Chivikov, Panayot (1904-1998) aka Zherminal (Germinal)

Ruse anarchists, Chivikov (centre)

A short biography of Bulgarian anarchist communist and poet Panayot Chivikov.

Submitted by Battlescarred on February 16, 2024

Panayot Velikov Chivikov was born on October 27th 1904 is into a poor railway worker’s family in Ruse, Bulgaria. He and his older brother Stoyan became interested in anarchist ideas from an early age. This was partly due to the activity of anarchists like Varban Chilifarski, Georgi Sheitanov, Ivan Yankov and Zhelyu Grozev, among others, in the city on the Danube.

Panayot became an active anarchist whilst a student. With the September Uprising of 1923, he found himself persecuted, arrested, tortured, and threatened with death by the police. He was expelled from the Boys’ High School in Ruse, and transferred to the Carpentry School, and again, due to police pressure, expelled from there as well.

Panayot worked on the anarchist newspaper Burevestnik (Stormy Petrel), published in Ruse, and two issues of this paper were published under his editorship. This followed a decision taken at the Yambol conference of the Bulgarian Anarchist Communist Federation (FAKB).

Together with Sheitanov, Dimitar Panov, Georgi Shalamanov, and others, he helped to publish the magazines Purpur (Purple), Svododna Mishla and Signali. He also published a collection of poems, Comrade Christ, (1927) which upset the Orthodox Church authorities.

He was a member of Georgi Zhechev’s group, Thought and Will and became editor of Rabotniceska Missal (Workers’ Thought), published by the anarchists Alexander Sapundjiev and Petar Lozanov. For an article in this paper, criticising Alexander Tsankov, leader of the authoritarian regime in Bulgaria, he earned a sentence of three years hard labour imprisonment.

Following this, he moved into exile, first in France from 1928 to 1929, and then in Yugoslavia, Russia, Austria and again in France, using fake documents in the name of prominent Bulgarian anarchists.

He finally settled in Spain. There, in 1936, he took part in the anarchist columns, and was a speaker for Radio Barcelona and editor of a Bulgarian language newsletter supporting the CNT-FAI.

He returned to Bulgaria in 1938, but was soon arrested for articles published in the foreign press criticising Tsar Boris and Adolf Hitler. He spent a month in prison before being tried and acquitted. After that, he was unable to find steady work, and during World War Two, he was constantly hounded by the police, who raided his home at night, and detained him on several occasions. He obtained work as a day labourer at a port authority, thanks to contacts there. He was again imprisoned during 1944 and released after the coming to power of the Communists on September 9th of that year.

During his exile, he met the Austrian Sofia Maximilian, who became his life companion, and who moved back to Ruse with him.

Chivikov, on the advice of Hristo Kolev, translated some chapters of the book by Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism, distributed clandestinely in Bulgaria in 1969. His poems on the Spanish struggle appeared in the 1970s the anarchist papers Espoir (Hope) published in Toulouse, France, and in Tierra y Libertad (Land and Liberty), Mexico.

His son Zherminal (Germinal) was himself imprisoned for three years under the Bulgarian Stalinist regime for distribution of dissident texts in 1969.

Panayot died at the grand old age of 93 in Ruse, on August 16th, 1998, remaining true to his anarchist communist beliefs.
Photo: Ruse anarchists, Chivikov, centre

Nick Heath