761.74/1–1546: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State


132. No detailed information is available here about recent visit to Moscow of heads of Bulgarian Government. Nor is it likely that any such details will become known, since talks plainly take place in tightly sealed compartment of Soviet Foreign Affairs reserved exclusively for family relationships. Such discussions differ from ordinary diplomatic discussions in nature, in tone and probably in identity and official capacity of those who participate on Soviet side and there are applied to them as far as this is possible same drastic and effective security rules which envelop and conceal all internal political matters in this country. Nevertheless there are certain features and connotations of this visit which are clearly apparent to anyone in this city and which might be worth recounting here.

1. Bulgaria unquestionably occupies unique place in thoughts and plans of Soviet leaders. They are acutely aware of their position as heirs to diplomatic problems and responsibilities of Tsardom. They will not forget it was Russia which first delivered Bulgaria from Turkish rule. They will also not forget that aspirations which Russia was pursuing in effecting such deliverance included creation of a greater Bulgaria under Russian influence stretching from Black and Aegean Seas to Adriatic as a means of isolating Turkey and of extending Russian power to Straits, Aegean, and eventually Mediterranean Area. Finally, they will recall that these aspirations, as embodied in the treaty of St. Stephano18 (which incidentally led to cession of Kars and Ardahan) were frustrated by western diplomacy at Congress of Berlin. Responsibility for Russian diplomacy has since passed through many hands but sting of this reverse has never ceased to plague those responsible for Russian state.

There is little doubt that when Soviet leaders concluded non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939 they saw in this policy means of achieving the powers of Tsarist diplomacy with [without] sacrifice to USSR. None of the disappointments of that phase of war could have been more bitter to Moscow than ensuing steady loss of Russian influence in Sofia and final rebuff given by Hitler to Molotov when he demanded on occasion of his Berlin visit in fall 1940 that Bulgaria be made special [Page 56] “security sphere” of Russia and that Russia be given bases on Straits.20 It will be noted that even then these two questions were intimately connected and that final German attack on Russia was immediately preceded not only by complete German penetration and effective subjugation of Bulgaria but also by German-Turkish treaty of friendship.21

Kalinin22 recently boasted that Soviet diplomacy was superior to that of Tsardom by virtue of its ability to exploit military victories politically. I personally believe that Soviet leaders embittered by having been forced through trend of war to accept role therein far different from what they had planned in 1939, have made it matter of pride to obtain no less out of their war against Hitler in alliance with Western Powers than they had hoped to obtain by exploiting war between Hitler and West. For them, therefore, Bulgaria is still keynote in pattern of treaty of St. Stephano and they are determined that not only this pattern including greater Bulgaria under Russian tutelage and cessions of Turkey’s eastern territories, but also final objective it was designed to serve, namely, Russian domination of Turkey, the Straits and the Aegean, shall be realized in current aftermath of recent war.

There is no doubt that recent visit of Bulgarian public figures stood primarily in connection with realization of this scheme. Kremlin did not need to summon to Moscow for discussion of Russian advice arising out of Foreign Ministers Conference acquiescence to this advice. Situation really required discussion from Moscow’s standpoint only with Bulgarian opposition and that discussion has now ended in manner which clearly shows nature of Soviet demands for Bulgarian internal life. Moscow would have preferred an arrangement whereby present Bulgarian Government could have presented itself to world with greater plausibility as representative of general sentiments of Bulgarian people but it was not willing to compromise any of realities of Russian influence to obtain this end.

In summary, therefore, following conclusions must be drawn from recent events in Soviet-Bulgarian relations.

Soviet Union is unrelenting in its insistence that Bulgaria be “security sphere” of Russia. In Russian terms this means that power in Bulgaria must be exercised by elements which recognize themselves to be in relationship of disciplinary subordination to Moscow. In [Page 57] existing circumstances this means domination of Bulgarian internal affairs by a foreign-controlled minority employing totalitarian methods.
Maintenance and cultivation of this Russian “security sphere” in Bulgaria is only part of Russian aspirations of 70 years’ standing to create Russian-controlled greater Bulgaria as means of dominating Balkans, of isolating Turkey, of reducing and neutralizing Turkish political strategic potential, of facilitating establishment of Russian bases on Straits and of carrying Russian power to Adriatic and Aegean. It is difficult at this moment to predict form of future Russian action to achieve this program since that will depend primarily on character of resistance encountered but that program exists and will be seriously pursued is hardly open to doubt.
Bulgarian Communist leaders are now being coached to play their part in promulgation of this program and their visit to Moscow was in all likelihood designed to facilitate this coaching.
It must be recognized that Russian participation in armistice controls will continue to serve primarily these same aims and that Russians will object to any proposed peace settlement with Bulgaria which does not leave road open for developments along these lines.

Sent Department as 132, repeated Sofia 9, Belgrade 1, Athens 3, Budapest 2, Bucharest 9, Ankara 2.

  1. March 3, 1878.
  2. See record of conversation between Hitler and Molotov in Berlin on November Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945, series D, vol. xi, p. 550.
  3. For text of the German-Turkish Treaty, signed at Ankara, June 18, 1941, see ibid., vol. xii, p. 1051.
  4. Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, President (Chairman) of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.