Primary Sources

Sofia Embassy cable, Bulgarian CP Politburo Member Lukanov Delivers 'Signal' on Bulgarian Developments and U.S.-Bulgarian Relations

Description

The resignation of long-time communist leader Todor Zhivkov in November 1989 left the future of Bulgarian politics uncertain. The disgruntled communist elites who had usurped the aging leader would now attempt to reform the system without undermining the party. A few days after the coup one of the instigators, Andrej Lukanov, tried to convince the U.S. ambassador in Sofia that this plan was feasible. The ambassador presented a cautiously positive account of the meeting in this November 20 diplomatic cable. Among his concerns was the treatment of the ethnic Turkish community, who since the mid-1980s had been the target of the state's often brutal assimilation campaign. Government pressure in spring 1989 forced thousands of families to flee to neighboring Turkey, a key American ally. Moreover, ethnic and (especially) ecological issues had mobilized independent activism that could counter party interests. Already in October 1989 the independent group Ecoglasnost had damaged the state's reputation by publicizing Bulgaria's appalling environmental record at the international Ecoforum conference in Sofia. Within a few weeks an independent coalition would form to challenge the party's dominance of the reform agenda. In light of the enormous problems and unsettled political scene, the ambassador took seriously Lukanov's ambivalent wait-and-see approach.

Source

Sofia Embassy to U.S. Secretary of State, "Bulgarian CP Politburo Member Lukanov Delivers 'Signal' on Bulgarian Developments and U.S.-Bulgarian Relations," 20 November 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

...

3 . DURING ALMOST AN HOUR OF PRIVATE CONVERSATION WITH THE AMBASSADOR NOVEMBER 17 AT THE RESIDENCE, NEWLY-ELECTED FULL BCP POLITBURO MEMBER AND PARTY SECRETARY ANDREY LUKANOV SPOKE CONFIDENTLY BUT SOBERLY ABOUT THE NEW LEADERSHIP'S INTENTIONS FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE AND READINESS FOR A "BREAK-THROUGH" IN BILATERAL RELATIONS....

...

6. ASKED TO COMMENT ON WHERE THE NEW LEADERSHIP WOULD FOCUS ITS EFFORTS OVER THE COMING WEEKS AND MONTHS, LUKANOV SAID IT WOULD CONCENTRATE ON DOING A THOROUGH REVIEW/ANALYSIS OF THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY....

...

8 . ON THE MATTER OF DEMOCRATIZATION OF SOCIETY, LUKANOV SAID HE, MLADENOV AND OTHERS WERE DEADLY SERIOUS ABOUT ITS DEVELOPMENT, ALTHOUGH THE PROCESS COULD TAKE MANY FORMS.... THE LEADERSHIP WAS PREPARED FOR AN OPEN DIALOGUE. INFORMAL GROUPS SHOULD HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT THEIR VIEWS PUBLICLY IN THE PAPERS AND THE MEDIA. THE PARTY FELT ITSELF STRONG ENOUGH TO WIN IN OPEN DEBATE. NO ONE WOULD BE JAILED/TRIED FOR POLITICAL VIEWS ... IN HIS ONLY NOTE OF CAUTION ON DEMOCRATIZATION HE HOPED THE AMBASSADOR AND THE EMBASSY WOULD NOT GIVE UNDUE WEIGHT TO THE VIEWS OF SUCH INDEPENDENT GROUPS. LUKANOV SAID THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE WOULD BE OPEN TO THE AMBASSADOR TO DISCUSS MATTERS OF INTEREST.

9. THE AMBASSADOR SAID HE WAS ENCOURAGED BY LUKANOV'S COMMENTS ON DEMOCRATIZATION AND WHAT WE HAD OBSERVED OVER THE LAST WEEK IN TERMS OF THE TREATMENT OF INDEPENDENT GROUPS ... AT THE SAME TIME, HE COULD NOT/NOT HELP BUT NOTE THAT NONE OF THE SPEECHES AT THE CRUCIAL CENTRAL COMMITTEE HAD BEEN PUBLISHED AND THAT VIRTUALLY ALL OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, RESULTING IN SWEEPING PERSONNEL AND ORGANIZATION CHANGES, HAD BEEN BY UNANIMOUS VOTE. LUKANOV RESPONDED BY SAYING THAT SPEECHES FROM THE PLENUM WOULD BE PUBLISHED, PERHAPS ONLY EXTENSIVE SUMMARIES, BECAUSE THE LEADERSHIP DID NOT WANT TO ENFLAME PASSIONS AND WANTED TO PRESENT MATTERS IN A DIGNIFIED FASHION....

10. TURNING TO FOREIGN POLICY, LUKANOV INDICATED THERE WOULD BE CHANGE WITH RESPECT TO TURKEY, BUT THIS WOULD HAVE TO EVOLVE. THE KEY THING WAS FOR TURKEY NOT/NOT TO DO ANYTHING THAT WOULD AFFECT "BULGARIAN NATIONAL INTEGRITY." THE LEADERSHIP WAS AND WOULD PERMIT RELIGIOUS RITES AND CUSTOMS, THE USE OF THE TURKISH LANGUAGE AND, ALTHOUGH NOT SPECIFIC, LUKANOV INDICATED THE USE OF TURKISH NAMES WAS ALSO UNDER CONSIDERATION. THE AMBASSADOR SAID SUCH DEVELOPMENTS WOULD BE VERY WELCOME, POSITIVELY NOTED, AND HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR BILATERAL RELATIONS.

...

12. COMMENT: LUKANOV’S MESSAGE WAS CLEAR. BY ITS ACTIONS TO DATE, THE NEW LEADERSHIP DOES INTEND TO MOVE TOWARD A MORE OPEN SOCIETY, WITH PLURALISM OF OPINION IF NOT, AT THIS STAGE, MULTIPLE PARTIES (EXCLUDING THE AGRARIAN PARTY). APART FROM THIS, HIS MOST NOTEWORTHY COMMENTS RELATED TO THE LEADERSHIP'S POTENTIAL APPROACH TO THE ETHNIC TURKISH ISSUE. AS THE NOVEMBER 18 DEMONSTRATIONS INDICATED (SOFIA 6289), THE LEADERSHIP'S ABILITY TO EFFECT CHANGE WHILE NOT LOSING SUPPORT OF PART OF THE POPULATION SHOULD NOT/NOT BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED. HE IS PROBABLY BEING CANDID IN SAYING THAT THE SITUATION WILL HAVE TO EVOLVE.

How to Cite this Source

Sofia Embassy, "Sofia Embassy cable, Bulgarian CP Politburo Member Lukanov Delivers 'Signal' on Bulgarian Developments and U.S.-Bulgarian Relations," Making the History of 1989, Item #505, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/505 (accessed November 27 2014, 3:14 am).

Associated Files