Department of State Policy Statement 1
The long range objectives of the US toward Bulgaria are a segment of our broad policy goals with respect to the USSR. Their realization is thus dependent upon the success of our general strategy in dealing with the Soviet Union; conversely, progress toward our Bulgarian aims will contribute to this larger purpose. Within this concept our fundamental objective toward Bulgaria is to encourage the eventual replacement of its present USSR-controlled regime by an independent, popularly based state which the US could welcome into the United Nations and which in its external relations would play a constructive role in the Balkans, conduct free foreign commercial relations, and accord to US interests equality of treatment with those of all other states.
The great obstacle to the realization of US policies toward Bulgaria lies in the absolute control of this satellite of the USSR by a picked group of Communist agents. Bulgaria is being molded as rapidly as domestic conditions permit into a replica of the USSR. This has entailed the systematic destruction of free and democratic institutions, complete mastery over the national economy, suppression of basic human freedoms, and a rigid control of the individual right to work.
Bulgaria is a police state. No open deviation is allowed contrary to the dictates of the Communist Party, which operates politically through the facade of the Fatherland Front, and in the economic and social fields through state and Party agencies. To intimidate and coerce the people, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the regime, repressive measures of the widest scope, are employed; these include deportation of urban dwellers to rural areas, denial of employment, and prison or concentration camp. Responsibility for these activities rests with the some 30,000 “hard core” Bulgarian Communists, while checking on their operations is an assigned contingent of Soviet personnel believed to number at least 3,000.[Page 333]
There was a change in the Communist Party leadership in April 1949 with the removal of Traicho Kostov, who was not of the Moscow clique, from his second highest positions in the Party and Government.2 Subsequently Premier Dimitrov departed because of mortal illness for an indefinite home leave in the USSR.3 Despite the naming of Foreign Minister Kolarov as acting premier, his role is that of a figurehead, with real power centered in a small Moscow-trained group of the Politburo in which Dimitrov’s brother-in-law, Vulko Chervenkov, assumes increased importance.4 While the Kostov affair indicates the existence of some opposition among Bulgarian Communists, there is no evidence at this stage that “Titoism” is a significant political force in Bulgaria. The demonstration of the undisputed authority of Moscow over the local regime has strengthened the popular Bulgarian conviction that the people alone cannot cope with the present dictatorship, that the latter would have the unhesitating support of the Red Army if its supremacy were challenged from any source, and that a future war between forces grouped around the US and the Soviet Union offers the only prospect of deliverance from the present tyranny.
Within Bulgaria a formal, organized opposition does not exist. The sole remaining deterrent to the Bulgarian Government’s goal of complete communism is the peasants. While the regime is pressing to collectivize the majority of land holdings within the term of the recently instituted economic Five Year Plan, passive resistance as well as technical difficulties are impeding progress toward this goal. The latent hatred of the regime has as yet been ineffective, largely because of the vigilance of state security organs. So hard is the daily [Page 334] struggle for existence that some observers sense a spreading public apathy. Although there are small clandestine opposition groupings in Bulgaria, the main effort toward organization is being made abroad, through the Bulgarian National Committee headed by Dr. George M. Dimitcrov. The Committee includes representatives of all democratic elements in exile, of which the strongest is Dr. Dimitrov’s National Agrarian Union, and maintains contacts within the country. Its purpose is the eventual liberation of Bulgaria from the Communists and the installation of a democratic regime.5 The National Agrarian Union also is a component of the International Peasant Union, which includes agrarian party leaders and their followers in exile from eastern Europe.
US policies and US interests within the country have been subject to unrelenting attack. Official Bulgarian propaganda denounces our institutions and our policies. Our economic interests have suffered from discrimination and from measures of nationalization without effective compensation. American cultural and educational influence has been attacked in various ways, including prohibition of the opening of the American college at Sofia after the war and the closing of the Girls’ School at Lovetch. So many impediments were put in the way of American social welfare operations, such as CARE, that these were obliged to cease. The recent arrests and fraudulent trials of Protestant ministers were obviously undertaken in order to disrupt the ties of these sects with the west, including the US, and to cast discredit on them and the US.6 Our Legation at Sofia also has been the target of a series of administrative restrictions and open provocations systematically designed to hamper its operations and to seal it from contact with the public.
In the face of a continuous campaign of vilification of the US by Bulgarian officials, press, and radio, the only rebuttals to reach the Bulgarian people are the short, daily Voice of America broadcasts. These have been a mainstay for Bulgarian public morale by offering the observations of the free world upon Soviet and Bulgarian Communist activities.
US and UK efforts to induce the USSR to honor its international commitments with respect to Bulgaria have proved fruitless and, in the absence of machinery for effective implementation of the Bulgarian Peace Treaty, similar efforts to induce Bulgaria to honor its treaty obligations are making little progress. While Bulgaria has disregarded its Treaty obligations in the economic and military fields, the most flagrant violations have been the systematic denial of human [Page 335] rights and fundamental freedoms to the Bulgarian people. The US and the UK, as signatories to the Yalta Agreement,7 the Armistice Convention,8 and the Peace Treaty,9 have constantly asserted the right of the people freely to decide their destiny. In the face of Communist acts, the US and the UK have sought to exert a restraining influence and to make their position clear by official protests, public statements, and, finally, by formal charges of violations of Article 2 of the Peace Treaty, which guarantees the enjoyment of human rights and of fundamental freedoms. These charges are being pressed by invocation of the Treaty procedures for the settlement of disputes.10
Whenever Bulgaria’s application for membership has been discussed in the United Nations the US, as well as the UK, has presented the record and successfully argued that the Bulgarian Government has shown it is unwilling, despite promises, to observe the obligations expected of members of the UN.11
In the spring of 1949, on the initiative of Bolivia and Australia, a debate was held in the General Assembly of the UN upon the repression of civil liberties, particularly religious freedom, in Bulgaria and Hungary. The GA approved a Resolution expressing serious concern over the charges made against the two countries and concluding with the hope that measures taken under the Peace Treaties would be diligently prosecuted in order to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Resolution also reserved this item for consideration at the next session of the GA.12
US-Bulgarian trade has never been important from the American viewpoint, and it is recognized that Bulgarian exports to the US are of little significance. While Bulgaria’s Communist regime has consistently opposed US economic objectives, the US, on its part, continues to support the principle of east-west trade as contributing to the greatest possible expansion of peaceful trade throughout the world. However, in applying the US export licensing program to [Page 336] Bulgaria, licenses have been denied for articles which might aid its war potential and that of the USSR.13 Present practice is to consult our Legation at Sofia on specific commodities, and action is generally taken in accordance with the Legation’s recommendations.
The US retains nearly $3,500,000 of blocked or vested Bulgarian Government and private assets, which is greater than the amount of US claims against Bulgaria. We intend to continue to maintain controls over these funds until war claims are satisfactorily met and adequate and effective compensation is assured for the expropriation or other taking of other American property. Such measures are deemed necessary to ensure that the liquidation of the small US investment in Bulgaria, which has been decided on by the Bulgarian Government, will be carried out equitably with due regard for the interests of the American owners. Despite certain difficulties, efforts are being made to seek a solution of this problem through a formal US-Bulgarian general claims settlement.
Our policy on financial assistance to Bulgaria is to refuse any government loans under present conditions and to discourage but not to oppose private loans. So far as is known, no private loans have been made.
Negotiations are in progress looking toward a satisfactory arrangement to cover the operating expenses of our Legation at Sofia. Leva accounts in the name of US and possibly other foreign nationals would be bought by the US at a mutually agreed figure. If Bulgaria agrees to this arrangement, a license would be granted releasing blocked Bulgarian Government funds here to an agreed monthly amount needed by the Bulgarian Legation.
The USSR has aimed at excluding US aircraft from eastern Europe while simultaneously seeking rights for Soviet orbit carriers to operate in the air space of other countries. Our policy has been to restrict the civil air operations of the USSR and its satellites, including Bulgaria, to their territory until the USSR grants air rights in USSR territory on a reciprocal basis to air carriers of the US and other states desiring such rights. Our policy also calls for the denial of aviation equipment and aircraft maintenance facilities to the USSR and its satellites. This Government is seeking the cooperation of other non-curtain states in implementing this policy on a common front basis. This whole policy is now being subjected to review.14
As provided for by a decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers in 1946, an international conference was held at Belgrade in August 1948 to draft a new Convention governing navigation upon the [Page 337] Danube.15 The Soviet bloc, including Bulgaria, outvoted the US and other western participants in approving a Convention which left the USSR in effective control of the river. The necessary instruments of ratification have been deposited and the Convention has been declared in force by the Soviet bloc. The organization of the Danube Commission within the terms of the Convention, however, has not yet been announced. The US does not recognize the validity of this Convention and has charged the USSR and its satellites with responsibility for the absence of freedom of navigation on the Danube.
c. relations with other countries
Bulgaria has a foreign policy identical with that of the USSR. In this pattern all eastern European countries subservient to Moscow are bound together by treaties of alliance and commerce, they work together in the Russian sponsored Council for Mutual Economic Aid,16 and they are members of the Cominform. Toward “capitalist” governments the Bulgarian regime assumes an attitude of hostility the intensity of which is dictated by Soviet instructions. The leading countries of the free world, such as the US, are the objects of virulent propaganda attack.
