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Bulgaria Table of Contents

Bulgaria

The Rule of Ferdinand

The new administration was mainly conservative, and Ferdinand became the dominant force in Bulgarian policy making. His position grew stronger when Russia finally recognized him in 1896. The price for recognition was the conversion of Prince Boris to Orthodoxy from Catholicism. The Russian attitude had changed for two reasons: Alexander III had died in 1894, and new Turkish massacres had signaled a collapse of the Ottoman Empire that would threaten Russian and Bulgarian interests alike. In the next twenty years, no strong politician like Stambolov emerged, and Ferdinand was able to accumulate power by manipulating factions. Several liberal and conservative parties, the descendants of the two preliberation groups, held power through 1912 in a parliamentary system that seldom functioned according to the constitution. The Bulgarian Social Democratic Party took its place in the new political order, advocating class struggle, recruiting members from the working class, and organizing strikes.

After relations with Russia had been repaired, Bulgaria's international position stabilized, allowing the economy to continue growing undisturbed until 1912. In this period, the government continued active intervention in agriculture and industry; it promoted new agricultural methods that improved the yield from fertile lands still being reclaimed from the Turks in 1900. Bulgarian economic growth continued growing because of a combination of factors: borrowing from West European industrial countries, a strong banking system, and a generally sound investment policy. Between 1887 and 1911, the number of industrial plants grew from 36 to 345. But the government's financial policy greatly increased the national debt, which by 1911 was three times the national budget and required 20 percent of the budget for interest payment. New land taxes and grain tithes were levied in the 1890s, leading to peasant revolts. In 1899 the Bulgarian Agrarian Union was founded, the result of a decade of growing rural discontent and resentment against the intellectual and governing class. Within two years, the union had evolved into an official party, the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), which was accepted by most Bulgarian peasants as truly representing their interests. Soon, Bulgarian politicians viewed BANU as the most potent political group in the country.

Data as of June 1992