81. Editorial Note

On May 12, 1977, Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) General Secretary Todor Zhivkov removed Bulgarian Politburo member Boris Velchev, the putative number two man in the Bulgarian leadership, from all Party and government posts. Velchev’s fall came as a surprise to the U.S. Embassy in Sofia—and to the entire diplomatic community—as he had been generally regarded as among the most likely to succeed Zhivkov to the leadership when the Bulgarian leader retired or died. Speculation in Sofia was extensive as to the reasons for Velchev’s dismissal. The fall was due to a power struggle between Zhivkov and Velchev, brought on by policy differences especially on the Macedonia question. (Telegram 1030 from the Defense Intelligence Agency, May 14, 1977; National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Analysis for the Commonwealth and Eastern Europe, Office Subject Files 1953–1983, Lot 93D401, Box 10, Bulgarian Communist Party 1977)

In telegram 1004 from Sofia, May 13, the Embassy posited that Velchev’s firing must have been approved by Moscow, and may be a consequence of his refusal to agree to a softening of relations with Yugoslavia. (Ibid.) However, in telegram 1015 from Sofia, May 16, the Embassy reported its sources “flatly discounted reports” that Velchev’s removal was caused by differences between him and Zhivkov regarding policy toward Yugoslavia. Velchev’s removal on May 12 and that of several of his protégées, the Embassy stated, was a consequence of his refusal to accept a demotion to Chairman of the National Assembly—a largely honorific position—an offer made several weeks before the May Plenum, as well as disagreements regarding appointments in the Party apparatus. (Ibid.)

Two new appointees to the BCP Central Committee Secretariat—Dimitur Stanishev and Petur Dyulgerov—the Embassy reported, further solidified Zhivkov’s control over the Bulgarian Party and Government. The new appointees were young, owed their career and loyalty to Zhivkov, and had no independent power base. They joined other rising “superstars” of the Central Committee Secretariat—including newly appointed Minister, Politburo member, and Zhivkov’s daughter, Lyudmila Zhivkova. (Ibid.)