Yugoslavia is a special object of the Bulgarian regime’s attacks, since, although a Communist country, it has been able to defy Moscow. Relations between Bulgaria and Yugoslovia have deteriorated steadily since the Tito-Cominform rift was announced in June 1948, and have recently become more grave with the resurrection of the old Macedonian issue. This involves, at present, an apparent effort by the Soviets and their Cominform allies to utilize Macedonian nationalism and deep-seated Balkan rivalry over Macedonia as means to weaken the Tito regime. Although not clearly stated by the Communists the apparent objective is to create a union of Macedonian territories now within the confines of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Greece. Persistent reports have accompanied these developments in Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations to the effect that Bulgaria would be an eventual springboard for an attack upon the Tito regime in the guise of an organized “Free Macedonia” guerrilla movement.17
Undiminished aid by Bulgaria to the Greek guerrillas and its unrelenting propaganda against the Greek Government show that the greatly strained relations between the two countries, never marked by [Page 338] cordiality, remain unchanged. A fresh element to exacerbate these relations has been the Communist-sponsored Free Macedonia movement, since its realization would mean an outright cession of present Greek territory. Bulgarian refugees continue to dribble across the frontier and are maintained in camps by the Greek authorities. As for Bulgaria’s obligation under the Peace Treaty to arrive at an equitable settlement with Greece for the restitution of Greek property and to pay fixed reparations, the Bulgarian Government has maintained an intransigent silence. Unsuccessful attempts have been made hitherto through various channels, particularly the UN, to restore normal diplomatic relations and to conclude frontier and minority conventions between Bulgaria and Greece.
While also antagonistic to Turkey, the Bulgarian regime has shown a certain restraint in its dealings with that country. Nevertheless, sporadic incidents occur. Turkish Legation officials have been expelled from Bulgaria, and frontier guards are taken prisoner if they inadvertently stray over the border. Turkey has a policy of asylum for Bulgarian political refugees which, coupled with the derogatory comments of the Turkish press and radio upon Communism, rankles with Sofia. On its side Turkey views Bulgaria as an obvious Soviet base threatening the Straits.
d. policy evaluation
The actions hitherto taken by the US have not impeded the consolidation of the Bulgarian Communist regime. However, the US has helped maintain Bulgarian public morale through the Voice of America broadcasts and by a forceful and dignified condemnation of those Communist acts which stifle public liberties and which are hostile to the US and its principles. As a result, aside from its effect in Bulgaria, our policy has played its part in alerting the American people and the western world to the true intentions of Soviet directed communism.
Certain present US activities, pursued and intensified, could have effects beneficial to our aims both internationally and within Bulgaria:
- Consideration should be given to an expansion of Voice of America broadcasts as the most effective counter to the flood of communist propaganda deluging the Bulgarian people and as our most suitable medium to support their morale.
- The US should continue to employ all means available under the Peace Treaty and the UN Charter to publicize and if possible to secure redress for the Bulgarian regime’s violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- Steady public reference to violations of other important provisions of the Peace Treaty by the Bulgarian Government with the connivance [Page 339] of the USSR, of which the Danube Convention is illustrative, would aid in keeping the Communist regime on the defensive.
- The licensing program for US exports to Bulgaria should be used as a flexible instrument of policy, as our strategic and political interests require; it can be made even more effective by close liaison with those countries operating under ECA.
- Pressure should be maintained to satisfy claims by US nationals arising under the Peace Treaty and through the nationalization program of the Bulgarian Government. For this solution our control over assets of the Bulgarian regime in this country gives us an unquestioned advantage.
- We should maintain the fullest support for the UN Special Committee on the Balkans and all efforts to oblige Bulgaria to desist from supporting the Greek guerrillas.
- Despite provocations, it is currently in our general interest and that of the Bulgarian people to maintain our Legation in Sofia. It thus can report upon weaknesses in the Communist administration of Bulgaria which may be exploited for our objectives.
