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RFE Bulgarian Broadcasts Commemorated In Sofia

Former Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev speaking at November 11 roundtable honoring the 60th anniversary of RFE broadcasting to Bulgaria. Photo: Kostadin Grozev
SOFIA, BULGARIA -- The 60th anniversary of the first RFE Bulgarian broadcast from Munich in October 1951 was recently celebrated with an exhibition and conference in Sofia. Bulgarian television, radio, and print media provided extensive coverage of the events.

On November 11, an exhibition titled “War on the Airwaves” opened at the Museum of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry. The exhibition, organized by the Bulgarian State Archive Agency, Secret Files Commission, Interior Ministry, Sofia University, the Cold War Research Group Bulgaria and National Polytechnic Museum, included documents and photos from the Bulgarian Communist secret police files as well as copies of documents from RFE/RL archives. The exhibition will remain open through December 2011.

In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, Sofia University’s “Dialogue Europe” center organized a roundtable discussion that brought together former managers and Bulgarian Service journalists to look at RFE’s Bulgarian broadcast efforts over the past six decades.

Zhelyu Zhelev, a dissident who became the first president of post-Communist Bulgaria, shared his views on the significance of RFE’s Bulgarian broadcasts and recounted how the late Bulgarian Service broadcaster Romyana Uzunova interviewed him by telephone from Munich in 1989.

The discussion also included two panels. The first featured presentations by Bulgarian State Archives chairman Martin Ivanov and former RFE directors A. Ross Johnson and Robert Gillette, followed by comments from former RFE Bulgarian broadcasters Alex Alexiev, Vladimir Kostov, Dimitar Bochev, and Diana Ivanova. The second panel, which focused on countermeasures employed by the Bulgarian regime against the service and its journalists, included presentations by former RFE/RL security director Richard Cummings; Bulgarian Cold War Research Group coordinator Jordan Baev, Sofia University journalism faculty deputy dean Maria Deenichina, and journalist Hristo Hristov.