Bulgaria In Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, And Culture After Communism 036701498X, 9780367014988

Since the forced resignation of Todor Zhivkov in November of 1989, Bulgaria's transition to democracy has been mark

228 44 7MB

English Pages 360 Year 1998

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Bulgaria In Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, And Culture After Communism
 036701498X, 9780367014988

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Tables and Figures
PART ONE Politics and Law
1 A Democracy Born in Pain
2 Popular Attitudes toward Politics
3 The Constitution and the Rule of Law
PART TWO The Economy and the Environment
4 Bulgarian Economic Policy and Performance, 1991-97
5 Social Dimensions of Economic Change: Is the Private Market a Solution to Bulgaria's Economic Problems?
6 Political Change and Environmental Policy
PART THREE Ethnic and Religious Issues
7 Bulgaria's Muslim Minorities
8 The "llindentsi" - Does Bulgaria Have a Macedonian Minority?
9 The Schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church,1992-1997
10 The New Bulgarian Literature: Deconstructing the Pyramid
11 Canaries and Birds of Prey: the New Season of Bulgarian Cinema
PART FIVE Foreign Relations
12 Bulgaria in the Balkans
13 Bulgaria's Search for Security
About the Editor
About the Contributors

Citation preview

Bulgaria in Transition

Eastern Europe After Communism Sabrina Petra Ramet, Series Editor Since the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe, 1989-1990, the societies of the region have begun searching for new social and political formulae, setting new tasks, and facing new challenges. New social forces have arisen, such as nationalism and chauvinism, and preexisting social institutions and groupings, such as the churches and feminist groups, have intensified their activity. Above all, Eastern Europe is dominated, in the years following the collapse, by the twin tasks of democratization and privatization, tasks that are complex and multifaceted, with consequences that reach far beyond the formal goals associated with these processes. This series is designed to provide a set of windows on the changing realities of Eastern Europe and to chart these societies' courses as they attempt to deal with the legacy of communism and the problems of transition. BOOKS IN THIS SERIES

Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture After Communism,

edited by John D. Bell

The New Eastern Europe and the World Economy, edited by Jozef M. van Brabant

Beyond Yugoslavia: Politics, Economics, and Culture in a Shattered Community,

edited by Sabrina Petra Ramet and Ljubisa S. Adamovich

After the Wall: Eastern Germany Since 1989, edited by Patricia J. Smith

Bulgaria in Transition Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture After Communism


John D. Bell

First published 1998 by Westview Press Published 2018 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © 1998 by Taylor & Francis All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data ISBN 0-8133-9010-9 ISBN 13: 978-0-367-01498-8 (hbk)

For Judith, Kim, Courtney, Lynn and Tamsin

Contents Tables and Figures Preface Introduction, John D. Bell

ix xi 1

PART ONE Politics and Law


A Democracy Born in Pain, Roumen Daskalov


Popular Attitudes toward Politics, Petur-Emil Mitev



The Constitution and the Rule of Law, Evgeni Tanchev



PART TWO The Economy and the Environment


Bulgarian Economic Policy and Performance, 1991-97,

Michael L. Wyzan


Social Dimensions of Economic Change: Is the Private Market a Solution to Bulgaria's Economic Problems?

Jeffrey B. Miller 6

Political Change and Environmental Policy,

Boian Koulov


123 143

PART THREE Ethnic and Religious Issues


Bulgaria's Muslim Minorities, Antonina Zhelyazkova





The "llindentsi" - Does Bulgaria Have a Macedonian Minority? John D. Bell



The Schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, 1992-1997, Spas T. Raikin




The New Bulgarian Literature: Deconstructing the Pyramid, Vladimir Levchev



Canaries and Birds of Prey: the New Season of Bulgarian Cinema, Dina Iordanova


PART FIVE Foreign Relations


Bulgaria in the Balkans, Ekaterina Nikova



Bulgaria's Search for Security, John D. Bell


Appendix About the Editor About the Contributors Index

325 333 335 337

Tables and Figures Tables

2.1 Positive Responses (in Percentages) to the Question: Would You Participate in the Following Activities? 2.2 Attitudes toward the Youth Protests in January-February 1997 (in Percentages) 2.3 Positive Responses (in Percentages) to the Statement: "I Don't Want to Have Anything to Do with Such People." 2.4 Public Opinion toward Petilr Beron 2.5 Public Opinion toward Todor Zhivkov 2.6 Public Opinion toward Andrei Lukanov 2.7 Attitudes toward the European Union (in Percentages) 2.8 Responses (in Percentages) to the Questions: Do You Prefer A Free Market to a State Regulated Economy? What Kind of Property Do You Prefer? 4.1 Bulgarian Domestic Macroeconomic Indicators 4.2 Bulgarian Foreign-Sector Indicators