- The US should continue to oppose, in the present circumstances, Bulgaria’s application for membership in the UN.
Two other problems may require US policy decisions in the near future:
- The Macedonian question, which has now emerged through Kremlin instigation as a trouble spot of importance involving Bulgaria, Greece and Yugoslavia, should be carefully watched. The US position toward any Soviet efforts to create an “independent” Macedonia or a South Slav Federation will necessarily depend upon the circumstances and scope of such endeavors, and should take account of our interest in the integrity of Greece and in widening the breach between Yugoslavia and the USSR.
- The US maintains friendly contact, on an unofficial basis, with the Bulgarian National Committee and the International Peasant Union. In pursuance of its political objectives, the US may have occasion to reconsider its attitude toward these organizations if our relations with the Bulgarian Government further deteriorate or if the exile agencies succeed in organizing an effective opposition among the Bulgarian people.
- Department of State Policy Statements were concise documents summarizing the current United States policy toward a country or region, the relations of that country or region with the principal powers, and the issues and trends in that country or region. The Statements provided information and guidance for officers in missions abroad. The Statements were generally prepared by ad hoc working groups in the responsible geographic offices of the Department of State and were referred to appropriate diplomatic missions abroad for comment and criticism. The Statements were periodically revised.↩
- Traicho Dzhunev Kostov was a leading member of the Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Vice President of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers, and Chairman of the State Committee for Economic and Financial Questions. It was announced in Sofia, on April 5, that a session of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party had been held on March 26–27 to consider Kostov’s “anti-party” activities. A resolution was adopted which condemned Kostov for a number of failings including his pursuit of “an insincere and unfriendly policy with regard the Soviet Union” and toleration of “nationalistic tendences in the government apparatus”. Kostov was dismissed from the Politburo and suspended from his government positions. Later in April it was announced that Kostov had been appointed Director of the Bulgarian National Library. In June he was expelled from the Communist Party.↩
- The Bulgarian press announced on April 15 that Georgi Dimitrov, Secretary General of the Bulgarian Communist Party and President of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers was on leave of absence because of illness and had gone to the Soviet Union for medical attention. Dimitrov died in the Soviet Union on July 2.↩
- On April 23 the press announced the creation of a Bureau of the Ministerial Council consisting of Acting Prime Minister Kolarov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Electrification Kim on Georgiev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Georgi Traikov, Vulko Chervenkov, Chairman of the State Committee on Science, Arts, and Culture, and Minister of Interior Anton Yugov. Georgiev was a former Prime Minister (1945–1946) and a leader of the defunct (as of February 1949) Zveno Union. Traikov was Secretary of the Agrarian Union. Chervenkov was First Secretary of the Politburo of the Communist Party and Yugov was a member of the Politburo.↩
- Regarding the activities of the Bulgarian National Committee, see the memorandum of conversation by Melbourne, March 24, p. 279.↩
- Regarding the trial of the Protestant pastors in Sofia in February-March 1949, see pp. 326–328.↩
- The reference here is to the Declaration on Liberated Europe, included as Part V of the Report of the Crimea Conference, February 11, 1945, Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 971–973.↩
- The Armistice Agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union and Bulgaria, signed at Moscow on October 28, 1944, Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 437, and 58 Stat. (pt. 2) 1498. For documentation on the negotiations leading to the signing of the armistice, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iii, pp. 300 ff.↩
- For the text of the Treaty of Peace with Bulgaria, signed at Paris on February 10, 1947, see Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1650.↩
- For documentation on the efforts of the United States to assure fulfillment of the human rights provisions of the Treaties of Peace with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, see pp. 223 ff.↩
- For material on Bulgaria’s application for membership in the United Nations, see vol.ii, pp. 291 ff.↩
- For the text of the resolution under reference here, dated April 30, see p. 245.↩
- For documentation on United States policy with respect to trade with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, see pp. 61 ff.↩
- For documentation on the United States civil aviation policy with respect to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, see pp. 184 ff.↩
- For documentation on the participation of the United States in the 1948 Belgrade Conference on the Regime for Free Navigation of the Danube River, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, pp. 593 ff.↩
- Regarding the establishment of the Council for Mutual Economic Aid in January 1949, see telegram 212, January 27, from Moscow, p. 1, and the extract from issue No. 188, February 7, of Current Economic Developments, p. 4 ↩
- Documentation on the attitude of the United States with respect to the Macedonian question is scheduled for publication on volume vi.↩