874.00/8–2447: Telegram

The Acting Representative in Bulgaria (Horner) to the Secretary of State

urgent   niact

725. Have just returned from Varna where morning 22nd I had two-hour conversation with Provisional President Kolarov. I began by saying I had come to see him on instructions from my government1 with view to discussing Bulgarian-American relations in context of Petkov trial. US had watched with close attention successive steps taken by Bulgarian Government obviously according to plan, to vitiate its solemn obligation to respect basic human rights. Successively and in rapid order Bulgarian Government had effectively suppressed two opposition newspapers, arrested Petkov, expelled 23 leading opposition deputies from Sobranje, and finally in course of farcical trial condemned Petkov to death. We had noted preparations obviously being made for final step in this program, namely complete dissolution of opposition Agrarian Party. All of these things were of great concern to US Government, and had profound effect on American public [Page 176] opinion. In statement issued June 112 State Department had clearly indicated its interest in fate Mr. Petkov but apparently Bulgarian Government had chosen its path which because it fell into same pattern as recent events in Hungary and Rumania, could only be interpreted as part Soviet policy eastern Europe.

This planned campaign against opposition might have certain beneficial effects from standpoint of Soviet policy but it was questionable whether it would serve long-term interests of Bulgaria. During Leipzig trial of 1933 Dimitrov had attracted admiration of entire world through his courageous defense of principles human rights. Today American public opinion equally looked upon Mr. Petkov as exponent of freedom in Bulgaria. Sentence of death handed down in this case not only was in complete contradiction to facts but its carrying out would be regarded everywhere as an instance of judicial murder.

Kolarov stated in reply that he himself had been aghast at charges made against Petkov. Even if 20% of these charges were true it would be sufficient for conviction. He, Kolarov, was known as most tolerant member of Communist Party in Bulgaria and he shrank from carrying out extreme measures save by direct necessity. He had issued orders that trial be scrupulously fair and he had every reason to believe it was. With respect to campaign of intimidation carried out in press and elsewhere, that might not be in accordance with Anglo-Saxon principles of justice but it was common feature of all Bulgarian trials. Other deviations from Anglo-Saxon norm during trial also should be regarded as being in accordance Bulgarian practice. He repeated that Petkov had fair trial and must answer for his crimes.

There then followed long discursive conversation during which Kolarov patently attempted discuss everything but Petkov case (some these other subjects will be reported in following telegrams). Being pinned down from time to time he became quite vehement over Petkov’s opposition to two-year economic plan and accused him also of having incited peasants to resist current crop levy program. His main point, however, was that we apparently were attempting to link Petkov’s fate with future Bulgarian-American relations. He claimed two subjects were quite distinct and separate. Bulgaria, he declaimed, loved and admired US and would do almost anything to gain its friendship. Petkov, however, was another kettle of fish and he indicated that he would be dealt with as planned. Incidentally Kolarov allowed to pass without comment my 3-times repeated statement that obviously next step in government’s program was outlawing of opposition Agrarian Party. This I take to mean that Party will be dissolved in very near [Page 177] future on grounds that it supported convicted saboteur and coup d’étatist.

Sent Department 725; repeated London 68, Moscow 60.

  1. Horner’s instructions on the specific points he was to mention in his conversation with Kolarov were contained in telegram 318, August 20, to Sofia, not printed (874.00/8–1847).
  2. See the bracketed note, p. 164.