During the late summer and early autumn of 1944 Bulgaria attempted to arrange an armistice between itself and the Western Allies. This resulted in the Soviet Union declaring war on Bulgaria, frustrating Bulgaria’s bid to end its involvement in the war.
The Bulgarian Army was poorly equipped at the end of 1945, with a collection of German equipment that had either been supplied to the Bulgarian Army or abandoned by German units as they withdrew from Bulgarian soil.
A peace treaty was not signed between all belligerents until 10 February 1947, by which time the Communists had seized power. This was followed by political purges in the government and the armed forces in the course of which over one third of the army’s officer corps was removed.
The army was re-organised and re-equipped by Soviet advisers. Tank units lost all their German equipment and in their place T-34/85 and Su-100s appeared. It is unclear just how many were supplied but certainly hundreds. Much of this equipment remained in service until the mid 1980s. The Communist Party leader instructed Bulgarian officers to reorganise the army along Soviet lines in order to strengthen the alliance with the Soviet Union. This Bulgarian support for Soviet foreign policy led to involvement in Greek Civil War. Although this stopped short of actual fighting, Bulgaria supplied the Greek communists with equipment and allowed them to operate from bases on Bulgarian soil.
Replacement of the older tanks took place during the 1960s and early 1970s, with over a thousand T-54/55s being supplied. A modernisation programme began in the 1980s and the first few deliveries of T-72 tanks took place before the Warsaw Pact dissolved.
Although its training was exhaustive even by Russian standards, the Bulgarian army was never seen as a major force within the Warsaw Pact. Tasked with protecting the Warsaw Pact’s south-eastern flank against any aggression from Turkey or Greece, it was given only low priority for re-equipment with the most modern Soviet equipment. It was seen as one of the Soviet Union’s most loyal allies and Bulgarian units were periodically trained in the Soviet Union and many of its officer corps received further training in Soviet Army schools.
A sizable number of the motorized rifle divisions were held at cadre level and would only have been brought to fully operational status in the event of war.
The armed forces in Bulgaria were officially named the Bulgarian People’s Army in 1952. Bulgaria joined the Warsaw Pact on 14 May 1955. The Bulgarian Army took part in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 providing a battalion of troops.