Military history of Bulgaria during World War II

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Bulgaria during World War II
Post-WWII territory of Bulgaria
//           // Southern Dobruja, restored from Romania following the Treaty of Craiova and Second Vienna Award, 1940
Vardar Macedonia, Southern Pomoravlje and Western Thrace annexed in 1941
//           // Bulgarian military administration from 1943
Borders in 1941
Borders in 2000 Map of Bulgaria during WWII.png
Bulgaria during World War II
  Post-WWII territory of Bulgaria
//           //  Southern Dobruja, restored from Romania following the Treaty of Craiova and Second Vienna Award, 1940
//           // Bulgarian military administration from 1943
  Borders in 1941
  Borders in 2000
German Wehrmacht officers in Bulgaria in 1939. BASA-3K-15-474-1-World War II military people of Germany.jpg
German Wehrmacht officers in Bulgaria in 1939.
Bulgarians entering Southern Dobruja in Romania per the Treaty of Craiova (1940). Dobrudzha 1940.jpg
Bulgarians entering Southern Dobruja in Romania per the Treaty of Craiova (1940).
Bulgarian invasion into southern Yugoslavia (Macedonia, April 1941). Bulgarian army 1941.jpg
Bulgarian invasion into southern Yugoslavia (Macedonia, April 1941).
Bulgarian troops entering a village in northern Greece in April 1941. Bulgarians 1941.jpg
Bulgarian troops entering a village in northern Greece in April 1941.
Destruction in the capital of Sofia as a result of the Anglo-American bombings over Bulgaria. BASA-45K-1-18-3-Graf-Ignatiev-Ferdinand-Blvd-crossing-Sofia-WW2.jpg
Destruction in the capital of Sofia as a result of the Anglo-American bombings over Bulgaria.
Soviet troops in Sofia, Bulgaria, in September 1944. 9-septemvri Soviets.jpg
Soviet troops in Sofia, Bulgaria, in September 1944.
Bulgarian StuG III and supporting infantry advancing toward the ridge of Strazhin in Macedonia in October 1944. Strazhin.jpg
Bulgarian StuG III and supporting infantry advancing toward the ridge of Strazhin in Macedonia in October 1944.
Bulgarian paratroopers entering Kumanovo in Macedonia in November 1944. Paratroopers Kumanovo.png
Bulgarian paratroopers entering Kumanovo in Macedonia in November 1944.
Bulgarian troops passing Danune near Bezdan in Vojvodina in January 1945. Pehota preminavane.jpg
Bulgarian troops passing Danune near Bezdán in Vojvodina in January 1945.
A German-made Panzer IV tank of the Bulgarian Army in Hungary in March 1945. The Soviet style star markings are meant to prevent confusion with an actual German Panzer IV. May 1945 Hungary-Bulgarians.jpg
A German-made Panzer IV tank of the Bulgarian Army in Hungary in March 1945. The Soviet style star markings are meant to prevent confusion with an actual German Panzer IV.
People of Sofia welcoming the First Bulgarian Army on the 17th of June in 1945 after its return from Austria at the end of hostilities in Europe. 1BA 1945.jpg
People of Sofia welcoming the First Bulgarian Army on the 17th of June in 1945 after its return from Austria at the end of hostilities in Europe.

The military history of Bulgaria during World War II encompasses an initial period of neutrality until 1 March 1941, a period of alliance with the Axis Powers until 9 September 1944 (on 8 September, the Red Army entered Bulgaria) and a period of alignment with the Allies in the final year of the war. Bulgaria functioned as an authoritarian state during most of World War II. Tsar Boris III (reigned 1918–1943) ruled with a prime minister and a parliament.

Neutral country sovereign state which officially declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents in a war

A neutral country is a state which is neutral towards belligerents in a specific war, or holds itself as permanently neutral in all future conflicts. As a type of non-combatant status, neutral nationals enjoy protection under the law of war from belligerent actions, to a greater extent than other non-combatants such as enemy civilians and prisoners of war.

Red Army Soviet army and air force from 1917–1946

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.


Initial neutrality (1939–1941)

The government of the Kingdom of Bulgaria under Prime Minister Georgi Kyoseivanov declared a position of neutrality upon the outbreak of World War II. Bulgaria was determined to observe it until the end of the war; but it hoped for bloodless territorial gains in order to recover the territories lost in the Second Balkan War and World War I, as well as gain other lands with a significant Bulgarian population in the neighboring countries. However, it was clear that the central geopolitical position of Bulgaria in the Balkans would inevitably lead to strong external pressure by both World War II factions. Turkey had a non-aggression pact with Bulgaria. On 7 September 1940, Bulgaria succeeded in negotiating the recovery of Southern Dobruja in the Axis-sponsored Treaty of Craiova (see Second Vienna Award). Southern Dobruja had been part of Romania since 1913, except for a short period between 1916 and 1918 when it was re-acquired by Bulgaria (see Treaty of Bucharest (1918) ). This recovery of territory reinforced Bulgarian hopes for resolving other territorial problems without direct involvement in the War.

Kingdom of Bulgaria Kingdom on the Balkan Peninsula between 1908 and 1946

The Kingdom of Bulgaria, also referred to as the Tsardom of Bulgaria and the Third Bulgarian Tsardom, was a constitutional monarchy in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, which was established on 5 October 1908, when the Bulgarian state was raised from a principality to a kingdom. Ferdinand I was crowned a Tsar at the Declaration of Independence, mainly because of his military plans and for seeking options for unification of all lands in the Balkans region with an ethnic Bulgarian majority.

Georgi Kyoseivanov Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Georgi Ivanov Kyoseivanov was a Bulgarian politician who went on to serve as Prime Minister.

Second Balkan War war

The Second Balkan War was a conflict which broke out when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its share of the spoils of the First Balkan War, attacked its former allies, Serbia and Greece, on 16 (O.S.) / 29 (N.S.) June 1913. Serbian and Greek armies repulsed the Bulgarian offensive and counter-attacked, entering Bulgaria. With Bulgaria also having previously engaged in territorial disputes with Romania, this war provoked Romanian intervention against Bulgaria. The Ottoman Empire also took advantage of the situation to regain some lost territories from the previous war. When Romanian troops approached the capital Sofia, Bulgaria asked for an armistice, resulting in the Treaty of Bucharest, in which Bulgaria had to cede portions of its First Balkan War gains to Serbia, Greece and Romania. In the Treaty of Constantinople, it lost Edirne to the Ottomans.

Axis Powers (1941–1944)

After the failure of the Italian invasion of Greece, Nazi Germany demanded that Bulgaria join the Tripartite Pact and permit German forces to pass through Bulgaria to attack Greece in order to help Italy. While the Bulgarian government was reluctant to get involved in the war, the threat of a German invasion, as well as the promise of Greek territories, led Bulgaria to sign the Tripartite Pact on 1 March 1941 and join the Axis bloc. With the Soviet Union in a non-aggression pact with Germany, there was little popular opposition to the decision.

Greco-Italian War 1940 and 1941 conflict between Italy and Greece

The Greco-Italian War took place between the kingdoms of Italy and Greece from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. This local war began the Balkans Campaign of World War II between the Axis powers and the Allies. It turned into the Battle of Greece when British and German ground forces intervened early in 1941.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Tripartite Pact Treaty establishing the Axis Powers of World War Two

The Tripartite Pact, also known as the Berlin Pact, was an agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan signed in Berlin on 27 September 1940 by, respectively, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Galeazzo Ciano and Saburō Kurusu. It was a defensive military alliance that was eventually joined by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, as well as by the German client state of Slovakia. Yugoslavia's accession provoked a coup d'état in Belgrade two days later, and Germany, Italy and Hungary responded by invading Yugoslavia and partitioning the country. The resulting Italo-German client state known as the Independent State of Croatia joined the pact on 15 June 1941.

