Thursday, April 5, 2012
The Monarchist Movement in Bulgaria
Like so many others, the political field in Bulgaria came to be dominated by pro-Nazi or pro-Soviet factions and neither had much consideration for the monarchy. The royal government tried to walk a fine line between the two but were not helped by continuing communist infiltration of the country and a short-lived invasion by Greece both of which pushed Bulgaria toward the Axis camp. After the Axis came to dominate the Balkans, occupying Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece, Bulgaria had little choice but to come to some sort of an accommodation with Germany yet was still wary enough to refuse to participate in the Axis invasion of Soviet Russia. Of course, this did nothing to save them when the tide of war turned against the Axis and Joseph Stalin gained Allied acquiescence to his desire to dominate Eastern Europe. In 1944 the USSR declared war on Bulgaria and entered the country without opposition. A communist-backed coup ousted the sitting government, arrested the regents and replaced them with reliable communists. The Royal Family did their best to keep a low profile but, as expected, in 1946 (by which time the country had been under communist occupation long enough to guarantee the desired result) a plebiscite was held which abolished the monarchy, forcing the young Tsar Simeon II and his family to leave Bulgaria and go into exile.
It was during these years though that an organized monarchist movement began to form around the exiled Tsar, advocating for his restoration though, naturally, they could have little actual impact so long as the communist tyranny remained in place in Bulgaria. By the end of the 1980’s, however, there seemed to be hope as the Soviet colossus started to topple. The Tsar, who had been forced to leave his homeland at an early age, was 54 in 1991 and was a figure who could inspire. In an effort to remain detached from politics, he tried not to show favoritism among the various anti-communist factions but he let it be known that he would return to the throne if asked and he continued to use his legitimate title. This was the great opportunity for the monarchists as the communist bloc came crashing down and they could make the argument to Bulgarians for the first time since World War II that the monarchy was an option and would help reunite and restore the country after so many years of being brutalized Soviet satellite. Interest in the monarchy in Bulgaria was revived with a fresh look being taken at the late Tsar Boris III while monarchists were quick to point out that his son was ready, willing and able to resume the throne.
A new constitution was put into effect that was republican, ending the immediate hope of a restoration of the monarchy under Tsar Simeon II. However, the Tsar remained personally very popular. In fact, his support may have actually increased because of the cancellation of the referendum as Bulgarians could see the Tsar as having been unfairly cut out of the political competition. In 1996 the Tsar was finally able to return to Bulgaria where he was greeted by large, enthusiastic crowds of people cheering for his restoration. There was still obviously a great deal of support for the monarchy in Bulgaria but the entrenched political establishment wanted no part of it and at a time when emerging East European countries depended a great deal on foreign aid, particularly from the United States, it did not help that the Clinton administration opposed an restoration of monarchy in the region, President Clinton’s Secretary of State famously saying, “we don’t do kings”.