7 September marks the birth of Todor Zhivkov, in 1911. He was the Bulgarian Head of State from 1954 to 1989.
Born into a poor family, Zhivkov was trained as a printer’s apprentice and soon became active politically. In 1931, he attended a meeting of the Workers Party which was raided by police. At this meeting, 29 people were arrested, including Zhivkov, who threw a brick at the head of the chief of police. In 1933, he set up a Defense Committee for his fellow Bulgarian activist Gerogi Dimitrov, who was on trial in Nazi Germany. In 1942, he helped to found the Anti-Fascist newspaper ‘Fatherland Front’ which advocated resistance to Bulgarian collaboration with the Third Reich. Zhivkov would author the paper’s first two editorials.
After World War II, Bulgaria was the second poorest nation in Europe, by the close of the 1950’s real wages had increased 75%, medical facilities and doctors became widely available, and in 1957 collective farm workers benefited from the first agricultural pension and welfare system in Eastern Europe. Prior to his administration, the annual number of university graduates and post-graduate students was only 1,200. By the time Zhivkov was removed from the post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers, that number had risen to 30,000 annually. Due to his longevity in office Zhivkov was a familiar figure to all Bulgarians. His rough peasant manners were frequently chided by intellectual critics, but the general population often referred to him by the nicknames “our Uncle” or “papa”.
His late daughter Lyudmilla was an active promotor of Bulgarian culture and her legacy continues to earn accolades for raising awareness of Bulgarian arts.
After his death in 1998, a statue of Zhivkov was erected in his hometown of Pravets. Below is a brief video clip of Zhivkov meeting with then Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat…