1934-1939 1944-1947

Bulgaria during World War II

Administration . Bulgaria, since the coup of 1934 was a royal dictatorship. The cabinet was appointed by the Tsar; parliament was elected and had the right at approve laws, the budget. Political parties deemed radical were banned.
Tsar Boris III. died in 1943, a few days after returning from a visit to Germany (Hitler had summoned him); it is assumed that he was poisoned while in Germany, because he refused to give in the the German demand to declare war on the USSR. succeeded by his son Simeon, a minor. A Regency Council was formed.
The office of PM was held by Georgi Kyoseiranov (non-party, 1935-1940), Bogdan Filov (non-party, 1940-1943), Dobro Bozhilov (non-party, 1943-1944) and Ivan Ivanov Bagrianov (non-party, 1944). Bozhilov was widely regarded a German puppet; he did refuse the German demand to hand over the country's Jewish population. General Elections were held in 1939/1940.

Foreign Policy . Early in the war, King Boris pursued a strict policy of neutrality, not engaging in any alliance with one of the powers. In 1940, Romania gave in to Germany's and Russia's pressure and ceded territory; in this context, Romania ceded the Southern Dobruja to Bulgaria in the Treaty of Craiova on September 7th 1940.
Bulgaria and Turkey signed a non-aggression pact in Feb. 1941.
In March 1941 it was no longer possible for Bulgaria to stay neutral. Bulgaria entered an alliance with Germany, Italy and Japan (Tripartite Pact) and joined in the occupation (April 1941) of Yugoslavia and Greece - Bulgarian troops occupied much of Serb-held Macedonia and Greek Western Thrace. There was a brief dispute between Bulgaria and Italy over the Italian occupation of certain Macedonian towns (Tetovo, Gostivar, Krushevo); Germany mediated and the Italians withdrew (NIYB 1941 p.88). King Boris maintained that the Bulgarians were prepared to fight alongside the Germans, but not against the Russians (Bulgaria owed it's independence to the Russians, and sentiment was very pro-Russian). Bulgarian troops were not to be deployed outside the Balkans peninsula.
As the war progressed, Bulgarian troops had to take over occupation duties in previously German-occupied regions of Yugoslavia and Greece, to free German units for the eastern front.
In 1944 Bulgaria's situation became critical as the Red Army closed in. Bulgaria cautiously moved away from it's German Alliance toward neutrality - the country was technically not at war with the Soviet Union. On August 17th 1944 Prime Minister Bagryanov declared neutrality. Bulgarian forces disarmed the German forces in the country; the USSR was not prepareed to respect Bulgaria's neutrality. On September 8th, Bulgaria declared war on Germany, now as a Soviet ally, with a new government - Bagryanov had resigned. Bulgaria had managed to transfer from a German to a Soviet alliance without a German occupation. Bulgarian forces accompanied Soviet forces on their further campaign, until Germany surrendered. Bulgaria signed an Armistice Agrement on October 28th 1944.
In fact, Bulgaria's post-war fate had been decided at Yalta, when Churchill suggested to partition eastern Europe into Soviet, American and British spheres of interested.
Formally an Allied Control Commission Bulgaria was established; in fact, the British and Americans left that to the Soviets, spending little attention on Bulgaria.

The Economy . By the end of 1940, Germany had achieved almost complete economic domination of Bulgaria (NIYB 1940 p.97). Food rationing was introduced in 1940. Inflation caused strikes, which were dealt with by drafting the strikers into the army (June 1940, NIYB 1940 p.98). On August 30th 1941 the export of grain was forbidden (NIYB 1941 p.88).

Political History . Political parties deemed radical had been suppressed since the royal coup d'etat of 1934; suspected Communists were subject to arrest. In 1939 several pro-Nazi nationalist organizations were banned (NIYB 1939 p.99). The Masonic lodge, on Gerrman pressure, was dissolved in 1940 (NIYB 1940 p.98).
Reacting to anti-German demonstrations, on Dec. 5th 1942 martial law was proclaimed (NIYB 1942 p.99).
The cabinet change of 1943, coinciding with the death of Tsar Boris III., was widely regarded as the begin of a German puppet regime. Resistance began to form in Bulgaria. From late 1943 onward, Bulgaria (Sofia, Plovdiv etc.) were exposed to Allied air bombardment.

Social History . The population, including that of the Southern Dobruja annexed in 1940, for 1941 was estimated as 6.72 million (NIYB 1941 p.86).

Ethnic, Religious Minorities . Following the Treaty of Craiova (Sept. 7th 1940), Bulgaria and Romania exchanged their mutual ethnic minorities, 78,000 ethnic Romanians leaving Southern Dobruja for Romania, 90,000 Bulgarians leaving Romania for Bulgaria (NIYB 1940 p.96).
In 1942, Bulgaria passed race laws, depriving the country's Jews of their Bulgarian citizenship (NIYB 1942 p.99). When German officials in 1943 pressed for the deportation of Bulgaria's Jews, the Jewish population of the occupied territories was deported and dealt with; when it came to the Jewish population of Bulgaria proper, public opinion was against it; the Bulgarian church and their King rejected the German demand; Bulgaria's Jewish community, which was interned, was not handed over to the Germans; it survived the war.

Articles Boris III. of Bulgaria, History of Bulgaria : World War II and After, Military History of Bulgaria in World War II, List of Prime Ministers of Bulgaria, Dobri Bozhilov, Ivan Ivanov Bagrianov, Elections in Bulgaria, from Wikipedia
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Bulgaria
Fascism, Genocide, and Anti-Fascist Resistance, by Norman Markovitz (on Bulgaria in WW II)
DOCUMENTS Table of Bulgaria's Prime Ministers, 1879-present, from Bulgaria Online
World Statesmen : Bulgaria, from Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics : Bulgaria, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
REFERENCE R.J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, Cambridge Concise Histories 1997 pp.163-169; KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.7 C889a
Article : Bulgaria, pp.623-636, in : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia vol.14, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862n v.14
Raymond Detrez, Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria, Lanham Md. : Scarecrow 2006, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 949.9003 D 483h
Article : Bulgaria, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.751-758 [G]
Article : Bulgaria, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.89-90, 1943 pp.117-118, 1944 pp.112-113 [G]
Article : Bulgaria, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1944 pp.137-139, 1945 pp.135-136 [G]
Article : Bulgaria, in : New International Year Book 1940 pp.96-98, 1941 pp.86-88, 1942 pp.97-99, 1943 pp.86-88, 1944 pp.87-89 [G]
Article : Bulgaria, in : Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.78-79, 1941 pp.83-85, 1942 pp.74-76, 1943 pp.83-85, 1944 pp.58-60 [G]
Time/Life : Time Capsule 1941, A History of the Year Condensed from the Pages of Time, NY : Time 1967, pp.84-87, 147-149, 151, 158 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on August 25th 2007

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