Vassev, Manol, 1898-1958

Manol Vassev
Manol Vassev

A short biography of Bulgarian anarchist militant, workplace organiser and World War II Resistance fighter. He was murdered by Communist secret police in 1958.

Submitted by Steven. on June 14, 2006

Manol Vassev
Born Jordan Sotirov, 1898 - Kustendil, Bulgaria, died 12 March 1958 - Sliven prison, Bulgaria

Jordan Sotirov was born at Kustendil in Bulgaria in 1898. He started work in the tobacco industry whilst still an adolescent, and worked all his life in that trade. He turned to anarchism whilst at the front in World War I and immediately after being demobbed became an active workplace organiser and redoubtable orator at all the meetings and demonstrations.

During a set-to with the Army which attacked a workers’ meeting during a tobacco workers’ strike at Kustendil, Jordan wounded an officer. Judged and sentenced in his absence to 15 years in prison, he went underground. He took on the name of Manol Vassev and became a workplace activist in a town at the other end of Bulgaria, Haskovo. Under this name he had to do his military service again! He was imprisoned for a time as a result of his workplace activities without his real identity being discovered. He successfully foiled a rationalisation in the handling of tobacco proposed by the bosses, bringing out a pamphlet arguing against it and leading an intensive campaign which ended in victory.

In collaboration with the teacher Gueorgui Sarafov, a member of the Haskovo anarchist organisation, and supported by all the anarchists of the area and by workers and small producers of tobacco, he laid the foundation around 1930 of a peasant union which grew and became the National Confederation of Vlassovden.

During World War II Manol was involved in resistance work. On 8th September 1945, when the guerrillas were preparing to come down from the mountains, the military at the Haskovo garrison attempted to set a trap for them. Manol and his comrades launched an armed attack, disarmed the officers and avoided a massacre. This made him so popular that for months no meeting took place without his contribution and his portrait adorned the town shops.

But the Communists began to persecute him. He was arrested for the first time on 10th March 1945 with all the delegates to the national conference of the Anarchist Communist Federation at Kniajevo, near Sofia. He was interned at the concentration camp of Dupnitsa and then at Kutzian.

Public protests forced his release. The camp administration demanded as with all the other prisoners, to sign a humiliating declaration that they had drawn up. He refused to sign and to leave. In the end he was thrown out of the camp by force!

He served 5 years at the prison of Sliven, and again was sentenced to one and a half years there. At the trial before the second term, exceptionally held in public, he was accused of being an “agent in the pay of the Anglo-Americans”. He rose and cut the prosecutor short, crying out: “It isn’t me who signed the Teheran and Yalta treaties with the English and the Americans; it’s not me who went to London to kiss the skirt of the Queen of England!”

The prosecutor was silenced and the judges lowered their eyes, too ashamed to look at Manol. On the day before he was due to be released, on 12th March 1958, he was poisoned by the Bulgarian secret police.

Nick Heath