Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Chervenkov, Vulko (1900–1980)

General secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) and premier during 1949–1956. Born in Zlatitsa, Bulgaria, on 24 August 1900, Vulko Chervenkov joined the BCP in 1919 and rose quickly through its ranks. He was a participant in the unsuccessful communist coup in September 1923 and was arrested and sentenced to death but managed to escape to exile in the Soviet Union.

Over the next two decades Chervenkov lived in the Soviet Union, where he lectured, attended Communist Party schools, and held various positions within the Comintern. In 1941 the Soviets appointed him director of the Moscow-based Radio Khristo Botev, which broadcast propaganda against the Nazi-Bulgarian alliance.

Chervenkov returned to Bulgaria in October 1944 after the installation of the Communist Party–led coalition Fatherland Front. The brother-in-law of Bulgarian communist leader Georgi Dimitrov, Chervenkov became a member of the Central Committee of the BCP. A staunch Stalinist, he led the ruthless purge of the party.

Following Dimitrov's death in 1949, Chervenkov became general secretary of the BCP and premier of Bulgaria, during which time he attempted to copy Soviet society, earning him the dubious distinction of "Little Stalin." After Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's death in 1953, Chervenkov's power waned. The following year he was forced to resign as general secretary and was replaced by his protégé Todor Zhivkov. When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev formally denounced Stalin in 1956, Chervenkov was forced to resign as premier after being accused of having established his own cult of personality in Bulgaria. He remained a member of the Central Committee of the BCP, a deputy prime minister, and minister of education and culture. But in 1962 he lost all his positions and was expelled from the BCP for his earlier Stalinist excesses. Chervenkov died in Sofia on 21 October 1980.

Gregory C. Ference


Further Reading
Lalkov, Milcho. Rulers of Bulgaria. Sofia: Kibea, 1997.
 

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