Bulgarian Arms Delivery to Third World Countries, 1950-1989, by Jordan Baev
Bulgaria was systematically blamed during the last Cold War decades for sponsoring and masterminding various terrorist organizations and “illegal” arms delivery to different subversive groups around the world. This issue created significant public interest immediately after the overthrow of the longest ruling Warsaw Pact leader, Todor Zhivkov in November 1989. However, the authentic state archival evidences were quoted just selectively by several media publications, and were not available to researchers during the first post-communist years. It should be mentioned, though, that the most valuable decision making documentation was kept at the Bulgarian Communist Party Central Committee records, which have been delivered to the Central State Archives in 1993. More than two hundred files of Record 64 at the Communist Party archive (so called Top Secret Resolutions “B” of the CC BCP Politburo and Secretariat) can be directly referred to the issue of the “free military and financial aid” rendered to various political parties, organizations, and fronts from approximately forty Third World countries. Many of these documents were used in our previous publications [i] or even published entirely in few interactive documentary volumes [ii] .
In the period 2000 – 2005 an Inter-agency state commission consequently declassified more than 3,000 files from the Bulgarian government's Confidential Records for the whole period of Communist rule (1944 – 1990). It was done according to the actual regulation, in particular, in accordance with Article 34 and § 9 of the Classified Information Protection Act (2002) [iii] . At the end of 2005 – early 2006 the declassified documents from this collection (Fond 136, Record 86) were transferred to the Bulgarian Central State Archives. Approximately 10 % of those files have a direct bearing on the arms delivery and transfer, part of them within the Warsaw Pact, and the rest – with more than thirty Third World countries. For the purposes of this representative archival publication we selected 105 documents for the period 1950 – 1989, which have never been published or even used in a research publication so far. For the period of the Communist regime it was frequently used a Soviet phrase for Prime Minister (Chairman of the Council of Ministers); however, in the translations of the documents we are using the actual term. Besides, we have standardized the titles of the Council of Ministers official documents as for Resolution ; although in several of them actually were used similar terms ( Decision, Order, etc.). Another phrase that was euphemistically used in the official documentation special equipment in fact meant exactly arms & military equipment . Few of the documents were not connected directly with arms delivery, but with humanitarian aid; we included them in the collection since they refer to the period of a sharp local armed conflict in the respective area. Some of the documents also reflect the issue of the regular coordination and exchange of mutual information among the Warsaw Pact countries; they even hint at a backdoor rivalry between Warsaw Pact governments for the Third World arms market in few particular cases.
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Bulgarian involvement in the arms delivery market started in the years of the most significant eruption of the decolonization process in the late 1950s, early 1960s. However, arms delivery to political and guerrilla groups and organizations peaked in the mid-1970s. For the period 1970 – 1974 the expenses for free arms transfer from Bulgaria to Third World guerrilla movements were about 7 million BG leva, which is an increase of 39 % in comparison with the late 1960s [iv] . For the period 1976 – 1980, the costs in this direction increased to 12 million BG leva. A CC BCP Secretariat resolution “B” of 16 July 1976 approved a proposal for providing 30 mortars 88mm, 10 mortars 107mm, 10 000 carbines “Manliher”, 10 000 other rifles, 500 sub-machine guns “Sudaev”, 50 machine guns “Zbroyovka”, 40 000 shells, 1 800 transmitters, etc. in the subsequent five years. [v] As for the 1980s, a summarized documentary report of the Prosecutor's Case No. 3/1992, which treated the delivery of “free military aid” to the undeveloped countries, has clarified its total amount for the period 1981 – 1989 to be 243 537 000 BG leva (about 120 million USD in those years). Reportedly, the armament sales and military constructions in Third World countries amounted to a drastic jump within one decade only – from 25 million USD in 1972 to nearly 1 billion USD in 1985 [vi] .
A principal distinction should be made, however, between the military aid to clandestine national-liberation and political organizations and arms supply to legitimate governments following official bilateral agreements. Still, it is difficult to give a universal definition and determine precisely the typology of ‘terrorism' since we know of many cases in modern and contemporary history when illegal armed movements formed future ruling elites, and their haunted leaders and commanders became respectful presidents or prime ministers of their newly established states. Even today, it is difficult to agree on a common understanding of ‘terrorism', as displayed during the UN General Assembly discussion on the subject in September 2005. In the bi-polar postwar world, with its strong political and ideological confrontation, the logic of support rendered to one or another hostile ethnic and national group sometimes simply followed the principle “the enemy of our enemy is our friend”. This logic was even more complicated in the mid-1960s: with the Soviet-Chinese split, there were three key actors competing for influence inside the Third World regions.
