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Bulgaria: The Constitution of 1971
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > The Zhivkov Era > The Constitution of 1971

THE CONSTITUTION OF 1971


A later echo of the events of 1968 was the drafting of a new constitution at the Tenth Party Congress in 1971. Unlike the Dimitrov Constitution, the new document specified the role of the BCP as "the leading force in society and the state," and the role of BANU as its collaborator within the Fatherland Front. The 1971 constitution also defined Bulgaria as a socialist state with membership in the international socialist community. As before, broad citizen rights were guaranteed but limited by the requirement that they be exercised only in the interest of the state. Citizen obligations included working according to one's ability to build the foundation of the socialist state and defend the state, compulsory military service, and paying taxes. Most of the governmental structure specified in the Dimitrov Constitution remained, but a new body, the State Council, replaced the Presidium as supreme organ of state power. This council consisted of twentytwo members and a chairman who was de facto head of state. The State Council was more powerful than the Presidium because it could initiate as well as approve legislation, and because it exercised some of the non-governmental supervision normally delegated to ruling parties in East European communist states of that period. Council members, nominally elected by the National Assembly, were members of the BCP or other mass organizations.

In 1971 Zhivkov resigned as prime minister to become chairman of the State Council. The National Assembly, traditional center of political power in Bulgaria until the 1947 constitution stripped it of power, received some new responsibilities. Permanent commissions were to supervise the work of ministries, and legislation could now be submitted by labor and youth groups (all of which were partycontrolled). In practice, however, the National Assembly still rubber-stamped legislation and nominations for the State Council, Supreme Court, and Council of Ministers. As a follow-up to the constitution's prescription of private property rights, the 1973 Law on Citizens' Property virtually abolished private ownership of means of production, confining such ownership to "items for personal use."

The Tenth Party Congress also devised a new BCP program to coincide with the new constitutional description of party power. The program specified an orthodox hierarchical party structure of democratic centralism, each level responsible to the level above. The lowest-level party organizations were to be based in workplaces; all other levels would be determined by territorial divisions. Loyalty to the CPSU was reiterated. The BCP goal was described as building an advanced socialist society lacking differentiation by property and social standing -- at that point, all of society was to be a single working class. Science and technology were to receive special attention by the party, to improve production that would make possible the next jump from advanced socialism to the first stage of communism.

After a decade of political calm and only occasional purges of party officials by Zhivkov, social unrest stirred in the mid-1970s and alarmed the Zhivkov government. International events such as the Helsinki Accords of 1975, the growth of Eurocommunism in the 1970s, and the 1973 oil crisis stimulated hope for liberalization and discontent with the domestic economy. Zhivkov responded in 1977 by purging Politburo member Boris Velchev and 38,500 party members -- the largest such change since the early 1960s. Provincial party organizations also were substantially reorganized. In May 1978, the Bulgarian government acknowledged for the first time that an antigovernment demonstration had occurred -- indicating that the 1977 measures had not quelled domestic discontent.

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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