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Bulgaria: Stamboliiski and Agrarian Reform
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The Interwar Period > Stamboliiski and Agrarian Reform

STAMBOLIISKI AND AGRARIAN REFORM


The 1919 election reflected massive public dissatisfaction with the war reparations, inflation, and rising taxes that prolonged the chaotic living conditions of the war. The socialist and agrarian parties tightened their organizations and increased membership. The left wing of the Bulgarian Workers' Socialist-Democratic Party (BWSDP) numbered only 25,000 in 1919, and the BANU emerged as the largest party in the country. The BANU received 28 percent of the 1919 vote, giving it a plurality but not a majority in the new subranie. Stamboliiski sought to include the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) -- which had finished second in the election -- and the BWSDP in a coalition government. (The BCP and the BWSDP were the two factions of the Bulgarian communist movement that had sprung from the Social Democratic Party founded in 1891; they would remain separate until the former was disbanded after World War II.) Stamboliiski could not permit the two factions the control they desired, however, so they refused participation.

The postwar governing coalition thus included only factions to Stamboliiski's right. The first major test for the Stamboliiski government was a transport strike that lasted from December 1919 until February 1920. Fomented by the communists and the social democrats and joined by urban workers and middle-class Bulgarians, the striker protests were quelled harshly by the army and the Orange Guard, a quasi-military force that Stamboliiski formed to counter mass demonstrations by the parties of the left.

Suppression of the strike, mobilization of the peasant vote, and intimidation at the polls gave the BANU enough support to win the parliamentary election of 1920 over the communists and form a non-coalition government. Tsar Boris and much of the Bulgarian middle class preferred the agrarians to the communists and social democrats, whom they feared much more. Stamboliiski immediately began drastic economic reforms. He abolished the merchants' trade monopoly on grain, replacing it with a government consortium; broke up large urban and rural landholdings and sold the surplus to the poor; enacted an obligatory labor law to ease the postwar labor shortage; introduced a progressive income tax; and made secondary schooling compulsory. All aspects of the radical reform policy aimed at ridding society of "harmful" classes of society such as lawyers, usurers, and merchants, distributing capital and obligations more evenly through society, and raising the living standards of the landless and poor peasants.

In foreign policy, Stamboliiski officially abandoned Bulgaria's territorial claims, which he associated with a standing army, monarchy, large government expenditures, and other prewar phenomena that the agrarians deemed anachronistic. After the war, no major power was available to protect Bulgarian interests in the Balkans. For this reason, the traditional approach to foreign policy was discarded in favor of rapprochement with all European powers and the new government of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, membership in the League of Nations. Relations with Turkey were greatly improved by Bulgarian support of Atatürk's revolutionary Turkish Republic in 1920.

Reconciliation with Yugoslavia was a necessary step toward Stamboliiski's ultimate goal of a multiethnic Balkan peasant federation. Improved Yugoslav relations required a crackdown on the powerful Macedonian extremist movement. Accordingly, Stamboliiski began a two-year program of harsh suppression of IMRO in 1921; in 1923 Yugoslavia and Bulgaria agreed at the Nis Convention to cooperate in controlling extremists.

Data as of June 1992




Last Updated: June 1992


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bulgaria was first published in 1992. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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