On 6 April 1941, despite having officially joined the Axis Powers, the Bulgarian government did not participate in the invasion of Yugoslavia and the invasion of Greece. [1] [2] The Yugoslav government surrendered on 17 April and the Greek government surrendered on 30 April. On 19 April, the Bulgarian Land Forces entered Yugoslavia and on 30 April Greece. Bulgaria occupied most of Yugoslav Macedonia, Pomoravlje, Eastern Macedonia and Western Thrace, which had already been captured by the German forces.[ citation needed ] The Bulgarians occupied territory between the Struma River and a line of demarcation running through Alexandroupoli and Svilengrad west of Maritsa. Included in the area occupied were the cities of Alexandroupoli (Дедеагач, Dedeagach), Komotini (Гюмюрджина, Gyumyurdzhina), Serres (Сяр, Syar), Xanthi (Ксанти), Drama (Драма) and Kavala (Кавала) and the islands of Thasos and Samothrace, as well as almost all of what is today the Republic of North Macedonia and much of South-Eastern Serbia. In the Greek territories, the Bulgarian government pursued a policy of Bulgarisation, leading to an exodus of the Greek population, especially after the brutal suppression of the Drama Uprising in September 1941. During the spring of 1943, the Bulgarian government, after protests led by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and M.P. Dimitar Peshev, succeeded in saving Bulgarian Jews from being sent to Nazi concentration camps. However, the German troops were allowed to round up most of the Jews in Greek Macedonia and Vardar Macedonia and sent them to concentration camps. [3] Bulgaria did not join the German invasion of the Soviet Union that began on 22 June 1941 nor did it declare war on the Soviet Union. However, despite the lack of official declarations of war by both sides, the Bulgarian Navy was involved in a number of skirmishes with the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, which attacked Bulgarian shipping. Besides this, Bulgarian armed forces garrisoned in the Balkans battled various anti-German resistance groups and partisan movements.

Invasion of Yugoslavia German-led attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers during the Second World War

The invasion of Yugoslavia, also known as the April War or Operation 25, was a German-led attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers which began on 6 April 1941 during World War II. The order for the invasion was put forward in "Führer Directive No. 25", which Adolf Hitler issued on 27 March 1941, following the Yugoslav coup d'état.

Battle of Greece Invasion of Allied Greece by Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany during WWII

The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion of Allied Greece by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in April 1941 during World War II. The Italian invasion in October 1940, which is usually known as the Greco-Italian War, was followed by the German invasion in April 1941. German landings on the island of Crete came after Allied forces had been defeated in mainland Greece. These battles were part of the greater Balkan Campaign of Germany.

Bulgarian Land Forces land warfare branch of Bulgarias military

The Bulgarian Land Forces are the ground warfare branch of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. The Land Forces were established in 1878, when they were composed of anti-Ottoman militia (opalchentsi) and were the only branch of the Bulgarian military. The Land Forces are administered by the Ministry of Defence, previously known as the Ministry of War during the Kingdom of Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian government was forced by Germany to declare a token war on the United Kingdom and the United States on 13 December 1941, an act which resulted in the bombing of Sofia and other Bulgarian cities by Allied aircraft. The German invasion of the Soviet Union caused a significant wave of protests, which led to the activation of a mass guerrilla movement headed by the underground Bulgarian Communist Party. A resistance movement called Fatherland Front was set up in August 1942 by the Communist Party, the Zveno movement and a number of other parties to oppose the then pro-Nazi government, after a number of Allied victories indicated that the Axis might lose the War. Partisan detachments were particularly active in the mountain areas of western and southern Bulgaria. In August 1943, after a visit to Germany, Bulgarian Tsar Boris III died suddenly, believed to have been poisoned. According to the diary of the German attache in Sofia at the time, Colonel von Schoenebeck, the two German doctors who attended the tsar – Sajitz and Hans Eppinger – both believed that the tsar had died from the same poison that Dr. Eppinger had allegedly found two years earlier in the postmortem examination of the Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas. [4] His six-year-old son Simeon II succeeded him to the throne; a council of regents was set up because of Simeon's age. The new Prime Minister, Dobri Bozhilov, was in most respects a German puppet.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Bombing of Sofia in World War II

The Bulgarian capital of Sofia suffered a series of Allied bombing raids during World War II, from late 1943 to early 1944. United Kingdom and the United States declared a token war on Bulgaria on 13 December 1941. The Southern Italy-based Allied air forces extended the range of their strategic operations to include Bulgaria and other Axis allies in 1943.

