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If the Red Army had not occupied Bulgaria, the country would have shared the fate of Greece after World War II

12 September 2014 / 12:09:31  GRReporter
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Polina Spartyanova

When the Red Army started to advance in Eastern Europe in 1944, the USSR declared war on Bulgaria on 5 September. Three days later, the Bulgarian government called for a truce but it was overthrown by a military coup on 9 September and Bulgaria fell under Soviet occupation. Today, 70 years after the Red Army occupation, we met with Associate Professor Mihail Gruev, who is the head of the "History of Bulgaria" department at the History Faculty of Sofia University "St. St. Kliment Ohridski" to find out a little more about the consequences of the conquest of the Bulgarian territories by the communist regime. Associate Professor Gruev teaches modern Bulgarian history and over the years, he has specialized in topics such as the totalitarian regime, and society and historical anthropology.  

     What were the motives for the Red Army occupation of Bulgaria?
     At that time, the Red Army was chasing the German troops to Berlin, thus passing through a large part of Europe. Bulgaria was an ally of the Third Reich from 1941 almost to the time when the Red Army entered its territory. The government of Ivan Bagrianov declared neutrality as late as 26 August 1944, although the country did not officially leave the Tripartite Pact. Thus, the Prime Minister tried to allow the German troops to retreat from the country in order to prevent its territory from turning into the scene of the epic clash between the two hostile forces. The Soviet government did not perceive this as sincere neutrality, believing that Bulgaria continued to support the Germans in this way. This was the main argument for the Soviet Union to declare war on Bulgaria on 5 September.
     Generally, the policy of the Bulgarian government at that time aimed to avoid the involvement of Bulgaria in this global conflict, which was why the country did not send troops to the Eastern Front. The Bulgarian state declared a symbolic war on England and the United States but, with the start of the bombing of its territory by enemy planes, it appeared that it was not so symbolic.
     During the Red Army occupation of Bulgaria, were there cases of robbery and rape in the country, as in the other occupied countries?
     The Soviet troops and the Third Ukrainian Regiment in particular were instructed that they would invade an enemy country. However, they actually behaved more decently compared to Germany or other allies of the Reich. There were cases of rough vandal acts but the fact is that the Soviet authorities were trying to prevent them by shooting those who were involved in such acts. It was very typical for the Red Army occupation of Bulgaria that the Soviet soldiers drank on a mass scale, and the impressions of the Bulgarians, who had to live together with them, were the same as well. In the city of Burgas, for example, there was a case when nearly one hundred people from the Soviet army poisoned themselves having been drunk with alcohol of poor quality but this was not announced to their families for a variety of reasons. They were informed that those soldiers died in performing their civic duty. I am referring to this case to illustrate the relationships between the Red Army and the local population, and the nature of the Soviet occupation of Bulgaria.

Tags: 9 SeptemberMilitary coupRed ArmyPartisansGeopoliticsGreat powersTruman Doctrine
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