Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1988

Bulgaria is a centralized Marxist-Leninist state in which the
Bulgarian Conununist Party, dominated since 1954 by Todor
Zhivkov, holds a monopoly of power and exercises pervasive
control over political, economic, social, and cultural
activities. A small second party, totally subservient to the
Communist party, is represented in the Government and National
Assembly; no other political parties are tolerated.
An omnipresent network of state security police and militia
(uniformed national police) deters or suppresses open
expressions of opposition to the regime or its policies.
Military border guards and "internal troops" augment internal
All production and commercial facilities, except for small
private agricultural plots and small-scale businesses that can
be operated by an individual, family, or a cooperative without
hired labor, are owned by the State. The party-controlled
trade unions are used as a vehicle for mobilizing the work
force to achieve the regime's goals.
The human rights situation in Bulgaria in 1988 improved
marginally in some areas, deteriorated in others, and
continued to be characterized by harsh repression. The
Bulgarian Constitution specifies the "right to work" but
identifies such basic human rights as freedoms of speech,
press, assembly, and religion, as rights "enjoyed" by the
citizenry due to "guaranteed" material conditions under the
Socialist system. Any exercise of these freedoms in a manner
the Communist Party deems unacceptable is prohibited and
The limited relaxation of media control seen in 1987 was
curtailed in 1988. Promised liberalization of passport laws
did not materialize, although the number of Bulgarians allowed
to travel to the West continued to increase. The small number
of unresolved family reunification cases was also further
reduced. The Government refused, however, to recognize the
country's first independent human rights organization, founded
in January, and harassed, jailed, and sent its members into
internal and external exile.
The Government denies the existence of the Turkish minority,
which comprises 10 percent of the population, and seeks to
eradicate its cultural identity. Beginning in 1984, the
Government has compelled members of the minority to change
their Turkish given and family names to Bulgarian names,
banned the use of the Turkish language in any public place
including mosques, and banned the traditional forms of dress
and some religious practices, such as circumcision. It closed
many mosques and abolished separate Muslim cemeteries. It has
forbidden the importation of Korans and the singing and
playing of Turkish songs even at weddings. It continued in
1988 the forcible resettlement of ethnic Turkish families and
communities in order to disperse them throughout Bulgaria.
However, systematic job discrimination against ethnic Turks
cannot be substantiated.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political Killing
There were no reports of politically motivated killings in
      b. Disappearance
There were no reported cases of disappearance.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Credible reports detail hunger, beatings, and degrading
treatment of prisoners in Bulgaria. Torture does not seem to
be practiced systematically, although according to a 1988
letter from human rights activist Tseko Tsekov, published by
Helsinki Watch, the dentist in Stara Zagora prison is known as
"the mechanic" and reportedly removed healthy teeth from
political prisoners in 1985. That same letter catalogued a
variety of prison abuses witnessed by Tsekov during his
imprisonment from 1984-85. Although political prisoners are
in a separate wing in Stara Zagora, elsewhere they are
quartered with common criminals, drug addicts, and others at
whose hands they suffer abuse. In April 1985, Tsekov and
another prisoner shared a cell with the mentally ill. When he
was initially arrested in 1984, Tsekov was placed in section
seven of Sofia Central Prison, where criminals condemned to
death are held. In 1985, while doing prison work, he was
attacked by another prisoner with a knife.
Brutal beatings by guards are apparently frequent. Tsekov was
denied medical treatment, refused fresh water, and kept in
extreme darkness or light. Prisoners are exposed to the
elements throughout the year; they are denied water during the
summer heat and k«^pt in unheated prison cells with no glass in
the windows during the winter. Outdoor exercise is mi.nimal.
Other well-informed sources also reported frequent beatings
and hunger in prison. Some prisoners are apparently kept in
solitary confinement for long stretches of time. Grigor Simon
Bozhilov, one of the signatories of an "appeal" to the
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in
Vienna in early 1987, who was sent into internal exile, became
ill from the beatings and the cold.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Bulgarian citizens may be detained, tried, and punished for
many actions which elsewhere are considered political, not
criminal, in nature. Police interrogation, detention, and
even arrest may result from unauthorized demonstrations,
public criticism of the Government, or the mere act of
entering or approaching a Western embassy.
The principle of judicial determination of the legality of a
person's detention exists in Bulgarian law, but it does not
provide effective relief against state action. The judiciary
is not independent of executive power, nor is it able to
provide any effective check on executive actions. Although
preliminary detention is limited theoretically to 10 days, and
then only when the evidence appears sufficient to justify an
indictment, several cases are known of persons subjected to
longer detention without charges being filed. Following
arraignment, Bulgarian law permits detention for up to
6 months before indictment. Under the criminal code, the
accused must be informed of the charges, but sometimes this
requirement is not observed. Credible sources indicate that a
number of human rights activists were detained in 1988
following a visit to an interned colleague.
