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Bulgaria Table of Contents


Postwar Development

The Red Army met little hostility during its occupation of Bulgaria from 1944 to 1947. At the time of invasion, the Soviet Union did not regard Bulgaria as an enemy state, because Bulgaria had not declared war or participated actively in the German eastern front. According to the Yalta agreements of 1945, the Allied Control Commission for Bulgaria, assigned to administer the country until a peace treaty was signed, was essentially an extension of the Red Army military administration. Under pressure from Britain, the preponderant interest of the Soviet Union in Bulgaria was recognized by giving it 75 percent control of the commission.

The Soviet Union immediately reorganized the Bulgarian army to ensure that the BCP would have a leading role. More than 40 generals and 800 officers discredited by their association with the German Army were purged or resigned when Bulgaria switched sides in the war. Although former Minister of War Damian Velchev returned to his post in the Fatherland Front coalition government, the BCP used the presence of Soviet occupation forces to push the old officer corps out of domestic politics. In July 1946, control of the army shifted from the Ministry of War to the full cabinet, 2,000 allegedly reactionary officers were purged, and Velchev resigned in protest. The combination of events provided an opening for the BCP to establish full control over the military. It conducted a decisive purge in October 1947. Accusing the remaining noncommunist senior officers of plotting to overthrow the Fatherland Front, the BCP dismissed one-third of the officer corps. After 1949 the BCP dominated the army, and party membership was obligatory for officers on active duty.

In the first postwar years, Bulgaria closely followed the example of Soviet military development and served Soviet interests in the Balkans. BCP leader Georgi Dimitrov exhorted Bulgarian officers to learn from the experience, strategy, and military art of the Soviet Union. He wanted the BPA to be exactly like the Soviet armed forces, with common missions, organization, weapons and equipment, and military science.

In 1946 Bulgaria participated in the initial conflict of the Cold War by aiding communist forces in the Greek civil war. Bulgarian support, including operating bases on Bulgarian territory, made possible communist victories near the border. As a result, Greece charged Bulgaria with numerous violations of its northern border. In 1947 the United Nations (UN) confirmed the Greek charges and later officially condemned Bulgaria for aiding communist guerrilla forces.

In the late 1940s, the Bulgarian armed forces were composed almost entirely of former partisans, peasants, and workers. Approximately 75 percent were members of the BCP or the Communist Youth League of Bulgaria (Komsomol). Many peasants and workers were attracted to the military by upward mobility and pay that was higher than in factories or farms. The armed forces were officially named the Bulgarian People's Army (BPA) in 1952. Bulgaria joined the Warsaw Pact on May 14, 1955, and contributed a token battalion to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1968. Bulgaria initiated a major military modernization program in the 1980s, adding its first T-72 tanks, MiG-23 fighters, Su-25 fighterbombers , Mi-24 attack helicopters, and 130 surface-to-surface missiles to its inventory. During that period, the education level and technical competence of the officer corps rose; by 1985 nearly 85 percent had received at least a secondary education (see Education , ch. 2).

Data as of June 1992