Following the controversy conducted by Yugoslavia and Albania, Bulgaria remained the only country in the Balkans loyal to the Soviet Union, assuming an exceptional importance as a spokesperson for the socialist camp in that sector. The political line adopted by the Bulgarian leaders aimed to improve relations between the countries of Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, to carefully follow the policy of Greece and to work, according to the directives agreed with Moscow, to unblock the Albanian situation.
Political, economic and military coordination with the USSR characterized Bulgarian politics since 1947. The 8th congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party (PCB) in November 1962 condemned the cult of personality and Stalinism, adhered to Khrushchev’s conceptions of peaceful coexistence, on disarmament and the German problem; dogmatism and sectarianism were indicated as the main dangers and the most insidious deviations in the path of the socialist countries. However, while Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania followed the USSR in withdrawing their diplomatic representatives from Tirana, Bulgaria continued to have formally correct diplomatic relations, showing its determination to carry out a policy of good neighborhood and coexistence in the Balkans and in the other regions concretely and with a certain autonomy (commercial and cultural agreements with Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia and Morocco). The economic policy, however coordinated with the USSR, was based on the choice of characterizing the country in the sense of increasing the precision and mechanical industry, and the specialization of agricultural crops within the framework of the international division of economic tasks that the Comecon was processing.
The proposal for the denuclearization of the Mediterranean, put forward by the USSR in May 1963, provided the Bulgarian leaders with the opportunity to clarify their policy, committed to establishing the connection between the Mediterranean and the Balkan region and to developing collaborative relations between all the Balkan peoples. From 1964, within the framework of this political line, Bulgaria re-established relations of political and economic collaboration with Belgrade, without yielding anything on the ideological level to Tito’s theses; cooperation with Bucharest continued, despite opposing its autonomy vis-à-vis Moscow; he settled disputes considered incurable with Athens; he advocated the project of a Balkan federation which was based on the idea agitated by Dimitrov in the immediate post-war period. The rupture of Moscow’s dominance, the wave of nationalist autonomy, the political-economic importance that Bulgaria had acquired by transforming itself from a backward agricultural country into an industrial country, produced in the spring of 1965 a strong internal dissidence on the part of some prominent exponents of the PCB who intended to accentuate the detachment from Moscow with positions of Titoist and nationalist type (Ivan Todorov Gorunia, member of the Central Committee; Cvetko Anev, commander of the Sofia military district; Colo Krustev and Slavčo Trnski, deputy defense minister). But the government’s line in foreign policy, the objective of raising the rural masses, the first liberalizing reforms towards the intellectuals allowed a rapid reabsorption of the crisis: the IX Congress of the party (14-19 November 1966) validated the traditional orthodoxy pro-Soviet of the Bulgarian leaders. For Bulgaria history, please check historyaah.com.
These internal developments were matched, in those years, by a more dynamic international conduct with the improvement of inter-Balkan relations and the intensification of economic-cultural relations with the West without however departing from the sphere of the politics of the USSR with which in 1967 a new twenty-year treaty of friendship and mutual assistance was signed to replace that of 1948. For the Balkan area the most important problem was that of the Macedonians (among whom there were 187,000 Bulgarians, according to the 1956 census), fundamental reason for the ongoing friction with Yugoslavia. As part of the intennational communist movement, Bulgaria, after an initial attitude of sympathy towards the new course developed in Czechoslovakia, sided with the censors according to the old and consolidated practice of fidelity to Soviet directives. Parallel to the intervention in Czechoslovakia, within the framework of the Warsaw Pact, some constitutional reforms were initiated: the Council of State instead of the Presidium, revaluation of the parliament, establishment of the economic coordination committee, merger of the Ministry of Agriculture with that of foreign trade. After the workers’ uprisings in Poland in 1971, the Bulgarian leaders carried out an extensive revision of the five-year plan, giving more space to primary needs and consumption. At the same time, a process of ideological consolidation against bourgeois contamination began, while the trade unions underwent a notable re-evaluation of their classical function in defense of interests of workers. The Greek-Bulgarian talks of January 1975, the invitation, for a meeting in Sofia, addressed to Greece and Turkey to resolve the Aegean controversy (September 1976), the start of official negotiations with Yugoslavia (September 1976) for the solution of the Macedonian question, the offensive against the powerful bureaucracy, the renewal of the party cadres and the state apparatus to develop the industrial take-off testify to the ongoing effort to give Bulgarian communism its own image even in the ‘undisputed loyalty to the socialist camp.