We will not discuss here the financial and material aid given to other Communist and leftist parties through multilateral channels, such as the well known Fund “Moscow”, which is a separate story [vii] . The aim of this archival collection is limited to the basic issue, which was not explored on a documentary basis so far: the “special” military aid and sales delivered to various governments in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The introduction reviews furthermore some new evidence on the arms transfer to radical political and guerrilla groups in Third World countries.
Practical interest of a Bulgarian government toward a Third World conflict in the country's modern history was shown for the first time during the Korean War (1950 – 1953). Of course, a small and undeveloped agrarian country like postwar Bulgaria could not contribute substantially with any concrete assistance; its support was required by Moscow rather as a symbolical moral gesture in favor of Stalin and Mao's backing for North Korea. The sending of a “medicine brigade” of 28 military physicians to North Korea in 1952—1953 was in fact done under the flag of the Bulgarian Red Cross organization [viii] .
The first effective Bulgarian arms transfer to a Third World national movement started in the late 1950s during the Algerian war (1958–1962). On 19 August 1958, the CC BCP Politburo adopted a proposal of the Minister of Defense for sending material aid to the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). In January 1959, material aid was transported to the Algerian rebels via Tunisia. A new secret resolution for arms delivery to FLN through Morocco was signed on 3 November 1960 [ix] . A few years later, Todor Zhivkov explained in a confidential conversation with Raul Castro that “the staff for providing the weaponry from the socialist countries for the Algerian insurgents was in Bulgaria” [x] . The secret operation of arms delivery was assigned to Bulgarian Foreign Intelligence officers, who organized several routes with the ship “Bulgaria”. According to the memoirs of Zhivko Zhivkov, former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister, the weaponry for the Algerian rebel army had been unshipped at a Moroccan port with a special authorization by the king of Morocco [xi] . According to the memoirs of former State Security Committee (KDS) Chairman, Gen. Angel Solakov, this operation initiated the establishment of a special Bulgarian organization for arms delivery and sales under the KDS control, known as KINTEX [xii] . In 1961–1962, the Bulgarian government approved few other resolutions for delivery of free military and material aid to the provisional Algerian government. More than 300 young Algerian cadets received their education or training in Bulgarian Air Force and Army military schools in 1963–1965.
Soon after the Suez crisis of 1956, the contacts between Bulgaria and certain Arab nationalist regimes intensified. Soviet bloc experts assessed the Middle East conflict as a part of the global confrontation and as a direct application of the Eisenhower Doctrine for securing US strategic dominance in the region. The first ever CC BCP Politburo decision for arms delivery to countries in the Middle East was signed on 15 May 1959 [xiii] . In a similar Politburo discussion of May 1960, it was argued that after the radical reduction of Bulgarian armed forces in the period 1956 – 1959 a lot of Soviet and Bulgarian made small arms arsenal should be sold to Third World countries like Iraq, UAR, Indonesia, Ghana, etc. [xiv] In January 1962, a Syrian military delegation visited Sofia. The head of the delegation raised the question for delivery of military equipment for strengthening the “defense capacity of the Syrian armed forces against the hostile neighboring countries Israel and Turkey”. The Syrian leadership's request included in four main points: 1. Assistance for the delivery of Soviet and Czechoslovak planes, tanks, missiles, artillery pieces, etc. not produced in Bulgaria [xv] ; 2. Bulgarian made military equipment to be delivered to Syria (ammunitions for T-34 and T-54 tanks, parachutes, B-10 & B-11 heavy guns, land and ground mines, 120 mm, 107 mm, 82 mm mortars, etc.); 3. Training of pilots and paratroopers, and assistance for the establishment of an Air Force school in Syria; 4. Bulgarian participation in the buildup of Syrian military airfields, command posts, depots, repairs bases, etc. [xvi]
In 1963, a new agreement for the delivery of military equipment to the UAR (Egypt) was signed [xvii] . The CC BCP Secretariat approved also another resolution for arms delivery to the Yemenite Arabic Republic in June 1963. In February 1965, a Bulgarian ship delivered to the Yemenite port Hodeyda weapons and military equipment for about 800,000 BG leva (about 500,000 USD). Paradoxically, during the negotiations on Bulgarian made arms sales, problems emerged due to the fact that Syria and Egypt were almost totally rearmed with Soviet weaponry. When in 1964 a Bulgarian arms trade state company proposed a large amount of RPG-7 grenadiers' sale to Egypt, the agreement failed because it was not coordinated with the USSR – the principal RPG-7 supplier to the Arab world. At the end of October 1966, a Bulgarian military delegation, headed by Defense Minister General Dobri Dzhurov, paid a visit to the UAR. A long-term bilateral agreement on military equipment shipment to UAR for the period 1967–1971 was signed in Cairo on 31 October. However, the ratification of the agreement was postponed until late May 1967 [xviii] , and thus the agreed military small arms and ammunition did not arrive in the UAR before the war in June. On 31 October 1966, another protocol for the training of Egyptian officers and the exchange of observers during the military exercises carried out in both countries was signed [xix] . Obviously, only the protocol was made public, and the agreement for arms delivery was kept secret. Therefore, in a telegram of 2 November 1966, the US diplomatic representative in Sofia, John McSweeney, informed Washington that “Dzhurov visit to UAR was only return for UAR defense minister visit last March”, and did not confirme the rumors for “shipments of military equipment” [xx] .
