BULGARIA DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

by Dimana Trankova

Marshall Lee Miller's book remains landmark research on traumatic period of Bulgarian history

bulgaria in the second world war.jpg

What happened in Bulgaria during the Second World War? The events, the major and minor political players and their decisions, the role that bad and good luck played in this country between 1939 and 1945 are often contradictory and hard to explain to outsiders – or to Bulgarians, for that matter. The country started the war being neutral. It became an ardent Nazi ally, but refused to declare war on the USSR. Instead, it declared a "symbolic" war on Britain and the United States. It kept most of the Jews under its jurisdiction from deportation to the death camps. Its king, Boris III, manoeuvred skilfully between the different political camps in Bulgaria and abroad, until he died suspiciously soon after a visit to Hitler. Bulgaria's Communist guerrilla resistance movement could not compare in scope and military success to Yugoslavia or Greece, yet it toppled the government and took over Bulgaria, in 1944 – with Soviet backing.

Why and how did all of this happen? To what extent Bulgaria's decisions and fate were the result of personal action or inaction, of outside factors, past events and even of traits of the national character? Historians struggle to provide a comprehensive answer. For decades under Communism and after, their political affiliations and sympathies have additionally muddled the picture.

In 2022 the Sofia University awarded Marshall Lee Miller the St Kliment of Ohrid Badge of Honour © America for Bulgaria Foundation

A book published in 1975, in English, is an invaluable guide to this turbulent and dark period of Bulgarian history. Its author, the American Marshall Lee Miller, became fascinated with Bulgaria's Second World War past after he visited in 1964. He returned with a Harvard scholarship and dug deep into Bulgarian, American, British and German archives, stitching together the politics, the players and the economy of the period. He even tracked the daily movements of all Communist guerrilla units that were operational in Bulgaria in 1941-1944.

Miller gathered these stories, people and documents into a comprehensive, informed and captivating history book, Bulgaria During the Second World War. It was published in 1975 by Stanford University. He would return to the country in 1991, this time as a founder of the Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund that, after years of successful support to local businesses, transformed into the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

Carefully researched and masterfully written, Bulgaria During the Second World War is a classic. In 2022, it was finally published in Bulgarian as well.

The English original can still be seen on Amazon and at used book markets internationally.

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