Bulgaria's Former President Zhelyu Zhelev Dies

Society » OBITUARIES | January 30, 2015, Friday // 09:57
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Former President Zhelyu Zhelev Dies Zhelyu Zhelev, photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's former President Zhelyu Zhelev (1990-1997) has died, the press office of President Rosen Plevneliev announced. 

Zhelev, Bulgaria’s first democratically elected President after the fall of the Communist regime, died at the age of 79 on Friday.

He was a co-founder of the right-wing Union of Democratic Forces (UDF).

Zhelev was born on March 3, 1935 in the northeastern village of Veselinovo, Shumen district.

He completed a degree in Philosophy at the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" in 1958 and defended a PhD thesis there later.

Zhelev’s scholarly book “Fascism”, which was completed in 1967, was only published 15 years later.

Three weeks after being published, the book was banned and removed from bookstores as the authorities found that the critique of the fascist dictatorship was equally applicable to the communist system of government. Some 6,000 copies out of a total of 10,000 printed had been sold before the authorities banned the book.

Zhelev became a founding member and chair of the country’s first dissident organization, the Club for Support of Glasnost and Perestroika (1989).

Zhelev was first elected President in August 1990 by the Grand National Assembly, replacing Petar Mladenov, who had resigned.

At Zhelev's proposal, Atanas Semerdzhiev was elected Vice President.

In January 1992, Zhelev won direct presidential elections.

During Zhelev’s second term in office (1992-1997), Blaga Dimitrova was Vice President.

In 1996, Zhelev lost his party's nomination for the 1996 presidential race to Petar Stoyanov who went on to win the next presidential elections in 1997.

Zhelev was President of the Balkan Political Club founded on May 26, 2001 at his initiative.

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Tags: Zhelyu Zhelev, Union of Democratic Forces, UDF, Bulgarian President, dissident

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