Todor Zhivkov (September 7, 1911 – August 5, 1998) was a Bulgarian politician and a leader of the BCP (1956 – 1989). In the aftermath of the coup of September 9, 1944, he became the leader of the Sofia Police Department and actively participated in the campaign of extrajudicial murders and large-scale arrests intended to eliminate BCP’s opponents in the capital. In 1951 he was promoted to full membership in the BCP Politburo. After the 20th Congress of the CPSU and the beginning of “de-Stalinization” campaigns in the Soviet bloc in 1956, Zhivkov replaced Vulko Chervenkov as a General Secretary of the BCP. Subsequently he outmaneuvered his intra-party rivals and by the early 1960s established himself as the undisputed leader of the BCP and the country.
Avoiding the violent excesses of Stalinism, Zhivkov nevertheless remained implacably hostile to the notion of political liberalization – he unleashed political purges and repressions whenever he deemed that necessary, most infamously in the 1980s when he launched a brutal assimilationist campaign against Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish minority. While displaying some interest in economic reforms, he never deviated from the Marxist principles of economic planning. Unable to offer a solution to the country’s mounting problems and facing the open hostility of Gorbachev and the new Soviet leadership, Zhivkov was forced to resign on November 10, 1989. In the 1990s he was briefly arrested and charged with embezzlement and abuse of power, but the attempt to hold him accountable for crimes committed during the communist era ultimately failed. Todor Zhivkov died in Sofia in 1998.