April 16, 1925 | Attack on St. Nedelya Church in Bulgaria

150 killed 500 wounded by bomb in Bulgaria in 1925.

Communism was a disaster on many levels: the ideology particularly hated religion.

SOFIA, BUGLARIA — I am not an expert on the ideology we call communism. Oh, I did learn about it in high school – and had an amazing Grade 12 history teacher named John Ruypers who used to dress up as historical figures and deliver a lecture about a particular era in our past. His portrayal of Vladimir Lenin was really cool!

One line that I do remember though is from the ‘father’ of communism: Karl Marx. In 1844 he famously wrote “Religion is the opium of the masses”, although the entire quote is apparently “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. What it means is beyond my ken.

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It is nevertheless true that once they achieved power the communists did everything they could to shut religion down. I suppose this was because they wanted their populations to pledge allegiance to the new ideology of Marxist-Leninism and abandon the older one where God was worshiped. As a consequence, churches were shuttered and priests were defrocked (or worse).

The violence associated with the state-sponsored destruction of everything tied to religion would probably qualify as terrorism. After all, is there anything more ‘ideological’ than Marxist-Leninism? And it was not just churches: synagogues and mosques suffered equally.

Of course it is a curious thing that today’s head ‘communist’, Vladimir Putin, has embraced, and been embraced by, the Russian Orthodox Church. Putin often invokes the Russian Orthodox Church in his public speeches, giving the church a much more prominent place in Russian political life than under his predecessors. He has used the church to justify Russian expansion and to try to discredit the West’s influence in Eastern Europe.

Putin has set himself up as a defender of traditional morality—for instance, by opposing homosexuality, penalizing divorce, and supporting the “traditional family.”

On this day almost a century ago a massive act of terrorism was perpetrated by Bulgarian communists against St. Nedelya Church in the capital city, Sofia. The attack occurred during the funeral service of General Konstantin Georgiev, who had been killed in a previous Communist assault on 14 April. 150 people, mainly from the country’s political and military elite, were killed in the attack and around 500 were injured.

The explosion caused the main dome of the church to collapse killing 134 on the spot but many died from their injuries later. Twelve generals, 15 colonels, 3 majors, 9 members of parliament and many citizens including children died in the horrendous blast. By a lucky chance cabinet ministers received only minor injuries. King Boris III was not present as he was held up by another emergency and thus survived.

It is one thing to not believe in religion: it is quite another to kill 150 people attending a funeral. Can’t mourners pay their respects in peace?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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