During the Six-Day War in June 1967, Bulgaria backed the Arab countries decisively. On 13 June, the Bulgarian government adopted a secret decision for immediate delivery of free military aid to Syria, and the CC BCP Secretariat approved a proposal for providing of humanitarian aid (medical goods, food, dress, etc.) to the Arab nations for more than 1 million BG leva a week later. [xxi] On 18 July 1967, the CC BCP Politburo discussed proposals made by the ministers of foreign affairs and foreign trade and approved a secret resolution for “extending the contacts with the Arab countries”. The defense minister was entrusted with the task to elaborate a new program for “increasing the collaboration with the Defense ministries in the UAR, Syria, and Algeria”. Among the recommended measures were the enlargement of the arms delivery and the increase of admission of Arab officers to Bulgarian military schools. [xxii] According to an additional suggestion, the Bulgarian military and economic aid and loans, which should be delivered to the Arab states after the June war, exceeded the sum of 22 million BG leva. The Council of Ministers approved a secret decision for additional arms sale to Syria on 27 September.
In February 1972, few months after Zhivkov's visit to Syria and Egypt, the Bulgarian government accepted a special program for the development of the relations with the Arab countries, where particular attention was devoted to the issue of arms delivery for these countries. During the October 1973 war between Israel and the “frontline” Arab countries, Bulgaria organized an urgent sea and air bridge to the Middle East with the code name “Operation Danube”. From 11 to 30 October 1973, according to Gen. Dzhurov's report, Bulgaria delivered to the Arab states 3,799 tons of armaments, ammunition and military equipment amounting to 20,019,885 leva. Out of them, armaments, ammunition and equipment at a cost of 5,145,860 leva were delivered to Syria by the Ministry of Defense. Besides, more than 5,000 tons of armaments, ammunition and equipment on behalf of Poland were transferred via Bulgarian Black Sea ports [xxiii] .
Also the “special” contacts with Iraq were intensified in the mid-1970s. According to a CC BCP Politburo resolution of 25 July 1974, Bulgaria was involved in the build-up of the Iraqi “military-industrial complex” with arms and military equipment sales for 80 million USD. As many other countries, Bulgaria provided arms delivery for both countries during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
The first contacts of the Warsaw Pact countries with Yasir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its formations were established at a comparatively later date. The reason for that was a certain restraint from official connections till the end of the 1960s, caused by the PLO strong extremist line with its objective to liquidate the state of Israel and its rejection of UN Security Council Resolution No. 242 of 22 nd November 1967. That is most probably the reason, which made the Bulgarian leadership abandon a request to supply with arms “the military wing of the PLO” in 1968 [xxiv] . At the same time, however, Moscow commented with concern on the intensification of Chinese activities in the Middle East through the extension of China's contacts with the PLO, providing considerable military assistance and admitting for training large groups of Palestinian fighters. The 1970 Black September events in Jordan focused Soviet attention even more strongly on the PLO, which resulted in Arafat's secret first-time visit in the USSR in 1970.
A CC BCP Politburo document of July 1972 underlined especially the changes of previous Soviet Bloc attitude toward the PLO: “The ways to establish contacts with the PLO are to be studied and our own approach to the Palestinian Liberation Movement elaborated.” [xxv] In February 1973, Arafat visited Bulgaria for the first time. The Bulgarian Politburo, with a secret resolution, accepted a new request to deliver weapons (via Syria and Libya) to the PLO four years later [xxvi] . After the Israeli operation Peace for Galilee in Lebanon in June 1982, the Bulgarian government sent humanitarian and military aid to the PLO, amounting to over 1 million dollars [xxvii] . At the same time the Bulgarian special services carefully observed the terrorist actions of some Palestinian organizations, the contacts of their functionaries with Islamic fundamentalist groups like “Muslim Brothers”.
