Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive
Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive


Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive


After September 9, 1944, Sava Popov was far from his publishing and writing activity, as well as from the opportunity of working in any kind of state position in Sofia. After 1949, we find him at Asenovo Station, Popovo district, in a “semi-artisanal enterprise” – a form of private initiative within the framework of the newly introduced planned state economy. There, Sava Popov produced animal glue for the paper and furniture industry. The raw material for the glue was hides and skins. He ordered them from Gypsies who travelled around the countryside in horse carts and bought them from the villagers. The production process was dirty and the smell, unbearable. The quality of the glue that the writer made was high; this can be seen from the letters from various enterprises that placed orders for hundreds of kilograms. Among them was a Soviet enterprise for the management of the USSR-owned properties in Bulgaria.

In the same year of 1951, shortly after he was widowed, Sava Popov set off for the village of Dere, where his mother was looking after his young son Ognyan. On the train, Sava met a young woman named Rayna. We don’t know what they talked about, but not long after, Rayna started taking care of his child while he continued living in Asenovo and producing animal glue. A year later they were already married. Sava Popov kept hundreds of their love letters in his archive.

Letter from Sava Popov, Asenovo Station, to Rayna Popova, Sofia

27 December 1951
It seems as if the peasant sandals are multiplying! I thought they were about 3 tons, but there’s no end to them. A great blessing, thank God! I became determined to finish them by the New Year, to dispatch everything. Finally, tomorrow we fire up the last cauldron. And that means – if all goes well – on Sunday, the 30th, we will stop working. Then I’ll also send the last shipment – one order for 1 ton of glue. As soon as I’m free, I’ll come on the first train. Today I had a letter from Maria and Petar. I’ll bring a sample, because I think it’s unnecessary to bother with the post office. This time I also worked a lot. I feel tired. When I come to Sofia, to you and Ognyan, I’ll rest.
Kisses from your Sava

28 January 1952
Dear girl,
[…] here there is such silence and such peace, as if I am at the end of the world. Especially on evenings like this, all I hear is the burbling of the water in the river, and I smell the scent of the approaching spring. The hellebore has already blossomed here. There are also snowdrops. Today a nice Asenovo Gypsy girl gave me three. She had stuck them in her hair. […]

Sava Popov with his son Ognyan on a walk around Slaveykov Square, Sofia, 1949

From 1949 to 1952, the writer and journal Sava Popov boiled animal glue.

On 16 July 1952, during the period in which he was producing glue, Sava Popov was summoned to testify because of his connections with the Goryani – members of the guerrilla anti-communist resistance. The tone of his confession was unabashedly ironic. Sava Popov talked about his “bourgeois origin” and about the influence of “fascist propaganda.” The strained confession somehow gives a sound of the opposite effect because of his exaggeration and his handling of the new communist terminology, vocabulary, and sentence construction.

The ”Confession” of Sava Popov
State Security, 1952

I am called by the name of Sava Yordanov Popov, born in the village of Aprilovo – Popovo district, resident of the village of Slavyanovo – Popovo district. Bulgarian, Bulgarian citizen, having a clean record, no party membership. To the questions put before me, I say the following: I come from a bourgeois family. I was raised in a bourgeois spirit in my family, my school, in the Father Paisius organization, and in the environment in which I travelled and worked, and I was influenced by foreign fascist propaganda. Until the great date of September 9, 1944, I worked, for the above reasons, and served the interests of capitalism and monarchism in our country at the newspaper Slovo [Word] and the Department of National Propaganda and Press Control. After the historic date of September 9, 1944, due to my bourgeois worldview, I remained passive in relation to political and social-cultural life in the Republic. In terms of business, I established myself as a private craftsman. In this way I showed that I was hostile to the people’s government. Due to the illness of my wife, I met Dr. Ivan Kirchev from Sofia in October 1950. In the month of August 1951, Dr. Kirchev introduced his brother Penyo Kirchev to me as a Goryanin [a member of the movement discussed below]. I hid from the people’s government that Penyo Kirchev was a public enemy; I gave him sugar, cigarettes, rakia (brandy), and I promised to give him clothing. I did this because of my bourgeois capitalist upbringing and my hostile attitude towards people’s government. I also obliged him with fifteen thousand leva, which he returned to me. I have acted with mistrust and a hostile attitude toward the large economic undertakings of the people’s government, for example the nationalization of industrial enterprises and large business capital, agrarian reform, large constructions, etc., and I have expressed this with statements on these matters in front of my close relatives and friends […] I wrote the above personally, which is why I am signing my signature.
16 July 1952

The Gorynani

“Goryani” is the name under which thousands of opponents of the regime united after the occupation of Bulgaria by the USSR in 1944. The movement had no central leadership, nor a homogeneous composition; there were Goryani in various regions of Bulgaria, the most active of which were in North-East and North-West Bulgaria, as well as in the regions of Sliven and Ruse, among others. The exact number Goryani cannot be even approximately determined because of the control over information during those years, the destroyed archives, and the purposeful efforts of the repressive apparatus until 1989 and afterwards. The Goryani and their supporters numbered probably anywhere from several dozen to hundreds of thousands. They used various methods in their attempts to oppose the government, including with weapons. The unifying element in the activity of the Goryani was their resistance to the forcible seizure of land and other private property, against the dictatorship and terror of the communists and their allies from the Fatherland Front, and against Soviet influence in all spheres of life in Bulgaria. A large part of the Goryani were exactly those farmers who did not migrate to the official communist-supporting party of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union. They were joined by former royal officers, civil servants, and impoverished citizens and peasants.

Various manifestations of the Goryani resistance against the communist dictatorship existed from 1944 to 1956. They arose from the unprecedented terror and repressions in the autumn of 1944 and the months after, the persecution, the executions of politicians, intellectuals, and artists. The movement was particularly active in the years following, when the so-called “collectivization” became mass, in the period of 1950–1952. Then hundreds were killed in battles with the army and the militia, and thousands of participants in the armed resistance were arrested and sent to camps. The families, relatives, friends and supporters of Goryani were harassed by the authorities – they relocated them, did not admit them universities or professions, secretly and openly persecuted them at school, in the workplace, and in everyday life, all the while trying to recruit some of them. The lives of those who did not give in was branded with the designation of “Goryani collaborator” and became a continuous battle for personal and social survival.

A bond for 20 levs from the so-called Agricultural Development Loan 1955. These bonds were announced as voluntary, but in practice, they were withdrawn from the salaries of all Bulgarians. In the following years, due to inflation and denomination, they completely lost their value.

In the archive we find more bonds – for 40 levs from the State Loan for the Development of the National Economy, 1952; for 40 levs from the Second Five-Year Plan State Loan – 1954, as well as newspapers in which the lotteries with winning tickets from the state loan were published.