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Kill the Tramp, by Hristo Hristov

“Kill the Tramp”, published by the Bulgarian journalist Hristo Hristov in 2005, is a documentary investigation into one of the most emblematic crimes of the Cold War – the murder of the Bulgarian dissident writer, Georgi Markov, in London in 1978.

Extensive research was done into the archives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central State Archive (archive of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the secretariat of the Central Committee, the archive of the Union of Bulgarian Writers, the confidential archive of the State Council), the archive of the Supreme Cassation Court, the Presidency and the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency. The author has used materials from the archives of the Foreign Office and other British diplomatic documents and the archives of Scotland Yard. For the first time a significant number of very important secret documents have come to light from the archive of the First Main Directorate of the State Security Service (Zhivkov’s intelligence service), to which access is not permitted in Bulgaria, as well as materials from the Georgi Markov family archive and the personal archives of the author.

On a numerous occasions, the author has used the Access to Public Information Act and the assistance of Access to Information Programme in his battle for access to information. Below, we publish a translation of the final chapter of the book. Copies of some of the most important documents, are available here.

Instead of Epilogue - the Battle for Access to Information

It is all a matter of access. The above made narrative should be convincing enough that less restricted access to the Archives means more elucidation over the events from the new Bulgarian history and more difficulties before the falsification or manipulation of facts. Finding the truth about Georgi Markov’s assassination assertively validates this trend.

Since 1989, the problem with the access to the Archives of the former State Security Services (SSS) has been persisting and no ultimate solution has been found yet. In the common mind, this problem subsists as information about the dossiers. Most of the time during the transition period, the debate on the subject was restricted to the narrow scheme of the political “pros” and “cons” arguments about dossiers’ declassification. To a lesser extent, the necessity for the study of the Archives has been viewed as a problem and solution has been sought.

The wrong perceptions are emphasized by the fact that the mythologized debate on the dossiers is actually regarded to the operational and personal files of the agents and collaborators of the SSS. These files account for only a minor part of the huge information massif, bequeathed by the former repressive apparatus. The so-called operational archive of the Interior Ministry only contains over two millions archive units (annual plans, reports, accounts, references, protocols, minutes, etc.). Precisely, the study of these records would make possible the documental restoration and with considerable correctness the true history of Bulgaria after 1944.1 Another fact confirms that statement—if forty percents of the dossiers had been destroyed during the 1990 panic sanitization, the operational archive of the different branches of the State Security Services, with minor exceptions, was left intact simply because no one cared about it at that moment. Exactly that operational archive gives complete view of the methods and work of the SSS. It contains essential information about the objects of surveillance, as well as about the structural work, making the identification of the former possible. Different scholars’ research of this Archive produced the publication of documentary stories about the organized armed resistance of the “Goranq” movement against the communist government in Bulgaria, about the political population displacements and interns, about the “resurgence” process, about the camps, etc.

No government after 1989 have found solution to the problem with the access to the secret archives. Everyone, who has tried to study a particular historic period or topic, has encountered the problem and is familiar with the accompanying difficulties. The legislation allowing for such kind of access came too late. In 1994, the 36th National Assembly adopted a statement that the information about the organization, methods, and means in view of the implementation of the specific tasks of the State Security Services, as well as information about the operational agents, related to or referring to the period until Oct.13, 1991, should not be considered a state secret as stipulated by the List of the Categories and Facts, which comprise a state secret in the Republic of Bulgaria (promulgated in State Gazette, issue 86, 21 October 1994). Neither Berov’s government, nor Videnov’s, since they were not proselytizing the opening of the archives, allowed for the implementation of the text in practice.

Public access to the Interior Ministry Archive was stipulated by the Access to the Documents of the Former States Security Services Act, adopted in 1997, at the beginning of the government of the United Democratic Forces (promulgated in State Gazette, issue 63, 6 August 1997). Though the main target of that legislation was to divulge the names of the former SSS collaborators in the political elite, it gave possibility to historians, researchers, and journalists to search in the Archive. It was enough to write a request of free content to the Minister of the Interior, pointing out the topic of exploration interest, and the request to be approved. No matter the contradicting nature of the figure of Bogomil Bonev and in spite of the fact that he ran for the destruction of the dossiers during the 2001 presidential campaign, he was the first minister to establish premises for easier access to the SSS Archive.

The first entry to the Archive I made was in 1998.2 My desire was to get more detailed information about the structures of the SSS, without suspecting the documental treasure that was concealed in the Archive. The Director of “Information and Archive” Services (which became later Department) at that time was colonel Seraphim Stoykov, exceptional professional, who has always tried to ease the efforts of the researchers, giving useful advice and explanations. Parallel to getting acquainted with the SSS as a system, structure, and activities after 1944, I decided to demand access to Boris Arsov’s undestroyed file, which had given start to the investigation on Georgi Markov. It turned out that the file had been given to the Military Prosecutor’s Office in the town of Plovdiv, where the inquest about the death of the emigrant was ongoing. The then Interior Minister Bonev initialed my request and departed for Plovdiv without any hesitations. There, the military prosecutors met me on the alert—how come I would read the file of such a significant operational case. Ultimately, they gave me access to the materials. The latter compiled four-five large volumes of over 300 pages. Reading was accompanied by the obligatory presence of a secretary, who was watching over while I was taking notes not to take something out. Copying of materials was out of question. I already had some research experience (in the same way) with the secret file of the camps, which accounted for 48 volumes, and for several days I managed to write down the most important documents from Arsov’s file. Up to the present, this case is the only straight evidence that the SSS used killing as a method of elimination of the opponents of the regime abroad. The file contains the operational plan for the physical elimination of the emigrant and instructions to the agent about the implementation of the task. I published a journalistic investigation in “Demokracia” newspaper and consequently the Bulgarian National Television shot and released a documentary. In 1999, I published a book about the “wet operations” titled “State Security Services against the Bulgarian Emigrants.” After the presentation if these particular documents and facts, no former representative of the SSS dared to comment or deny.

