Anarchism in Bulgaria

Short history on the life of Aleksander Nakov, committed Anarchist and Esperantist who lived and worked in Bulgaria.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 30, 2020

The autobiography of Aleksander Metodiev Nakov (1919-2018) is useful for learning about the Esperanto movement in Bulgaria, and also its relationship to Anarchism. In fact the best representative of this interconnection was Nakov himself, who was active during the period of the right wing dictatorial regime established before the second world war1 , and also during the subsequent communist dictatorship. Nakov dubbed the former Fascist and the latter Bolshevik. Born into a poor family in the village of Kosatĉa (Kovačevići) in the western part of the country, after finishing elementary school he started work as a peasant working the land. Later he moved to the mining town of Pernik getting a job in the Machinostroitel factory2 . Walking down the main street of the town in the winter of 1936 when his attention was caught by an Esperanto teaching book in the window of a book seller. He was attracted to both the purpose of the language and its ease of learning, but even more so the possibility of following directly the revolutionary events in Spain, which could be read in Esperanto bulletins that reached Bulgaria.

Despite his ignorance of the Latin alphabet, he began to learn the language. He soon became acquainted with the young miner Boris Serginov, who tried to sell an Esperanto calendar from 1937. With him Nakov chatted for the first time in the international language. However, the most influential person at that time was Anka Pisarska, whom Nakov first met at a meeting of young Anarchists in Vitosha. She taught him the grammar which enabled him to start corresponding with fellow travellers nationally and internationally. Nakov and his friends founded the Esperanto group Nova Vojo (New Way), which connected beginners with experienced Esperantists, and organised courses in schools and hosted public meetings. Several Bulgarians took part in international Esperanto gatherings, but due to political restrictions Nakov was not allowed to leave the country. However, he participated in the national Esperanto events, in addition to those that took place during his stay in concentration camps or prisons. These internments happened several times. It is no coincidence that other Esperantists were found in fascist prisons, such as the communist Asen Grigorov, author of textbooks and dictionaries. Later in the concentration camps run by the communists he also meet up with Esperantists3 . As a member of the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda (World Anti-national Association), Bulgarian Esperanto Association, collaborator on the Bulgara Esperantisto (Bulgarian Esperantist) etc, he was always faithful to Zamenhof's language, which was also used in anti-authoritarian activities. For example, thanks to the Esperanto environment, he became acquainted as early as the 1980s with Karl Steiner's 7000 Days in Siberia.

But the life of Nakov also demonstrates the Anarchist perspective, starting in 1937. In the Machinostroitel factory he established a libertarian group. Because of this activity he was imprisoned in 1941 together with five other comrades. Sentenced to eight years in prison, however he was freed in 1944. In that year he created two new libertarian groups, one in Kosatcha and later another in Pernik, both named after Elisee Reclus4 . A member of the Libertarian youth Nakov became a local leader of the Bulgarian Anarchist Union. He continued to act clandestinely during the Communist regime, because the authorities were actively suppressing the libertarian movement. Because of this persecution he was arrested again and spent six years in the concentration camp in Belene, where he was punished several times for bad behaviour. Nakov returned weak, unhealthy, and hungry, in his own words "I only survived thanks to mutual aid between us Anarchists, which is not only a human principle but a well organised practice".

Later he continued his political activity, remaining a conscious anarchist and Esperantist until the end of his life. Anecdotally, twice (December 1948 and March 1974) his complete correspondence was taken away, including Esperanto newspapers, etc.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the "dossier of object 1218", signed by a colonel of Bulgarian state security, which contains such pearls like the following "Presently the object often meets mainly with anarchists for comments on events, the exchange of litereature and to help one another" (…) "The attitude of the object toward popular power is oppositional" (...) "He looks at world events through the prism of a free thinker, away from the dogmas of modern communism" (…) "Naturally the object is modest, he does not drink, does not smoke, and is hardworking. He has a good culture generally and politically, and is a member of the Esperanto association Nova Vojo in Pernik. Is a fanatical Anarchist, and has openly declared that no prison will destroy his ideals nor his relationship with other Anarchists. In conclusion, based on his hostile activity I recommend that he be detained as a social danger".

Javier Alcalde
Translated by Reddebrek

Aleksander M. Nakov, The Dossier of Subject No. 1218, Edmonton, Black Cat Press, 2016, trad. Mariya Radeva.

Александър Наков, Досие на обект номер 1218, Sofio, ИК „Шрапнел“, [2006] 2009 ; Статии, sl, 2017.


  • 1The Kingdom of Bulgaria spent much of the interwar years worried about workers and peasant revolts and initiated many purges, crackdowns and its own White Terror, imprisoning thousands of suspects and killing many militants of any even vaguely anti monarchy organisation, especially the anarchist movement and the Bulgarian Communist Party. While not explicitly Fascist, during WWII it sided with the Axis and came under increasing influence of Nazi Germany.
  • 2A company trading under the name of Machinostroitel still operates in Bulgaria, but if it is the same one then it appears to have moved out of Pernik.
  • 3For more details on the brutality of the Communist party of Bulgaria see Bulgaria the New Spain - The Communist Terror in Bulgaria
  • 4Famous French Anarchist and geographer


R Totale

1 year 2 months ago

Submitted by R Totale on May 8, 2023

Just found this, which might be worth adding to the library if anyone has the time - an interview with a 93-year-old anarchist survivor of the Bulgarian gulags: