Views on BG | September 8, 2001, Saturday // 00:00

By Veselin Zhelev, Associated Press Writer

A decade after driving him from power, Bulgarians unveiled a monument Friday honoring the late communist leader Todor Zhivkov.

Some 3,000 people flocked to Zhivkov's home town of Pravetz, some 40 miles northeast of Sofia, to mark the 90th anniversary of Zhivkov's birth by unveiling the bronze sculpture of the man who led them for 35 years.

``No matter how one would judge him, he is a historical figure,'' said the sculptor, Sekul Krumov. ``I made this sculpture for an exhibition 15 years ago. It has been kept in the National Art Gallery in Sofia since then.''

Zhivkov's one-man rule collapsed in 1989 after a party coup and three years later, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for misappropriating state funds by giving apartments to loyalists.

A high court acquitted him in 1996 and he never served any time in jail due to poor health. He died in 1998 of heart disease.
Zhivkov - known for his iron-fisted leadership and servility to Moscow - reportedly once requested that Bulgaria be made a republic of the former Soviet Union. Soviet leaders declined the proposal.

Although the collapse of Zhivkov's one-man rule gave Bulgarians freedom and democracy, it also ushered in painful economic reforms, poverty and unemployment - fostering a nostalgia for Zhivkov's years.

``We lived very well under him,'' said Nevenka Petrova, 50. ``I raised two children with my two hands. Now I don't have money for bread.''
Vazil Tsanov, a senior communist under Zhivkov, said: ``There were jobs for everybody, order and security. Bulgaria attained its highest living standards during that time.''

Zhivkov's son Vladimir said his father remained ``one of the greatest politicians and statesmen of Bulgaria.''

In the 1980s, Zhivkov had a statue of himsef erected in Pravetz, but he ordered it removed when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on his perestroika reforms, which ended the worship of communist leaders.

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