Bulgaria’s post-1989 demostalgie

18-23349Elitza Stanoeva at Eurozine:

My personal memory of 10 November 1989 is one of confusion and embarrassment. Ten years of age at the time, I came home from school and found my parents laughing and jumping around the kitchen like madmen. Through uncontrolled laughter, they finally answered my questions about what was going on with the brief statement: ‘Todor Zhivkov has fallen.’ Having recently joined the ranks of the pioneers, a membership extended to all third-graders, I was sufficiently indoctrinated to object through tears ‘But he is such a good man’, which only added to their exultation.

In reality, our ‘breakdown of communism’ one day after the fall of the Berlin Wall was a palace coup rather than a triumph of revolutionary momentum. With Soviet blessing, the Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party demanded the resignation of Todor Zhivkov, party leader since 1954, and on 10 November he handed it in officially during a televised party plenum. Less of a regime change than elsewhere in Eastern Europe, this event did not undermine the communists’ grip on power as state control was passed to Petar Mladenov, Minister of Foreign Affairs since 1971. The party – soon to be renamed to Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) – committed itself to organizing free elections with the hope of retaining control. With the name change, the BSP washed its hands of responsibility for the abuse of power by the former regime by putting Zhivkov on trial for communist crimes.

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