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Military of Bulgaria (1940--1945) | Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Name: Military of Bulgaria (1940--1945)

Historical Note:

The government of the Kingdom of Bulgaria under Prime Minister Bogdan Filov declared a position of neutrality upon the outbreak of World War II. Bulgaria was determined to observe it until the end of the war; but it hoped for bloodless territorial gains, especially in the lands with a significant Bulgarian population occupied by neighbouring countries after the Second Balkan War and World War I. However, it was clear that the central geopolitical position of Bulgaria in the Balkans would inevitably lead to strong external pressure by both World War II factions. Turkey had a non-aggression pact with Bulgaria. On 7 September 1940, Bulgaria succeeded in negotiating a recovery of Southern Dobruja with the Treaty of Craiova (see Second Vienna Award). Southern Dobruja had been part of Romania since 1913. This recovery of territory reinforced hopes for resolving other territorial problems without direct involvement in the War. The country joined the Axis Powers in 1941, when German troops preparing to invade Yugoslavia and Greece reached the Bulgarian borders and demanded permission to pass through its territory.

The Bombing of Sofia in World War II, 1944

On 1 March 1941, Bulgaria signed the Tripartite Pact and Tsar Boris III officially joined the Axis bloc. After a short period of inaction, the army launched an operation against Yugoslavia and Greece. The goal of reaching the shores of the Aegean sea and completely occupying the region of Macedonia came to success. Even though Bulgaria did not send any troops to support the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Navy was involved in a number of skirmishes with the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, which attacked Bulgarian shipping. Besides this, Bulgarian armed forces garrisoned in the Balkans battled various resistance groups. The Bulgarian government declared a token war on the United Kingdom and the United States near the end of 1941, an act which resulted in the bombing of Sofia and other Bulgarian cities by Allied aircraft.

Some communist activists managed to activate a guerrilla movement headed by the underground Bulgarian Communist Party. A resistance movement called Otechestven front (Fatherland front, Bulgarian: Отечествен фронт) was set up in August 1942 by the Communist Party, the Zveno movement and a number of other parties to oppose the elected government, after a number of Allied victories indicated that the Axis might lose the War. In 1943, tsar Boris III died suddenly. In the summer of 1944, after having crushed the Nazi defence around Iaşi and Chişinău, the Soviet Army was approaching the Balkans and Bulgaria. On 23 August 1944, Romania quit the Axis Powers and declared war on Germany, and allowed Soviet forces to cross its territory to reach Bulgaria. On 26 August 1944, the Fatherland Front made the decision to incite an armed rebellion against the government, which led to the appointment of a new government on 2 September. Support for the government was withheld by the Fatherland Front, since it was composed of pro-Nazi circles, in a desperate attempt to hold on to power. On 5 September 1944, the Soviet Union declared war and invaded on Bulgaria. On 8 September 1944, the Bulgarian army joined the Soviet Union in its war against Germany.

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