At the beginning, I was getting acquainted with different SSS materials from the Interior Ministry Archive, but it never occurred to my mind that anything related to Georgi Markov could be held there. I never thought that the Inquest investigating the assassination, and then the Prosecutor’s Office of the Armed Forces, which investigated the destruction of the writer’s dossier, would have omitted archive documents in direct relation to the case. From that point of view, I also became a victim of one of the myths about the dissident writer—that all archive information about him had been destroyed. Such a notion was brought about in 1992 when the trial against reserve officer Gen. Vladimir Todorov was held, and I was covering the trial as a court reporter. In 2000, while I was studying the operational structure of the Sixth Bureau of the SSS, it occasionally occurred to me to check whether something had not been produced about Markov between 1969-1971, the period when he left Bulgaria and settled in London. I requested several archive units from that period, as the reports and accounts of the First Department of the Ideological Bureau, which was responsible for the intelligentsia. It is hard to describe my surprise when I found in a top-secret report on the activities of the First Department in 1971 a record saying that there was only one file of operational assignment instigated for the year. A reference against it stated:

"FOR "Tramp", the object is a writer from an enemy family, politically unstable, left to the West in 1969 and refuses to come back. It has been found that he has close relations with traitors and never-coming-backs; has tried to take out his compositions to publish abroad, and recently has attempted to work in the European department of BBC.”3
This was he, the writer! I knew from the trial against Vladimir Todorov that Markov had been worked up under the pseudonym “Tramp,” and also, all other characteristics were indicative that the description in the secret report was related to him. I submitted a request for the research of materials about Georgi Markov immediately. During the follow-up study of the official archive of the Sixth Bureau I found over 25 extremely valuable secret documents, which identified irrefutably the major position that the writer had occupied as an enemy of the regime. His name was leading in the reports and accounts of the Ideological Department, his name was mentioned in all materials, he was the only one about whom the Analytical Department of the Sixth Bureau had prepared a special analysis some months after his broadcasting of the “Indirect Reportages” on the radio “Free Europe.” He was given as the most striking example of anti-sovietism and ideological diversion.

In a conversation with Seraphim Stoykov, I asked for a review of the archive of the former Second Bureau (SB) for some accidentally survived materials since the counter-intelligence had initially worked upon him independently. On the next day, the Director of “Information and Archive” Department met me with the words: “Hristo, you don’t know what we have found! Something that the SSS never wrote about!” Stoykov unfolded before me a registration book of the SB. In there, against the name of the writer, a handwritten reference said: “Killed London.” Subsequently, the letter by which the SB sent to the SSS a reference for removing Markov from the quest bulletin of fugitives and never-come-backs. The letter contained a typed text this time and against the name it was given—“killed in September 1978 in London.” The Director himself, a person with great experience and probably one of most proficient experts in the archive heritage of the SSS, was extremely excited and definite that he had encountered such a thing for the first time. Even more startling was the fact that this finding was related to Georgi Markov, about whom the circle of the SSS had persistently denied information till that time. In September 2000, I published “Tramp in the Heart of the SSS” in “Demokracia” newspaper. This investigation defeated the myth that there was nothing left about him in the archives.

The access to the case on the destruction of the dossiers of the dissident writer before the Supreme Cassation Court proved extremely important. It revealed the secret mechanisms of the destruction of direct evidences on the elimination of Markov and other key facts that overturned perceptions of people form the very system of the SSS. The comparison between the newly found documents in the official archive of the Sixth Bureau and the evidences given by former employees of the First Department, interrogated as witnesses at the trial against r.o. Gen. Vladimir Todorov, showed unequivocally that many of them had perjured before the Supreme Court, trying to belittle the working against the writer, to present it as inessential and only just as training. In the official archive of the Sixth Bureau, I found the correspondence with the First Bureau (FB), in which the name of Markov had been leading again. Up till now, these are the only documents from the time of Zhivkov’s intelligence services that have been made public.

During one of the interviews with r.o. Gen. Semerdzhiev, he told me that he had raised the question about Georgi Markov before the directors of different bureaus of the Interior Ministry. At my request about the time of this affair, Gen. Semerdzhiev advised me to check the minutes from the sessions of the Interior Ministry executive body in 1990. He had probably said that since he knew that these materials were confidential and I would not be able to obtain access. Seraphim Stoikov explained to me that these minutes are confidential indeed but that he was going to ask the minister, who was Emanuil Yordanov at that time, to declassify them. The minister, whom I did not know personally at that time, declassified the papers. Up to the present moment, they are the most recent documents of the Interior Ministry that has been declassified.

These minutes proved to me the most authentic documents about the end of the SSS and about the real causes for the failure of Zhivkov’s rule. From these documents, I found out that Gen. Semerdzhiev had not raised the question about the case “Markov” at any of the session of the executive body, as he had stated before the Prosecutor’s Office and the court, and subsequently before me.