The first economic assistance to North Vietnam (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) was agreed upon in 1956. The visit of the Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh to Bulgaria in 1957 strengthened the economic cooperation between Bulgaria and North Vietnam. Free military aid was granted to the neighboring Asian country Laos with the governmental decrees of 1 March 1961 and 25 July 1962. In 1964–1966, the government of Laos received material aid of about 80,000–100,000 BG leva annually from Bulgaria.
During the height of the Indochina war (1965–1971), the Bulgarian government approved 17 secret resolutions for providing military, financial, economic, and humanitarian aid to North Vietnam. On 21 August 1971, the North Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong addressed a personal letter to his Bulgarian colleague Stanko Todorov with a request for free economic aid amounting to 7,5 million rubles, and additional military aid including 15,000 fire arms, 1,300 antitank grenadiers, and a lot of ammunition. [xxviii] On the eve of Pham Van Dong's planned visit to Sofia in July 1973, the CC BCP Politburo approved a secret Resolution No. 440 for free military aid to North Vietnam for 7 million rubles. [xxix] For the period 1965–1975, the Bulgarian government delivered credits to North Vietnam at a total amount of 60 million rubles. In 1974–1976, Bulgaria provided new military equipment also to Laos for about 650 000 BG leva.
In the 1980s, Bulgarian economic and military aid to Cambodia and Afghanistan increased significantly. In the agreed draft of a treaty for friendship and cooperation between Bulgaria and Afghanistan of May 1979, scheduled to be officially signed during the expected visit of Afghan President Nur Muhammad Taraki in Sofia, there was a special Article 5 for military collaboration [xxx] . However, due to Taraki's assassination and the subsequent Soviet invasion in December 1979, the signing of the treaty was postponed for two years, and in the last version of 1981, the paragraph on military collaboration was no longer included. For the period 1979–1986, Bulgaria delivered credits amounting to 31 million USD to Afghanistan and free military and technical aid for about 1,5 million USD. In May 1987, after an urgent request by Moscow, the Bulgarian leadership discussed an extension of the economic aid to this country. [xxxi] The last CC BCP Politburo decision for rendering new free aid to Afghanistan was approved on 12 August 1988.
A few days after the murder of the first Prime Minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, the Bulgarian leadership decided to send weaponry and military equipment to his political formation [xxxii] . After confidential talks with one of Lumumba's ministers, Pier Moulele, in Cairo in April 1961, another shipment of 200 tons weaponry was transferred through Egypt, but disappeared somewhere on Sudanese territory. Four years later a new significant Bulgarian arms delivery [xxxiii] to one of the few parallel Congolese “governments”, those located in Stanleyville, was successfully transported through the territory of Egypt, Sudan, and Tanzania. The military aid for this Congolese formation amounted to 500,000 USD, while in the same time about 100 Congolese men received military training in Bulgaria.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Bulgaria established military contacts with some more new states in Africa – Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, Mali, Nigeria, and Guinea. Several hundreds of young African military received their training and education in Bulgarian military schools. A few national-liberation movements in South Africa – MPLA of Aghostino Neto in Angola, FRELIMO of Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel in Mozambique, PAIGC of Amilcar Kabral in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, ZANU of Robert Mugabe and ZAPU of Joshua Nkomo in South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), ANK of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo in South Africa, and SWAPO of Sam Nuyoma in Namibia – received modest financial and military aid and military training in Bulgaria since the mid-1960s.
Since the establishment of pro-Marxist regimes in Angola and Mozambique, seven new protocols for military support to these two countries were agreed upon for the period 1976–1983 only. For instance, in 1982 free Bulgarian arms delivery to Mozambique exceeded 750,000 BG leva; it included 1,000 automatic guns “Shpagin”, 50 machine guns “RPD-44”, 1,000 automatic pistols “TT”, 500 carbines, 2,000 shells, etc. [xxxiv] Meanwhile, in 1981 about 50 Mozambique State Security servicemen were trained at the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior Special High School [xxxv] .
In the 1970s, the economic and military cooperation between Bulgaria and the African Horn countries was also extended. While Bulgaria maintained more effective collaboration with Somalia until 1976, the Bulgarian government redirected its relations to Ethiopia after the signing of the Soviet-Ethiopian secret defensive agreement in December 1976. [xxxvi] In July 1980, Todor Zhivkov and his Ethiopian colleague Mengistu Haile Mariam signed a treaty for friendship and cooperation between Bulgaria and Ethiopia in Sofia, the only signed treaty with a non-European country including a special article (§ 5) for “collaboration in the military realm” [xxxvii].