Persons may also be subject to a system of administrative
control short of imprisonment, by which they are detained at
their place of residence and required to appear frequently at
the local police station. Article 39 of the Statutes of the
People's Militia, under which a number of human rights
activists are interned, authorizes the militia to place under
administrative control or house arrest not only those who have
engaged in criminal activities, but also those who have
protested "against organs of power" or shown "antisocial
manifestations." Reports indicate that activist I lya Minev,
under such "administrative detention" in his village of
Septemvri, was required to report to the local militia three
times a day. In September he was reportedly placed under
house arrest.
Another form of punishment and control is forced change of
domicile or internal exile. A person's right to remain in his
place of residence may be revoked, and he may be required to
move far from family and familiar surroundings. Should exiles
or persons under such administrative controls leave despite
these prohibitions, they face possible imprisonment. Eduard
Genov, arrested on April 6, was exiled to the remote village
of Mikhalkovo for 2 years following his role in the formation
of an independent human rights organization. In October,
Genov and his family were expelled from Bulgaria.
It is not possible to estimate reliably the number of persons
subject to arbitrary arrests, other forms of detention, or
summary exile in 1988. The exact number of Turkish detainees
who may still be incarcerated or in internal exile as a result
of the 1984-85 assimilation campaign is unknown. However,
credible reports, including those documented by Amnesty
International (AI) and Helsinki Watch, indicate that many
ethnic Turks are still imprisoned or exiled.
With regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Bulgarian law and general practice provide for public trial in
criminal cases. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel, but
only after preliminary investigations and indictment, a
process that can last many weeks. When defense attorneys are
provided, they often cooperate with the prosecution. In 1988
authorities hampered a Bulgarian lawyer's efforts to get
reinstated, following his disbarment for overly energetic
defense of a client prosecuted for political reasons. Some
defense attorneys enjoy reputations for courage and honesty,
despite pressures from the security apparatus.
Special court procedures apply in cases involving state
security. Trials in such cases, and in others with political
implications, are not public. The number of such trials is
not known. Taking into account also those captured while
trying to escape across the country's borders and ethnic Turks
detained during and since the name-change campaign, the number
of political prisoners is estimated at several thousand.
Reports indicate that political prisoners sentenced under the
first chapter of the penal code are imprisoned in Stara
Zagora, which has a special "political" wing. Tseko Tsekov
reported meeting 135 such prisoners there during 1985.
Others, sentenced under the eighth chapter of the penal code
for ostensible "administrative" offenses, are sent to the
other 12 prisons in the country. Their number is unknown.
The judicial system generally seeks to maintain a semblance of
observing legal norms, but the courts sometimes apply statutes
retroactively or extend them to cases of dubious
applicability. The penal laws are codified, published, and
readily available for reference, but numerous procedural and
administrative regulations are not. Such regulations are
frequently invoked in judicial proceedings, and the defendant
has little opportunity to question the validity or
applicability of the regulation in question.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Government and Communist Party interfere with and regulate
the private lives of citizens in many ways. The Constitution
charges parents with the "obligation" of attending to their
children's Communist education. Reliable sources indicate
that in Kurdzali Turkish children aged 3 to 6 are required to
live in nursery schools during the week and go home only on
weekends in an effort to "Bulgar ianize" them. The Islamic
rite of male circumcision is effectively banned. There are
strong pressures on all citizens to become members of and pay
dues to the mass organizations; the extremely small percentage
who refuse generally come under official scrutiny and are
denied advancement at work and other benefits. Children and
young adults belong to the Pioneers and Komsomol, respectively,
while their elders belong to the Fatherland Front, and, in the
case of the elite, the Bulgarian Communist Party.
The Party and the security apparatus direct an elaborate
system of informers which is present in virtually all
workplaces, residential areas, and social organizations to
monitor the daily lives of Bulgarians for signs of dissent. A
newspaper article in February 1987 noted the formation of
"voluntary" detachments at tourist complexes to monitor, in
conjunction with officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs,
"unsuitable acts" and "ideological sabotage" by Western
tourists. Citizen volunteers assist the uniformed border
guards. The security forces are presumed to monitor the
movements of those suspected of unacceptable behavior. Eduard
Genov ' s wife was reportedly followed, prior to their exile, as
were those who contacted her.
Sanctity of the home is nominally safeguarded by law, and
police may not legally search property without prior
permission from a court or prosecutor. However, searches may
be undertaken in urgent situations before judicial permission
is given. The authorities are required to issue an itemized
receipt for property confiscated during a search. A number of
dissidents were reportedly stopped by the militia in September
following a visit to a colleague; the car they were riding in
was searched, and they were stripped. No search warrant was
provided, although the police did issue a receipt for all of
the items removed from the vehicle and its passengers.
The Government discourages private contacts with persons and
organizations in the West. The wife of one human rights
activist was reportedly stopped and questioned by militia when
she tried to approach the U.S. Embassy in 1988. Several other
Bulgarians privately indicated that they, too, feared to go to
a Western embassy. The militia outside the U.S. Embassy
stepped up their vigilance in 1988, stopping many Bulgarian
citizens and even attempting to stop other Western diplomats
and Embassy officers whom they did not immediately recognize.
Despite Embassy protests, this practice has continued.
In December, Bulgaria stopped jamming Radio Free Europe
broadcasts. The British Broadcasting Corporation's World
Service and Voice of America broadcasts are also heard without
Availability of Western publications is tightly controlled;
only Western Communist Party newspapers, such as L'Unita and
The Morning Star, are regularly sold at newstands. Reports
indicate that during 1988 security forces even attempted to
buy up copies of the Soviet Union's Pravda because of articles
espousing and explaining the Soviet policy of glasnost
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and
press, other laws provide severe punishment for anyone
convicted of criticizing the State or spreading "untruthful
remarks which might increase distrust of state power or cause
confusion in society." In practice, the voicing of any belief
or conviction which is contrary to official policy may be
punished. Orhan Turanov, an ethnic Turk, was reportedly
arrested and sentenced to lengthy imprisonment in 1987 for
public praise of Turkey. Unauthorized disclosure of
information, such as unpublished economic statistics, is
illegal and subject to serious penalties.
The regime totally controls Bulgaria's press, radio, and
television, all of which are state owned. Although censorship
officially does not exist, the media, as well as writers,
artists, and those in academic life, operate within implicit
party and government guidelines and practices. International
news coverage is usually limited to that provided by the
government news agency or official Soviet sources, although
carefully selected articles from the Western press are
sometimes published in translation.
Forbidden topics in the Bulgarian press typically include
unauthorized criticism of party and state leaders, of
Communist ideology, and of other Communist countries,
particularly the U.S.S.R. Ordinary citizens send criticism,
suggestions, and complaints by letter to newspapers, as well
as to National Assembly deputies, on a broad range of topics
such as inadequate service by public agencies and housing
shortages. Authorized criticism rarely, if ever, extends
beyond specific shortcomings or failures of lower-level
administrative officials.
The range of tolerated opinion narrowed in 1988, despite party
leader Todor Zhivkov's call for the "abolition of the
anonymous nature of criticism." The editors-in-chief of Trud,
Literaturen Front, and Narodna Kultura, three newspapers most
inclined to devote even minimal attention to glasnost, were
replaced in 1988 following the publication of relatively
adventuresome articles on environmental pollution, alleged
corruption in a provincial town, the need to reexamine
history, the role of censorship, and the errors of Stalinist
thought. The journalist responsible for the articles on
corruption was expelled from the party. A journalist who
wrote an article in 1987 exposing corruption in a provincial
medical clinic was dismissed from her job, judged "mentally
incompetent and dangerous to society," and threatened with
forced incarceration in a psychiatric hospital. In a report
to the Politburo published on April 1, Zhivkov criticized the
appearance, in "certain newspapers and magazines," of
"articles which evoke a negative attitude toward definite
values and ideals of socialism."
Instances of glasnost in 1988, however, did appear. There was
prompt and open official reporting on accidents such as plane
and train crashes, as well as some public "scandals." The
revocation of Olympic gold medals for two Bulgarian
weightlif ters due to the use of diuretics was reported
immediately and factually. In July journalist Baruch Shamliev
wrote an article calling for the opening of "forbidden zones"
in statistical and historical data for journalists, scholars,
and even ordinary citizens and was not officially criticized.
In addition to party control of the media, the severe
penalties for speaking out on forbidden topics has given rise
to widespread self-censorship. Annual congresses of the
official Writers Union adopt acceptable themes for authors,
and those not following directives are unlikely to see their
work published. Academic journals do not challenge regime
policies. Dissatisfied intellectuals reportedly founded a
group in late 1988, however, calling for increased glasnost
and more rapid restructuring.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of assembly is a right granted only to legally
constituted organizations, and only for approved purposes.
Attendance at public demonstrations of support for the
Government or party is a duty assigned by schools and
enterprises to their members.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association and
demonstration, but in practice the party decides which social
and political organizations may exist. Todor Zhivkov, in his
1988 Politburo report, declared "voluntary associations"
acceptable only "within the self-governing social communities"
or "the framework of the mass sociopolitical organizations."