The minutes, however, proved to be extraordinarily important in regards to something else: they evidenced that r.o. Gen. Vladimir Todorov had lied before the Supreme Court instance of the Republic of Bulgaria about his alibi for the day of removing the main working file against Georgi Markov from the operational report of FB on 10 January 1990. The minutes from the session of the executive body of the Interior Ministry showed that he had not been in his home-village as he had had insisted before the Supreme Court, but at the Interior Ministry, to decide on the fate of the SSS!

After these findings in the Interior Ministry Archive, I was already convinced that in order to present the most authentic documental history of Georgi Markov, I had to study all archives that might have contained any materials about the writer. The firs such archive was that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). In the end of 2000, I filed a request to Minister Hadezhda Mihaylova for access to the materials about the writer available at the MFA, as well as the reports of the Bulgarian embassy in the UK for the periods 1978-1979 and 1990-1991 Several thick files were given, the label "Country-traitor Markov” was put on the uppermost. All eventful notes about the meetings with the British ambassador in 1978, before and after the assassination of the writer, with the invariable involvement of Luben Gotsev. I found a letter of his from 1990 in which, in his deputy of Minister of Foreign Affairs, he pointed out the meaning official London ascribed to the case “Markov.” A parallel drawn with his testimony before the Supreme Court proved that Gotsev had spared these and other details from 1978.

In the MFA archive, I found a diplomatic note from the British embassy as of April 1990, by which the United Kingdom called on assassination investigation. In relation to the reports of the Bulgarian mission in London, I was given an answer that these were confidential and I should wait till the adoption of the Protection of Classified Information Act. In March 2001, I published a partial investigation on the basis of my findings in the archive in “Dnevnik” daily. The MFA archive research was supported by the Center for Media Development. I thank to my friends there.

Luben Gotsev’s behavior was interesting; it was marked by his unwillingness to talk. In 2001, when the documentary “Tramp Files” had been shot, I invited him for an interview. "Have you found the killer" – he asked me then. — "Yes, I am just working over it" – I answered. - "Good luck" – he said and hung up the phone. In April, I called him again. “I have nothing else to add. I have said what I had to say. If something is not clear to you, go to the Americans or the Britons,” Gotsev stated, this time apparently irritated and non-diplomatically hung up the phone again.

The behavior of the former head of the FB Vladimir Todorov was similar. He also refused to talk about the case and redirected me to his lawyer, whom I met and interviewed. The third person, who refused to speak with me, was Alexander Lilov. As many times I called, his secretary answered that he had an urgent engagement. I just could not perceive his motive and his actions after his meeting and giving a promise to Annabel Markova to help with the assassination investigation.

The Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) Archive proved extremely useful for the identification of several important facts. The book “Indirect Reportages about Bulgaria” did not give indication about the exact time of particular reportages broadcast on “Free Europe” Radio. Such an account, however, was given by the confidential newsletter “Foreign Propaganda against Bulgaria.” In 2000, the then director of BTA, Panayot Denev, helped me in the archive search of all newsletters between 1975 and 1978. It turned out that they were all meticulously bound in several volumes according to the dates of broadcast. I found out that the first warnings against the writer from January 1978 coincided with the time of the “Free Europe” broadcasts on writer’s meetings with Zhivkov. At that time, the British ambassador was summoned to the MFA and was given an ultimatum that if UK had not taken any measures against Markov, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria would have done that. The admonition was given in the presence of Luben Gotsev. BTA Archive is also valuable for the collection of the materials that indicated the reactions of the regime after the assassination, as well as the reactions of the UK and the international media, which the communist rule censored and concealed from the Bulgarian society.

In 2000, I knew that after the retirement of the examining magistrate Karayotov the investigation on the assassination of Georgi Markov had been crossed out. I knew that the Director of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Gen. Dimo Gyaurov immediately demanded from the Inquest the entire archive of the FB on the case with the most discrediting evidences. In June 2000, I turned to the President Petar Stoyanov with a letter reminding him his words of address related to the investigation of the writer’s assassination after his election as a head of state: "More than once, out new political class has stated its firm readiness to cooperate in all possible ways for the identification of the physical and intellectual committer of that assassination. We will not divert from that engagement of cooperation even for a second.” With the letter to the President Stoyanov, I asked for cooperation to obtain access to the archive of the former FB and the materials about Georgi Markov contained in it. I pointed out that these materials ought to be handed over the United Kingdom, where, in distinction with Bulgaria, there was no period of investigation expiration. I emphasized that such an action would be a peremptory signal of the changing image of Bulgaria in the light of the European Union accession negotiations. I wrote that the writer deserved to be rehabilitated in some way. Since I did not know the President personally, I gave the letter to one of his councilors, a former colleague of mine from “Demokracia” newsletter. I know that this letter remained on the desk of the head of state for a long time, though I did not receive a response. I know that after receiving it, he had contacted the already retired Karayotov and they had conversed.

In September, I published the investigation “Tramp in the Heart of SSS” on the basis of the documents found in the archive of the Interior Ministry. In November, the President sent a proposal to the Council of Ministers for the posthumous recognition of the writer. A month later, in 1992, for the first time, Annabelle Markova and Alexandra-Rayna came to Sofia and were bestowed the highest state order.

In 2001, the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) shot the documentary “The Tramp Files,” a documentary about the obliteration of the operational files against the writer. I was the scriptwriter. At the beginning of the year, the shooting team requested from the President to cooperate for snapshots from the archive of the NIA. Silence followed again. In distinction with this attitude, the Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov provided unrestricted access to the building of the Ministry and the archive. The Head of the Supreme Cassation Court, Ivan Grigorov, did the same. He provided old inventory of the Court Chamber in order to reconstruction of the interrogations from the trial against Gen. Vladimir Todorov.