42 43 45 47 49 50 57 60 96 98

7.1 Ethnic Groups in Bulgaria according to the 1992 Census 7.2 Religious Affiliation according to the 1992 Census

172 173

13.1 Birthrates, Deathrates and Population Change



2.1 Attitudes toward Parliament, January 1990- May 1997 2.2 Attitudes toward the Cabinet, January 1990- May 1997 2.3 Attitudes toward Judicial Authority, January 1990May1997 2.4 Attitudes toward the Presidency, January 1991 -May 1997

52 53 54 55

Preface A character in an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs once described the purpose of a luncheon party to be "to see old friends and make new ones." The invitation to edit a volume on Bulgaria since 1989 provided a similar opportunity to the editor. The community of Bulgarian specialists is not large, and it was not difficult preliminarily to identify some "old friends" as obvious candidates to cover several of the themes that I believed should be included. Most of those contacted responded positively or, if faced with commitments that precluded writing for this volume, suggested others in their place. As the approach and the topics of the book's sections became more clearly defined, it became necessary to make "new friends." Most of those scholars who were known to me be reputation proved to be quite open to the idea of this collaborative volume. Planning for this book began in late 1995 with assignments proposed and accepted by the middle of the following year. For most of the chapters the target for completion was mid-1997 with coverage through the presidential election due about the beginning of that year. As it happened Bulgaria's economic collapse, the fall of the Socialist government, and the decisive victory of the Union of Democratic Forces in the April 1997 elections created what appears to be, at least from close perspective, a watershed in Bulgaria's transition history. As inevitably happens in collaborative projects, there were some delays and not all of the scholars involved met their commitments. One withdrew in time for me to prepare a substitute chapter, on the question of Macedonian ethnicity in Bulgaria. Two, however, did not pull out until the last minute, so that the subjects of the media and the effects of the transition on Bulgarian women had to be omitted. Even without these chapters, I believe that the volume makes a significant contribution to the general literature on the transition from communism and on the developments in Bulgaria, which is all to often neglected by the press and in scholarship. I would like to express my gratitude to Sabrina Ramet for the invitation to undertake this project, to the editors at Westview Press for their suggestions and patience, and to Liuben Boianov for helping to track down some of those in Sofia who had eluded my attempts to find them through e-mail or telephone.



A Note on Transliteration On the whole, I have tried to be consistent in transliterating the Cyrillic alphabet, but there are some exceptions. One is regular: an initial H is rendered as Y rather than I; thus, Yanko, rather than Ianko. The others are more arbitrary. I have kept the transliteration used by authors of books or articles published in the Latin alphabet. For example, I have used Tzvetan Todorov in references to his books published in English or French, but he becomes Tsvetan in references to his Bulgarian publications. I have extended a similar courtesy to the Bulgarian authors in this volume, who have been allowed to spell their names as they please.

Bulgaria in Transition

Introduction The Limits of Idealism John D. Bell All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -Lev Tolstoy, Anna Karenina The Bulgarian model of transition failed because, for seven years, no economic and social reforms were conducted in the country. -President Zheliu Zhelev, Farewell Address1

Happiness, or a successful transition, for the former communist states of Eastern Europe is the achievement of a functioning system of representative government and the rule of law, the development of a prosperous, free market economy, and membership in NATO, the European Union, and other Western structures. By this measure, Bulgaria is still, eight years after the transition began, without joy, and while it has much in common with the other Balkan states, the "Bulgarian model" has found its own path to unhappiness Zhelev's Vision

