Editorial Note

On November 30 the Bulgarian press published the text of the indictment against former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Bulgarian Communist Party Politburo member Traicho Rostov and nine others accused of antistate activities, treason, espionage, and sabotage. The indictment included a passage which purported to describe a meeting in late 1947 between Rostov and Minister Heath suggesting Rostov’s role, through Heath, in coordinated American-Yugoslav action toward Bulgaria. In his telegram 992, November 30, from Sofia, not printed, Heath reported on the indictment and its reference to his alleged meeting with Rostov. Heath stated that he intended to seek an immediate interview with Foreign Minister Poptomov to deny the allegation and protest its publication. Heath also intended to demand [Page 364] that the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry print a denial of the accusation. The Minister planned to issue his own denial to local correspondents and news agencies. Heath commented as follows regarding the alleged conversation with Kostov:

“The story is utterly impossible; I have never had any interview of any kind with Traicho Kostov and in fact have never exchanged a single word, oral or written, with him. I have never been in the building of the Council of Ministers [where the conversation was alleged to have taken place], except to call and sign the book for official holidays or birthdays, or to attend official receptions. Anything remotely resembling the statements attributed to me never were made, nor indeed could have been made by me or any member of the Legation to anyone.” (874.00/11–3049)

Telegram 405, December 1, to Sofia, not printed, approved Heath’s approach to the Foreign Ministry and stated that the Department had that day issued to the press a brief statement denouncing the absurdity of the references to Heath in the Kostov indictment. For the text of the Department’s statement, see Department of State Bulletin, December 12, 1949, page 911.

Copies of the text of the indictment of Kostov were transmitted to the Department of State as enclosures to despatch 299, December 2, from Sofia, not printed (874.00/12–249). The text of the indictment is included in The Trial of Traicho Kostov and His Group, apparently prepared by the Press Department of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry (Sofia: 1949), pages 5–57.

The trial of Traicho Kostov and his nine codefendants was held in Sofia from December 7 to December 14. The dramatic highlight of the trial was Kostov’s denial of his guilt of espionage on behalf of the British or his participation in a Yugoslav-sponsored antigovernment conspiracy. In the course of the trial, defendant Tsonyu Tsonchev implicated Minister Heath in alleged espionage activities. The court found all the defendants guilty of the charges against them. Kostov was sentenced to death, and the other defendants were sentenced to imprisonment for various periods. Kostov was executed on December 16. The texts of the testimony, the speeches of the prosecution and the defense, the verdict, and certain additional materials appear in the volume The Trial of Traicho Kostov and His Group cited earlier. The trial was reported upon in the world press. The extensive reportage on the trial by the Legation in Sofia is included in file 874.00. A detailed account and analysis of the trial was transmitted to the Department of State as enclosures to despatches 317 and 319, December 23 and 30, respectively, from Sofia, neither printed (874.00/12–2349 and 874.00/12–3049). For a concise and useful account of the Kostov trial, its antecedents, and aftermath, sec Robert Lee Wolff, The Balkans in Our Time (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1956), pages 384–389.