874.00/1–447: Telegram

The Representative in Bulgaria (Barnes) to the Secretary of State


7. According to official press December 11 organization known as “Neutral Officers” indicted on conspiracy charge based on alleged oath: “(1) To struggle against authorities for overthrow of regime, when possible; (2) to assist Military League,1 should League undertake action looking to overthrow of regime; and (3) to give active assistance to western powers through formation resistance movement in North Bulgaria and surrender to them of forces in south Bulgaria in event of war with Russia.” Indictment also charged “members to establish contact with all staff elements Bulgarian Army and intelligence section of organization to be in touch with Bulgarian General Staff, opposition parties, other patriotic and nationalist organizations and foreign missions”.

Before opening of trial December 30 I learned from most reliable source that purpose was primarily to “smear” opposition, to “establish” alleged connections between it and “western reactionaries” and in connection with latter point to prove “intelligence contact” between “Neutral Officers” and members of United States and United Kingdom missions. Purpose also to justify army purge of last summer and to provide basis for “liquidation” General Kyril Stanchiev,2 still held under house arrest if not actually in prison. I also learned that most [Page 139] brutal methods had been used to extort confession from accused that might implicate United States military personnel and that as result treatment to which he had been subjected General Popov (see my telegram 959, December 123) became insane.

Trial opened as scheduled December 30. After reading indictment, indefinitely postponed “because illness made attendance General Popov impossible”.4

Following is translation of opening section of extorted confession of General Popov which government intends to use:

“I recognize myself guilty having formed, together with other accused, secret organization of officers serving in army for struggle against authorities, with program as it is stated in indictment. I recognize that our organization had established connection with opposition—BANU of Nikola Petkov,5 with people from British and American missions and with people of secret organization ‘Military Union’. I stated truth at preliminary inquiry. I shall state it also before you. I repent and I beg for indulgent treatment.”

I revealed all foregoing to Foreign Minister Georgiev in my conversation with him today (see my telegram No. 6). I stressed fact that as both of us hoped for early resumption official relations between our two governments we each under heavy obligation to do whatever possible to avoid having all past disagreements about conditions in Bulgaria again dragged into question of recognition. I said it should be obvious to him that if any one “watertight compartment” of present Bulgarian regime engaged in brutal and dishonest “frameup” against United States and opposition parties all of our “fixed ideas”, “prejudices” or “whatever he liked to call our views about totalitarian methods”, would come to fore again in Bulgarian question. Minister did not seek to deny anything that I had brought to his attention and readily admitted responsibility to do everything possible to simplify rather than complicate recognition question. He said Bulgaria has been going through serious illness, that such matters as one I had just brought up were manifestations of this illness, that he was sure I would agree there had been considerable improvement of patient in recent months.

I said that I agreed, but that there would have to be improvement in instant case to make me hopeful of real recovery. He promised to [Page 140] do his best, and I believe that he will. How effective his intervention will be only future can establish.

Sent Department; repeated Moscow as 2; London as 2.

  1. An organization of Bulgarian military officers which had been formed after World War I and had frequently been involved in coups d’état. In the late 1920’s, the Military League formed a political organization called Zveno (Link) which subsequently became the political party People’s Union Zveno.
  2. Gen. Kyril Stanchev, a wartime Bulgarian army commander, had been arrested in the spring of 1946. In October 1947, General Stanchev and 38 other Bulgarian army officers were tried for complicity in an alleged conspiracy by the Military League against the Bulgarian Government. Stanchev was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  3. Not printed.
  4. As result of the “Neutral Officers” trial, seven Bulgarian military officers were sentenced to imprisonment. The trial of Gen. Ivan Popov was postponed until May 1947. Popov was convicted of conspiracy against the government and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
  5. The leader of the Agrarian Union, the principal Bulgarian political party in opposition to the Communist-dominated government.