The Cuban Revolution in January 1959 and the Missile Crisis in October 1962 induced a more serious interest in the political events in the Western Hemisphere. Few months after the Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) invasion, the Bulgarian government responded positively to a request for arms delivery to Cuba. Arms delivery and credits to Cuba exceeded 8 million USD in 1961. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the CC BCP Politburo adopted another secret resolution for arms delivery to Cuba [xxxviii] . During a visit to Cuba, KDS Chairman Angel Solakov discussed with Sergio Del Valle, Cuban Minister of the Interior, and Manuel Pi ň eiro, Cuban State Security Director, the possibility to organize sabotage and counterintelligence training for 30 Cuban officers in Bulgaria in May 1966. On 8 June 1966, the CC BCP Secretariat adopted a secret decision for the counterintelligence training of 30 Cuban state security servicemen. Todor Zhivkov's handwritten resolution on the document stated: “We have no conditions to train people in sabotage”. [xxxix] In February 1967, a new protocol for arms export to Cuba was signed in Havana.
In the 1960s, Bulgaria gave some underground Latin American Communist Parties limited financial support. Following a request by Fidel Castro, the CC BCP Secretariat approved a proposal for the delivery of 35,000 old German carbines “Mauser” to Cuba on 2 November 1961 [xl] . The guns had to be transferred by the Cubans to Latin American leftist guerrilla groups. At the same time, the Bulgarian leadership met the strategy of the guerrilla warfare in the region with a degree of hostility or at least with suspicion during the subsequent years, and it declined all requests for military training of Latin American guerrillas. A report by the Bulgarian Embassy in Havana of March 1966 clearly stated: “We have recently sent several reports concerning the training of people in Cuba who are subsequently infiltrated back in other Latin American countries with the task to organize armed resistance […] The guerrilla actions and their simultaneous opening in a wide range of countries are considered as task number one. This strategy, its objective being to provoke imperialist occupation of the Latin American countries which will allegedly serve as an incentive for an anti-imperialist final victorious struggle, is very difficult to understand.” [xli]
Very soon after the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua in July 1979, and in reply to a FSLN request, the CC BCP Secretariat adopted a secret resolution offering Nicaragua special military and other aid to the extent of a total of 2,000,000 USD. Another secret resolution, adopted in December 1979, provided for the training of 20 Sandinista functionaries intelligence and counter-intelligence courses in the Ministry of the Interior Special High School in Sofia. With a resolution of 19 February 1980, their number was increased to sixty men. [xlii] New special assistance points were agreed during the visit of the Nicaraguan Ministers of the Interior and Defense, Thomas Borge and Humberto Ortega, in Bulgaria in March 1980. In January 1981, a new agreement for giving Nicaragua three credit loans amounting to a total of 18,500,000 USD was signed. Thirty Nicaraguan fighter pilots passed a training course on the Soviet airplanes M-21 and M-23 at an Air Force Academy in North-East Bulgaria.
In August 1982, the Bulgarian government adopted a secret resolution offering Nicaragua free aid amounting to the currency equivalent of 374,000 BG leva (about 200,000 USD) in the form of arms and military equipment. The delivery consisted of 25 light machine-guns МG-34 , 2,000 sub-machine guns “Shpagin”, 300 revolvers Zbrojovka M-27, 1,000 army uniforms and other military outfits. [xliii] In January 1984, additional military aid of 340,000 BG leva was supplied. The political contacts between Bulgaria and Nicaragua were indeed characterized by utmost dynamic and intensity. Nearly all members of the Sandinista leadership visited Bulgaria in the first five following July 1979. In 1984, the Secretariat of the CC BCP approved more than ten resolutions referring to Nicaragua only!
During the second stage of the Sandinista rule (1985–1989), Sofia continued to give the Sandinista regime considerable economic aid and foreign policy support. The agreements reached during the visit of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in Bulgaria, during his tour of several European countries in April-May 1985, were particularly important. During his talks with Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov in the evening of 2 May1985, Ortega explained that because of the devastation the civil war had caused, Nicaragua needed urgent economic aid in the amount of 356 million USD. The Nicaraguan president informed that he had allegedly agreed with Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez to receive 25 million USD credit and to have the refund of other 10 million USD postponed. As a total, the Sandinista government expected to receive 190 million USD as credit and 50 million USD as free aid from Western Europe, but he expected the other funds required to be provided by the COMECON countries. Todor Zhivkov promised that Bulgaria would supply the Nicaraguan economy with “considerable material aid”. [xliv] Additional “special” assistance was promised, actually being lights guns and electronic devices. During the period 1979-1988, Bulgaria in total delivered credits for more than 200 million USD, including 60 million USD free aid to Nicaragua.
