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Digital Archive International History Declassified

September 20, 1973

MINUTES OF CONVERSATION BETWEEN TODOR ZHIVKOV – LEONID I. BREZHNEV, VODEN RESIDENCE [BULGARIA]

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    The two leaders discuss trade agreements, the situation in the Balkans, and policies toward Yugoslavia, Romania and the PRC.
    "Minutes of Conversation between Todor Zhivkov – Leonid I. Brezhnev, Voden Residence [Bulgaria] ," September 20, 1973, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Central State Archive, Sofia, Fond 378-B, File 360. Obtained by the Bulgarian Cold War Research Group. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/111183
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Talks between Comrade Todor Zhivkov and Comrade Leonid Brezhnev at Voden Residence

20 September 1973

TODOR ZHIVKOV:
I would like to express again before you, Comrade Brezhnev, our gratitude and satisfaction that you accepted our invitation to visit our country.

[…]

I would like to put forth some other issues. I was deliberately brief at your meeting with the Politburo, so as to let you have more time. Besides, I shouldn't have provided such detailed information, since you are quite well aware of the problems we are now solving. Therefore, I will go on to present the separate problems.

1. The power generation issue.

I am putting forth this issue, since we have not discussed it yet. However, the situation in Bulgaria has been serious for the last few years, and is likely to worsen. If we do not solve two major problems in this industry, our country will face serious difficulties.

Without presenting the essence of this issue, I shall move straight on to our suggestions:

We have already agreed upon the expansion of our nuclear power station in Kozloduj. The controversial issue, which experts are now discussing, is the period within which the equipment will be supplied. As far as I know, the period discussed is about a year, and I do hope that a beneficial decision will be arrived at.

However, what is of central importance to us is to start the construction of a second nuclear power station of 1,000 megawatts power, and have its construction completed, and in operation by the year 1980. There is no other way of solving our power generation problems but with the construction of nuclear power stations. Therefore, I am most earnestly asking you that this issue be discussed by the competent authorities, so that there is an opportunity to have a second nuclear power station designed and constructed in Bulgaria. We have the capacity to manufacture part of the necessary equipment on our own. If a second nuclear power station is not built, then our power generation balance will be disrupted. Should we agree upon this issue, we will no longer bother you with this problem.

[…]

2. Oil.

I would like to emphasize the fact that we are aware of the difficulties you are confronted with in this industry, and that if you increase the oil supplies to Bulgaria, then the other socialist countries will demand that their supplies be increased as well. We are aware of your commitments to the non-socialist countries as well. Yet, I would like to stress an important consideration typical only for Bulgaria: no other socialist country is as poor in natural resources, including power generation sources, as Bulgaria. Oil, as well as other natural resources, is scarce.

Our needs equal 20 million tons of oil annually. Our competent authorities are even talking of some 22 million tons. I suggested that this figure be reduced, and the actual amount should be 18 million tons. We can import some 3 million tons from the Arab countries. Even if they are ready and willing to export more oil to our country, we will not have the funds necessary to pay for these imports. We have so far negotiated only 12.5 million tons from the USSR.

[…]

You must understand that we cannot go on like that. Bulgaria will cease to exist if this situation persists; if all countries keep avoiding the issue of prices of agricultural produce and at the same they demand that we increase the agricultural supplies for the next five years. I once again claim that we are not after world market prices. However something must be done, so that the one billion leva of subsidies, which our government grants for agriculture, are eliminated.

[…]

Of course I am not talking about bringing the prices of our agricultural exports in line with world prices. We would like simply to cut or even eliminate the subsidies.

[…]

LEONID BREZHNEV:

Can you afford to increase the supplies of agricultural produce to the Soviet Union? What are the meat exports per capita at present?

TODOR ZHIVKOV:

There is not much potential for an increase in the agricultural exports to the Soviet Union. Statistical data show that about 50 kg per capita are provided to our population, yet the real figures are different: the population is actually given less. We provide for the big cities and towns only. There are regular supplies of meat only for restaurants and canteens. At the market, however, there is a deficit.

