Bulgaria moves to the right


By Tom Jordan and Tracy Sorensen

Rapidly rising prices, property restitution laws with bizarre results, neo-fascist second world war military leaders rehabilitated: Bulgaria, is solidifying its move to the right.

A picture of the country nearly two years after the overthrow of the Brezhnevite regime of Todor Zhivkov emerges from an account, sent from Sofia in mid-February, by a long-time Communist, now a supporter of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, to a political associate living in Australia.

"What is most frightening", the writer comments, "is the decision of parliament to annul the findings of the popular courts, and pardon all the militarists who killed partisans during the second world war."

She writes that people who had killed the leaders of the underground anti-fascist movement during, "who had buried the bodies of those who were not quite dead" and had burned the houses of partisans and those who hid them, would now be pardoned.

Parliament has passed a law to give property back to those who owned it before the nationalisations of the late 1940s and 1950s. "The ten billion leva the previous owners had owed to the state for taxes and mortgages have simply been written off."

A law is being prepared to remove those now occupying land that was privately owned before nationalisation. People who have occupied land for decades would have to vacate in favour of previous owners, their descendants or "any crook who can get documents to prove that they are the previous owners or their descendants".

"In the national parliament, the so-called democrats, the CDC, say to people who have built small houses on these plots of land that they will have to pull them down, take the materials and move them somewhere else. This has actually created a bit of a tense situation even among the ranks of the 'blues' [the CDC].

"Suddenly it appears that apartments bought 20 years ago, flats and so on, will have to be given back to the previous owners. At best they will have three years to vacate them."

In the centre of Sofia, "we are left without food shops and bakeries, because the previous and now reconstituted owners

have suddenly raised the rents from approximately 100 leva a month, which is nothing, to 20-30,000 leva a month."

Unable to pay such rents, shop owners are closing down their businesses, while others are opening stores selling cheap goods from the bazaars of the Middle East. Many shops are now indistinguishable from the special shops used by the elite under the old regime, where goods were available, but only for a high price and only for hard currency.

The correspondent writes that prices are rising beyond the ability of ordinary people to pay, while industrial production is down. In January 1992 industrial output was 34% of output in January 1991.

In a country in which the average wage is 100-200 leva, the correspondent had, in January, paid out 350 leva for heating her flat, 105 for electricity, 368 for the telephone and 300 for rent. A jar of beans was selling for 11.50 leva, and a kilo of ham was 54.

Meanwhile, a "settling of accounts" was going on within the CDC. "The more moderate people among their ranks are now being eliminated from political life by the extreme right."

The party was furious with a well-known journalist who had written articles for the international press saying that the government had no program.

"This caused him to be accused by the government and others of being a secret police agent and in the KGB, because as a result of his articles, the Deutsche Bank and the IMF have told the Bulgarian government that they will not help them."

The strangest thing, says the correspondent, is that people seem to have forgotten the wrongs done by Todor Zhivkov and the regime he led.

"No-one wants to know about the wheelings and dealings of the old party leaders, the speculation they had engaged in, the idea that Turks had to be Bulgarianised; all this has been forgotten.

"Now, all this rubbish is being poured onto the head of Andrei Lukanov [the reform Communist, now leader of the opposition Socialist Party, who initiated the move to oust Zhivkov].

"The right wing is blaming him for all the old Communist policies. Even if there were an earthquake, Lukanov would be held responsible for it."

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