Soon after the Sandinista victory, the Sub-commission of Inter-American Affairs held an important discussion on the “Cuban-Soviet” connections in the Western Hemisphere. Detailed information was presented by the DIA deputy director, the head of the CIA Soviet and East-European Department, and other intelligence aces. [xlv] By the end of 1980, the North American intelligence services received documents of the Salvadorian Communist Party and Revolutionary People's Party, which included data of armament and ammunitions delivered to the leftist rebels of El Salvador. Those materials showed that Bulgaria had undertaken to deliver to the El Salvador guerrillas 300 sub-machine guns produced in Germany with 200,000 cartridges and 10,000 combat uniforms. While also Hungary and Czechoslovakia contributed considerable shares of material aid, Vietnam and the GDR supplied the biggest part of the armament. [xlvi] The archival documents show that the information circulated in the West regarding the Bulgarian participation in the Central American armament traffic was in general true.
For the period 1981-1984, the Bulgarian aid to the National Liberation Front “Farabundo Marti” [FFMLN] amounted to a total of 854,000 BG leva, covering mainly infantry armament, medical supplies and clothing. During one of his five visits to Bulgaria in 1980-1984, the leader of the Salvadorian communists, Jorge Shafik Handal, requested additional “special” assistance in the amount of 250,000 BG leva (50 grenade-discharges with ammunitions, combat uniforms, medical supplies, type-writers). From early 1980 through the end of 1983, Bulgarian aid given to the leftist rebels in El Salvador for armament and medical supplies amounted to 600,000 BG leva. [xlvii]
First contacts between Sofia and the four leftist resistance forces in Guatemala were established in 1979. In November 1980, those groups reached an agreement to build up a united front – the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity [URNG]. The Bulgarian Communist Party maintained regular contacts with the main armed force of the front – the Revolutionary Organization of the Armed People [ORPA]. It was agreed that the Bulgarian side would cover the travel expenses of a large group of the front activists who were to attend a special course in “guerrilla warfare” in Vietnam. In the same year, with the help of the Bulgarian Otechestven Front [Fatherland Front], medical supplies, food products and 150 tents of a total value of 80,000 BG leva were sent to the URNG via Cuba. [xlviii]
From 1982 to 1984, the Bulgarian government sent “special” aid totaling 15,000 USD via Managua to the leftist guerrillas in Honduras. The request for training of Honduras rebels was turned down in Bulgaria. According to information received in Sofia, personnel of the Honduras rebel groups attended short-term military training courses in the USSR, the GDR and Cuba at that time.
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Since the beginning of the transition to a pluralist democracy, the Bulgarian society has reassessed the ideological and political motivation of the economic and military support given to “Third World” countries during the previous decades. New interpretations and questions came forward with regard to that “special assistance”. At what point did it go beyond accepted international norms and to what degree did it turn from a natural obligation according to the international community's principles into an unjustified “burden” to the economy of small Bulgaria? The generous free aid extended to left radical fronts and movements was undoubtedly dictated by political propaganda motives and matters of prestige and by no means within the limited resource and economic possibilities of Bulgaria, especially during the period of the intensifying economic recession of the 1980's.
The new authorities started a legal inquiry against Todor Zhivkov and 22 other political and state officials, based on accusations of “unlawful” decision making mechanism for their secret rendering of large amounts of financial, material, and military aid to various governments and organizations in Third World countries. The Prosecutor's Case No. 3/1992, initiated in September 1992, was finally closed in March 2000; it rejected the accusations for “embezzlement of state funds for the benefit of foreign legal subjects” since all Council of Ministers or CC BCP Politburo resolutions were approved in conformity with the acting Constitution and other legislative and administrative acts. This court decision was preceded by similar conclusions, made by the Supreme Court of Austria (Resolution from 5 May 1994 for rejection the requested extradition of former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Ognyan Doinov and by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (Resolution on “Lukanov Case” No. 25/1996/644/829 from 20 March 1997).
