Throughout the Cold War, Bulgaria was a close ally of the Soviet Union. After the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disintegrated, evidence emerged that Todor Zhivkov, the long-time leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party, had proposed that Bulgaria officially join the USSR as the “sixteenth Soviet republic.” However, these offers, which would have entailed the sacrifice of national sovereignty, are best understood as tactical maneuvers. Zhivkov used the tactic not just once, but at least three times. Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that he ever intended for Bulgaria to be fully incorporated into the Soviet Union. Instead, he used Bulgarian national sovereignty as a bargaining chip during negotiations for financial and economic support to strengthen his personal rule.

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