Lawyers, doctors, artists, musicians, writers, and academics
belong to professional associations which have the
party-assigned function of controlling their memberships.
The law provides punishment for anyone "founding an illegal,
antistate organization." A number of citizens attempted to
form an "independent" committee in Ruse early in 1988 to
express concern about pollution problems. One of the
participants, Svetlin Rusev, was subsequently removed as head
of the National Art Gallery and lost his seat on the Central
In January, the signers of a 1987 appeal to the CSCE in Vienna
founded Bulgaria's first human rights organization, the
Independent Society for the Protection of Human Rights. In
accordance with the Constitution, the group sent a copy of a
protocol and a petition to the State Council and the Ministry
of Justice requesting official registration and recognition.
The Government refused officially to recognize or register the
group, rendering all of its actions illegal.
State security forces reportedly detained human rights
activists and workers attempting to meet in Oborishte in
September. On December 10, approximately 12 members of the
Independent Society for the Protection of Human Rights in
Bulgaria were prevented from traveling to Septemvri to sign a
declaration marking International Human Rights Day. Noting
that only "Socialist pluralism" was a legitimate basis of
association, Todor Zhivkov declared, in his Politburo report,
"we will not tolerate anarchy."
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of worship, the
authorities espouse atheism and discourage religion. Openly
expressed religious conviction is incompatible with party
membership or attainment of responsible government or other
positions. Policy directives adopted at the Thirteenth
Bulgarian Communist Party Congress in April 1986 called for
increased "ideological work against religious anachronisms"
and broader acceptance of "the Socialist festive and ritual
system." Church-state relations are regulated by the
Committee for Questions of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and
Religious Cults, which is a division of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. It reviews all clerical appointments and in
the past has occasionally imposed clergy on local
congregations over the opposition of the parishioners.
The regime shows limited religious tolerance in its attitude
towards Orthodox Christians and mainline Protestants. The
authorities generally do not interfere with older worshipers
attending services, but they sometimes try to dissuade young
people from entering churches. There is a seminary for
Orthodox priests. Announcements of church events are posted
outside churches. No religious groups may engage in open
proselytizing, and foreign missionary activity is banned.
Religious education of children is prohibited.
A Bulgarian-language Bible, only 2,000 copies of which were
published in 1982 and distributed domestically, is now out of
print, and no Bibles may be imported. Customs officials are
assiduous in their efforts to discover and confiscate
religious materials contained in the luggage or vehicles of
arriving visitors. The Orthodox Church is allowed to print a
newspaper, however, as well as distill and market some
alcoholic beverages and sell some religious articles, such as
candles and small jewelry crosses.
A number of faiths are recognized or tolerated. The Bulgarian
Orthodox Church, which was the established church before the
Communists took power, is the largest, with a reported
following of 6 million nominal adherents out of a population
of 9 million. Functioning as a quasi-official church, it
receives government financial support and echoes government
propaganda on such themes as peace and disarmament.
Attendance at Easter services in Sofia's Aleksandur Nevsky
Cathedral is restricted to those granted special
"invitations," and police barricades keep all others at least
a block from the church. Nevertheless, Easter attendance at
other churches in Sofia and in the provinces was massive in
1988, as in previous years, despite the presence of large
numbers of uniformed police.
The approximately 60,000 Roman Catholics are divided between
followers of the Latin and Uniate rites. Priests of both
attended the installation, following a long vacancy, of the
new Bishop of Plovdiv in July. At age 38, Georgi Ivanov
Yovchev was appointed Apostolic Administrator in a service
attended by a standing-room only crowd of worshipers of all
ages. Bulgaria reportedly has only 32 Catholic priests now,
as opposed to about 200 when the Communists took power.
There are a number of Protestant churches with small
congregations (e.g.. Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist,
Seventh-Day Adventist) in Bulgaria. The Ba'hai faith and the
Dunovist Sect, an indigenous movement which flourished in
pre-Communist Bulgaria, are outlawed, however.
Although Pavel Ignatov, leader of a small Protestant
congregation, was freed from internal exile in the summer of
1987, authorities have still not granted his congregation
recognition as a legitimate church. Reports indicate that
Ignatov' s followers have been dismissed from work because of
their religious convictions; the group has not been allocated
a hall as an official meeting place.