In spite of the writer’s rehabilitation, President Petar Stoyanov did not make the important and firm step towards the opening of the FB archive containing the most discrediting materials against the Zhivkov’s regime—the materials about Georgi Markov’s assassination. During the interview I took from him at the beginning of 2005, which has been published under the Chapter “Meetings,” he peremptorily stated that the documents were to be declassified.

Unfortunately, all these state-responsible people of the transition period, who came to power in support of the democratic principles, held up the maxim: to support such a position after its defense would not depend on their authority and never to do that when they have the term to do it. In 2001, the President made a formal visit to the UK and instead of handing over the dossier “Piccadilly” to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he preferred to give a copy of the judgment by default against Markov to his wife Annabelle Markova.

How myopic a policy could be, showed out on January 22, 2002. Few remember that date, but this was the day when Petar Stoyanov inaugurated the then leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Georgi Parvanov. While watching the moving reporta on the TV the same evening when Stoyanov was leaving the building of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, surrounded by a lot of people, repeating the words “we believe in you,” I thought that the already former president missed opportunity to remain in history as the one that had taken a political decision on the case “Markov.” If he had taken it, the story would have probably ended naturally. It seemed, however, that faith had chosen another politician to do that, whose will and courage would be commensurable with the publicly given promises. The evaluation given by the former director of the Security Services in Radio “Free Europe” Richard Kamings is very precise. He has actively followed the development of the case and has had a number of publications on the subject:

"The Post-communist governments are accomplices in a crime. They had the opportunity to come out clean from the story, instead they hid all information. They are the other crime of communism that should be investigated.”4 From that point of vies, all heads of state, all governments, all parliamentary majority groups, and chief prosecutors after 1989, intentionally or not, have become accomplices in concealing the traces of Georgi Markov’s assassination.

Similar to the President Stoyanov, was the attitude of the former Director of the national Investigation Services, Gen. Dimo Gyaurov. Initially, I tried to obtain a simple reference of the history of the FB. He firmly refused. In several phone conversations, he even tried to convince me that in the NIS archive no information related to the activities of the “enemy” emigration existed. During his term, the archive remained as inaccessible as during previous governments. At a formal event in 2001 at the Alexander Nevsky Square, I had the opportunity to talk informally with Gen. Gyaurov once. Of course, I asked him when he was going to give me access to the archive of the FB on Georgi Markov. The General responded that the writer used to be an agent of the SSS, then of the British, and finally to the KGB. “Why exactly KGB?” – I asked. "He was transferred to Moscow in order to shatter Zhivkov’s authority,” was his astounding reply. I did not say anything. I knew that Gen. Gyaurov has continued to be suspicious about the “agency” of the writer. I hope that book to change his perceptions, though this is not so important. It is more significant to be found out whether Gen. Gyaurov was sincere during his term as a Director of the NIS. An interview with him that was published in the book, he insisted that after 1999, when the key materials from the FB were transferred to the NIS, nobody had shown interest. This, however, was far from the truth. Right after the selection of a Commission of the Dossiers, headed by Metody Andreev, in 2001, I submitted a written request demanding access to the “Piccadilly” file. I grounded my request in Article 3, Para. 2, Item 1, letter “a” of the amended Dossier Act, which stipulated that the names and documents of the collaborators of the NIS would be disclosed if the person “has participated in violent actions against individuals or has contributed to persecutions, or the limitation of the right of affected individuals because of their political convictions." I explained to Metodi Andreev that it was not advisable to mention that a journalist was interested in that dossier since the Director of the NIS would undoubtedly refuse to give it. Around ten days later, Andreev conveyed his conversation with the General: “Dimo Gyaurov said that the documents are with the NIS indeed and asked me what we needed them for. I answered: “We want to read them, the question is about Georgi Markov.” "Eh, what do you want now, to discredit the state, he said,” were the words of Andreev. Thus, without explaining who was really interested in the materials, the secret of the most guarded archive of the state was concealed from the “Andreev” Commission as well.

The bitterest question that friends have asked me during the years was why the democrats did not do anything about revealing the truth about the assassination of the writer Georgi Markov? I think that if the inconsistent policy of their government in 1992 and after 1997 regarding decommunization laws, lustration, dossiers and archives were followed, it would turn out that not only discordant decisions and political mistakes were made, but also a kind of distancing and belittling of these problems was observed, which came back as a boomerang after 2001. I am writing all these not to discredit anybody, though some people would claim that this is the case. I am writing since I believe that the truth about Georgi Markov is more important than the image of a particular politician, even being the President. It is more important that the prestige of a national agency, even being the national intelligence.

With his refusal to assist me in studying the history of the security services, the former Director of the National Intelligence Services actually made me an invaluable favor. I started digging into the National Archives (NA), where I found the exceptionally important secret decisions of the Communist Party Bureau for the establishment and development of the intelligence services during the Zhivkov regime. Among them, I came across the decision of 1973, by which the Bureau authorized the security services to plan and execute “acute operations” abroad, including against people. I studied all decisions of the Bureau and the secretariat of the Communist party shaping their ideology and their view towards the immigrants in the 60s and 70s. Later I browsed through the archives of the Bulgarian Writers Union, as well as the archives of the communist party organization within, learning some significant facts about the attitudes towards Markov before and after he decided to stay in the West. In 2004 I studied the confidential archive of the State Council in the NA, which contained the secret decrees by issued by Zhivkov to officials from the security services and KGB. Finally, I checked the archives of the Former President Zhelio Zhelev, which turned out to be incomplete and contained no record of the exceptionally important meeting of the ambassadors of Great Britain and Denmark in 1993, when they requested assistance from the President for receiving all key materials from the Piccadilly dossier. It was a pleasure for me to work at the National Archives with the help of such professionals as the Georgi Chernev – the Director and Stefka Petrova – head of the Bookkeeping department.

