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Bulgaria Table of Contents



The BCP gained control of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Fatherland Front coalition after the overthrow of the wartime government on September 9, 1944. The party used these posts to increase its political power and ultimately to push all noncommunists out of the cabinet. In the subsequent reorganization of the national police force, party loyalists replaced officers suspected of having cooperated with the Gestapo. BCP cadres held every important national, regional, and municipal position in the new People's Militia that replaced the prewar local police force. The BCP also replaced the prewar court system with People's Courts, in which party members served as judges and jurors. With some modifications, the internal security and justice systems established in the mid-1940s remained in place for the next forty years, bolstering one-party rule.

The fall of Zhivkov in November 1989 and the end of the communist monopoly on political power brought overt pressure for democratic reform of the justice system. In 1991 some improvements were evident, but other problems persisted. The Ministry of Internal Affairs retained its broad responsibility for maintaining law and order, law enforcement, internal security, and foreign intelligence activities. Before 1989 it had been more powerful and important than the judicial system it was supposed to serve; in 1991 many still considered the ministry a reactionary and sinister force because of past involvement in repressive activities and indications of continued party influence within its ranks. However, a new union of its employees called for significant reforms including the depoliticization and professionalization of its work force. Immediately after the Zhivkov ouster, substantial public pressure called for depoliticizing the ministry, which one high official described as the "armed detachment of the party." Early in 1990, a reorganization plan proposed drastic cuts in budgeting and personnel and a complete revision of the ministry's functions.

Bulgaria lost social stability between 1989 and 1991. Increased social tension, crime, violence, and civil disorder were the unintended consequences of greater freedom. A crisis of law enforcement followed in the wake of political relaxation and democratization. The police seemed unsure whether to enforce the laws of the legal system of the discredited Zhivkov regime. This uncertainty was reflected when the People's Militia, formerly an efficient and feared instrument of the communist regime, took no action to stop vandals and arsonists who attacked and burned the BSP headquarters in August 1990.

Data as of June 1992