Stalin's death brought about changes in the policies of the USSR and other Eastern Bloc
countries. In Bulgaria, an amnesty for political prisoners was declared in 1953. A year later,
Todor Zhivkov, who will be one of the longest reigning persons in the Eastern Bloc, took over
power. Zhivkov pursued a policy strongly associated with the Kremlin. There were even
voices that Bulgaria should become the “sixteenth republic” and join the USSR.
The policy of de-Stalization did not end the terror in the country straight away. In 1959 the
camp in Lowicz was established. Despite its small size (about 1000 people), it was covered
with bad fame. The guards crushed those sentenced to death by batons and fed pigs with their
bodies. The camp was closed down in 1962.
Although in Bulgaria, unlike in Poland and Czechoslovakia, mass demonstrations against the
authorities were rare, it is worth mentioning the strike of hundreds of employees of the
tobacco factories in Plovdiv and Haskovo in May 1953. Nevertheless, generally speaking, if
opposition emerged, it was mainly of an inter-party nature. For example, in 1964 a conspiracy
against Zhivkov took place. It was planned to overthrow it during the party's Central
Committee meeting, but the conspirators had been arrested earlier.
Bulgaria took part in the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Zhivkov was a
fervent advocate of the forcible crushing of the Prague Spring. In the following years, the
strengthening of his powers continued. The 1971 Constitution guaranteed the Communist
party a “leading role”. A Council of State was established, headed by Zhivkov. The Men's
Front still existed as a coalition of BPK and the People's Peasant Association. Its membership
was massive in Bulgaria. At the beginning of the 1960s, the Front had 3.5 million members,
in the 1980s 4 million (out of over 8.5 million inhabitants). It follows that the majority of the
adult population of Bulgaria belonged to the Patriotic Front. This is an unprecedented
example in the Eastern bloc.
The country has experienced a period of economic prosperity. In the 1970s, Bulgaria's GDP
grew on average by around 5-6% per year. The Black Sea coast was a popular holiday
destination in the countries of the Eastern Bloc.