Bulgaria - Background

Governments of Bulgaria, 1946-present
Year Prime Minister Party composition
1946 Georgi Dimitrov BKP
1949 Vasil Kolarov BKP
1950 Vulko Chervenkov BKP
1956 Anton Yugov BKP
1962 Todor Zhivkov BKP
1971 Stanko Todorov BKP
1981 Grisha Filipov BKP
1986 Georgi Atanasov BKP
1990 Andrey Lukanov BKP
1990 Dimitar Iliev Popov1 Independent, BSP, SDS
1991 Philip Dimitrov SDS
1992 Liuben Berov2 Independent
1994 Reneta Indzhova2 Independent
1995 Zhan Videnov BSP (+ two minor parties)
1997 Stefan Sofiyanski3 SDS (+ three minor parties)
1997 Ivan Kostov SDS (+ three minor parties)
2001 Simeon Sakskoburggotski NDSV, DPS
2005 Sergei Stanishev KB, NDSV, DPS
2009 Boyko Borisov GERB
2013 Boyko Borisov GERB
2014 Boyko Borisov GERB


Note: The first party indicates Prime Minister's affiliation.
1 Popov, an independent, headed the coalition
2 Berov and Indzhova, both independents, headed a non-party “government of experts”. Indzhova as a cartetaker.
3 Caretaker

BKP: Bulgarian Communist Party (Balgarska Komunisticheska Partiya)
BSP: Bulgarian Socialist Party (Bulgarska sotsialisticheska partiya) - successor to the BKP.
SDS: Union of/United Democratic Forces (Sayuz na demokratichnite sili)
NDSV: The National Movement for Stability and Progress (Nacionalno dviženie za stabilnost i vazhod) - 2001-2005 as National Movement Simeon II (Nacionalno Dviženie - Simeon Vtori), acronym the same.
DPS: Movement for Rights and Freedoms (Dvizhenie za prava i svobodi)
KB: Coalition for Bulgaria (Koalicija za Balgarija) - coalition led by BSP.
GERB: Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (Grazhdani za evropeysko razvitie na Balgariya)

Bulgarian history at a glance

Bulgaria has a history both under the Byzantine Empire, the Mongols and the Ottoman Turks. The latter epoch lasted for nearly five centuries, from 1396 to 1878, a period that has been regarded as an era of cultural and national decline. Ottoman rule was also marked by the brutal oppression of Bulgarian Christians.

The national revival in the mid 1800s brought about socioeconomic development and national integration in Ottoman Bulgaria. The revival was manifested in the April 1876 anti-ottoman uprising. Whereas unsuccessful with overthrowing the Ottoman regime, the uprising drew the attention of the Great Powers towards the situation of the Bulgarians. Finally, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1877, partly to free its Orthodox Slav brothers. The war ended with Ottoman defeat in 1878. The San Stefano treaty (1878) provided for the establishment of a Greater Bulgaria, however, owing to discontent among the Great Powers, the borders were revisited in the Berlin treaty the same year. The treaty divided Great Bulgaria in three: the autonomous principality of Bulgaria (stretching from the Danube in the north to the Balkan mountain range in the south); the autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia (south of the Balkan mountain range); and the Macedonian and eastern Thracian lands which were returned to the sovereignty of the Sultan. Bulgaria adopted a democratic constitution and liberal policies were implemented. In 1885, Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia were united.

In the first Balkan war (1912-1913), the Balkan League (comprising Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro) fought the Ottoman Empire over the Macedonian and Thrace lands. In the second Balkan war (1913), the Greeks and Serbs had united against the Bulgarians to divide Macedonia between them and to prevent a Bulgarian hegemony in the area. The Romanians and the Ottomans took advantage of the situation and occupied Bulgarian lands. The war ended with an armistice in which Bulgaria was forced to give up most of the territories it had gained in the first Balkan war.
The political situation made Bulgaria align with Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I. The lost lands were in the hands of Serbia, Greece and Romania which allied with Britain and France, and Germany promised to restore the Bulgarian boundaries of the San Stefano treaty. In 1918, the Macedonian front was broken and Bulgaria was forced to sue for peace. In the treaty of Neuilly (1919), the country was again forced to give up lands won in the course of the war.

The 1920s were marked by political chaos. Upon the acceptance of the new borders and the agreement to suppress Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), a coup was organized in 1923 in which Stamboliyski, the prime minister and leader of the Agrarian Party, was killed. A right-wing government was installed that terrorized both the Agrarians and the Communists. After the 1931 election, the Agrarians again formed government, but economic hardship and the Great Depression led to another coup in 1934 thus again suppressing the rule of the Agrarian Party. An authoritarian regime was established and in the years that followed, all opposition parties were banned and Bulgaria was brought into an alliance with Germany and Italy.

In World War II, Bulgaria fought Greece and Yugoslavia and was allowed by its allies to again occupy Macedonian and Thrace lands. In 1944, as it became clear that Germany would eventually be defeated, Bulgaria withdrew from Greek and Yugoslav territory and started negotiating with the Allied forces. Notwithstanding these developments and the fact that Bulgaria declared war on Germany, the Soviet Union (SU) declared war on Bulgaria in September 1944, and only a few days later Soviet troops entered Sofia. A coalition government – comprising parties of the resistance movement Fatherland Front –  was installed but before long, most anti-communists were purged. The royal family was taken into arrest and deported in 1946.

In the initial years of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the country aimed to maintain close links with the south Slavs of Yugoslavia and Tito. With Tito’s expulsion from Cominform, Bulgarian “titoists” were hunted down. Todor Zhivkov, head of the Communist Party, took charge in Bulgaria in the following thirty years; first as secretary of the Communist Party (1954) and then as president of the country (1971). Throughout the Zhivkov period, which lasted until 1989, Bulgaria remained loyal to the SU. In the 1980s, Zhivkov’s regime grew increasingly corrupt and autocratic. In 1984-1985, a campaign to assimilate the Turks was carried out that drew significant attention from the international community. In November 1989, street demonstrations in Sofia, led by Ecoglasnost and other groups later forming the Union of Democratic Forces, were followed by legalization of opposition parties, and Zhivkov resigned. In 1990, the Communist Party gave up its claim to power and transformed into the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Free elections were organized the same year.


Rose, R. and Munroe, N. 2009. Parties and Elections in New European Democracies. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Bulgarian Central Election Commission

Rose, R. and Neil Munro (2003). Elections and Parties in New European Democracies . Washington: CQPress.

Dryzek, J. S. and Holmes L.T. (2002). Post-Communist Democratization: Political discourses across thirteen countries . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Inter-Parliamentary Union: PARLINE database on national parliaments

University of Essex,  Political Transformation and the Electoral Process in Post-Communist Europe: http://www.essex.ac.uk/elections/