Ethnic Turks comprise the majority of Bulgaria's Muslims, the
remainder being Slavic Pomaks and Gypsies. Increased measures
to discourage Islamic practices have figured prominently in
the Government's campaign to eradicate the cultural identity
of the Turkish community in Bulgaria. Muslim believers have
been inhibited in the practice of their religion by the
closure of many mosques and by prohibitions against the
religious education of children. Although Sofia's Mosque is
slowly being renovated, many other mosques in areas with large
Turkish populations have fallen into disrepair or have been
converted to other uses or closed. The renovation of the
architecturally notable Razgrad Mosque has been delayed
indefinitely, despite its designation as a "monument of
culture," following the reported discovery of Byzantine ruins
at the site.
Copies of the Koran may not be imported and are not generally
available to Muslims in Bulgaria. Religious practices such as
male circumcision have been banned since 1985; parents and
others participating in circumcisions are subject to fine or
imprisonment. The observance of Muslim holidays is
discouraged. Many Muslim graveyards have been obliterated,
and Muslim burial procedures are not permitted. All sermons
must be delivered in the Bulgarian language.
Muslim clergymen have been trained in a 6-month course with
substantial political content offered in Sofia since 1986,
rather than the standard years-long training elsewhere. The
new Mufti of Shumen, reportedly a government supporter,
graduated from that course. The Bulgarian Government,
following years of refusal, allowed six Bulgarian students
studying at the Higher Islamic Institute in Tashkent to make
the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) in 1988.
The Jewish minority numbers between 3,000 to 5,000 people.
Historically, Jews in Bulgaria have not suffered religious
persecution. Visits between the Bulgarian Jewish community
and Israeli Jews of Bulgarian origin are frequent, although
subject to government control. Sofia's Sephardic synagogue
has been promised government funds for refurbishment as a
cultural monument, but no progress in that project has been
made, and religious services continue to be held in a small
anteroom. The anteroom is sufficient to accommodate the small
number of Jews attending regular weekly services, although it
is overcrowded on high holy days. The synagogue's
Bulgarian-Hebrew prayer books date from 1942-1946, but the
community received a shipment of Hebrew prayer books in 1988.
The cantor of Sofia's synagogue went to New York for several
months of cantorial clerical training. No kosher meat is
available, but Jews are permitted to bake and distribute
matzoh without hindrance. A Jewish social, cultural, and
educational organization exists, but it is atheistic and
political in orientation. It publishes a secular newspaper
stressing Communist, anti-Zionist themes. This organization
cosponsored a 2-day symposium in November on the protection of
Bulgarian Jews during World War II.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government controls where Bulgarians live, work, and
travel. Citizens are required at all times to carry with them
personal identity cards stating their legal place of residence
and work. Without this card they cannot register at a hotel,
purchase domestic airline tickets, or seek any kind of social
service such as medical assistance. Use of domestic airline
service is also subject to "passport control" at air
terminals. Changing one's place of residence or work is a
complicated process unless it is at the Government's
initiative or convenience. Moves to Sofia and other major
cities from smaller settlements are especially difficult
because of the authorities' desire to control urban growth.
Bulgarians may travel within the country without restriction
except in border zones, which are particularly sensitive where
the country adjoins Greece and Turkey. The borders are
heavily patroled by armed guards and citizen volunteers.
Newspaper articles in August and September noted the report by
an informer of an attempt by two young people to flee the
country, and the capture of two other border "violators." The
articles praised both the informers and the arresting citizens
and officers.
In August, the Government announced a 75 percent reduction in
the permanently restricted area, encompassing regions that
foreigners could not visit. Although some of the newly opened
areas include those with large Turkish populations, a
significant area along the Turkish, and part of the Greek,
border remains closed. Yablonovo, reportedly the site of
violent clashes between security forces and ethnic Turks
during the 1984-85 name change campaign, was sporadically
closed to diplomatic travel during 1988. In the past, even
when officially open to diplomatic travel, foreigners
attempting to visit were turned away by the militia.
A Bulgarian citizen needs a passport for external travel and
an exit visa specifying the destination for each trip. If a
Bulgarian visits a country not specified in the exit visa or
is delayed in returning to Bulgaria beyond the stipulated
period, legal penalties may be imposed. Exit visas may be
refused for a variety of reasons, e.g., political
unreliability, or for no reason. When a Bulgarian is
successful in obtaining an exit visa, a spouse or minor child
is almost invariably required to remain in Bulgaria to ensure
the traveler's return. Although liberalization in passport
and travel regulations proposed in April have not been
enacted, there was a substantial increase in the number of
Bulgarians allowed to travel to the West in 1988.
