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Bulgaria Table of Contents


Construction Troops

Between 12,000 and 15,000 conscripts traditionally served as construction troops. They had their origin in the compulsory labor service established by the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU) government in 1920 (see Stamboliiski and Agrarian Reform , ch. 1). Commanded by a general and organized into military units, this labor service built roads, railroads, and entire industrial enterprises. Although service in the Construction Troops satisfied military service requirements, these units were controlled by the Ministry of Construction, Architecture, and Public Services, and they received little or no military training. According to the chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, these units typically drafted Turks and other ethnic minorities considered unsuitable for service in combat units because of linguistic barriers or perceived political unreliability (see Turks , ch. 2; The Movement for Rights and Freedoms , ch. 4).

After the fall of Zhivkov, the Construction Troops received considerable attention. It was alleged that the Construction Troops had built over 20,000 apartments and houses for members of the BCP elite during the last ten years of the Zhivkov regime. High-ranking officers reportedly could requisition labor crews from the Construction Troops to work on their apartments or country homes. The Construction Troops often were reported as working in uranium mines, metallurgical industries, and other unsafe environments that did not attract enough civilian workers.

In 1991 the future of the construction troops depended on the status of professionalization in the armed forces. Opponents argued that these units were not a necessary component of professional armed forces, and that their functions should devolve to the civilian economy. Proponents insisted that the Construction Troops provided a low-cost labor force for important national projects including factories, power plants, and other capital investment projects, as well as useful occupational training in the building trades for a large number of conscripts. In the first half of the 1980s, a reported 1.2 billion leva (for value of the lev, see Glossary) worth of labor came from this source for more than 700 projects. Similar debates surrounded specially designated railroad troops and transportation troops.

Data as of June 1992