[…]

These are the major issues concerning the prices of our agricultural production.

These are the issues relating to the economic development and our trade relations, I wanted to raise.

4. The situation on the Balkans

As you are well aware, we would not initiate any activity of international importance, nor any joint action with the fraternal parties concerning the international communist movement, without getting your approval. Our ambassadors were given the same instructions—to coordinate their moves, even their daily activities with the Soviet ambassadors to the respective countries. These are strict instructions we always observe.

On our relations with Yugoslavia

Comrade Brezhnev, let me dwell upon this issue for the last time, since some of your competent authorities do not seem to understand our stance well enough.

Way back during the Second World War, and earlier, the government of Yugoslavia had adopted a clear strategy in its relations with Bulgaria (except the Macedonian issue): to acquire or take over Bulgaria in some way. Its intentions were to have Bulgaria integrated within the Yugoslav Federation.

Comrade Georgi Dimitrov was a distinguished politician, and what I now intend to tell you I have already told even the Politburo. He was a very frank and honest man, and very loyal to the Soviet Union; he was a true internationalist. However, he could not take the correct position on these issues. He yielded to Yugoslavia's position. He created the favorable opportunities for Yugoslavia to gain a strong foothold in our country. Yugoslavia managed to gain a stronger position in Bulgaria than the Soviet Union during the first post-war years. Not only did the citizens of Yugoslavia assume the right to work freely in Macedonia, they also had their representatives in the forces of law and order, in the military forces, and elsewhere. Comrade Dimitrov viewed Yugoslavia's leaders as revolutionaries fighting fascism. He was glad about that and he trusted them. I must point out that it was Stalin that helped us then. He is to be thanked for helping Bulgaria get out of this situation. If he had not interfered then, we would have lapsed into a deeper political crisis. As you know, then the “Pravda” daily published a special critical note to oppose Georgi Dimitrov's idea to establish a Southern Slavic Federation on the Balkans. Georgi Dimitrov could not perceive Yugoslavia's real plans. He had embraced the idea of setting up such Balkan Federation. But what did the latter actually mean: the state planning authorities were to be located in Belgrade, so were the armament depots, etc, whereas Bulgaria was not to have such structures and bodies on its territory. Thus, the federation actually meant Bulgaria being taken over by Yugoslavia.

[…]

Therefore I emphasize the fact that credit goes to comrade Stalin for preventing this from happening. He stopped us and thus, saved us. We had taken the road to a federation, without coordinating this idea with the Soviet Union.

When we tell you of Georgi Dimitrov's position, we must never forget that he gradually became fully aware of how wrong he had been. Georgi Dimitrov's self-criticism in his reply to Pravda is well known. And if he had not died so early, if he were still alive, he would now be energetically working, and in his own style exposing Yugoslavia's policy.

You know how things developed later. You know what happened with the Cominform issue and the case with Yugoslavia. At that time we were perhaps the country that had the largest number of press releases and articles attacking Tito's revisionist views. I then held the post of secretary of the CC on the ideological issues, and I must say that I was conscientious in my work to do away with Yugoslavia's influence over the Party and the country. I must have been one of the leaders to publish the greatest number of articles attacking Yugoslavia's revisionist views both for Pravda and for other papers, such as For Lasting Peace, For People's Democracy, and other periodicals. It is true that some of these articles stretched the truth. I remember writing for Pravda once that 50,000 communists had been killed in Yugoslavia, and you know that there weren't that many party members at the time. My major motive then was to fight Yugoslavia's influence in Bulgaria, and to enhance Soviet influence. Of course the main ideas were correct – Yugoslavia's leaders used to share, and still share, revisionist views.

LEONID BREZHNEV:

I once asked Tito about the members of their communist party. He gave me an interesting answer. [He said,] “Comrade Brezhnev, we have many Party members, however the real communists among them are few.”

TODOR ZHIVKOV:

What strategy has Yugoslavia taken up now? Yugoslavia's strategic goal is to have the Balkan countries aligned and committed by signing bilateral and multilateral agreements; thus these countries will join the non-aligned countries in a bloc against the two world super powers, which actually means an anti-Soviet bloc. They are putting much effort into this. In this respect our greatest threat is actually Yugoslavia's strategy, rather than Ceausescu's policy.

The Balkan Peninsula has always been a geographic region of strategic importance. Nearly 100 million people live here. This number is likely to increase as high as 140-150 million by the end of the century. This is power. Speaking of non-alignment and distancing from the US and Soviet influence, Yugoslavia aims at uniting the Balkan countries and the third world countries under bilateral and multilateral treaties, and thus lessening the influence of socialism and the Soviet Union in the Balkans. You needn't doubt that by resisting the two super-powers, their strategic goal is actually to resist and oppose the Soviet Union.

And Bulgaria is the major obstacle they have to overcome to achieve their goal.

[…]

It must be borne in mind that no country can undermine the political system in Bulgaria – neither Romania, nor Turkey, Greece, West Germany, England; not even the USA. However, Yugoslavia might have undermined it. If we hadn't seriously resisted their influence, it could have undermined both our party and our country's political base.

What is my personal concern? On my way back to Sofia from the congress of the German United Socialist Party (SED) in 1963, Vlachovic, the head of their delegation, met me in Prague and asked me to pay a visit in Belgrade. I told him I could do that only if I had an official invitation from Tito. I was sent an invitation so I visited Belgrade. But what happened there? We had a meeting. Tito kept silent. He gave the floor to Tzarvenkovski, who elaborated on the Macedonian issue. He had written a whole report, which he read. I had to interrupt him, “Is that why you invited me?” I said, addressing Tzarvenkovski. “To listen to all your distorted interpretations of history?” That was what I asked him in front of Tito. “Even if I were to be hanged fifty times, I would never renounce Bulgarian Communist Movement history and Bulgaria's history.” That was what I said, declaring that I had come to Belgrade to talk with them on an equal footing and in a constructive way, for the sake of strengthening the friendship and cooperation between our two peoples and countries. I must admit that Tito kept his patience and tried to resolve the conflict with Tzarvenkovski. Then we had lunch and we kissed when we parted.

[…]

This is our policy towards Yugoslavia, Comrade Brezhnev. If we hadn't adopted such a policy, if we had been passive, this would have meant to subject our party to Yugoslavia's eroding influence. We had to take measures to completely defeat the hopes of Yugoslav leaders.

[…]

After 1963 we had talks with Yugoslav leaders several times. We met in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia; we kissed, but there were no results. They would not give up the policy toward Bulgaria and the Balkans.

You must bear in mind, Comrade Brezhnev, that many in the present leadership are disloyal and dishonest. They are still thinking of how to smash Bulgaria and integrate us in Yugoslavia, thus fulfilling their strategic goal—to unite the Balkan countries through a system of alliances, and confront Bulgaria with the USSR. This is their strategic goal, the goal of their bourgeoisie and Tito. That is why they will never give up their anti-Bulgarian propaganda launched within Yugoslavia, and on different international fora. That is why we have imposed censorship on Yugoslav press. We try hard not to provoke them in any way. But look at them. They started fighting nationalism in Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia. However, they do nothing against Macedonian nationalism.

We think that history cannot be moved backwards. The historical issue of Bulgaria's friendship with the Soviet Union, and Bulgaria's role on the Balkans has been solved. We have adopted the right and consistent policy, and our major concern is to defend socialist Bulgaria and its cooperation with the Soviet Union.

[…]

What are Yugoslav and Romanian policies toward Bulgaria?

I must once again repeat that their goal is to isolate and discredit Bulgaria, since Bulgaria is the major obstacle to implementing their plans for the Balkans. They have not been successful yet. Facts speak for themselves.

This is the essence of the so-called “Bulgarian nationalism”, concerning the Yugoslav and Macedonian issue.

Our relations with Greece

Our relations with Greece are developing well. You know that our Foreign Minister, Petar Mladenov, visited your country and coordinated all our actions with comrade Gromyko before his latest visit to Greece. Taking into account the situation on the Balkans, and the attempts to have Bulgaria isolated, we asked that the People's Republic of Bulgaria be given the opportunity to have a different policy towards Greece. We suggested that specific measures be taken in this respect. You agreed, and we were given such a chance. As a result, we made significant progress. Our foreign minister's visit to Greece was effective and fruitful, and a special declaration was signed. This is the first time such a document has been signed between a socialist and a capitalist country on the Balkans. Although Ceausescu had tried to press them into signing such a document before, Greece insisted that they first sign with Bulgaria. There are no comments in the press in Yugoslavia and Romania about our relations with Greece. They are intentionally silent about the progress in the relations between Greece and Bulgaria.

Our relations with Turkey

We have established strong links with Demirel's party and other parties. I have good personal contacts with Demirel. An anti-Bulgarian campaign was launched last year on the issue of Bulgarian Muslims. I instructed our ambassador to Turkey to visit Demirel and tell him on my behalf that neither one of our countries would benefit from such a campaign. Demirel did his best to have it stopped. We managed to restore our trust in each other. During my stay in Ankara we had a very interesting face-to-face talks. During the official talks he had to weigh his words and cautiously think over what he was saying, knowing that the US will get the minutes of the meeting. In our face-to-face talk, where my daughter was interpreting, he was frank and admitted that although he was no communist, he cannot be considered an anti-communist either. He wants to maintain friendly relations with Bulgaria. He suggested that ambassadors, and not ministers, be appointed heads of the joint committee. He told me that he does not trust his ministers, therefore their ambassador to Sofia will execute all orders.

[…]

We built up an atmosphere of mutual confidence and frankness. Let me give you one more example. A Turkish airplane was diverted and had to land in Sofia within Demirel's term of office as a Prime Minister. As he himself put it, he then gathered his ministers and told them, “You needn't worry, Gentlemen. The plane will be given back to us. I know Mr. Zhivkov quite well and I know how he will proceed.” Half an hour later, as Demirel had said, he was phoned and told that the problem with the airplane had been resolved, and some people would be sent to Sofia to take it back.

[…]

These are our relations with Turkey.

LEONID BREZHNEV:

Comrade Zhivkov, I would like to express once again my gratitude to your Party, the Bulgarian people, the CC, and to you personally for my being conferred with Bulgaria's highest title of “Hero of the People's Republic of Bulgaria.” I would like you to get me right – I don't want you to think that I am considering this title as a personal merit, although it did move me deeply.

At our Politburo's latest meeting I frankly told my comrades how I appreciate this award. The latter I consider as recognition of the friendship and cooperation between our two parties and peoples. I would like once again to emphasize the importance of our consolidated unity, and the unity of all socialist countries. The award I was conferred by the Bulgarian comrades made me think over another issue—what we are doing and whether we have done our best to strengthen our friendship, to enhance the consolidation between our two countries, and our action on the international arena, since our consolidation is a major factor in the successful struggle against Imperialism. Our unity with Bulgaria is important, for Bulgaria is on the border between Socialism and the capitalist world. I am a frank and emotional person. I always speak my mind with all good-natured people, and that is why I did my best to end my summer leave in the Crimea, and postponed my visit to Uzbekistan. The Politburo agreed that at this very moment I should visit Bulgaria, so that we could inform you of our opinion of your July decisions. Our talks are not just about COMECON. These talks are of historic importance, and coming generations will talk about them. Since we are communists, our modesty does not allow us to publicly state our evaluation of certain events. We are too humble to do that. The coming generations will put the truth on paper—we have accomplished a historical deed these days. At the Politburo meeting I elaborated upon the tactics we suggest be adopted—cautious and long-term tactics. I handed you an official written statement of the essence of the tactics, stating our sincere willingness to further strengthen our cooperation with Bulgaria. This written document is existent; it will be kept, for it belongs to history. I once again thank you for the award, thank you for your invitation, for your attention to my comrades and me.

[…]

I would like to thank you for the complete information you provided on the situation on the Balkans. I haven't met with any Greeks or Turks. I am one of the leaders that best knows Tito; I have had many talks with him, and have established close contacts with him. He has the peculiarities of his character. He cannot adequately judge the people who surround him, their dishonesty, and their hostility towards our countries. We have had many talks with Tito on the Macedonian issue, and I have told you about these talks. Thank you for the extended information you provided today. It added new details and I totally agree with your opinion.

People say nationalism is a dangerous disease. However there are different types of nationalism. When nationalism serves Party interests, people's interests, and Communism's interests; when it does not contradict Internationalism, it is not a threat. Ceausescu's type of nationalism, or the nationalism of other people who we are all familiar with, is a threat. We have discussed this issue many times. We have discussed with you the situation on the Balkans several times as well. We are aware of Romanian and Yugoslav attempts to build up a Balkan bloc, which is ill-intentioned and will attack us. What you informed me of enriched my knowledge on this issue. After the talk we had today, I am convinced that we should be even more determined not to allow an anti-socialist political bloc to be established against us.

TODOR ZHIVKOV:

And we well know that Bulgaria is the major obstacle to these political attempts.

LEONID BREZHNEV:

Comrade Zhivkov, we are quite well aware of this, and all our people know this. They understand it with all their heart and soul.

This is how I consider our tasks: you have taken the right stance, and we must support your policy, and bolster Bulgaria's prestige on the international arena, and prevent any attempts to undermine this prestige.

Time will judge whether we were right, but we must threaten neither Greece, nor Turkey. We must bear in mind that the Germans, the Czechs and the Polish have to understand our position. We are a world socialist system, and we must explain this to all our comrades. Comrade Zhivkov, I greatly appreciate all that has been taking place recently – the measures you have taken, your speech in the Crimea, your talks with me, the letter you wrote to the Politburo, our decision – and I think we have done a lot. We have ordered CPSU CC to elaborate and develop methodology and select the most appropriate approach, so that these decisions can be implemented. As you can see, we act in a politically adequate manner.

[…]

I would now like to dwell on the specific problems you posed:

If any favorable opportunity crops up, and if our country has the necessary resources available, I think our Politburo will understand your needs, and we will find the way to meet your needs and wants. Such misunderstanding might have arisen with other countries as well. Therefore I will require that the Politburo make a report on everything, that our comrades are in need of, everything that has been agreed upon, and everything that cannot be done. During the discussion of this report, there might arise an opportunity to debate the problems you raised.

Comrade Zhivkov, I am glad indeed that the Soviet country has had a loving and compassionate attitude towards what has been happening here in Sofia. I phoned my wife, my assistants at the CC, and I phoned Rashidov in Tashkent. They all told me that they have been watching the TV broadcasting of the events taking place in Bulgaria.

In Tashkent I will deliver my speech mainly focusing on domestic affairs. I will also talk about some problems in Asia, which I decided not to mention in my speech in Sofia. I thought it would be rude to visit a country and criticize a third country while here. Therefore I will talk extensively about China in Tashkent.

TODOR ZHIVKOV:

I talked about China. What do you think about my opinion?

LEONID BREZHNEV:

I approve of it. We are of one and the same opinion, and we will take the same political stance. Above all, we must defeat Maoism, both in terms of its theoretical and ideological components. We must accomplish this task before Mao's death, since it might be even more difficult to do it after that.

