Georgi Markov

From Censorpedia

Date: 1960s - 1978

Region: Europe

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature Theatre Radio


Artist: Georgi Markov (1929 - 1978)

Confronting Bodies: Todor Zhivkov (president of Bulgaria) and other high ranking party members.

Dates of Action: 1960's - 1978

Location: Bulgaria

Description of Artwork: In the mid 1960's Markov wrote several controversial novels and plays. He describes his novel, The Great Roof, as "a symbol of the roof of lies... that the regime has constructed over our country." His play The Assassins deals with a scheme to kill a political leader. Much of his other work deals with similar issues

The Incident: In the early 1960's, Markov was a celebrated writer in Bulgaria. He had gained access to the circle of Bulgaria's literary elites and mingled with high ranking officials who enjoyed the arts. Through attending their parties he had learned many intimate secrets of high ranking party members.

In the early 60's, a roof collapsed and killed several workers. The government was slow to react and that impelled Markov to write his first novel that was critical of the regime (The Great Roof). By the late 60's, several of his novels and plays had been banned by the government. In 1969, his controversial play The Man Who Was Me, was closed and Markov was warned to leave Bulgaria.

He defected to the West and was declared a traitor in Bulgaria for doing so. He continued to critique the leaders of Eastern Europe through plays he wrote while living in Britain. In the mid-70's he became a scriptwriter for the BBC and Radio Free Europe. His programs largely consisted of his memoirs, which also revealed many secrets of the high party officials he had learned about in Bulgaria, especially those of president Todor Zhivkov. In addition, he explained the way censors in Bulgaria would distort language to block work they found inappropriate.

Results of Incident: In 1977 Zhivkov signed a degree to neutralize enemy emigrants. During the next few years there were several unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Markov. Finally, in 1978, Markov was killed. He was shot in the leg with a poison pellet, launched by an agent using a modified umbrella to launch it. The evidence of the crime was removed from the Bulgarian government archives, so the case of Markov's death remain a mystery.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.