U.S. Plans to Influence Bulgarian Political Changes
On November 10, 1989, the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall, leading figures in the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) forced Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria’s leader for more than 35 years, to resign. A coalition of opposition groups formed the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) on December 7, to coordinate efforts to “speed up the processes of democratization,” the group asserted in a statement calling for a multiparty system, market economy, independent unions, and a democratic constitution. Three days later, an estimated 50,000 protestors demonstrated in the streets of Sofia to pressure the new communist leadership, headed by Zhivkov’s former foreign minister, Petur Mladenov, for swifter reforms. The next day, Mladenov announced in a televised speech that the constitution would be amended to allow a multiparty system and that free parliamentary elections would be held in the spring. Following another mass protest a few days later, the Bulgarian leadership agreed to initiate roundtable talks with the opposition. In light of these developments, William Dale Montgomery, the US Deputy Chief of Mission in Sofia, sent the following message to the State Department in Washington with suggestions for US organizations to aid in the democratization effort, once again showing the strong interest and role the U.S. took in the break-up of communist Eastern Europe.
Sofia Embassy to U.S. Secretary of State, "Influencing Change in Bulgaria," 18 December 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
3. . . . WE BELIEVE THE DEVELOPING POLITICAL SITUATION HERE MAY RESULT IN APPROACHES TO US AS BULGARIA GEARS UP FOR WHAT WE HOPE WILL BE ITS FIRST FREE ELECTIONS SINCE WWII. WE WANT TO HELP BRING THAT ABOUT AND INSURE THAT THE INDEPENDENT GROUPS ARE GIVEN AS LEVEL A PLAYING FIELD AS POSSIBLE.
4. APART FROM THE BCP AND PERHAPS THE AGRARIANS, OUR ASSESSMENT IS THAT AT THE PRESENT TIME NONE OF THE INDEPENDENT GROUPS HAS THE EXPERIENCE, RESOURCES OR PERSONNEL TO MOUNT AN EFFECTIVE NATIONWIDE ELECTION CAMPAIGN. . . . THE LACK OF MEANS TO DISSEMINATE INFORMATION AND LACK OF EXPERIENCE IN THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS AND IN THE ORGANIZATION OF MASS MOVEMENTS WILL PROBABLY BE THE GREATEST HINDRANCES TO THEIR ELECTORAL SUCCESS.
5. IF, AS MLADENOV HAS PROPOSED, ELECTIONS ARE HELD IN MAY, THE TIME IS SHORT FOR ANY OF THE INFORMAL GROUPS TO ORGANIZE EFFECTIVELY. WE BELIEVE IT IS IN THE USG INTEREST--SHORT AND LONG-TERM--TO BE ABLE TO INFORM SUCH GROUPS ABOUT THE KINDS OF ASSISTANCE AND ADVICE THEY MIGHT EXPECT OR EXPLORE FROM U.S. ORGANIZATIONS (PRIVATE AND SEMIOFFICIAL) INTERESTED IN FOSTERING DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENT IN EASTERN EUROPE. . . .
7. . . . WE BELIEVE THERE IS MERIT INFORMING INDEPENDENT GROUPS ABOUT THE FUNCTIONS AND PROGRAMS OF THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY AND THE NATIONAL COMMITTEES OF THE DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PARTIES. FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE, THE IDEAL FIRST STEP WOULD BE SHORT-TERM VISITS BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE INFORMAL ORGANIZATIONS TO EXPLAIN THEIR PROGRAMS AND HOW THEY CAN BE OF HELP. ALONG THIS SAME LINE, IT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO KNOW IF THE U.S. TRADE UNION MOVEMENT WOULD BE PREPARED TO ENGAGE IN SIMILAR EFFORTS WITH PODKREPA [the new independent labor union] AND, MUCH LESS LIKELY FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE, THE REGULAR BULGARIAN TRADE UNION ORGANIZATION, WHICH NOW ASSERTS ITS FULL POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE FROM ANY PARTY.
8. IN TERMS OF INSTITUTION BUILDING, THE SIGNS ARE THAT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY WILL BECOME, IN SOME FASHION, A PERMANENTLY FUNCTIONING LEGISLATURE. LIKE OTHER LEGISLATURES IN EE [Eastern Europe], THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HAS NO EXPERIENCE OR CONCEPT OF STAFF WORK, INFORMATION GATHERING, GENUINE COMMITTEE HEARINGS ON DRAFT LEGISLATIONS, ETC. IT WOULD BE USEFUL, AT SOME EARLY POINT, TO BE ABLE TO OFFER SEMINARS ON HOW CONGRESS FUNCTIONS AND PERHAPS SEND NA DEPUTIES FOR STUDY VISITS TO THE U.S. . . .
HOWEVER, WE BELIEVE THAT THE DEVELOPMENTS HERE MERIT A COORDINATED, CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT WE CAN DO, OVER THE SHORT TIME, IN A PRACTICAL WAY TO PROMOTE DEMOCRATIC CHANGE HERE AND TO EXPAND OUR CONTACTS WITH EMERGING DEMOCRATICALLY-INCLINED FORCES. THE EMBASSY WOULD APPRECIATE THE DEPARTMENT'S COMMENTS ON THE FOREGOING, WITH PARTICULAR EMPHASIS ON PRACTICAL STEPS/PROGRAMS WE COULD DISCUSS WITH APPROPRIATE GROUPS HERE.