In 2000 the Bulgarian Parliament adopted the Access to Public Information Act (promulgated in issue 55/July 7, 2000). This law turned into my most powerful êîéòî weapon. Unfortunately, after the Parliamentary elections in 2001 the attitude of those in power towards the archive of the former state security services changed drastically. Politicians from the ruling party National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) started talking about burning the dossiers in the election night. This idea did not go through, but the collisions between the ruling party and the Andreev committee quickly catalyzed some processes. In March the MPs of NMSII, the Bulgarian Socialists Party and the Movement for Human Rights and Freedom abolished the Access to Documents of Former Security Services Act. This happened with the adoption of the Protection of Classified Information Act (PCIA) promulgated in State Gazette issue 45 of April 30, 2002). Many member of the ruling majority assured us that the right of access to archival documents would not be violated. They did not take into account the warning of Bruce Jackson of the US Committee of NATO expansion when he visited Bulgaria in the beginning of March 2002. He underlined that it is intolerable to halt the process of accessing the former secret archives and this would be a sign that Bulgaria would make a serious step backwards.

In June 2002 the Minister of Interior Mr. Petkanov issued an instruction for access to the Ministry Archives. Even before that, I had contacted Mr. Petkanov with a request to work on a topic concerning the security services. In practice, such requests are answered by the Information and Archives Department and signed by the Minister. Soon afterwards I received a letter, signed by Mr. Petkanov, allowing me to start my investigation. On the next day I tried to get a permit for the building of the Ministry, but I was told to wait, because there was some kind of a problem. The problem was clarified a couple of days later when I received a new letter of Mr. Petkanov, in which he reversed his decision, explaining that the materials contained classified information. The Minister asked me to wait for the adoption of the PCIA Implementation Guidelines, which would establish the procedures for document declassification. Shortly afterwards I learned that the Minister had imposed penalties on four archival officials who had prepared the initial letter and that the Minister had been told to refuse access, because I had close relationships with Seraphim Stoykov. At the same time Mr. Petkanov was in conflict with the Head of the Information and Archives Department (IAD), whom he fired in September 2002, accusing him of illegally disclosing dossiers to the Andreev committee. This staging and the subsequent firing of Mr. Stoykov were later rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) where the IAD head fought for his rights.

In November 2002 I provoked a Parliamentary question to Mr. Petkanov by Yordan Bakalov, an MP from the Democratic Union and a member of the Committee of Internal Security and Public Order. Only two people had been refused access to the Archives of the Ministry of Interior, was the answer of Mr. Petkanov, when asked about the implementation of his instructions for work with archival documents. I don’t know who the other person was, but one of them was me. A few months later I resumed my attempts to gain access to the archives and – after learning that I might appeal a refusal before the SAC – the Minister fulfilled my request. It turned out however, that his decision had been purely formal. Mr. Petkanov had meanwhile changed the procedure for working with the archive ordering that the lists of archival documents were classified and could not be accessed. In this way no one could actually perform an independent study of the archive, because the decision which archival documents to be disclosed was made by the officials and approved by the Minister.

In the end of 2002 I filed a new application requesting access to the documents collected about BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe for the period between 1971 and 1978 when Georgi Markov had worked for them. In practice, it was better to be cautious and file a general request, avoiding and suspicion from the responding officials. However, I decided to act directly and specified the name of Georgi Markov, knowing that the requested files contained a large variety of documentation and there had to be something related to the writer’s name. I received no response within the law-provided term and filed a complaint before the SAC. Under the Bulgarian law complaints are initially sent to the responding institutions. So, when the Minister learned about my move, he sent me a false-dated letter, explaining that the information I had requested was not contained in the Ministry archives. I did not withdraw my complaint and the lawsuit was constituted before the SAC. The first instance court adopted the view that I had requested an unreasonably wide range of documents. The judges did not consider the presented evidence – archival documents I had found in 2002 in the official archives of the Sixth Bureau (of the security services), which proved there was a connection between the three radio stations and Georgi Markov. I appealed the court decision and a Five-member panel of SAC heard the lawsuit. The supreme prosecutor Angel Angelov stated that the instruction of Mr. Petkanov – which was not even promulgated in State Gazette – unduly introduced additional restrictions to the Access to Public Information Act. The prosecutor believed that the requested information existed and access to it should be provided. In May 2004 the Supreme judges decided that the conclusions of the first instance court were wrong and reversed their decision5. The Minister was obliged to provide immediate access to the requested documents from the Ministry archives. The court proceeded from the assumption that the presented evidence proved the existence of the requested information. This court decision was final and remains a huge victory in the fight for accessing the secrets of the State security services.

I was not alone in this fight. Major support was provided by Access to Information Programme and the head of their legal team Alexander Kashumov, who agreed to be my lawyer. Access to Information Programme is a non-government organization, which has been enlightening Bulgarians on access to information and has been playing a significant role in establishing the civil society.

Shortly afterwards I had a brief talk with Mr. Petkanov and asked him whether he would comply with the decision of the Supreme judges. His response was affirmative – he knew that otherwise he would become the target of severe criticism as a minister, who wouldn’t implement the decision of the Supreme Court.