Zheliu Zhelev was Bulgaria's best-known dissident during the communist era and was the natUral choice to lead the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) after Todor Zhivkov resigned on 10 November 1989. His understanding of totalitarian and democratic political systems guided the UDF's choice of strategy and set its priorities during the first critical months of the new era. The outlines of what Zhelev believed to be necessary for the dismantling of the Communist system were already visible in his study of totalitarian government, Fascism, published in 1981 and then immediately suppressed.2 Working from a limited set of resources and without access to contemporary Western analyses, Zhelev arrived at a position similar to that reached by Hannah Arendt, Carl Friedrich, and others, that totalitarianism


John D. Bell

encompassed the experience of fascist and Communist states. His description of the elements of fascism/ totalitarianism included those found in most of the Western literature: a one-party political system; the fusion of party and state; an all-encompassing official ideology; a cult of party I state leaders; a monopoly on the means of communication and the dissemination of information; and the use of terror, including concentration camps, against real or potential opponents. But where most Western analysts believed such systems were leviathans - powerful, disciplined, purposeful - that could only be undone from outside, Zhelev with his insider's view believed them to be weak and doomed to collapse, for the essence of totalitarianism was the alliance between bureaucratic power and mediocrity. The system was caught in the "contradiction" of needing to stifle creative thought in the interest of perpetuating itself, but being compelled to allow it in order to remain competitive with societies based on freedom. For Zhelev, totalitarianism was embodied in institutions, not the personality or the will of any individual or group. Even Hitler could not have produced totalitarianism in Germany by himself: What allowed Hitler to tum the people into an amorphous, uncritical, unthinking mass - a mob, was not his oratorical skill, but totalitarian institutions. A people becomes a mob when it is deprived of political parties, political organizations, an opposition press, open politics, public opinion, free elections....3

Zhelev was thus intent on destroying Communism as a system of institutions, rather than exacting revenge on the old nomenklatura. Perhaps it is more accurate to state that he was intent on establishing the institutions he believed produced a functioning democracy. During the roundtable negotiations that began in January 1990 and led to basic agreements between the ruling Communist Party and the opposition, the UDF under Zhelev's guidance yielded on many issues of personnel and tactics (for example, accepting Pehlr Mladenov as president and agreeing to an early date for parliamentary elections), but it successfully insisted on a basic ''bill of rights": free elections, freedom of the press, the right to form political parties. 4 Even before the first elections were held, Zhelev was convinced that the Communists were "finished," that they could not survive in the new environment that had been created.5 Even after the Bulgarian Socialist Party (the renamed Communist Party) received a plurality in the elections, he remained certain that the era of Communism had ended. As he spelled out in an address to the United Nations in October 1990: Mr Chairman, to describe in brief the picture of my country's present situation, I must point out once more the following facts about Bulgaria: • The existence of a multiparty system; • The existence of a democratically elected parliament;

Introduction: The Limits of Idealism


• The existence of a parliamentary opposition which controls 40 percent of the seats in parliament and has political influence; • The existence of a free press, radio, and television; • The existence of political pluralism in the intellectual sphere. We can say, in other words, that a civil society, striving for democracy, is awakening in our country. All this justifies my statement that Bulgaria is no longer a Communist country and a totalitarian state ....6

Zhelev's views on totalitarianism had been formed from his experience living within a totalitarian system; his knowledge of the working of a democratic system- how could it be otherwise?- came from books. As Zhelev moved from the leadership of the UDF to the presidency of his country, an office with little real power, and as the UDF came under the control of leaders with a quite different agenda from his, it began to be apparent that while the checklist of the elements of a democratic order described in his UN speech might be necessary for a successfully functioning democracy, they were not sufficient to guarantee it. Zhelev proved to be only partly right. Communism was "finished," but what replaced it was far from what had been expected or hoped for. Zhelev's last speech as president echoed the disillusionment of the writer Mikhalaki Georgiev, who voiced the feeling of the generation of Bulgaria's National Awakening toward what had happened to Bulgarian political life after the achievement of independence from the Ottoman Empire: "We sowed roses, but only thorns have come forth." 7 Obstacles to Effective Reform Democratic systems work best when a general consensus of values exists in the society and when political actors are willing to compromise and to preserve a basic civility when dealing with their opponents. None of these conditions had ever obtained in Bulgaria. After its liberation from Ottoman rule, even though it possessed the relatively liberal Tumovo Constitution, Bulgaria saw its political life degenerate. There was a proliferation of parties, widespread corruption,8 intense partisanship over "symbolic" issues,9 and a tendency to demonize opponents. So great was the disillusionment with the conduct of the political parties and their leaders that three otherwise mutually hostile forces - the peasant movement, the technocratic Zveno, and the monarchists - all agreed that progress demanded the abolition of political parties. 10 Nearly two-hundred political parties have been registered in Bulgaria since the transition began, many of them formed by repeated fission. 11 There was probably no single greater act of collective folly committed anywhere among the transition states than the breakup of the UDF on the eve of the