Bulgaria had maintained diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union while being a member of the Axis Powers. In the summer of 1944, after crushing the Nazi defences around Iași and Chișinău, the Soviet Army was approaching the Balkans and Bulgaria. On 23 August 1944, Romania left the Axis Powers and declared war on Germany, and allowed Soviet forces to cross its territory to reach Bulgaria. On 26 August, the Bulgarian government announced that it was neutral in the German-Soviet war and ordered German troops to leave the country. On the same date the Fatherland Front made the decision to incite an armed rebellion against the government. On 2 September Bozhilov's government fell and was replaced by a government led by Konstantin Muraviev made up of the opposition parties which were not members of the Fatherland Front. Support for the government was withheld by the Fatherland Front, accusing it of being composed of pro-Nazi circles attempting to hold on to power. On 5 September, the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria and three days later the Soviets crossed the border and occupied the north-eastern part of Bulgaria along with the key port cities of Varna and Burgas by the next day. The Bulgarian Army did not offer resistance by an order of the government. [5] [6] [7]

Jassy–Kishinev Offensive military offensive

The Jassy–Kishinev Operation, named after the two major cities, Iași and Chișinău, in the staging area, was a Soviet offensive against Axis forces, which took place in Eastern Romania from 20 to 29 August 1944 during World War II. The 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts of the Red Army engaged Army Group South Ukraine, which consisted of combined German and Romanian formations, in an operation to reclaim the Moldavian SSR and destroy the Axis forces in the region, opening the way into Romania and the Balkans.

Soviet Army Name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992

The Soviet Army was the main land-based branch of the Soviet Armed Forces between February 1946 and December 1991, when it was replaced with the Russian Ground Forces, although it was not fully abolished until 25 December 1993. Until 25 February 1946, it was known as the Red Army, established by decree on 15 (28) January 1918 "to protect the population, territorial integrity and civil liberties in the territory of the Soviet state." The Strategic Missile Troops, Air Defense Forces and Air Forces were part of the Soviet Army in addition to the Ground Forces. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

Konstantin Muraviev Bulgarian politician

Konstantin Vladov Muraviev was a leading member of the Agrarian People's Union who briefly served as Prime Minister of Bulgaria near the end of Bulgarian involvement in the Second World War. Muraviev was educated at Robert College of Istanbul, just like Ivan Evstratiev Geshov, Todor Ivanchov, Konstantin Stoilov and many other Bulgarian revolutionaries were.

Allies (1944–1945)

On 8 September, Soviet forces crossed the Bulgarian-Romanian border and on the eve of 8 September garrison detachments, led by Zveno officers, overthrew the government after taking strategic points in Sofia and arresting government ministers. A new government of the Fatherland Front was appointed on 9 September with Kimon Georgiev as prime minister. War was declared on Germany and its allies at once and the weak divisions sent by the Axis Powers to invade Bulgaria were easily driven back. In Macedonia, the Bulgarian troops, surrounded by German forces, and betrayed by high-ranking military commanders, fought their way back to the old borders of Bulgaria. Unlike the Communist resistance, the right wing followers of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) saw the solution of the Macedonian Question in creating a pro-Bulgarian Independent Macedonian State. At this time the IMRO leader Ivan Mihailov arrived in German reoccupied Skopje, where the Germans hoped that he could form a Macedonian state on the base of former IMRO structures and Ohrana. Seeing that Germany had lost the war and to avoid further bloodshed, after two days he refused and set off. [8] Under the leadership of a new Bulgarian pro-Communist government, three Bulgarian armies (some 455,000 strong in total) entered Yugoslavia in September 1944 and alongside Soviet and Yugoslav forces, moved to Niš and Skopje with the strategic task of blocking the German forces withdrawing from Greece. Southern and eastern Serbia and Macedonia were liberated within a month and the 130,000-strong Bulgarian First Army continued to Hungary, driving off the Germans and entering Austria in April 1945. Contact was established with the British Eighth Army in the town of Klagenfurt on 8 May 1945, the day the Nazi government in Germany capitulated. Then Gen. Vladimir Stoychev signed a demarcation agreement with British V Corps commander Charles Keightley.

Consequences and results

As a consequence of World War II, the Soviet Union invaded Bulgaria and a Communist regime was installed with Georgi Dimitrov at the helm. The monarchy was abolished and the tsar sent into exile.

The Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 confirmed the incorporation of Southern Dobruja into Bulgaria during the War, thus making Bulgaria the only Axis country that increased its pre-war territory. The occupied parts of the Aegean region and Vardar Macedonia remaining within the borders of Bulgaria were returned, with 150,000 Bulgarians being expelled from Western Thrace.

Armed forces

By the end of the war, Bulgaria managed to mobilize about 450,000 men. Military equipment was mostly of German origin. By 1945, Bulgaria had also received stocks of Soviet weaponry, mostly small arms.

See also

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