Petkanov only complied with the decision in half, not allowing me to view the list of archival units. Several months later I was told by the DIA that the name of Georgi Markov was contained in only four archival documents. This was only a formal response, but one of the disclosed documents was yet another proof that the Security services viewed the death of the writer as an assassination. When the situation at the Ministry of Interior changes favorably and real access to the archives is made possible, I’ll repeat my request, because I am certain that the radio station files contain tens of documents directly concerning the Bulgarian dissident. The Ministry archives contain documents of services other than the Sixth Bureau, which and I’m sure contain exceptionally important information. Their study however, requires a more favorable time. In any case, the name of Georgi Petkanov will go down in history as the first Minister of Interior sued after a refusal to provide access to the Ministry archives.

Not all ministries carry out the restrictive procedures characteristic for the archives of the Ministry of Interior. After the adoption of the PCIA I turned towards the new Minister of Foreign Affairs - Solomon Passy – with a request to access the confidential reports of the Bulgarian Embassy in London. In my letter I indicated that according to a number of legal provisions these documents were no longer restricted. Mr. Passy not only complied with my request, but granted full access to the reports containing information about the Markov case, unlike the Minister of Interior, who only provided me with partial access. By reading the reports of our Embassy in London I obtained an overall picture of the politics of Bulgaria towards Great Britain and vice versa, which was of great value to my studies. In contrast to Mr. Petkanov, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been trying to assist the researchers, rather than to hinder their work. The archival officials at the Foreign Ministry were determined to provide quality services and it had been a pleasure for me to work there.

In 2004 there was another important question, which needed to be clarified: the mechanism leading to the refusal of Bulgaria to disclose the most important documents from the Piccadilly Dossier. In a conversation with Ani Kruleva, the former Director of the National Investigation Services, she mentioned that the Chief Prosecutor Ivan Tatarchev had signed the refusal letter. I spoke to him, but he explicitly rejected the possibility of signing such a letter. After that I filed an application to the Nikola Filchev, the present Chief Prosecutor, requesting access to all 1993 correspondence between his predecessor and the Embassy of Denmark. I received no answer to my request, but could not undertake any actions, because I had no evidence about the documents. At about the same time I received a copy of the whole correspondence of the Embassy of Denmark, including the refusal letter of Mr. Tatarchev.

This was the saddest document I had ever seen. Its discovery however, gave me an opportunity to check what had happened with the documents in the Supreme Prosecution Office and whether they did not hold any other materials. I filed a new request to the Chief Prosecutor, this time indicating the registration number and the date of the Tatarchev letter. Again I received no answer, but this time I used an opportunity to turn to the Supreme Court, having specific information about the requested document. I filed a complaint against the deemed refusal and the reaction of the Prosecution office was immediate. A supreme prosecutor, whom I used to know well as a judicial reporter, called me and requested a meeting with me on the same day. As I expected, he wanted me to withdraw my appeal, because they had failed to report the request to the Chief Prosecutor. If he were to learn that I had filed a complaint against him, there would be people fired. I rejected his request unconditionally, explaining that he represented an institution, which oversees the implementation of the law, but at the same time had violated the APIA. He then replied that the document had been destructed. I told him I wanted an official letter, indicating the date and procedure of destruction, or I would otherwise have to see him in the courtroom. A few days later I received a letter, ideating that the set of documents containing the requested document had been destroyed in the beginning of 1999 – during the last months of the Tatarchev rule – with a protocol approved by the Head of the National Archives.

I next filed a request to the Head of the National Archives. As a reply I was told that a committee of prosecutors, constituted by an order of Mr. Tatarchev from Oct. 23, 1998, had reviewed documents issued between 1984 to 1989 – correspondence between the Supreme Prosecution Office and the Bureau of the Communist Party, the Cabinet and the State Council. The protocol of the prosecutors to the National Archives did not indicate that correspondence related to international co-operation or documentation of the international relations department should be destroyed. Whether the letter of Tatarchev had been indeed destroyed, or the Prosecution decided not to disclose it is unclear. But this shows two of the obnoxious faces of the Bulgarian institutions: the first one is that the Supreme Prosecution Office have been (and are) implementing the law in an arbitrary manner and have been trying to cover this; and second, what would happen if the Danish authorities decide to resume their correspondence with the Prosecution, if the Bulgarian institution keeps absolutely no track of the letters, provided that they were actually destroyed? By the way, the official letter of the Supreme Prosecution Office, stating that the document had been destroyed, makes the copy of it published in this book ever more significant.

The correspondence of the Danish Embassy described in detail the meetings of the Ambassador of Denmark with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993 and the documents requested from the Ministry in relation to the Piccadilly case. This gave me an opportunity to check with the MFA and ask them what archival documents they held. It turned out there was no trace of Piccadilly in the Ministry. Archival officials checked all incoming and outgoing registers and could not find a single note of the meetings with the Danish Ambassador or any proof that diplomatic notes on the Markov case had been received. This is more than strange, but gives utmost importance to the correspondence of the Embassy of Denmark published in this book.

The last document, which I received, was from the presidential archive and was from the time of the former President Stoyanov. These documents are still kept in the archives of President Parvanov and have not been turned over to the National Archives. I requested access to the notes of the meetings between the former President and the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain Mr. Malcolm Riffkind and Robin Cook. The administration of the President informed me that they kept a report from the Cook meeting, which was readily provided. It disclosed yet another fact about the Markov case, which had remained secret for the public at large: that during all years of transition, Bulgaria had not officially given an answer (about what?) and that London had indeed demanded this answer.