In the mid-1980s, Western media publications claimed that Bulgaria had taken the fifth place in the world in the arms delivery to the Third World. Actually, the relative part of this small Balkan country within the world sales market was rather modest in comparison with the other Warsaw Pact countries. According to official US statistics reports, for the period 1969 – 1988 sixty six countries had realized arms export at a total amount of 588 billion USD. Ten of these countries realized 89 % of the arms sales for the period, while the two superpowers made 65 % of the entire armament business. Among the ten leading countries were two more from Eastern Europe – Czechoslovakia with 14 billion USD arms export at place seven, and Poland with 13 billion USD ranking eighth. [xlix]
Another representative statistics guide indicated the fifteen largest arms export countries for the period 1983 – 1988. It mentioned five Warsaw Pact countries, but not Bulgaria and Romania. [l] Similarly, if we take into account other kinds of Soviet bloc “military presence” (defense and security advisers and personnel), Bulgarian “military presence” in the Third World countries was significantly smaller than the one of the GDR and Czechoslovakia, not speaking of Cuba and North Korea. [li] In this sense, of course, it is difficult to compare the Bulgarian arms trade company KINTEX with its larger Czechoslovak sister organization OMNIPOL or the Third World infiltration of Bulgarian military and security services with the respective institutions in the GDR. However, the destiny of the defense industries in all former Warsaw Pact member states in the course of their rapid conversion to civil production, drastic diminution, and mass unemployment [lii] , was similar everywhere in Eastern Europe.
JORDAN BAEV is a graduate of Sofia University and received his PhD in Contemporary History at the Bulgarian Academy of Science. Currently he is Associate Professor in Contemporary History and a Senior Research Fellow in Security Studies at the Rakovski Defense & Staff College, a Visiting Professor in International Relations at the New Bulgarian University, and a Visiting Lecturer at the Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sofia. He is Vice-President of the Bulgarian Association of Military History and a Board member of the Bulgarian Association of American & Transatlantic Studies as well as the coordinator of the Cold War Research Group-Bulgaria, a PHP affiliate. For contacts: baevj (at) pims.org
[i] Jordan Baev, “Bulgarskata voenna pomosht za Tretia sviat” [Bulgarian military aid to the Third world], Voenen zhurnal , Sofia, 1992, No. 6, p. 101-109; 1993, No. 1, p. 121-128; Voennopoliticheskite konflikti sled Vtorata svetovna vojna I Bulgaria [Military-Political conflicts after World War II and Bulgaria], (Sofia: Georgi Pobedonosets, 1995), p. 229-343; “Bulgaria and the Armed Conflict in Central America. 1979-1989”, in Armies and Politics (Moscow: RPR, 2002), 33-45
[ii] Jordan Baev (ed.), Bulgaria and the Cold War. Documents from Todor Zhivkov's Personal Records. 1956-1989 (Sofia: 96+, 2002); Bulgarian Intelligence & Security Services in the Cold War years (Sofia: 96+, 2005).
[iii] Article 34
(1) The following shall be the protection periods of classified information, to commence from the date of generation:
1. of information marked as "Top Secret", 30 years;
2. of information marked as "Secret", 15 years;
3. of information marked as "Confidential", five years;
4. of information classified as an official secret, two years.
- - - - - -
§ 9. (1) Any materials and documents prepared before the entry into force of this Act, and marked as "Top Secret of Special Importance", "Top Secret", or "Secret", shall be deemed to be marked respectively as "Top Secret", "Secret", and "Confidential", and the respective durations of classification shall be determined in pursuance of Article 34(1) and shall be deemed to have commenced with the date of preparation such material or document.
[iv] Central State Archives ( CDA ), Sofia , Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 352, p. 3-6.
[v] Ibid, File 478 – published in Bulgaria and the Cold War (Sofia, 2002).
[vi] Ognyan Doinov, Spomeni [Memoirs], (Sofia: Trud, 2002), p. 88.
[vii] Bulgaria joint this confidential operation, initially started in 1950 formally through Bucharest but actually always managed by Moscow, in 1959. However, Bulgarian “quota” to Moscow Fund was relatively small, as viewed from the following table, and it stopped in 1987, when Bulgaria like Hungary and Poland declined Gorbachev's urge for continuing to finance other sister political parties in Western Europe and Third World countries. – RGANI, Moscow, Fond-collection 89, Record 38, Files 1-56.
From Bulgaria /rubles/
3 200 000
9 268 000
15 750 000
18 700 000
[viii] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 24 [CC BCP Military Department files], File 134, p. 1-5.
[ix] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 6 [Politburo files], File 3691, 3811; Record 33 [CC BCP Foreign Policy & International Relations Department files], File 11; Record 64, File 274.
[x] CDA, Fond 378-B [Todor Zhivkov Personal files], Record 1, File 140, p. 24.
