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Bulgaria Table of Contents


Government Organization for Defense

Prior to November 1989, the chairman of the State Defense Committee was the commander in chief of the BPA, and as such made every important decision about internal and external security. The secretary general of the BCP and president of the State Council automatically held the position of chairman of the State Defense Committee as well. The consolidation of these three positions had enabled a single person, Todor Zhivkov, to make political decisions on security issues and supervise their implementation within the government apparatus, especially as they concerned the economy and defense industries.

In the post-Zhivkov order, the commander in chief of the armed forces was the president of the republic, a position independent of party affiliation. In 1990 the National Security Council was formed as a consultative organ under the president after the State Defense Committee was abolished. The National Security Council advised the president in making decisions on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues related to national security, including defense preparedness, organization, training, and deployment of the armed forces, public order, and use of the internal security forces. The National Security Council included the vice president, the chairman of the Council of Ministers, the ministers of foreign affairs, national defense, internal affairs, and economy and planning and the chief of the General Staff. Decisions were implemented through the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of National Defense, and the General Staff.

The democratization of 1990 allowed the National Assembly to participate in making decisions on security issues rather than merely rubber-stamping decisions made elsewhere. In 1990 the National Assembly established a new legislative body, the Commission on National Security, to provide oversight for government activities in internal and external security. The commission's role remained largely undefined in 1991, but its nominal function was to enforce government compliance with the rule of law in security matters and to protect the rights of citizens.

Despite these organizational changes, the constitutional provisions, most laws and statutes, and instructions and regulations pertaining to national security and defense adopted by the government under the former BCP remained in effect. A complex of laws, drafted for inclusion in the new constitution ratified by the National Assembly in 1991, were designed to codify the many individual changes made in military practice and institutions after 1989.

During and after the ouster of Zhivkov, the prestige of the military among the people appeared to remain quite high. Despite its association with the former BCP regime, the military was credited for remaining in the barracks during the political transition. Although some long-serving, high-ranking officers were removed later, others remained and even advanced as a result of the ouster. Longtime Minister of National Defense and BCP Politburo member Army General Dobri Dzhurov was dismissed in 1990 in the aftermath of the democratic opening. However, Colonel General Atanas Semerdzhiev, first deputy minister of defense and chief of the General Staff under Zhivkov, rose to the post of minister of the interior in 1990. The retention and promotion of an officer like Semerdzhiev, formerly decorated and favored by Zhivkov himself, indicated the value placed on the stabilizing role of the military during this turbulent period.

Data as of June 1992