Controversy Marks Bulgaria's Communist Dictator 100th Anniversary

Domestic | September 7, 2011, Wednesday // 13:28|  views

Visitors are pictured inside the Todor Zhivkov's museum in his native town of Pravets on September 7, 2011, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Communist dictator's birth. Photo by BGNES

The Bulgarian town of Pravets, near the capital Sofia, birth place of Communist dictator, Todor Zhivkov, is marking Wednesday the latter's 100th anniversary.

The preparations had been feverish and round-the-clock in the last few months, including renovations of his house and the entire street where it is located, with its sidewalks, and the nearby park. In addition, a monument of Zhivkov is being erected in the yard of his house on September 7, his birthday.

The manager of the house, which also includes an adjacent museum, is quoted saying that many people from all over the world, with the majority being Bulgarian, come to visit and to say a few  good words about Zhivkov.

The display boasts as a focal point gifts given to the Bulgarian Communist leader by foreign officials, including a camel saddle bestowed by now-struggling Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, Samurai weaponry, a scale-model of an ancient English fortress, of the Kremlin, of Taj Mahal, and metal figurines, representing an African procession, among others. The first items for the display came 10 years ago from the State Residence in Sofia's Boyana suburb and now amount to 239. There is also an exhibit of photographs showing significant moments from Zhivkov's life since high school until he became Head of State, including many pictures with other countries' leaders.

The museum is under the authority of the National History Museum and it is maintained by the Pravets Town Hall. Admission is only BGN 2 while guided tours cost BGN 5 per person.

Pravets is only 56 km east of Sofia and is accessible by a highway, built during the Zhivkov regime. Until today, the town is a display of the dictator's influence – well-maintained, with low crime rate and good business perspectives.

This is also the location of the sprawling hotel and golf club, owned by former Pravets Mayor (1968 – 1989), Vasil Zlatev, father of the Lukoil Bulgaria CEO, Valentin Zlatev.

The town owns the only preserved monuments of the dictator – found 10 years ago by his grand-daughter, Evgeniya Zhivkova, who searched for them all over the country. One is now on his grave and the other will be opened Wednesday in the yard of his house.

Todor Khristov Zhivkov (September 7, 1911 – August 5, 1998) was a communist politician and leader of the People's Republic of Bulgaria (PRB) from March 4, 1954 until November 10, 1989.

He became First Secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1954 and remained on this position for 35 years, until 1989, thus becoming the longest-serving leader of any Eastern Bloc nation. His rule marked a period of both economic stability and political repressions for Bulgaria, dominated by complete submission of Bulgaria to the Soviet rule, which lasted until the deterioration of East-West relations in the 1980s, when a stagnating economic situation, a worsening international image and growing careerism and corruption in the BCP weakened his positions. He resigned on November 10, 1989, under pressure by senior BCP members due to his refusal to recognize problems. Only two months later, in January 1990, the People's Republic of Bulgaria and its Communist regime ceased to exist.

Zhivkov remains one of the most controversial figures in Bulgarian history, triggering outrage and hate on one side and veneration and nostalgia on the other. The celebration of his 100th anniversary in Bulgaria has also been marked by controversy and heated debates.

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Tags: controversy, dictator, communist, 100th anniversary, exhbit, museum, regime, totalitarian, Pravets, Todor Zhivkov


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