Research Trip to Urbana, IL

November 25, 2007 by  
Filed under Research

Our third trip to the University of Illinois’s library to discover books and materials on the subject of Bulgarian Protestantism was successful again. Among the findings was a very important book about the famous Pastor’s Trial in Bulgaria. Its story is indeed worth sharing.

In 1949, five years after communism took over in Bulgaria, fifteen evangelical pastors were tried and sentenced to years of imprisonment for allegedly serving as spies for the United States, England and France. This was the first of several waves arranged by the communist government to behead the evangelical movement from its true leaders while implanting secret agents as pastors and ministers within the church. In fact, the Pastors’ Trial was just a small part of a larger political scheme through which the Regime attempted to remove ideological leaders of various Bulgarian professional groups like political leaders, chief of military departments, lawyers, doctors, scholars and such. Unfortunately, following Stalin’s directives, the Communist party of Bulgaria was very successful in executing or imprisoning most prominent leaders in Bulgaria, thus dooming the country to an era of political, economical and social ignorism, which ensured the implementation of their proletarian agenda. As preachers of freedom and puritan values, evangelical pastors naturally opposed the drastic move of the Regime toward dictatorial totalitarianism.

While researching the subject at the University of Illinois, it became apparent that immediately after the trial of 1949, the Bulgarian Communist government ordered the publication of a book which was intended to inform the Western world of the “crimes” of the evangelical pastors. The book was written in satisfactory English, perhaps with the help of a native English speaker, printed in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia and then distributed around the world. To much of our surprise, the publication contained an English translation of the “confessions” which were extracted from the pastors during the trial and presented as evidence against them.

Later publications contain the memoirs of several of the pastors, as they describe the horrible ways of torture, starvation and depravity of sleep, used to obtain the confessions. Unfortunately, since many of them spent over a decade in various prisons without any means of communicating with the outside world and recording facts and events, the contents of the confessions were impossible to reproduce in their memoirs.

This publication, however, gives a full account of the texts as recorded by agents of the Communist militia. This is the first time that we have become aware of the existence of such publication, as it has been virtually unspoken of by both Bulgarian and foreign studies on the topic. In the future, we will be comparing the English translations with the partial publications of other “confessions” in various Bulgarian periodicals of that time in order to discover variants and modifications between the text intended for the Bulgarian public and the text translated and published for the Western reader.