[xi] Zhivko Zhivkov, Kruglata masa na Politburo [Politburo Round Table], Sofia 1991, p. 107.
[xii] Angel Solakov, Predsedatelyat na KDS razkazva (Sofia 1993), p. 95. Actually this arms trade company received the well known name KINTEX with a governmental decree of July 1966.
[xiii] CDA , Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 258, p. 1.
[xiv] Ibid , File 268, p. 2-4.
[xv] This request was immediately transferred to CC CPSU Presidium, and very soon Moscow informed Sofia that “the question had been resolved positively in principle”.
[xvi] CDA , Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 294, p. 10-13. On 25 January 1962 CC BCP Politburo approved a special secret resolution on the matter. In the next years Bulgaria participated in the construction of Syrian airfields near Damascus, Dmer and Tifor, and of a naval base in Latakia.
[xvii] Approved with a Bulgarian Council of Ministers' Secret Protocol No. 354 / 16 May 1963.
[xviii] Diplomatic Archive , Sofia, Record 23, File 3104, p. 5-13.
[xix] Ibid , Record 22, File 3653; CDA , Fond 1-B, Record 6, File 6610.
[xx] NARA, Washington, Record Group 59, Central Files, 1964-1966, Box 1952, POL-BUL.
[xxi] CDA , Fond 1-B, Record 8 [CC BCP Secretariat files], File 7749, p. 2-3.
[xxii] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 6, File 6770, p. 61-65.
[xxiii] Ibid, Fond 136, Record 86, File 817, p. 6-24. – The document will be published in a forthcoming documentary volume Bulgaria and the Middle East Conflict .
[xxiv] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 378.
[xxv] Ibid, Record 35 [CC BCP Politburo files], File 3304.
[xxvi] Ibid, Record 64, File 512.
[xxvii] Jordan Baev, Military-Political Conflicts after World War II and Bulgaria , Sofia 1995, p. 295-297.
[xxviii] Diplomatic Archive , Sofia, Record 22-P, File 35.
[xxix] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 35, File 4243, p. 7.
[xxx] Diplomatic Archive , Sofia, Record 35, File 338.
[xxxi] CDA , Fond 1-B, Record 68 [CC BCP Politburo files] , File 87.
[xxxii] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 280.
[xxxiii] Ibid, File 326.
[xxxiv] Archive of the Ministry of the Interior, Sofia, Fond 1, Record 12, File 356 – Published in Bulgarian Intelligence & Security Services in the Cold War years (Sofia 2005).
[xxxv] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 617.
[xxxvi] See Bruce Porter, The USSR in Third World Conflicts (New York 1987), p. 196.
[xxxvii] Vanshna politika na NR Bulgaria [Foreign Policy of PR of Bulgaria], Documents, Vol. 5 (Sofia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1988), p. 464.
[xxxviii] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 314.
[xxxix] Ibid, File 352.
[xl] Ibid, File 291 – Published in Bulgaria and the Cold War (Sofia, 2002).
[xli] Diplomatic Archive, Sofia, Record 22.
[xlii] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 64, File 578, 583.
[xliii] Ibid, File 386 – Published in Bulgarian Intelligence & Security Services in the Cold War years .
[xliv] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record 60 [CC BCP meetings], File 356, p. 1-39.
[xlv] Diplomatic Archive, Sofia, Documentation: Impact on Cuban-Soviet ties in the Western Hemisphere. Hearings before the Subcommittee on Inter-American affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. House of representatives, 96 th Congress, Second Session, Washington 1980.
[xlvi] Diplomatic Archive, Sofia, Documentation: Communist Interference in El Salvador. US Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, Special Report No. 80, February 23, 1981, p. 1-8.
[xlvii] CDA, Fond 1-B, Record of CC BCP Foreign Policy & International Relations Department , 1967-1990 (unprocessed).
[xlviii] Archive of the International Relations Department, National Council of the Fatherland Front, Sofia [unprocessed].
[xlix] World Military and Social Expenditures 1991 (Washington D.C., 1991), p. 17.
[l] SIPRI Yearbook 1988 (Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 176-179.
[li] The Military Balance 1982/1983 (London: IISS, 1982), p. 17, 22, 103; Christopher Cocker, NATO, the Warsaw Pact and Africa (New York, 1986), p. 192; Bruce Porter, The USSR in Third World Conflicts (New York, 1987), p. 55.
[lii] See, for instance, R. Cupitt, “The Political Economy of Arms Exports in Post-communist Societies: the Cases of Poland and the CSFR”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 1993, No. 1, p. 93-99.