In principle, emigration is possible under Bulgarian law, but
no right of emigration is recognized in practice. The
Government in 1988 substantially reduced the number of
unsettled divided family cases involving the United States and
Western Europe. Bulgarian authorities also allowed a
dissident family, the Statevs, to emigrate to the United
States in 1988 but continued to refuse others. Helsinki Watch
protested to Todor Zhivkov the cases of Ivan Penkov Kutrovsky,
a human rights activist, and Asen Filipov Stoyanov, an ethnic
Turk. Both men went on hunger strikes in 1988, seeking
permission to emigrate from Bulgaria; both have been
imprisoned. Kutrovsky was reportedly allowed to emigrate to
the West in late 1988. Other human rights activists who had
applied for permission to emigrate were issued passports in
1988; some observers believe the circumstances of their
departures approached expulsions. Grigor Simov Bozhilov was
reportedly released from internal exile in the village of
Kaynardzha and issued a passport. He was apparently denied
entrance to a Western country due to lack of funds, however,
and returned to Bulgaria.
Emigration to Turkey by ethnic Turks has been prohibited since
1985, despite large numbers of people who reportedly wish to
leave. In April, as reported by Helsinki Watch, ethnic Turk
Urkiye Ademova Huseyinova and her son were allowed to emigrate
to the United States to join other family members. Although
48 Turkish children were allowed to join their families in
Turkey in the 6 months--October 1987 to April 1988--prior to
the Belgrade Protocol, only two children were allowed to
emigrate in the subsequent 6 months from April to October
1988. However, the family of Olympic weightlifter Naim
Suleymanoglu was permitted to emigrate to Turkey in October.
The Government encourages the repatriation of ethnic
Bulgarians residing abroad, although the right of repatriation
is not guaranteed. A number of Bulgarian-born foreign
residents and citizens return voluntarily to Bulgaria each
year to live in retirement. There was a marked trend in that
direction in 1988 among Bulgarian-born Jews returning from
Israel. Those who left without permission or who stayed
abroad without authorization may be accepted for residence
under an "amnesty" program, but the conditions of this program
appear designed to ensure that those participating in it will
be accorded only the status of Bulgarian citizens, without
regard for rights they may have acquired abroad as citizens of
other countries.
It is Bulgarian policy to return to their home countries
potential refugees from other Warsaw Pact states who try to
cross the Bulgarian border into Turkey, Yugoslavia, or
Greece. In September, 13 Magyar Romanians refused to leave
the Hungarian Embassy in Sofia unless they were allowed to go
to Hungary. The Bulgarian Government sided with the Romanian
demand that they return to Romania. This situation remained
unresolved at year's end.
The Government continued the forcible resettlement in 1988 of
ethnic Turks from their local villages to areas with small
Turkish populations. Reports indicated that many Turks were
resettled in the Vratsa, Mikhailovgrad, and Vidin areas.
Turks from Kurdzhali, an area in southeastern Bulgaria with a
more than 75 percent ethnic Turkish population, were
reportedly moved to Butan, in the Danubian Region. According
to some reports, the Government further "encourages"
resettlement by forcing people from their jobs, or offering
them jobs with only minimal wages, so that they must move
elsewhere to seek work. The num.ber of people relocated thus
far cannot be accurately estimated; there have also been
reports, which cannot be verified, that a plan to relocate as
many as 40,000 Turks from Kurdzhali may be under consideration.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Citizens do not have the right to change government leadership
or the system of government. The Constitution declares that
"organizations directed against the Socialist system of the
People's Republic of Bulgaria ... are prohibited." The
Bulgarian Communist Party leadership, headed since 1954 by
Todor Zhivkov, governs Bulgaria. Nonparty members are
effectively denied any role in the formation of regime policy,
and even rank-and-file party members have little influence
over party policies.
The regime tries to maintain the appearance of pluralism
through the participation of a second "political party," the
Bulgarian National Agrarian Union, in the Government and the
National Assembly. However, the Agrarian Party professes no
differences of view on any issue with the Communist Party.
Officials maintain there is a "national consensus" on
government policies and slight differences of opinion only on
the best means of implementing those policies. Persons
identified as nonparty (i.e., "independent") also hold
responsible government positions or National Assembly seats,
but they are not known to profess views contrary to Communist
party policies. The Communist and Agrarian Parties, together
with labor, youth, and other groups, comprise a mass
organization known as the Fatherland Front, which is wholly
controlled by the Communist Party. Political pluralism and
free participation in the political process do not exist. ,A
group of approximately 50 dissidents reportedly founded in
1988, without official permission, a political party called
"The Green Mass", which plans a party conference for April
The Fatherland Front has been the only organization permitted
to present candidates for election. Following constitutional
changes in 1987, so-called multicandidate elections were held
on the local level in February. Less than 20 percent of these
elections involved more than one candidate; all candidates
were prescreened by election commissions and all supported the
Communist Party.
