Abraham Lincoln famously said that you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Perhaps the masses are more malleable than Lincoln thought, at least in present-day Bulgaria. President Georgi Parvanov, it transpires from recently declassified documents, was an informer for DS, or Darzhavna sigurnost - the Communist-era secret police, the Bulgarian equivalent of Stasi and Securitate.
Before standing for a second term last year, President Parvanov denied what at the time was an allegation that he had collaborated with DS. Documents now declassified prove that he had in fact been a collaborator, code-named Gotse. He had signed a declaration of allegiance to DS and had received payment for his services. These are the facts. In July, the commission for the declassification of the archives of DS officially confirmed that Georgi Parvanov was a “secret collaborator” with its First Main Department. He was recruited in October 1989, a month before Todor Zhivkov's regime fell, and his file was closed in 1993.
In June 2006, a few months ahead of the presidential election and responding to rightwing opposition pressures, Parvanov admitted that he had “held” the Gotse file. He insisted that, as a historian at the History Institute of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP), he believed he had been working for the Foreign Ministry. His task was to assist a “very eminent” man write his memoirs. President Parvanov denied he knew he was really working for DS but added that, even if he had, he would have carried out his assignment.
Last year, his recruiting officer, the now retired First Lieutenant Tsvetkov, said that Parvanov “knew perfectly well” that he was collaborating with DS. Tsvetkov said he had chosen the code name Gotse because the two were working on the “Macedonian issue” and Parvanov reminded him of Gotse Delchev, one of the turn-of-the century leaders of the Macedonian liberation movement.
When the commission opened the Gotse file, they found inconsistencies with the president's account. Tsvetkov had written in one of the documents that Parvanov “showed readiness and willingness to cooperate with DS”. The file also contained a statement of expenses, at loggerheads with President Parvanov's assertion that “there is no document to prove any remuneration, but I will admit that I did receive a one-time fee for consultation and editorial work.”
The Gotse file was incomplete when it was finally made public. The commission determined that 36 pages had disappeared. According to the Monitor daily, they were the so-called “work records”, the reports that agent Gotse made to his supervising officer. Without these pages, Gotse's true links with the DS will never be known. The commission stated that this was not the first time that the National Intelligence Service (NRS), the guardian of the DS and other intelligence archives, had sent them “doctored” files.
When was this “editing” done? It could have happened during the massive “purging” of files in the 1990s. Yet the Gotse file went into the NRS archives on 4 February 1997. On that very date, after the resignation of Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, under pressure from street protests and amidst an economic crisis, the BSP abandoned its attempts to form another government, a move that triggered an early parliamentary election. At the time, President Parvanov was leader of the BSP.
Perhaps the tampering occurred more recently, just before the commission began its work. Kostadinov said that the Gotse file was last “handled” on 27 March this year.
The government did respond to these revelations, albeit in an odd way.
Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev said that the law allowing the opening of the DS archives invited irresponsible speculation: “This is misusing the matter for political ends.” Interior Minister Rumen Petkov was more forthright: “The commission should have made it clear that there is no basis for saying the president was involved as an agent.” Kostadinov replied that the commission was barred by legal constraints from delivering opinions on the findings.
NRS Director General Kircho Kirov was the most adamant of all in defending Parvanov. “There is no agent Gotse. There is just a file,” he told the 24 Chasa daily. “It is uncivil and unethical to cast aspersions on the highest institution of the state and the character of the man at its head, a man who has proved his credentials over the years,” he added. Kirov did not use the word “democratic”. He had himself been a DS officer for many years, specialising in the so-called Yugoslav Area. Unofficial sources claim that his rapid career advancement came as a result of the Gotse file.
Kirov did more than just give interviews. He invited Kostadinov for a talk. After the meeting, the chairman of the commission said: “It was categorically established that during this period (when Kirov has been head of the NRS and Parvanov president) there had been no intervention.”
The commission concluded that the incomplete state of the Gotse file resulted from the addition of separate documents to another file called Komitata. Parvanov's task, according to the dossier, had been to “find historical source materials” and write a manuscript in memoir form on a person code-named in the Komitata dossier.
Subsequently, media reports identified Komitata as Metodi Dimov. Dimov was born in Bitola, Macedonia. In the middle of the 20th Century he emigrated to Belgium because of the pro-Serbian propaganda in the former Yugoslav republic. There he began writing books claiming that Macedonians and Bulgarians were the same people.
The Komitata file remains closed. The commission says that the only proof it contains of Parvanov's activities as a DS collaborator relates to Parvanov's editing of a part of Metodi Dimov's Gabero. The book was published in 1990, but Parvanov was not named as editor.
Parvanov's press centre announced that the president's statements last year were his final comments on the matter. Apart from protests by the civic organisation Spravedlivost, or Justice, and the rightwing opposition, nobody urged the president's resignation. Most media outlets, believed to be “on good terms” with the president because he allegedly controls the people who control them, are conspicuously silent.
Unlike other former Communist countries, where affiliation to the former secret services would have caused a grand scandal followed by resignations, Bulgaria's reaction has been muted. Newspapers printed interviews with high-ranking officials appointed by President Parvanov and debated whether Parvanov's activities were in any way pernicious. As for ordinary Bulgarians, they decamped to the seaside rather than grapple with issues they deem preordained by the country's unofficial powerbrokers over the last 18 years.
In Bulgaria there are many cynical jokes about this type of behaviour. Most are unprintable for their exuberant use of four-letter words. Yet it's impossible not to be reminded of another president's protestations: “But I didn't inhale!”
As the Bulgarians say, lies have short legs. But they have no saying about what happens to liars who've been caught out. The truth about “the lives of others” has not been made public in Bulgaria. There seems to be little chance that it ever will.