Bulgaria: Champagne And Tears

Champagne And Tears

After its first free elections last June, Bulgaria became the only East European country to allow the Communist Party -- renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party -- to retain power. But Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov's inability to alleviate chronic fuel and food shortages sparked weeks of street demonstrations. Last week after a four-day strike that paralyzed much of the country, Lukanov resigned. Appearing on television, he blamed the opposition for blocking his efforts toward reform, adding that it was "pointless" to * continue as Prime Minister. In Sofia demonstrators greeted the news with dancing and champagne.

Meanwhile Bulgarians were getting an earful from Todor Zhivkov, the former Communist who ruled Bulgaria for 35 years before he was ousted last year. In interviews with the the New York Times and the German news agency D.P.A., Zhivkov, who is facing corruption and embezzlement charges and lives near Sofia under house arrest, renounced his Communist past and denied any responsibility for crimes committed under his rule. "If I had to do it over again, I would not even be a Communist, and if Lenin were alive today, he would say the same thing," said Zhivkov, who suggested that Bulgaria should now link its fortunes to capitalism and "strike a deal" with the U.S. "as soon as possible."