During the communist era Bulgaria earned a reputation for passivity. The population appeared docile and, alone among the states of Eastern Europe, Bulgaria experienced no crisis in its relations with the Soviet Union. The long tenure of Todor Zhivkov, who became party leader in 1954, suggested an almost completely frozen political life. But if Bulgaria was politically stable, it experienced fundamental economic and social changes that laid the foundation for the dramatic political events of the late 1980s. At the end of the Second World War three-quarters of Bulgaria’s population lived in villages, and the overwhelming majority of these villagers were engaged in small-scale, primitive farming. The communist regime was committed to transforming Bulgaria by developing industry and educating the population to include it in the ‘scientific-technological revolution of the twentieth century’. By the 1980s, about two-thirds of the population was urban, and only about a fifth still directly involved in farming. Bulgaria came to rank among the most advanced nations in the proportion of its eligible population receiving secondary and higher education. For the first time Bulgaria possessed the equivalent of the Western middle class; and though not a bourgeoisie in the classical Marxist sense of owning the means of production, in terms of its psychology and outlook, scepticism toward inherited dogmas, desire for material success and personal autonomy, it far more resembled its Western contemporaries than the generation of its parents and grandparents.
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