9. The Death of Tzar Boris III

Summary

On August 28 1943, the Bulgarian tzar Boris III, aged 49, dies. Doubts in the natural cause of his death arise as early as then. Many Bulgarians believe that if he had been alive by the end of the war, he would have never allowed the communization of the country and its fall under Soviet influence.

The tzar gets sick immediately after his visit in Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia – the Wolf’s Lair (Wolfsschanze). The officially announced reason of Boris’s death is fatal heart attack, but the very next day rumor has it in Sofia that he has been murdered. Communists blame Hitler that he has poisoned the king. Others put the blame on alleged agents of Churchill’s, and yet third parties put it on Stalin. There is also a version that the Italian royal family is at the heart of the conspiracy: Boris is married to the daughter of the Italian king Victor Emmanuel III, Giovanna of Savoy.

Establishing the truth is also obstructed by the fact that after 9 September 1944 when communists seize power by coup d’etat, Bulgaria is proclaimed a republic and the royal family is banished from the country, while Boris’s grave is blown up. Only his heart has been preserved.

In 1998, the missing autopsy report resurfaces after it had been kept all these years by the son of the leader of the medical team Professor Ivan Moskov. The conclusion of the report is thrombosis of the left coronary artery and a recent acute myocardial infarction. After the finding, a forensic commission of 5 experts examines the heart of the tzar and confirms the diagnosis. Boris III had enough worries which could have brought to his fatal heart failure.

After the battle of Stalingrad on the Eastern front the whole world understands that there has been a turn in the tide. In July 1943 the English and the Americans land troops in Sicily. Shortly afterwards Mussolini falls from power and the new prime minister Marshall Badoglio seeks separate peace. Practically, Italy leaves the war on September 3 1943. From the Apenini peninsula Bulgaria is vulnerable and open to airborne strikes by British and American air forces. Only three months later USA and Great Britain, to whom Bulgaria has quite pointlessly declared “symbolic war” in December 1941, initiate a bombing campaign on Sofia and other big cities from air bases in Italy. Without actually participating in military operations, Bulgaria becomes the target of destruction.

Boris III realized that by allying with Hitler and Mussolini, he has taken Bulgaria on a disastrous path. It is most probably this vexation that has lead to the Tzar’s heart attack. Nevertheless, he remains a martyr in the consciousness of most Bulgarians. By the virtue of the good memory the people have kept of him, his son Simeon Sax-Koburg-Gotta makes his triumphant comeback 55 years later. In 1943, only 6 years old, he has come to the throne under the name Simeon III; banished from the country and living in exile for most of his life, in 2001 he returns to Bulgaria, founds a political party, wins the elections and governs the country as prime minister until 2005 – a one-of-a-kind instance in world history.