124.74/5–1049: Telegram

The Minister in Bulgaria ( Heath ) to the Secretary of State


387. Deptel 143, May 6.1 I remarked to Assistant Foreign Minister [Evgenii] Kamenov that I regretted to find on my return to Bulgaria2 a note asking Legation to reduce its staff. While tone of note was unexceptionable it was against international practice and good relations for a receiving state to attempt to prescribe size and composition of the sending state’s diplomatic representation. I said I was without instructions in matter but that I could discuss with Ganovsky and if possible with Foreign Minister Kolarov,3 now Acting Premier, this and related questions. While I must reject principle of this note I might state that our Government is, of course, interested in economy and had no desire to maintain a larger representation than its interest required. The size of our Government establishment and its interests had grown and diversified and our missions in all countries were accordingly larger than before the war. As regards enlargement of military staff our Government had now three defense departments each of which naturally desired its own representatives. Before war there were only War and Navy Departments.

Our Government made no restrictions on size of Bulgarian staff in Washington and many countries, particularly the Soviets had extremely large establishments in our capital.

Kamenov said he agreed that rigid numerical reciprocity should not be insisted upon, that it was not in accord with good international practice or relation. However, he thought there must be some approximation between diplomatic staffs exchanged by any two governments. French Foreign Office Ministry had refused to allow increase of Bulgarian staff in Paris and had insisted on strict numerical equality on diplomatic staffs of two countries and same proposition had been advanced in House of Lords although not adopted by British Foreign Office. He said he would agree not to press the request but hoped there would be discussions taking into account Bulgarian housing shortage and other considerations which would settle matter without difficulty. [Page 331] I remarked there was always some changes and reduction of staff occurring and observed that Lt. Colonel Yatsevitch4 (aggressive officer whom Bulgarian Government probably fear because of his long experience in the country and language qualifications) was planning to return to States at end of summer. Question of Colonel Pitchford5 then arose and Kamenov stated that Government had considered declaring him persona non grata but refrained in order not to worsen relations and because they had mistakenly understood he was to be transferred last fall. I remarked it was desire of Air Department that he finish his time here, to which Kamenov replied that Colonel Pitchford would not be welcome in Bulgaria.

I then observed that Bulgarian Government some months ago had asked US Government to unblock Bulgarian funds at rate of $15,000 a month plus 50,000 to purchase Bulgarian Legation in Washington. I had talked over matter in Washington and had hoped to enter into definite discussion soon after my return, but that unfortunate note asking for staff reduction had naturally held up consideration of this matter. I also remarked that Legation was having difficulty in matter of car licenses and living quarters. Also I had been shocked to find that two native employees during my absence had resigned without explanation or advance notice. I could only attribute these resignations to militia intimidation of our staff—and action which did not correspond with Bulgaria’s professed desire to enjoy good relations and their assertions that human rights were protected in Bulgaria. Kamenov here attempted to argue that in case of one of these employees, her mother and brother had been exiled from Sofia and she had freely elected to go with them. I did not inform Kamenov that we knew that the employee had been warned to leave by the militia by a certain date or face consequences and that further warned not to inform Legation of departure. Nor did I mention that another employee is now under similar threat. He went on to argue that number of our Bulgarian clerks was excessive and I said three chancery translators could not be considered an excessive number.

Kamenov terminated interview by stating we could forget about the note until we had entered into discussion of these and related problems. He thought with good will solution of problems and questions arising from a reduction of staff would be found.6

  1. Telegram 353, April 28, from Sofia, not printed, transmitted the text of Bulgarian Foreign Ministry note of April 27 asking for a reduction in the size of the American Legation (124.74/4–2849). Telegram 354, April 28, from Sofia, not printed, observed that the British Legation had received a similar note, but the Soviet Embassy had not (124.74/4–2849). The telegram under reference here, not printed, asked the Legation’s views and recommendations upon the note (124.74/4–2849).
  2. Minister Donald R. Heath resumed charge of the Legation in Sofia on April 28 following a period of consultation in the United States.
  3. Vasil Petkov Kolarov, member of the Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was announced on April 15 that Kolarov had been designated Acting Prime Minister during the illness of Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov.
  4. Lt. Col. Gratian Yatsevich, Assistant Military Attaché in the Legation at Sofia.
  5. Col. John C. Pitchford, Air Attaché in the Legation at Sofia.
  6. Acting on instructions of the Department of State, Minister Heath on May 23 informed Assistant Foreign Minister Kamenov that the Legation chancery staff would be limited to a minimum of 25 Americans—a number no greater than that of a year earlier (telegram 431, May 23, from Sofia: 124.74/5–2349).