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“Think of me as fire” said Lyudmila Zhivkova, one of Bulgaria’s most powerful political figures

Tijana Radeska
Lyudimila Zhivkova 1
Lyudimila Zhivkova 1

Lyudmila Todorova Zhivkova (1942 – 1981) was the daughter of Bulgarian Communist leader Todor Zhivkov. Primarily known for her interest in preserving and promoting Bulgarian arts and culture on the international stage, Zhivkova was also a controversial figure within the former Soviet Bloc because of her interests in esoteric Eastern religion and spirituality.

Zhivkova in 1978

Zhivkova in 1978. Source

The Red Princess

Zhivkova was a princess not in the sense of any linkage to the Saxe-Coburg dynasty; she was the offspring of long-standing communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. Being the daughter of this arch-survivor made her extraordinary career possible, and today some Bulgarians will sneer at the mention of her name and term her a “red princess”. In contradiction, there are those who believe that even her place as a possible heir to the running of the country could not protect her from murder at the hands of the Soviets, or in fact was the very reason for it.

Lyudimila Zhivkova

Lyudimila Zhivkova. Source

“Clad in the fire of the indestructible… May consciousness embrace the infinity of the Cosmos. There will glow the vibration of electrons filling the vast expanse of iridescent spheres with their harmony and rhythm…. May the happiness of being eternally new as you create be … the most magnificent garment sparkling on you in the vibration of the seven-modal harmony of Eternity!” – an extract from a late 1970s speech of Zhivkova to primary school children.

Chairman of the Government’s Committee for Culture

Elena Ceausescu (left) with Lyudmila Zhivkova (right) in 1977.

Elena Ceausescu (left) with Lyudmila Zhivkova (right) in 1977. Source

Zhivkova was born in Sofia. She studied history at Sofia University (1965) and history of art at Moscow State University (1970), before researching a book on British-Turkish relations at St. Anthony’s college in Oxford. As chairman of the Government’s Committee for Culture since June 1975, she was in charge of education, culture, and science. She opened Bulgaria to foreign cultures and was known as a promoter of Bulgarian creative arts.

”Nature has created all possibilities for man to correspond with his environment,” she once said in an interview. ”The problem is to ensure that man develops in an all-around manner and utilizes his potential. Every individual has creative possibilities.”

Occasionally, amid increasingly esoteric language and thought, there is a somewhat more conventional bit of communist fraternal twaddle: 1976 finds her saying that “there is no country where the talents of the people are in full bloom and the film art so developed as in (North) Korea”.

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