Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries > Bulgaria
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 768-769
BULGARIA: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Bulgaria was allied with Germany in World War I and sided with Germany again in World War II. Bulgaria avoided declaring against the Soviet Union in the second war, thus limiting its fight against the Allied Powers. In 1944, Bulgaria began armistice talks with the Western Allies, but the Soviet Union suddenly declared war on Bulgaria and quickly occupied the country. Meanwhile, a Communist- dominated Fatherland Front in Bulgaria took over the government. Aided by Soviet forces, the Communists consolidated their power under the leadership of Georgi Dimitrov, who had returned to Bulgaria after living in Moscow during much of the war. Soviet influence on the Bulgarian domestic scene was increased in 1949 with the execution of the "native" Communist leader, Traicho Kostov, accused of conspiring with the Yugoslav revisionists.

Dimitrov died in 1949, but he was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Vulko Chervenkov, another Soviet returnee, who promoted a series of Stalinist purges that lasted until 1953 and placed Bulgaria even more firmly in line with Soviet policy. When Stalin died in 1953 and the posts of party secretary and head of state became separated in the Soviet Union, Bulgaria followed suit, with Chervenkov relinquishing his party position to Todor Zhivkov. Chervenkov's attempts to control the party were resented, and--never Khruschev's favorite--Chervenkov began to lose power as he lost support from Moscow.

Following Khrushchev's 1956 denunciation of Stalin and his own emergence to prominence in the Soviet Union, Zhivkov cast his lot with Khrushchev and began to ease Chervenkov out of power entirely--a process that was completed in 1962 at the 8th Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Chervenkov and Prime Minister Anton Yugov were both purged from the leadership, and Zhivkov became both first secretary of the party and prime minister. Throughout our time period, the Communist Party was the main instrument of government, but it operated ostensibly through vestiges of the Fatherland Front. Coexisting with the Communist Party in the Front is the Agrarian National Union, which carries the message of the party to the peasantry.

Continuity and Change since 1962

There has been some change in the distribution of legislative seats between the Bulgarian parties, but the essential pattern is one of stability. Both of our original parties continued through 1978, and no new parties were formed.

Original Parties, Continuing

611 Communist Party. Headed since 1954 by Todor Zhivkov, the BKP unquestionably remains the dominant organizational force in Bulgaria.

612 National Agrarian Union. The Agrarian Union exists in alliance with the Communist Party under the Fatherland Front. With more than 3,000 local branches (Area Handbook for Bulgaria, 1974, p. 163), it is more than a paper organization and serves to link the Communist leadership with rural interests.


Still closely aligned with the Soviet Union, Bulgaria has experienced only modest changes in her external or internal politics over the last 30 years. However, diplomatic and economic contacts with the West have increase significantly, and there has been some decentralization of administrative authority within the country.

1. Our study of party politics in Bulgaria is based on a file of 1,183 pages from 104 documents, all of which are in English including many in translation from Bulgarian (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Judith Newsome Gillespie. Michael Monts used the file to code the Bulgarian Communist Party on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework, and Patricia Sweeney coded the Agrarian National Union. William Welsh and Carl Beck were our consultants.