Sofia, Moscow Clash over Soviet Army's Role in Bulgaria during WW II

Sofia, Moscow Clash over Soviet Army's Role in Bulgaria during WW II

September 4 (BTA) - A documentary exhibition marking the
75th anniversary of the liberation of Eastern Europe from Nazism
 and organized by the Russian Embassy in Sofia, has prompted a
clash between Sofia and Moscow over the role of the Soviet Army
in Bulgaria during World War II. Organized by the Embassy of
Russia in Bulgaria and due to open at the Russian Cultural and
Information Centre in Sofia on September 9, the event was
advertised with a snapshot of the march of the Soviet army and a
 caption saying "Liberation of Bulgaria".

In a statement released Tuesday the Foreign Ministry in Sofia
said that while it acknowledges the contribution of the USSR to
the defeat of Nazism in Europe, "the Soviet Army's bayonets
brought to the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe half a
century of repression, stifling of civil conscience, distorted
economic development and detachment from the dynamics of
processes in the developed European countries."

The Ministry denies having anything to do with this event and
warns that if the Russian Embassy backs the "dubious historical
thesis of 'liberation'," it would intervene in the domestic
political debate in this country.

The statement recalls that the Soviet troops entered Bulgarian
territory after the USSR declared war on Bulgaria on September
5, 1944, the same day when Bulgaria's newly appointed democratic
 government severed diplomatic relations with Germany and
confirmed the country's neutrality towards Russia. "The
long-term consequences for Bulgaria were the same as for the
rest of the East European countries which fell into the Soviet
zone of influence: 45 years' rule by a totalitarian regime based
 on the Bolshevik-Leninist version of the Communist ideology,"
the Ministry said.

Russian Military Historical Society Science Director Mikhail
Myagkov reacted to the statement on Wednesday, arguing that
"Bulgaria would have hardly existed at present as an independent
 state if it was not liberated from the pro-fascist regime in
1944 by the Red Army." "Blindness to history has never helped
the normal development of society," Myagkov told the TASS News

He described as "betrayal of the memory of their forefathers"
what he called the Bulgarian leaders' attempts to forget "the
enormous economic assistance that the USSR rendered to Bulgaria
during and after the war and the fact that Bulgarians and Soviet
 soldiers fought together in 1944-1945". Myagkov insisted that
"the overwhelming majority of Bulgarians now regard the Red Army
 precisely as a liberator army." "The state of war between the
USSR and Bulgaria lasted just several days, and not a single
Soviet soldier was killed by a Bulgarian bullet. This was indeed
 a manifestation of our brotherhood and sincere friendship
between our people," the historian pointed out. 

The Russian Embassy in Sofia expressed its perplexity in
connection with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry's statement,
stressing that the forthcoming exhibition "has nothing to do
with the present Bulgarian domestic debate or particular
political forces" and has been organized for the sole purpose of
 familiarizing the Bulgarian public with Russian archive

The exhibits come from the State Central Archive of Contemporary
 History, the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History,
the Central Archive of the Russian Defence Ministry, and the
Foreign Policy Archive of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Also on Wednesday, Kristian Vigenin MP of the opposition
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), a former foreign minister and
incumbent Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly, said that,
in the opinion of his party, the Foreign Ministry's statement
"runs counter to one of the priorities of Bulgaria's foreign
policy: normalization of relations between Bulgaria and the
Russian Federation," which has been demonstrated in recent
months by the Government through visits by the Prime Minister
and the National Assembly Chair and, respectively, by the
President. "The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry calls into question
and even denies the role of Russia (the USSR at that time) in
the victory over Nazism in WW II," Vigenin said, quoted by the
BSP in a press release. He argued that in its statement the
Bulgarian Foreign  Ministry took a "needlessly strongly worded
and aggressive stand" towards the Russian Embassy. LG

Source: Sofia