John D. Bell


October 1991 elections, for this split converted what would have been an overwhelming electoral victory into the narrowest of wins (by 1.22 percent) for the extreme faction of the UDF and left a quarter of the electorate unrepresented. The tendency toward fragmentation has been augmented by the choice of an electoral system - proportional representation with a 4 percent threshold - that encourages politicians to take positions that may win the support of 4 percent of the population rather than those aimed at achieving consensus. The corrupting power of money and the opportunity to acquire wealth through the abuse of political power endanger even long established democratic systems, and they have been disastrous in the Bulgarian transition. The transfer of much of the state's wealth under dubious circumstances to shadowy economic groups by the outgoing Communists began a process of plunder that proved fatal to real economic reform. Not privatization, but control over the process of privatization, became the goal of all the political forces. The height of political corruption and cynicism was attained in 1996 when the Videnov government allowed its "friends" to buy the country's harvest at cheap fixed prices and export it for tremendous profits, while the population was forced to depend on rationing and foreign humanitarian aid. 12 Bulgaria also suffered from the popular shortsightedness that is the bane of all democracies. The desire to be handed back property that had been taken fifty years ago by the Communists deflected the attention of much of the population from economic reform to "restitution." The attempt to fulfill demagogic promises that "Grandpa's land" would be given back brought nothing less than disaster to the countryside. It was also Bulgaria's misfortune, though not its fault, that with the end of the Cold War the interest of the West in the region rapidly faded. Bulgaria sought, at considerable cost to its own interests, to earn good will and aid through support of the West in the Gulf War and imposing sanctions on the former Yugoslavia. It received in return mainly advice and good wishes. The expectation that Bulgaria would "join Europe" gave way to the demoralizing realization that Europe looked on Bulgaria primarily as a source of undesirable immigrants. A Failed Transition? Economic collapse and political crisis during the winter of 1996-97 gave reason for deep pessimism. But there were also positive signs. Ethnic tensions in the country were muted. The immediate restoration of names and property to the Turkish minority was an investment in ethnic peace that brought dividends throughout the transition period. The political reforms with which the transition began remained in effect, giving hope that in the

Introduction: The Limits of Idealism


long run they might change the political culture. The regard shown the Constitutional Court by all the political forces, set an example of the rule of law at the highest level, raising the hope that it might become more general throughout society. The country was on good terms with its neighbors. During the bleak winter of 1996-97 widespread protests against unpopular governments took place in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania. News broadcasts from the respective capitals showed almost interchangeable crowd scenes as the pressure of popular discontent mounted. But the outcomes were entirely different. Albania saw the collapse of state institutions. In Serbia the protests withered away, leaving the Milosevic regime with its power undiminished. In Bulgaria, the protests led to the resignation of the government and to an election that brought a solid mandate for the opposition - all conducted without significant violence13 and in accordance with the procedures set out in the country's 1991 constitution. More than any other event in Bulgaria's transition, this suggests that the political reforms of 1990 and 1991 may yet provide Bulgaria with a chance at happiness. Notes 1. Khorizont, 21 January 1997, trans. in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Report (Eastern Europe), 23 January 1997. 2. Zhelev's study was completed in the late 1960s. To facilitate its legal publication, he titled it Fascism. Ostensibly dealing with the experience of Germany, Italy, and Spain, its generalizations about the political system obviously applied to the Communist states as well. The saga of Zhelev's manuscript, told in the introduction to the American edition of the book, Zheliu Zhelev, Fashizmut (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 1990), is revealing of behind-the-scenes intellectual life in Eastern Europe. The suppression of the book after its publication in 1981 encountered resistance from some Bulgarian intellectuals. See Ivan Slavov, ed., Fashizmut sreshtu