After the presidential elections in 2002, I turned to the newly elected president with a request for assistance in accessing the archives of the National Intelligence Services. I informed him that these archives contained sufficient documentation to expound the role of the former security services in Markov's murder. I wanted to learn whether he, as Head of State, would assist me in accessing these documents and shedding light on this political murder. My request was left unanswered, but I did n't give up searching a way to enter an archive as important as this one. The PCIA (promulgated in State Gazette issue 45 of April 30, 2002) was adopted with the votes of NMSII, The Bulgarian Socialists and MHRF. The law contained a number of provisions, which not only regulated the protection of classified information and access to it, but also regulated the process of document declassification after the expiration of the classification period. Furthermore, the law defined new levels of secrecy for all documents classified before 2002. From this followed that all materials of the State security services, marked with a "Highly confidential" stamp should have remained secret for 15 years after their issue date, meaning that all documents issued before 1990 should no longer be secret. The PCIA clearly states that such documents can be publicly accessible for one year after their declassification and then should be turned over to the National Archives. On every press-conference given by Tsveta Markova, the Head of the State Committee on Information Security (SCIS), I have been asking her the question, how were the declassification procedures being implemented. The SCIS is the controlling body in this area and is authorized to methodological directions to all institutions working with secret archives. The PCIA obliged all institution directors to establish an internal committee, which should have reviewed all classified documents and should have turned the appropriate ones to the NA. Information contained in the Archives can only be destroyed with the explicit authorization of the SCIS.

In September 2003 I turned towards the Executive director of the National Intelligence Services, Colonel Kircho Kirov6, who had replaced General Dimo Gyaurov. I asked Mr. Kirov how his institution implemented the declassification provisions regarding the intelligence archives. Mr. Kirov invited me to a meeting and we talked more than an hour. I openly told him about my intentions to study the archives of the First Bureau and look for documentation about Georgi Markov. He explained to me that a committee had been established and slowly but surely there would be an opportunity for researchers to work in the archives. After waiting for over a year, in early September, 2004 I contacted Mr. Kirov's secretary and requested a phone call with him in an attempt to receive any kind of an answer. Since there was no reply, I filed an application, wishing to receive access to the most important documents of the First Bureau, which concerned the murder of Georgi Markov and were contained in the intelligence archives7. The request was addressed to the President Parvanov and the Pime Minister Saxe-Coburg Gotha, as they were the highest public authorities, and the Intelligence services were subordinate to them. I wanted them to order the Director of NIS to comply with my request, and set forth the arguments that the classification term of all requested documents had expired and they had to be turned over to the National Archives.

As I was awaiting a response, something else was happening. I met a friend of mine, a lawyer, and shared with him my problems with access to the archives and the lack of compliance with PCIA. He offered me to move my arguments to Parliament and eventually initiate a parliamentary inquiry To my great surprise, just a few weeks later - in mid October 2004 - the former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov asked the present Prime Minister how were the declassification provisions of PCIA implemented. The legal arguments of Mr. Kostov repeated mine, when I had requested access to the Archive of the NIS. Obviously, they had been serious enough to have reached the former Primer Minister and he personally used them to outline the problem and to direct the attention of the MPs to institutions, which violated the law, also including the Intelligence services and the inherited archives of the First Bureau. Simeon Sax-Coburg Gotha replied that time had come for documents of the Former security service to be disclosed and open to the public and the researchers. I still do not know personally the former Primer Minister Kostov, despite my work as a journalist in Democracy newspaper, but I was pleased with the way the story unveiled. The Parliamentary inquiry and the standpoint of Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha quickly turned into news and initiated a number of articles and analyses, most of which had little to do with the truth. Some saw this as an ingenous pre-election move, others - like the Speaker of the Parliament Ognian Gerdzhikov - immediately expressed their support for the Prime Minister, and still others - like the Socialists - suspected that Kostov and Simeon had made a deal behind the scenes. President Parvanov warned of a potential "strong ideological conflicts, while Dimitar Ivanov, the former head of the Sixth unit of Sixth Bureau hurriedly assured that the Primer Minister would never open the dossiers. I was amused, looking at all these inadequate reactions and interpretations, prompted by personal and political fears.

The question of Mr. Kostov did not concern the dossiers, but was rather about the implementation of the PCIA and why were n't the secret archives transferred to the oState Archives when they had to be. Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha could not give an answer to this question. He pointed out that the responsibility for the implementation of the law is carried by the heads of the respective authorities The Prime Minister added that the law would be changed so that the documents would be transferred to the National Archives. The Head of SCIS Tsveta Markova even announced, that amendments to the law will provide for severe sanctions for those authorities, who violate the procedure and fail to submit their documents to the NA.

The surprising raising of the issue with the archives caught the lobby of specialized services napping. They quickly woke up however and regrouped: in January 2005 the Cabinet adopted draft amendments to the Protection of Classified Information Act, which directly contradicted the standpoint of the Prime Minister. They would allow for the destruction of archival documents without the review of the SCIS and by discretion of every authority. The amendments would also remove the obligation to turn over some documents to the National Archives. In practice, this would provide for a legitimate way of destroying the official archives, which contained the secret history of Bulgaria for the last 50 years! The Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg Gotha received harsh criticism for changing his position from October 2004. After that I published a series of publications in Dnevnik newspaper arguing that there was absolutely no public interest in the proposed amendments, and so the Cabinet was unprecedently forced to rewrite the text of the amendments. It turned out that the initial draft had not even been co-ordinated with the Cabinet Archives. Archival officials of the Council of Ministers had explicitly shown that the proposed amendments contradict with the National Archives Act, because the destruction of all public documents - like all declassified material from the security services - could not be destroyed without the approval of the Head of the National State Archives. In February the draft amendments were introduced to Parliament, but it was already pre-election time. Despite this, the story demonstrated the ambitions of the Ministry of Interior and the intelligence services to keep control over all information contained in their archives and their unwillingness to turn documents over to the National Archives, where they would be open to researchers and the public.

