Bulgarian Intelligence’s ferocious reputation

Lieutenant General Pavel Sudoplatov, Soviet intelligence chief who ran the Trotsky assassination in 1940, revealed in his 1994 memoirs, Special Tasks, about the workings of the Bulgarian intelligence service, KDS, during the Cold War. Photo: wikipedia.

PART 2 – : Bulgarian Intelligence operations in Western Europe during the 1990s…
Bulgarian Intelligence’s ferocious reputation.
By Sasha Uzunov
Bulgaria has in two major wars chosen the wrong side but still ended up winning politically. During the Second World War Tsarist Bulgaria joined Adolf Hitler’s Axis alliance in 1941, invaded Macedonia and under a brutal occupation exterminated the Jewish population as well as killing many of Macedonia’s young Partizan resistance heroes. By 1944, with the Nazis on the the way out, a Communist coup led by Georgi Dimitrov, an ethnic Macedonian and one of USSR dictator Josif Stalin’s henchmen, made Bulgaria change sides and throw in its lot with the Soviet Union.
During the Cold War (1946-90), Sofia stood shoulder to shoulder with Moscow as it battled the West for ideological supremacy. With the collapse of communism, Bulgaria found itself an ally of the West and eventually a member of the European Union, despite its problems with the ill treatment of ethnic minorities such as the Macedonians, Turks and Roma.
A common thread running through all the regime changes in Sofia has been a ferocious but efficient secret police and a brutal enforcement of Bulgarian nationalism, albeit for Dimitrov’s brief reign.
Lieutenant General Pavel Sudoplatov, of the USSR’s NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) and the man who ran the successful assassination of Stalin’s rival Trotsky in 1940 in Mexico, wrote in his 1994 memoirs, Special Tasks:
When Dimitrov returned home to Bulgaria in 1944, he allowed the czarina (tsarina) and her son, the heir apparent, to leave the country with their personal wealth and property. Sensing the danger that might come from monarchist emigres, Dimitrov decided to eliminate the entire political opposition….and…didn’t face the existence of an emigre organisation in the West.”
Sudoplatov in 1970 met with Bulgaria’s Defence Minister General Ivan Genarov, who worked for the Soviet NKVD during WWII. Genarov said to Sudoplatov: “we ourselves learned the lesson from you and wiped them out…”
Yugoslavia’s own communist intelligence service UDBa, later to be renamed SDB, was also a student of the Soviet secret service.
In 1949 the Macedonian ethnic minority in Bulgaria had the misfortune of being caught in the middle of a quarrel between Yugoslav Communist ruler Marshal Tito and Stalin, as well as Dimitrov dying mysteriously. Overnight the Bulgarian communist regime cancelled their ethnic rights.
Under the xenophobic leadership of Todor Zhivkov (1954-89), the brutal policy of forced Bulgarisation took place. Macedonian orthodox Christians and Turkish Muslims were now Bulgarians. Ethnic Turk weightlifter Naim Suleymanoglou became Naum Shalamanov against his will. In 1986, with the help of local Turks, Suleymanoglou defected whilst competing in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1988 the “Pocket Hercules,” as he was known for his short height, won the Olympic Gold Medal for Turkey. Talking to members of Melbourne’ Turkish community during the 1988 Olympics, they said emotionally with tears in their eyes that Suleymanoglou was not only lifting heavy weights but carrying the burden of Bulgaria’s persecuted Turkish minority.
But Zhivkov’s secret police, Komitet za Darzhavna Sigurnost, KDS, also hunted ethnic Bulgarians who did not toe the political line. In 1978 Georgi Markov, a dissident living in Britain was killed by being stabbed with a poison tipped umbrella supplied by the Soviets.
General Sudoplatov wrote: “ [KGB General] Oleg Kalugin revealed that he passed poision…to the Bulgarian Special Services in Moscow…Kalugin was awarded a medal and a Browning automatic pistol from the Bulgarian government for his services.”
The KDS, like UDBa, had special departments monitoring ethnic groups. KDS’s 6th Directorate, 4th Department, handled pro-Turkish and pro-Macedonian nationalism.
A clever technique used to silence opposition abroad was created by the Tsarist Russian police in the late 1890s and later perfected by the Communists when when they seized power during the October Revolution in 1917.
Both UDBa and KDS would use the exact same technique, known as the TRUST operations.
In the 1920s, the Soviet Secret service, which began as the Cheka and evolved along the way as OGPU/NKVD/KGB, began to “lure emigre agents into the arms of the OGPU, including the Trust, an imaginary counter-revolutionary union of monarchists and social revolutionaries.” (Donald Rayfield, Stalin and his henchmen, Penguin Books, 2005, page 137).
In other words, Russian dissidents living in Paris were fooled into returning to fight the Soviet regime but were executed on their arrival. In the early 1970s UDBa managed to lure Croat nationalists back to Yugoslavia in a similar manner. Both UDBa and KDS’ infiltrated some Macedonian organisations in Western Europe, namely Belgium.
Surprisingly, Ivan “Vancho” Mihailov, the fanatical pro-Bulgarian Macedonian leader and Nazi collaborator was allowed to die in peace in Italy many decades after the end of WWII. Neither UDBa nor KDS were successful in getting rid of him.
As I explained in part 1 of my story, I came across individuals living in Belgium, who said they were Macedonians but who strongly believed in linking up with Bulgaria. The scenario they gave back in 1992 almost echoed that of what happened in 2001, a war between Albanians and Macedonians, with Macedonians running into the arms of Bulgaria for help! One individual, as I revealed in part 1, was able to come and go into Bulgaria, despite the regime’s paranoia of emigres.
With the end of the Cold War, Eastern European communists and secret police hit men transformed themselves into democrats and nationalists. Despite Bulgaria’s inclusion into the European Union, it still gives its Macedonian ethnic minority a hard time by denying their right to their own identity and language. It seems old habits die hard but only the tactics change.
When the ethnic Albanian insurgency erupted in Macedonia in 2001, Bulgaria, playing the nice guy despite not recognising a separate Macedonian identity, offered tanks and well as troops. The tanks were accepted but not the troops, as this report in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, spelled out:
BULGARIA offered to send troops to Macedonia yesterday, raising fears that the fighting on the border with Kosovo could spread into a regional conflict.

Officials in Sofia said President Petar Stoyanov told his Macedonian counterpart, Boris Trajkovski, that he was ready to send “Bulgarian armed forces if Macedonia asks its neighbours or international organisations”. Later, Mr Boiko Noev, Bulgaria’s Defence Minister, sought to play down the president’s remarks, saying there was no need to send troops. But the offer revived fears in the West of a pan-Balkan conflict centred on Macedonia.
Macedonia has been largely spared the past decade’s convulsions in the region. But it was the object of contention in the two Balkan wars early last century, and there have long been fears that it could be dragged into the strife that has accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria have in the past all made territorial claims on what is now Macedonia. But the latest threat comes from Albanian militants, seeking to create a “Greater Albania”, or at least a “Greater Kosovo”” (end of quote)
But this is the Balkans region, a region that is a victim of its past which it cannot let go !