an equivalent of the Soviet KGB, were often active as a de fact arm of the KGB in international operations.
Today’s Republic of Bulgaria, a pluralistic democracy established after the end of the communist regime in 1989) became a member of NATO in 2004, and of the European Union, in 2007, restoring the country’s status as a Western nation.
In 1941, the Tsardom of Bulgaria, still nominally a constitutional monarchy, reluctantly joined the Axis Powers, and became allied with Hitler’s Nazi Germany, although it never declared war on the Soviet Union and never sent any troops on the Eastern Front of World War II. It did, however, declare war on the US and the UK.
Albeit technically allied with Hitler, the Tsardom of Bulgaria managed to rescue the almost 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation to the Nazi death camps – although some 11,000 Jews from territories under Bulgarian administration in neighboring Greece and Yugoslavia were deported.
On September 5, 1944, a new government led by Prime Minister Konstantin Muraviev, which had taken over three days earlier, terminated Bulgaria’s diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany, and there had been informal talks in Cairo, Egypt, to sue for peace with the United States and Britain, and hopes that British troops might carry out a landing in Bulgaria as well as Greece.
At the same time, however, also on September 5, the Stalin’s Soviet Union declared war on the Tsardom of Bulgaria, and on September 8, 1944, the first Red Army troops crossed into Bulgarian territory despite the fact that the country had already declared neutrality, and German troops had left.
On the night of September 9, communist conspirators encouraged by the advent of the Soviet forces, carried out a coup d’etat in Sofia, and formed a pro-communist Cabinet which by 1948 had resulted in the establishment of a full-fledged communist dictatorship and a Stalinist totalitarian state modeled after the Soviet Union. The resulting communist regime set the country back decades in its development and committed horrendous crimes against its own people.
The communist coup in Bulgaria on September 9, 1944, was carried out with ease thanks to a communist conspiracy inside the Bulgarian government. A key figure in that was the War Minister in the Muraviev Cabinet, Gen. Ivan Marinov, who on September 5 asked for a 72-hour delay of the government’s decision to declare war on Nazi Germany, and then, on September 8, was instrumental in the decision not to put up any resistance to the Red Army.
After the communist coup, Marinov, who turned out to have been one of the conspirators, was made commander-in-chief of the Bulgarian armed forces until July 1945, and in 1946 – 1950 was appointed diplomatic representative in Paris.
The question of whether the authorities of the Tsardom of Bulgaria ever planned to resist the advent of the Soviet Union forces was hardly raised during the decades of the communist regime, and little more so after its end in 1989. The whole topic is also barely raised in present-day Bulgarian school curriculums.
However, a 2007 article in a Bulgarian newspaper, “Pro & Anti", cites a long-time Bulgarian anticommunist political émigré in Germany as claiming that the Tsardom of Bulgaria had a plan to put up fierce resistance against the Soviet Union troops in 1944 which may have ended up with Bulgaria’s Cold War division, not unlike North Korea and South Korea, and the former West Germany and East Germany (or, by extension, North Yemen and South Yemen).
The article entitled “A Little Known Fact: The Tsardom of Bulgaria Had Defense Plan against the USSR" quotes Stefan Marinov, a Bulgarian historian, writer, and anticommunist activist from before 1944 who is little known in today’s Bulgaria.
He left Bulgaria at the beginning of September 1944, participated briefly a Bulgarian government in exile in Vienna in 1945, and then settled in Munich, West Germany, where he served as adviser on Eastern Europe to Bavarian politician Franz Josef Strauss.
Franz Josef Strauss was the Minister President of the German state of Bavaria in 1978 – 1988 and is credited as a co-founder of European aerospace conglomerate Airbus.
In 1981, Stefan Marinov published in Munich a book called “The Most Powerful Ally" in which he argued that the “enslaved peoples" of Eastern Europe were in fact the greatest ally of the Free World in its fight against communism. Marinov published the book under a pseudonym, “Stefan Troyanski".
The article claims that the book in question may have somehow influenced the administration of US President Ronald Reagan to adopt a tougher policy towards the Soviet Union.
According to the report, in addition to Reagan, Marinov also met with the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; he was also awarded some of the highest German state orders.
The article’s author Mihail Krastev credits Stefan Marinov with predicting that the communist bloc would collapse before the end of the 20th century.
The Balkan Mountains, a major geographic barrier, run from west to east, right through the middle of today’s Bulgaria. In the Middle Ages, their passes were used multiple times to protect the heartland of the Bulgarian Empire between the Balkan Mountains and the Danube from Byzantium’s invasions from the southeast. Maps: Wikipedia
Krastev says that he learned the “interesting fact" that the Tsardom of Bulgaria had a plan to resist the forces of the Soviet Union in 1944, which was never put into action, during his long talks with Marinov.
The existence of such a plan cannot be verified for the time being since the state and military archives of the Tsardom of Bulgaria were taken hold of by the Soviet forces in 1944, and taken to Moscow. Even after the end of the communist regimes in the respective countries in 1989 – 1991, Bulgaria’s pre-1944 archives have not been restored to Sofia, and it is unknown if parts of them may have been destroyed.
“During World War II, the General Staff at [Bulgaria’s] Ministry of Defense prepared a very good defense plan – for defending Bulgaria against bolshevism," Bulgarian political emigrant Stefan Marinov is quoted as saying.
“This plan became very important after the Germans’ loss [of the Battle of] Stalingrad. The Red Army was coming towards [Bulgaria]," he adds.
According to Marinov, the plan provided for two lines of defense against the Soviet forces – at the Danube River, which makes up most of the border between Bulgaria and Romania, and at the Balkan Mountain, a major geographic barrier which divides Bulgaria in two from east to west, right through the middle.
“Two lines of defense were erected. The first one was deemed weak – the Danube River. But the second one was very hard to surmount – the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina). Concrete bunkers were built in order to defend all mountain passes. Bunkers were also built along the Black Sea coast," Marinov is quoted as saying.
“[The authorities of the Tsardom of Bulgaria] relied on two factors: that the Russians would be in a rush to reach Berlin, and, if met with resistance, they will be satisfied with [occupying only] Northern Bulgaria. And, second, that the Bulgarian army was perfectly prepared – supplied, armed, with a high patriotic spirit, and led by educated and talented officers," Marinov elaborates.
In his words, some of the top military commanders of the Tsardom of Bulgaria such as generals Ivan Valkov, Kocho Stoyanov, and Nikola Mihov – insisted on putting the plan into action.
However, Prince (Knyaz) Kiril, a regent and brother of Bulgaria’s Tsar Boris III (r. 1918 – 1943) who had passed away under mysterious circumstances in 1943, vetoed the implementation of the plan, and “as a form of gratitude" was executed by the communists several months later.
“If this defense plan had been put into action, during the Cold War at least Southern Bulgaria would have remained freed. Like South Korea, for example," Marinov is quoted as saying.
He also calls for finding the defense plan in Bulgaria’s state archives “unless it has been destroyed or taken to Moscow" in order to be presented to the public as a crucial historical testimony.
Under the hypothetical scenario, the Soviet Union would have been content with occupied “only” Northern Bulgaria. Map: Wikipedia
West and East Germany during the Cold War. Map: Wikipedia
The border between North and South Korea has emerged as the most resilient Cold War border. Map: Wikipedia
Also check out the following stories about communist Bulgaria and the Cold War: