Bulgarian coup d'état attempt of 1965

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The 1965 Bulgarian coup d'état attempt was an attempt by officials in the Bulgarian Communist Party and officers in the Bulgarian People's Army to oust the leadership of the party, more specifically the General-Secretary Todor Zhivkov. These plans were foiled in April 1965 before the coup could be carried out.


After Joseph Stalin died in 1953 the new Soviet leadership under Nikita Khrushchev began a process of liberalization and de-Stalinization. This created a power struggle within the party between the Hardliners who opposed the reforms and Khrushchev's supporters. Internationally the divide between the now-liberal minded Soviets and the hardline leadership of China became apparent in the early 60s with the Sino-Soviet split.

In Bulgaria, the Stalinist Vulko Chervenkov was dismissed from the leadership of the party in 1954 and then from his position as Prime Minister in 1956. The new General-Secretary (Zhivkov) began to implement de-Stalinization in the Bulgarian Communist Party. Anton Yugov succeeded Chervenkov as Prime Minister, but was removed in 1962 — succeeded by Zhivkov — allowing the latter to remain the unchallenged leader of Bulgaria.


In October 1964 two members of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Ivan Todorov-Gorunia and Tzolo Krastev, began to plot against Zhivkov. The conspirators were hardline communists, influenced by Mao Zedong of China, who denounced the leadership of the Communist Party for having become "opportunists" and for following the "revisionist" Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev.[1] Although Khrushchev was removed on 14 October, the conspirators aimed at establishing a more Marxist-Leninist Bulgaria and to lessen its subservience to the USSR.[2] Several dozen officers joined, including the commander of the Sofia garrison General Tsvyatko Anev; the head of the Мinister of Defence personal cabinet Colonel Ivan Velchev; the deputy chief of the Мain Political Directorate of the Bulgarian People's Army General Мicho Ermenkov; and the chief of department at the General Staff - General Lyuben Dinov.[1]

The plan was to execute the coup with the aid of the Bulgarian People's Army during the plenum of the Central Committee of the BCP. They planned to the tank brigade dislocated around Sofia, the Guard Division and the First Army headquarters in Sofia as a show of force against the party leadership.[1]

Discovery of the Plot[edit]

The conspirators aroused suspicion and a counter-intelligence operation carried out between 28 March and 12 April 1965 uncovered the scheme and arrested those involved. Some sources say that the leaders of the plot were being spied on even before 1964 because they were not fully trusted by the party leadership.[3] The first arrested was General Anev on 8 April 1965. Following his arrest the coup leader, Todorov-Gorunia, committed suicide at home. On 12 April the rest of the plotters were arrested. Nine of them were court martialed and were given sentences varying from 8 to 15 years, and another 192 people were given administrative penalties.[1]

Domestic Response[edit]

Rumors spread throughout Sofia about the suicide of a high-ranked party official and about the possibility of a plot against the current leadership. The state-controlled media, however, denounced all rumors as "fantastic fabrications and malicious propaganda."[4]


On 15 June 1990 the Military College of the Supreme Court rehabilitated the convicted conspirators, stating: "These offenses were socially necessary and aimed at the overthrow of a regime, which has absolutely been proven to of had been dictatorial".[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Баев, Йордан (2005). A Handbook of the Communist Security Apparatus in East Central Europe 1944-1989. Warsaw. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. 
  2. ^ Crampton, R.J. (2005). A Concise History of Bulgaria. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 193. 
  3. ^ "КОЙ БЕШЕ ГОРУНЯ". BG History. BG History. Archived from the original on 1 April 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Black Sheep". Time Magazine. Time Magazine. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "Заговорът на Горуня". Afera.bg. Afera.bg. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.