Bulgarian Agrarian National Union
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Bulgarian Agrarian National Union also translated to English as Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union (Bulgarian: Български земеделски народен съюз, Bǎlgarski Zemedelski Naroden Sǎjuz; BZNS) is a political party devoted to representing the causes of the Bulgarian peasantry. It was most powerful between 1900 and 1923. In practice, it was an agrarian movement. Unlike the socialist movements of the early 20th century, it was devoted to questions concerning agriculture and farm workers, rather than industry and factory workers. The BZNS, one of the first and most powerful of the agrarian parties in Eastern Europe, dominated Bulgarian politics during the beginning of the 20th century. It is also the only agrarian party in Europe that ever came to power with a majority government, rather than merely as part of a coalition. It is a founding member of the former International Agrarian Bureau.
An Agrarian Union was first organized in Bulgaria in 1899 — it was to be a professional organization open only to peasants, and was at first not meant to become a political party. The Union initially won widespread peasant support by mobilizing peasants throughout Bulgaria to peaceful demonstrations against the government’s unfair taxation policies. Throughout this process the Union remained politically unaligned. However, at its third congress, motivated by upcoming elections for the Bulgarian National Assembly, the Union leaders—not peasants themselves but a group of teachers—voted to become a political party. Thus, in 1901, the Agrarian Union became the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union — Bulgaria’s official peasant party. BZNS candidates subsequently ran for positions in local and national elections.
Over the next twenty years, the BZNS remained a part of Bulgarian politics, but it began to falter for lack of a concrete ideological base. Aleksandar Stamboliyski saved the party from that plight by first publishing a series of theoretical articles on the peasants’ role in the state and history, and finally taking control of the BZNS party. In 1909 he wrote the book Political Parties or Estatist Organizations, which laid the foundations for the ideology of the BZNS. Stamboliyski rose through the ranks of the BZNS and by 1918 had become the leader of the party. World War I left Bulgaria in a state of severe social and economic crisis, and after a series of worker and peasant strikes and uprisings between 1918 and 1920, the Bulgarian army and all old political parties were essentially discredited. In 1920, by a combination of major popular support and some coercive methods, Stamboliyski was able to create a BZNS controlled government. The party also formed a militia, the Orange Guard.
The chief rival of Stamboliyski’s BZNS was the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP). After World War I the BZNS and BKP were the two leading parties in Bulgarian politics. Though the BZNS initially beat the Communist Party for political power, its authority quickly began to wane because, according to the communists, the BZNS wavered in its support between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Despite the fact that most of them were not rich, peasants still participated in an old bourgeois economic system, which was, from the Communist point of view, destined to fail.
Though the BKP was always opposed to certain BZNS policies, most other factions became dissatisfied with Stamboliyski and the BZNS because of growing corruption within the party, and an increasingly oppressive rule over the Bulgarian people. On 9 June 1923 a bloc of military factions staged a coup d'état and deposed the Stamboliyski regime. Though the Communists ultimately gained control of the Bulgarian government, the BZNS remained in existence (as a member of the Fatherland Front), and participated in agricultural policy in Bulgaria until the fall of communism in 1989.
Stamboliyski believed that over time, new groups which were more attuned to modern political and economic needs would replace old political parties. He detailed this view in the 1909 book Political Parties or Estatist Organizations. In this vein, the BZNS was supposed to be more than a political party. It was meant to retain its original function as a professional organization for peasants, and also involve itself in politics in order to guarantee the protection of the peasant classes. The BZNS was a populist party, and as such supported the rights of the individual peasant over those of the corporation or large-scale landowner.
Stamboliyski believed that mechanized agriculture would never replace the individual peasant, but also that peasant agriculture need not be backward or inefficient. Therefore, he stressed the importance of education in peasant communities. He also emphasized the need for social welfare, and believed that if the state could distribute arable land equally to each family and lower the tax burden on the peasantry, the condition of the Bulgarian peasantry would naturally improve.
After Stamboliyski came to power, the BZNS organized campaigns for redistribution of land and rural education. These campaigns were largely successful, and the BZNS enjoyed widespread support in the immediate post-war period.
In the international sphere, the BZNS was strictly anti-imperialist in its policies. Stamboliyski thought that the new groups which would supposedly replace the old political parties had the possibility to become international organizations. He hoped for and encouraged an agrarian alliance that would spread outside of Bulgaria to the entire Balkan region. He did not pursue territorial expansion, and generally neglected the army. These policies contributed to the dissatisfaction that led to the overthrow of Stamboliyski and the BZNS in 1923.
Members of National Assembly
1919-1923: 200 MPs, 1944-1990: 99 and 100 MPs, 1990-2009: from 30 to 7 MPs, since 2009: 1 MP.
- Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union (former communist ally) – officially called BZNS until 1991 when a group of parliamentarians from the BZNS "Nikola Petkov" united with the party under the name BZNS (United).
- Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Nikola Petkov" – restored at the end of 1989 and co-founder of the coalition Union of Democratic Forces. A unifying congress of BZNS (United) and BZNS "Nikola Petkov" united the different agrarian wings under the name BZNS in November 1992.
- Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union (United) – 1991-1992, see above.
- Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union - People's Union – split in 1996 led by Anastasiya Mozer.
- Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" – split in 1993 led by Svetoslav Stoyanov Shivarov.
Chairmen since 1947
- Georgi Trajkov – from 1947 to 1974
- Petar Tanchev – from 1974 to 1989
- Angel Dimitrov – from 1989 to 1990
- Victor Valkov – from 1990 to 1991
- Tsenko Bareva – from 1991 to 1992 (BZNS United)
- Milan Drenchev – from 1990 to 1992 (BZNS "Nikola Petkov")
- Anastasiya Mozer – from 1992 to 1996
- Georgi Pinchev – from 1996 to 1997
- Petko Iliev – from 1997 to 1999
- Georgi Pinchev since 1999
Deputy chairmen (and functional areas) since 1947
- Kiril Klisurski – from 1948 to spring of 1950 ("Organization")
- Nikolai Georgiev – from spring 1950 to spring 1958 ("Organization") and 1958–1987 ("Finance and administration")
- Petar Tanchev – from spring 1958 to spring 1974 ("Organization")
- Ianko Marcov – from 1973 to spring 1989 ("Construction")
- Georgi Andreev – from 1971 to spring 1976 ("International affairs" and "Organization"), spring 1976–1979 ("Agriculture")
- Alexi Ivanov – from spring 1976 to spring 1989 ("Organization") and from spring 1980–1989 ("Political affairs")
- Angel Dimitrov – from 1974 to spring 1989 ("International affairs")
- Dimitar Karamukov – from 1979 to spring 1984 ("Agriculture")
- Pando Vanchev – from 1986 to spring 1989 ("Agriculture")
- Victor Valkov – from 1989 to spring 1990 ("International affairs" and "Organization")
- Svetla Daskalova – from 1989 to spring 1990 ("Agriculture" and "Finance and administration")
- Kostadin Ianchev – from 1990 to spring 1991 ("Organization")
- Doncho Karakachanov – from 1993 to spring 1997 ("Organization" [BZNS "Aleksander Stamboliiski"])
List of Ministers of Bulgaria from BZNS 1919–2001
- Aleksandar Stamboliyski – Prime Minister of Bulgaria (1919–1923)
- Rajko Daskalov – Minister of Agriculture (1919–1921)
- Konstantin Muraviev – Prime Minister of Bulgaria (1944)
- Ivan Beshkov – Minister of Agriculture (1943–1944)
- Asen Pavlov – Minister of Agriculture (1944–1945)
- Nikola Petkov – Minister (1944–1945)
- Aleksandar Obbov – Minister of Agriculture and State Property (1945, 1946)
- Mihail Genovski – Minister of Agriculture and State Property (1945–1946)
- Georgi Traykov – Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (1947–1951) and Deputy and First President of Council of Ministers (1951–1964)
- Kiril Klisurski – Minister of Mines (1948–1950)
- Radi Najdenov – Minister of Justice (1947–1958)
- Stoyan Tonchev – Minister of Architecture (1953–1958)
- Petar Tanchev – Minister of Justice (1962–1966) and Deputy and First Deputy President of Council of Ministers (1966–1974)
- Svetla Daskalova – Minister of Justice (1966–1990)
- Haralambi Traykov (the son of Georgi Traykov) – Minister of Information and Communications (1971–1973)
- Yanko Markov – Minister of Forestry (1971–1986)
- Georgi Andreev – Minister of Information and Communications (1973–1976)
- Pando Vanchev – Minister of Communications (1976–1986)
- Aleksi Ivanov – Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (1986–1988) and Deputy President of Council of Ministers (1986–1987)
- Radoy Popivanov – Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare (1977–1988)
- Georgi Menov – Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (1988–1990)
- Mincho Peychev – Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare (1988–1990)
- Viktor Valkov – Minister of Foreign Affairs (1990–1991) and Deputy President of Council of Minsters (1990–1991)
- Vasil Chichibaba – Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry (1995–1996)
- Svetoslav Shivarov – Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry (1996) and Deputy President of Council of Ministers (1995–1997)
- Ventsislav Varbanov – Minister of Agriculture and Forestry and Agrarian Reform (1997–2001)
- Bell, John D. Peasants in Power: Alexander Stamboliski and the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, 1899-1923. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.
- Bozhkov, Lyuben and Stoyan Ninov. The Historical Path of the Bulgarian Agrarian Party. Sofia: BAP Publishing House, 1982.
- Crampton, R. J. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century—and After chapter 8. London: Routledge, 1997.
- Dimitrov, A., Ravnosmetkata, 2001
- Tishev, Dimiter. Friendship Born in Struggle and Labor: On the Joint Work of Communists and Agrarians in Bulgaria. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1976.
- 33rd Congress of the Agrarian Union, Science and Art, 1977
- 34th Congress of the Agrarian Union, Science and Art, 1981
- 35th Congress of the Agrarian Union, Science and Art, 1987
Sarras Michalis, Agrarianism in the Balkans during the Interwar Period. Structure Formation and Social Evolution in Greece and Bulgaria, Unpublished Dissertation, University of Ioannina, Ioannina 2014 (In Greek)
- Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, Britannica
- Official website
- Bulgarian Subject Files - Political Parties: Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union Open Society Archives, Budapest