The National Palace of Culture in Sofia is the main venue of domestic events during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Few realise that this mega-building, which opened its doors in 1981, was named after Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov, who ruled Bulgaria with an iron fist from 1956 to 1989.
Zhivkova was a phenomenon in Bulgarian recent history. The influential daughter of the country’s strongman broke all the rules by openly developing her interests in religious mysticism and the occult. But she was also a powerful promoter of the Bulgarian cultural identity, especially in her capacity as Minister of Culture, since 1975 until her death in 1981.
1981 was the year of the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state, founded by Khan Asparuh. At that time, for a small country as Bulgaria, to claim ancient historic roots was seen as an offense in Moscow. A group of prominent Bulgarian intellectuals gathered around Zhivkova and pushed through an ambitious project to celebrate the anniversary by investing in culture and informing the nation of its proud history.
For the Soviet Union, such policy was seen not only as offensive, but close to betrayal. But it was very difficult for them to stop the developments, as it was Zhivkov’s daughter who was in the lead.
Lyudmila Zhivkova died on 21 July 1981 under unclear circumstances and the popular saying is that the KGB took her life. The Palace of Culture opened in 1981 and it was only natural that it was named after her.
Mysticism is not new in Bulgarian politics. King Boris the Third of Bulgaria, who reigned from 1918 until his death in 1943, was a devout follower of Peter Deunov, also known by his spiritual name Beins Douno, a Bulgarian philosopher and spiritual teacher who developed a form of esoteric Christianity.
Boyko Borissov, today’s Bulgarian strongman is known to have at least two astrologers, one being Svetoslav Spassov, a Vienna-based Bulgarian diplomat, and the other, Ekaterina Zaharieva, the minister for foreign affairs.
Last September Borissov delayed the announcement of the candidate from his political force GERB until after the presidential elections, upon the advice of his astrologer Zaharieva, as he personally confessed himself. However, this did not prevent him from losing the election.
The person who knows the most about Zhivkova is Georgi Yordanov, who worked closely with her and took over as Minister of Culture. He’s alive and well, and I have his contact details.