Wrangelites in Bulgaria
Beaten, humiliated and bled
Bulgaria was an ideal candidate for a long internal turmoil. A fairly young, but small and poor state, it went through the First World War. Bulgaria entered there for a banal reason for such actions – the country harbored a grudge against Serbia, which beat it hard in the Second Balkan War.
And in order to take revenge on Serbia, you have to go to fight on the side of the Central Powers. Who, as we know, lost and “enjoyed” the consequences of defeat – territorial losses and impressive reparations. So Bulgaria suffered even more than Serbia, because of which Sofia decided to enter into a major conflict.
In terms of people, Bulgaria, by the way, has lost almost the most. Not in absolute numbers, of course – the total irrecoverable losses amounted to a little less than 200 thousand people. But in the share of the population, the indicator was extremely serious – 4.2 percent. Russia, for comparison, has only 1.7, while Germany has 1.6. The Bulgarians came closest (from large countries) to the French, but surpassed them too – they had 3.6 percent.
“We will fix everything”
Bulgaria lost the First World War. And those who were nobody became everything. This was especially true of Alexander Stamboliysky, a leftist politician who became famous during the war for propaganda against entering the war. For this, he even went to jail, but after the defeat, this position brought him political dividends. In 1919, Stamboliysky took over the country, becoming prime minister.
And then he took the appropriate course. For example, he stressed Bulgaria’s subordination to the world community in every possible way and made any concessions to the winners. This gave the result: Bulgaria agreed to restructure the reparations, stretching the payments for decades. And they took the country to the League of Nations. But the feeling of national pride, already undermined by defeats and enormous losses, demanded revenge.
In addition, Stamboliysky managed to anger the rich with an agrarian policy – he seized large unused land plots, crushed them, and gave them to those who could work them on their own.
As a result, all the accumulated problems, complexes and careless actions that hurt someone’s interests accumulated at one point, and Stamboliysky lost everything. It happened through a coup that broke out in June 1923. The main force involved was the Bulgarian war veterans, furious with the policy of concessions.
After short street battles – the prime minister’s people were unable to organize an intelligible resistance – Stamboliyskiy himself was arrested and shot. The country was headed by Alexander Tsankov, a much more “right” minded person.
All these events were greeted with joy by the Bulgarian communists. Stamboliysky was not left enough for them. Their plans and programs went much further than the confiscation of allotments from the rich – the communists were going to confiscate them themselves. And the indignation of the poor over the overthrow and murder of Stamboliysky gave every chance to do it.
It was necessary to organize an uprising – fortunately, by 1923, the communists of the world had accumulated abundant experience in this regard. The Comintern has become more active in Bulgaria. Local cadres also took part in the leadership – for example, the famous Bulgarian communist Georgy Dimitrov. In our country, he is mainly known as the author of one of the definitions of fascism – the Marxists use it to this day.
Initially, the plan of the uprising was a formula “village versus urban” plus active underground operations in the capital and its quick capture. Special importance was attached to the latter – even a “carnival” was planned with dressing up as cadets. But in the end, everything went to hell.
The disgusting conspiracy became the culprit – the plans of the communists became known to the government. And then a wave of preemptive arrests followed. The control structures of the underground were disrupted, and as a result, the communist actions began “out of order”, occurring between September 12 and 14, 1923.
Therefore, the rebels did not succeed in taking possession of the capital. They were quickly suppressed in most of the country. But the Reds managed to capture a number of the poorest regions in the northwest and south of the country. It was for them that the main struggle unfolded.
The Russian White emigres were a strong trump card in the hands of the government. These were not refined artistic natures and not brooding philosophers – they were talking about entire units of Wrangel’s army, which were in no hurry to disband themselves after defeat at home.
Russians in Bulgaria lived in a fairly decentralized manner. Most did hard work for very little money. But the Wrangelites were in no hurry to break ties – they believed that some kind of internal turmoil would surely happen in the newly formed USSR, and then they would have another chance.
The Bulgarian emigrants were given unambiguous instructions from the leaders of the White movement – not to arrange provocations, not to get involved in coups, not to touch the local communists. We must save our strength to return to Russia and not create problems for ourselves and our comrades in other countries. But if there is a mass demonstration of the Reds, actively – including in the service of the local authorities – to defend themselves. No one had any illusions about what the victorious communists would do with the White Guards.
Therefore, the Bulgarians received reinforcements – about half a thousand Wrangelites, which, by the standards of a small country, was very, very much. Especially when it began to burn everywhere, and there were many places where there were no garrisons at all.
This created funny but awkward situations. For example, a Russian officer was sent to one of the villages at the head of a small detachment – there were rumors that there was a communist meeting there. Arriving at the site, he did not find any signs of the latter. But on the other hand, he met with a local peasant, to whom, under the guise of an ordinary farm laborer, he had done dirty work in order to get money for a living. And then he was shy for a long time.
Red priests and fighting maidens
Emancipation reigned on the communist side at that time. For example, in the town of Belaya Slatina, an uprising inspired local school girls. Quickly fed up with the rallies, they got themselves revolvers and began to actively look for “counter”, and even shot someone.
True, you had to pay for everything. When the uprising failed, everyone had already managed to break the wood and beat the plates. The winners did not stand on ceremony with the losers – and belonging to the weaker sex here was rather an aggravating circumstance (in the eyes of the soldiers) than vice versa. And captive women could get more than just a bullet.
There was one more feature not quite familiar to our ears – “red priests”. To some village priests, the postulates of communist ideology seemed not only not contrary to their teachings, but quite the opposite. They saw parallels with early Christianity and blessed the flock to “do justice.”
Some priests even led the rebels, such as a priest by the name of Dinev from the village of Kolarovo. The fate of most of these “red priests” after the suppression of the uprising was, as a rule, unenviable.
The decisive wins
This very suppression took place not only due to the collapsed plans of the rebels. In the first days, and somewhere even weeks, it was not clear how the whole thing would end – the connection was broken, everywhere there was chaos, every day it was getting worse. And in this situation, much depended on the determination of the local military. And often from their determination to immediately go for harshness, or even cruelty.
In some cases, the decisiveness exceeded all reasonable limits and flew away somewhere in the vastness of insane genius. So, for example, Captain Manev with some four soldiers entered the village, which was considered “communist”. He immediately took up terror against the alleged instigators. Then he mobilized 20 people from their neighbors, gave them weapons, and led them into battle against the Reds. And, which is typical, he never received a single bullet in the back.
The actions of the Bulgarians in the settlements cleared of communists were also indicative. To shoot the identified activists – well, that’s understandable. Weigh out cuffs, to those who got under the arm. But – an important element – to break into the local wealthy. If they had weapons, no numbers, and at the same time did not lift a finger to stop the Reds. So that.
In no small measure thanks to such decisiveness on the ground, the uprising of the communists was suppressed in the last days of September. Everything lasted a little over two weeks and cost Bulgaria 5,000 dead – which, given the size and population of the country, is very, very much.
An era of instability
And then the turbulent decades began.
For some time, the defeated but not destroyed communists planned new uprisings. Then, in 1925, they set off an explosion in St. Sophia Cathedral, reaping a grim harvest of 213 lives.
Then the “red” theme subsided somewhat, but the demon of intrigue, coups and coups had already been released from the box. The country was in a fever all the interwar years. The internal life of Bulgaria “settled down” only in 1944, when Soviet tanks appeared in it.