On certain international problems, we have not ceased our dialogue with the Americans – Nixon will be visiting our country next year. We have already agreed upon his visit. He wants this visit. We have to further expand our relations with the US. However, I am explaining in detail how I interpret the notion of peaceful co-existence, so that people in Uzbekistan, Sofia, and Kazakhstan do not get mixed up. Peaceful co-existence must be interpreted as Lenin did—to exist without any armed struggle. This is what we must bring home to our people, so that no one will be under the influence of any other theories, such as the “super-states theory” or the “division of the world theory”.

Viewing the developments from a global perspective, we must say that Imperialism and the bourgeoisie are scared and concerned. Things in Europe have been progressing well, so have our relations with the USA. The US Congress is likely to confer on us the Most-Favored Nation (MFN) status in the near future. Our enemies are concerned about this. American monopolies are interested in the development of trade relations between the US and USSR. However, this fact causes great concern in the monopolies of other countries. We have much more to do. The struggle will continue and it will assume a much different character, a peaceful character, and, without a doubt, all actions we are now taking will result in ultimate victory of our ideology.

First, the most important task is to bring the pan-European Conference to a successful conclusion. We are not exercising pressure for having it completed by any particular date this year. It can be completed during the first half of next year. However, we would like to have it completed, so that all the European countries can adopt the principles along which our future relations will be built.

I must say that the capitalist countries are experiencing difficulties. Brandt has already addressed me in a letter asking for help. Nixon is seeking assistance to bring the war in Cambodia to an end. I told him, however, that he should have asked my advice when he started it, so he must find a way to end it now on his own. We have made serious achievements for the last few years. Through our ministries of foreign affairs we will negotiate and coordinate our activity. I hope Nixon will contribute to the success of the European Conference. He has promised me he will. Of course, various things have been published nowadays in the United States, and serious obstacles have been set up. The imperialists will definitely try to put an end to these positive developments. We have won the confidence of almost all European communist parties, and particularly the largest among them – the Italian Communist Party, the French Communist Party, and the whole international communist movement.

We must keep trying to influence Romania. The fact that Ceausescu agreed to sign the document in Crimea is quite an achievement, which will have its impact.

As for Yugoslavia, you are right, comrade Zhivkov. We must pursue the political goal to prevent Yugoslavia from joining the other camp.

I do not think we will manage to make them give up their political line of neutrality. Shall we consider the latest meeting of the non-aligned countries in Algeria? After the first conference I criticized Tito. I told him that their resolution was a mess, a sour mess. I wrote to him personally. I wrote similar letters to Boumedien, Fidel Castro and other functionaries. Boumedien decided to have the letter published, without even asking us, so we were very angry with him at first. However the world public reacted positively towards this letter, which was to our benefit. The only one to help us a lot was Fidel Castro. He adopted the right position. The resolutions adopted in Algeria were very good. These resolutions had a mobilizing effect on all anti-imperialist forces in their common struggle. These resolutions say nothing against the Soviet Union and the socialist countries.

Mr. Kosygin's visit to Algeria starts on 24 September. I will have some talks with him, so that he will be prepared for the visit. He has never met Tito. I will try to talk with Kosygin about what is going on in Bulgaria. I will also give a detailed account of all that you have informed me about, concerning the situation in the Balkans.

Finally we must decide upon how our meeting will end. Although the visit is an unofficial one, it will be useful to adopt a common document. We might name it a Communiqué, although this is not the most appropriate word to use. Let us call it a Press Release instead – it will serve the same purpose.

Maybe we can also announce that comrades Brezhnev and Zhivkov visited Razgrad district, and had friendly talks there together with other members. Otherwise people might wonder where we had disappeared.

TODOR ZHIVKOV:

Thank you, Comrade Brezhnev, for all you have said. I will gather the Politburo members on Tuesday to inform them of our talks. I will also suggest that a CC plenum be convened to inform the CC as well of your visit and our talks. We will then acquaint them with your letter, so that we can draft a resolution and write an answer, of course.

[Translated by Assistant Professor Kalina Bratanova, Edited by Dr. Jordan Baev, Kalin Kanchev]

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