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Historical Introduction

Bulgarian painting, completed in the 1980s in Communist Bulgaria. It portrays the former Bulgarian communist dictator Todor Zhivkov as Jesus Christ (C) and the members of the Politburo of Bulgaria s former Communist Party Central Committee as the twelve disciples. AFP

Bulgaria fell under Communist rule when a Communist government was set up after invasion by the Red Army. Soon after that, extensive purges, arrests and executions were launched to suppress opposition to the new political system. Civil society and civil liberties were terminated. For example, at least 746 officers were sacked from the army and most were later arrested. At the 1944-1945 show trials, 9155 persons were convicted and 2730 of them shot. Opposition leader Nikola Petkov was hanged on 23. September 1947. From fall 1944 to 1962, at least 23.531 persons were sent to prison camps; 478 persons were sentenced to death as “public enemies” during 1952–1985. The Communist secret police hunted and killed Bulgarian dissidents both home and abroad. In addition to extensive human rights violations, the country’s Turkish minority suffered from measures close to ethnic cleansing. The Communist regime of Bulgaria fell in 1989, but its weighty legacy is yet to be resolved.