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Blagoeva, Stella Dimitrova (1887–1954)

Blagoeva, Stella Dimitrova (1887–1954)

Bulgarian Communist revolutionary and diplomat. Name variations: Stela. Born in 1887; died in Moscow on February 16, 1954; daughter of Dimitur Blagoev (a revolutionary leader) and Vela Blagoeva (a teacher); studied music, history and philology and became a high school teacher.

Joined Socialist Party (1915) and Communist Party (1919); removed from teaching post after failure of Communist uprising (September 1923); fled to Soviet Union (1926); worked in the Communist International (Comintern) until its dissolution (1943); returned to Bulgaria (1945); served as vice-president of Bulgarian Pan-Slav Committee (1946–49); served as Bulgarian ambassador to the Soviet Union (1949–54).

Stella Blagoeva followed in the footsteps of her father Dimitur Blagoev (1856–1924), a near-legendary revolutionary figure in the history of modern Bulgaria. Blagoev spent his youth fighting the Turkish occupiers of his country and in 1883, while studying in Russia, founded one of the first Social Democratic groups in that country. Stella's mother Vela Blagoeva (1858–1921) was an equally remarkable figure, a teacher and gifted novelist who shared the dangers and triumphs of her professional revolutionary husband. Born in 1887, Stella Blagoeva grew up in a world of ideas, strongly held beliefs and, often, crushed hopes. Interested in the arts as well as politics, she studied music in Prague, then studied philology and history at the University of Sofia. She began teaching in a high school, becoming politically active by joining the Tesniak (Socialist) Party. In 1919, after the Bolshevik revolution, she followed the lead of her parents and joined the nascent Communist Party of Bulgaria.

Both politically and ideologically, the Bulgarian Communists felt themselves strongly linked to the struggling Russian Soviet Republic, and in September 1923 they made an ill-advised attempt to seize power in an armed insurrection. When this failed, the conservative forces carried out a bloody and thorough White Terror to root out all traces of Marxist revolutionary spirit in the country. Both of Blagoeva's parents died before the full weight of the repressions made itself felt in all aspects of Bulgarian public life. Blagoeva lost her teaching job and in 1925 was arrested by the political police. Upon her release in 1926, she went to the Soviet Union, where many among the Bulgarian Communist leadership had fled after the disastrous failure of their 1923 attempt to emulate the Bolshevik revolution.

Rapidly rising in the bureaucracy of professional revolutionaries, Stella Blagoeva remained in the Soviet Union for almost the next two decades. Of proven loyalty to Joseph Stalin, she benefitted from the purges of the Communist International (Comintern), moving into positions of responsibility vacated by those deemed wavering in their loyalty to the Kremlin. By the 1930s, she had advanced to the important post of director of the cadre section of the Latin-language countries, which included not only France, Spain and Italy but also all of Latin America. When Stalin dissolved the Comintern as a wartime concession to his allies, Blagoeva was named to the foreign bureau of the Bulgarian Communist Party, and also joined the presidium of the Pan-Slav Committee in Moscow. The Pan-Slav Committee was part of Stalin's strategy to win over non-Communists in Eastern Europe on the basis of their shared culture and language with Russians and other Slavic members of the Soviet Union. Extremely visible to the public in her work at the Pan-Slav Committee, Blagoeva had advanced to the presidency of the organization by the end of World War II.

Returning to Bulgaria after the defeat of Nazi Germany, she became the most visible woman political leader in the newly created People's Republic of Bulgaria. She served as vice-president of the Bulgarian Pan-Slav Committee from 1946 through 1949, when the Soviets abruptly terminated their cultural offensive based on shared Slavic ties. At the 1948 congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Blagoeva remained the most prominent woman in the nation's political life and was elected an alternate member of the ruling central committee. Skillfully surviving the pitfalls of Balkan Communist politics, she would become a full member of the central committee in 1950. In 1949, she reached the summit of her political career with her appointment as Bulgaria's ambassador to the Soviet Union. As one of the few female diplomats of ambassadorial rank in the immediate post-1945 era, Stella Blagoeva proved herself equal to the task of survival in the last years of an increasingly paranoid Joseph Stalin. She outlived Stalin by less than a year, dying in Moscow while still in her ambassadorial post on February 16, 1954.

sources:

Bell, John D. The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986.

Blagoeva, Stella. Dimitrov: A Biography. NY: International Publishers, 1934.

Bulgarian Academy of Science. Information Bulgaria: A Short Encyclopaedia of the People's Republic of Bulgaria. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1985.

Held, Joseph. Dictionary of East European History Since 1945. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Lazitch, Branko and Milorad M. Drachkovitch. Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern. New, revised and expanded edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986.

"Mrs. Stela Blagoeva," in The New York Times. February 17, 1954, p. 31.

Rothschild, Joseph. The Communist Party of Bulgaria: Origins and Development 1883–1936. NY: Columbia University Press, 1959.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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