To understand Zhivkov, one has to look at Boris III, in the same way as to understand Borissov, one needs to look at Zhivkov, to whom Borissov has been a bodyguard.
Boris III, Bulgaria’s king who came to the throne in 1918 and died in 1943, is famous for having said “Always with Germany, never against Russia”. This was the answer he gave in the summer of 1942, asked by the Reich’s foreign minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop what was his leading principle in foreign policy. Although Bulgaria was an ally to Hitler’s Germany, Boris III resisted pressure and did not send Bulgarian troops at the Eastern front (he also resisted pressure regarding the deportation of Jews from the territory of Bulgaria). Many in Bulgaria believe that his mysterious death, on 28 August 1943, at the age of 49, 13 days after returning from a very unpleasant visit to Hitler in Wolfschaze (Wolf’s Lair) near Rastenburg, is because he was poisoned there.
Good relations with Germany have been a leading principle for Zhivkov during communism. In 2004 I interviewed the long-serving foreign minister of Germany Hans-Dietrich Genscher (who served as foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, and died last year). Genscher told me that Zhivkov “admired” Germany and in an effort to illustrate the closeness between the two nations referred to their alliance during the two World Wars. Zhivkov also hinted that he doesn’t exclude a German reunification.
The famous quote has become very fashionable these days. It has been professed by the son of Boris III, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as Prime Minister (2001-2005), and also largely by the current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who has held the power with minor interruptions since 2009. In contrast, the former President Rossen Plevneliev (2012-2017) was seen as a NATO hawk. He was the only leader still in office among 17 mostly Eastern European personalities who signed a letter to President-elect Donald Trump asking him not to improve relations with Russia.
Borissov, in contrast, in June 2016 took distance from recent Romania-led attempts to militarise the Black Sea
“I want to see in the Black Sea sailing ships, yachts, tourists, love and peace,” Borissov said on that occasion.
To be continued. If you don’t want to miss the follow-up, make sure you subscribe to the website. It’s free.