Women continue to be underrepresented in policymaking
positions within the party and government, although they are
legally assured equal rights with men.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government regards any criticism of its human rights
record as inadmissible and part of an "anti-Bulgarian
campaign," and it denounced an April 1986 AI report on
Bulgaria's Turkish minority in those terms. Government media
have published numerous articles purporting to show that some
of the Bulgarian Turks that AI reported killed while resisting
the name change campaign are still alive and well.
Members of the Islamic Conference Organization visited
Bulgaria in 1987 (received by the Government in their
"individual capacities") and toured Muslim areas of the
country. Their report, issued in May 1988, was cited in the
resolutions of the organization at the same time. The
resolutions were critical of the Bulgarian Government's
repressive policies toward the "Bulgarian Muslims." The
Government's response did not substantively address the abuses
Bulgaria's first human rights group, the Independent Society
for the Protection of Human Rights in Bulgaria, was formed in
1988. The group, which has a reported membership of about 150
people, was denied official registration or recognition as a
legitimate entity. Its leaders, including Chairman I lya
Stoyanov Minev, Secretary Tseko Tsekov, and spokesman Eduard
Genov, were subject to official harassment, imprisonment, and
internal exile. Subsequently, Genov and his family were
expelled from the country and resettled in the United States.
Tsekov was issued a passport and is currently in Vienna.
Bozhidar and Minka Statev, members until their emigration to
the United States, are now the group's foreign
representatives. Dissident activists were prevented from
meeting with foreign government officials in October.
With the declared aim of assisting the Bulgarian Government in
its professed desire to broaden democracy and human rights in
Bulgaria, the society issued documents in support of the
Charter 77 initiative in Czechoslovakia, calling for the
release of human rights activists from prison and exile, and
proposing changes in the Constitution and criminal code.
The Government, refusing to recognize the existence of the
unofficial group, announced the formation of a Human Rights
Committee in June. The Government officially registered this
supposedly independent group, composed of approximately 50
public figures. In their only action to date, these public
figures sent a message of protest to the South African
Government in August, calling for the release of Nelson
Mandela. AI, requesting to meet government officials dealing
with human rights in September, was directed to this group as
its corresponding "nongovernmental Bulgarian entity."
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on
"nationality, origin, creed, sex, race, education, social and
material status," as well as the "propagation of
hate ... because of racial, national, or religious affiliation."
The Government does not admit the existence of any minority
ethnic groups and hence even the possibility of
discrimination. Census reports, which earlier noted the
existence of significant numbers of Gypsies, Macedonians, and
ethnic Turks, now report an almost totally homogeneous
Bulgarian populace.
The Government has consistently refused to acknowledge the
presence of any Turks in Bulgaria, referring only to
"Bulgarians who were forcibly Islamicized under Ottoman
rule." Ethnic Turks comprise about 10 percent of the
population, however, and are subject to severe restrictions
and discrimination in a systematic effort to destroy their
cultural identity. During the forced assimilation campaign of
1984-1985, all Turks were assigned new Bulgarian given and
family names. Only these names appear on their new identity
cards, issued from January to March 1985. Because no adult
Bulgarians received new identity cards during this period, the
date of issuance effectively functions as a code, signaling
militiamen and other authority figures who may demand to see
the card that its bearer is an ethnic Turk. There have been
reported instances of illegal fines being levied for pretended
offenses and other discriminatory measures taken by the Dolice
upon the discovery of ethnic heritage.
Despite official denials, most Turkish and Islamic social,
cultural, and religious customs are banned. Public use of the
Turkish language is forbidden, as is the wearing of
traditional forms of dress. Turkish weddings are not
permitted to take place in the streets, as is the traditional
custom; they must be conducted in closed halls, and the
singing and playing of Turkish songs is forbidden. Wedding
parties must request an orchestra from the authorities, who
will provide a group that will play only Bulgarian music. All
Turkish weddings reportedly are attended by uniformed
militiamen. Education in the Turkish language had long been
banned. Many Muslim religious practices are forbidden. There
are no longer separate Muslim cemeteries; established
cemeteries have been destroyed. Only Bulgarian names can now
appear on tombstones, making impossible the tracing of family
relationships. The Government has reportedly dispersed entire
Turkish communities in an effort to disrupt their social
Systematic job discrimination against ethnic Turks cannot be
substantiated. There are a few Turkish members of the
National Assembly, one of whom defected to Turkey in
September. However, some reports assert that a number of
Turks have lost their jobs because of resistance to
Bulgarianization. The Bulgarian press in September carried an
article vehemently denying reports that "young descendants of
Bulgarians who had been converted to Islam by force during
Turkish rule are being used in the army in humiliating posts,
such as toilet cleaners, guards, and so forth, and this only
in the construction troops."
