A Bulgarian umbrella is an umbrella with a hidden pneumatic mechanism which injects a small poisonous pellet containing ricin. It has a hollowed stalk in which the pellet neatly sits.
Such an umbrella was used in and named for the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov on 7 September 1978 (the birthday of the Bulgarian State Council chairman Todor Zhivkov, who had often been the target of Georgi Markov's criticism) on Waterloo Bridge in London. Markov died four days later. It was also allegedly used in the failed assassination attempt against the Bulgarian dissident journalist Vladimir Kostov the same year in the Paris Métro. The poison used in both cases was ricin. Both assassination attempts are believed to have been organized by the Bulgarian Secret Service of the time of the Cold War with the assistance of the KGB.
These two cases inspired:
- The Italian poliziottesco movie The Police Can't Move (1975)
- The episode "Hot Ice" of Quincy, M.E. (1978)
- The French film Le Coup du parapluie (The Umbrella Coup) directed by Gérard Oury and starring Pierre Richard (1980)
- Two episodes of the British political comedy series Yes, Minister / Yes, Prime Minister, where in The Death List (1981) the titular Minister Jim Hacker is told of various risks by methods of assassination, and in A Diplomatic Incident (1987) a Bulgarian Umbrella is suggested as a way to kill a French puppy that was intended as gift to the Queen, to prevent a diplomatic incident caused by quarantine regulations
- Bulgarian writer Stefan Kisyov's novel The Executioner (2003)
- The episode "Seven Thirty-Seven" of "Breaking Bad" (2009)
- The episode "Obsession" of "NCIS" (2010)
- The episode Marionette of Fringe (2010)
- The episode The Clock of The Americans, (2013)
- Francesco Gullino, alleged Bulgarian umbrella murderer
- MythBusters "Exploding Toilet" – the feasibility of this type of assassination was confirmed in the first episode of MythBusters.
- The Bulgarian Umbrella: The Soviet Direction and Operations of the Bulgarian Secret Service in Europe by Vladimir Kostov, Harvester Press (1988)
- The Global Investigative Journalism Casebook ed by Mark Hunter for UNESCO (2012)
- A Spy's London by Roy Berkeley and Rupert Allason, Pen & Sword Books (1994)
- Communication in Eastern Europe: The Role of History, Culture, and Media in Contemporary Conflicts ed by Fred L. Casimir, pub by Lawrence Erlbaum (1995)
- Holdsworth, Nick (23 March 2013). "Prime suspect in Georgi Markov "umbrella poison" murder tracked down to Austria" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- Richard Edwards, Crime Correspondent (19 June 2008). "Poison-tip umbrella assassination of Georgi Markov reinvestigated". Telegraph.co.uk.
- "How an assassin bungled a deadly umbrella plot".
- "Bulgarian umbrella - Gadgets Now". Gadget Now.