There is a danger that the archives of the former security services - including some compromising dossiers like the Piccadilly files - could be destroyed. This danger can still be avoided, although this did not happen within the rule of the former Cabinet because of its shortsighted policy. The Kostov Government did not implement the provision of Art.13 of the Access to Documents of Former Security Services Act, which stipulated that "within one year after the promulgation of the Act all documents of the former security services should be turned over to the National Archives. If the Kostov Cabinet had complied with the law, the realistic danger of losing this priceless documentation would have been avoided.

My application for accessing the archives of NIS to the President and the Prime Minister soon saw some development. The Cabinet did not reply, but the President administration registered my request and forwarded it to General Kirov. He, in turn, did reply within the law-prescribed terms. On the last day, in which I had an opportunity to file an appeal against his deemed refusal, I called him on the phone. He informed me that he considered my request as threatening, because I indicated that I had sued the Minister of Interior. I replied that I have lost eighteen months because of Mr. Petkanov and I didn’t want this to repeat. General Kirov acknowledged my right to access the requested information, and he had no intention of hiding it, but it was technically impossible to process the whole archive in such a short time and there was no reading room where I could study the documents. As a conclusion, no access could be provided within one year. I explained to him yet again, that my goal was to study the archives, rather than file complaints against him, and I was ready to withdraw my claims if access was indeed assured. Instead of providing access though, the Head of NIS held my complaint for five months and would not refer it to the Sofia City Court. I was forced to file a new complaint directly to the court with a request to demand the file from General Kirov.

On April 1, 2005, the court was supposed to hear the case for the first time, but it turned out that the General had been unduly summoned. This was expected, because delay was all he could rely on. The court will decide whether the public interest prevailing over the institutional secrets of an authority, be it the intelligence services. Whether General Kirov was looking for a solution - seeing the opportunity that the court rules against him and orders for opening of the archives - might be implicitly learned from one of his statements:

"I will express a personal opinion. I am a supporter of a radical approach, which was adopted in Greece and in Spain. All their archival documents, without being disclosed, and regardless of the names within, have been burned by a decision of the Parliament8".

The General skipped the fact that those countries have only partially destroyed archival documents in times of military hunts. This is a solution however, which highly favors the General and I will not be surprised if the next Parliament approves such a radical approach for dealing with the history contained in the archives. There is indeed a risk for the “legal” destruction of information about the murder of Georgi Markov kept in the National Intelligence Services – an outlaw institution for more than 15 years. I am certain, however, that sooner or later, the NIS archives will be open and the public will learn the whole truth about Markov’s assassination. The fight goes on.

Time will prove me right!

1. The Interior Ministry Archive should include the archives of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the investigation services, some archives of the Ministry of Finance and those of foreign trade companies like “Kinteks”, by means of which the policy of state contraband, support of terrorist regimes, and drug traffic was implemented.
2. The notion that after obtaining the minister’s permission, the researcher is given access to huge premises full with archive materials and he could use whatever he wants is wrong. In the Interior Ministry, a specific procedure has been established for the use of archive materials. The only place where citizens could use the materials is a reading room, not big, that has been staked off. The Archive officials provide concrete descriptions (big sized registration books), in which the archive units of a given sub-branch of the Interior Ministry are described in categories. In these descriptions, the content in brief and the volume of the archive unit correspond to the registration number. The researcher asked for a particular number of archive units and after several days these are given to him for reading. If the material is of some interest to the researcher, he could take notes or copy particular pages. Georgi Markov had read the materials about the composition of the play “Communists” in that same reading room, where 32 years later the author found secret documents about him by the Sixth Department of the SSS.
3. Interior Ministry Archive, fund 22, description 1, archive unit 5, quotation of a top-secret report on the “Work of the First Department at the Sixth Bureau of the SSS in 1971,” as of 24 December 1971.
4. Interview with Richard Kamings, 2003
5. The five-member panel was presided by Nikolay Urumov and also included Penka Ivanova, Srebrina Hristova, Vesselina Kulova, and the reporting judge Boyan Magdalinchev.
6. Kircho Kirov (1950 - ) - executive director of NIS (February 2003 - January 2004), Director of NIS from January 2004 ã., now General. Majored pedagogy and psychology in the University of Sofia St. Kliment Ohridski. His career within the intelligence services began in 1974. he worked undercover in Tirana and Belgrade. Former member of the Bulgarian Communist Party, he has specialized in KGB twice. In 1996 he headed Territorial intelligence at the NIS.
7. With an information application, I requested access to reports, analyses, protocols, inquiries, and all other information of the First Bureau about the radio propaganda and political diversion between 1971 and 1979, in relation to the "enemy" immigrants during this period; to the plans of cooperation between different other Bureaus of the former security services in relation to the "enemy" immigrants; to annual plans and reports on the cooperation between the First Bureau and the KGB within this period; to any information KGB visits to Bulgaria between September 1977 and September 1978; to annual reports of the fourth counter-intelligence unit of the First bureau between 1971 and 1979; to the files of the First bureau collaborator Francesco Gulino.
8. bTV, January 18, 2005, interview with the Head of the NIS, General Kirov.


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English Version • Last Update: 05.01.2006 • © 1999 Copyright by Interia & AIP