There is pervasive societal discrimination against the small
Gypsy population, which generally lives in shantytowns and
occupies the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder.
The Constitution declares that "women and men enjoy equal
rights," and there does not appear to be overt discrimination
as regards educational and professional opportunities. Half
of all university graduates are women. In 1988, for the first
time, women were admitted to the army's Vasil Levsky Military
Academy. Women comprise 49 percent of the "economically
active population," but, according to government statistics
published in 1988, 63 percent of working women perform hard or
"unattractive" physical labor. The press also reported that
"feminization in certain fields has become a serious
problem." Of those with higher education, there tends to be a
concentration in the fields of education, engineering, and
public health. Because so many women perform unskilled labor,
their average salary tends to be lower than that of men.
Approximately one-third of the members of the elite Bulgarian
Communist Party, which comprises about 10 percent of the
population, are women. There are no women in the Politburo,
however, but there is one in the Council of Ministers.
Slightly more than 5 percent of the Central Committee members
are women, and about 10 percent of the candidate members.
Additionally, in administrative and economic management, there
are fewer women in the upper ranks of the hierarchy.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The Communist Party organizes and totally controls all trade
unions, which are grouped together in a sole labor central
called the Central Council of Bulgarian Trade Unions (CCTU)
The head of the CCTU is a candidate member of the Politburo.
Among the unions' chief roles are the fostering of their
members' devotion to the party, the promotion of patriotism
and "internationalism" (i.e., loyalty to the Soviet Union),
and the facilitation of the "scientific-technical revolution"
(i.e., the technological modernization of production). The
leader of the Bulgarian labor union delegation to a Balkan
conference in July declared a main task of unions to be "the
turning of the Balkans into a nuclear-free zone."
Workers are not permitted to organize outside the official
union structure, nor are they allowed to strike, although
disgruntled workers in Mezdra engaged in a week-long stoppage
in March 1987. Labor unions have not defended workers
dismissed from jobs for political transgressions. Security
authorities may blacklist such workers from certain kinds of
The CCTU is affiliated with the Soviet-controlled World
Federation of Trade Unions. Bulgaria is a member of the
International Labor Organization.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
There is no collective bargaining in Bulgaria. A new labor
code, in force since January 1987, and a "restructuring" of
unions in the spring of 1987 were putatively intended to shift
the locus of union decision from the apex to its base: the
much proclaimed arrival of "self-management." There is no
indication, thus far, that the role of unions has
substantially changed. Bulgaria has established customs-free
zones in Ruse and Vidin.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution declares that "every able-bodied citizen is
obliged to do socially useful work." Those who do not work
may be charged with "vagrancy" or social parasitism; Article
39 of the statutes of the People's Militia authorizes the
imposition of "administrative measures," such as house arrest,
on "people who lead nomad lives or beg as opposed to doing
social labor." Compulsory labor may be required of prisoners
or those in internal exile. Human rights activist Eduard
Genov, interned in the village of Mikhalkovo prior to being
exiled, reportedly worked in a mine.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The labor code adopted in 1986 stipulated 16 years as the
minimum age for all but certain light work. Persons from 16
to 18 years of age may not be assigned work designated as
heavy, harmful, or dangerous; their workweek is either 5
7-hour days or 6 6-hour days. These restrictions are
effectively enforced.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage is the local currency equivalent of about
$120 per month at the official exchange rate, and the average
wage is the equivalent of about $210 per month. The minimum
wage is not sufficient for a single wage earner to provide a
decent standard of living for a family. In families with two
working spouses, the average wage provides, at best, a modest
standard of living.
The workweek for adults is 42.5 hours (5 days of 8.5 hours) in
most professions and occupations. Paid vacations i^ange from
14 workdays annually, for those who have worked less than 10
years, to 18 workdays annually, for those who have worked more
than 15 years. Additional paid vacation is granted those in
certain difficult or dangerous occupations. Bulgarian
practice appears generally to conform to these guidelines,
although participation in unpaid supplementary "brigades" can
lengthen working hours on various occasions during the year.
Trade unions are assigned a role promoting job safety and the
general social welfare of their members. A national labor
safety program exists, but standards of enforcement vary
greatly. Newspaper reports in 1988 indicated that over
one-third of working women labor in places of "unsatisfactory
hygiene," and there is concern over the lack of safeguards for
pregnant working women. Over 50 percent of working women
reportedly have jobs that do not correspond to their
"ergonomical requirements." There is also evidence that
safety considerations do not figure prominently in work
assignments for prisoners. Eduard Genov reportedly worked on
a machine that creates dense dust laden with silicon dioxide