On this date in 1949, leading Bulgarian communist Traycho (Traitcho, Traicho) Kostov was hanged in Sofia.
A journalist and agitator from way back, Kostov was a casualty of the postwar political chasm between east and west.
He’d been the number three man in Bulgaria’s communist hierarchy at the time of his fall in January of 1949, but had also been considered close to Yugoslavia’s independent socialist leader Josip Broz Tito. Like Tito, Kostov was a little too into his own country’s national economic sovereignty as against the purported greater good of a Soviet-dominated eastern bloc.
Stalin had overtly split with Tito in 1948. Over the next few years, Soviet satellites in eastern Europe would systematically eliminate perceived Titoist elements — and submit to economic integration on Moscow’s terms.
So a propagandist could write, comparing Kostov to the Hungarian minister who had swung for Titoism just weeks before, that
[i]f Laszlo Rajk could be regarded as the right arm of Tito’s plans for Eastern Europe, Traicho Kostov, member of the Bulgarian Politburo and Deputy Premier, was certainly his left arm. I sat in a crowded court in Sofia in December, 1949, heard and watched Traicho Kostov and ten other accused and dozens of witnesses testify to a Yugoslav plan for Bulgaria every whit as diabolical and bloodthirsty as that for Hungary. In reality there was only one overall strategic plan with “Operation Rajk” and “Operation Kostov” as tactical moves.
Kostov’s ten fellow defendants received prison terms rather than the rope, and some of them were alive to enjoy the official rehabilitation that followed Stalin’s death.