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Author`s books
About the authorBooksGeorgi Markov`s casePiccadilly fileThe archives of the SSSContacts
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He underwent special training...

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He was sent to London...

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He was presented with medals...

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The Double Life of Agent Piccadilly. The file of the only agent suspected of the murder of the writer, Georgi Markov and the key archive of the First Main Directorate of the SSS

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He was paid well...

Who was Georgi Markov and his assassination E-mail

Image“Many times I have thought that one everything will be known, absolutely everything will be known. In ten years, one hundred, one thousand or ten thousand years’ time some computer programmed for the resurrection of everything which has exited will summon people, characters and circumstances for examination and bring everything concealed out into the open and cast light on buried secrets. With no compromise and with no mercy. For many this may be comfort, for others – threat.”

Georgi Markov, 1973








Georgi Markov was born on the 1st March, 1929, in Knyazhevo near Sofia in the family of Ivan and Raika Markova. He was the oldest of three sons in the family. In1946 he graduated from the First Boys’ Gymnasium in Sofia and subsequently studied chemistry at the Higher Technical School in Russe. The Chemistry Faculty was, however, closed in the year after he began his studies and he came back to Sofia where he continued his higher education in the Sofia Polytechnical Institute.

In his youth, however, he was blighted by a serious illness. In the autumn of 1948 as a 19-year old student he was sent to a sanatorium for tuberculosis. His treatment took a long time and in the sanatorium he began to write.

In 1952 he graduated as an engineer from the Sofia Polytechnical Institute. For a number of years he worked in the “Pobeda” and “Stind” factories in Sofia and then he began a job as a teacher in the Ceramics Technical College and the Teachers’ Institute. However, he was forced to retire in 1958 at the young age of 29 for reasons of ill health.

His first books were published in the middle of the 1950’s. Literary fame came to Markov with his second novel, “Men” (1962). He won the annual literary award of the Union of Bulgarian Writers for contemporary novels and was directly admitted to membership of the Union. This was a precedent since the normal practice was an extended period of associate (candidate) membership. He was considered to be one of the most talented young writers of the time.

Georgi Markov was one of the writers who took part in some of the general meetings with Todor Zhivkov and carefully selected representatives of the creative intellectual circles between 1964 and 1968. His admission to this intimate circle around the first leader of the party and state allowed him not only to be a direct witness of his manner of communication and personal conduct but also to get to know Zhivkov and to assess his positive and negative characteristics, weak and strong sides.

After the crushing of the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia in 1968, there were very strong anti-Czechoslovak feelings in Bulgaria and the communist authorities imposed censorship. All Georgi Markov’s plays were removed from the stage, including his documentary play entitled “Communists”, which was to have commemorated the 25th anniversary of the victory of the BCP on the 9th September, 1944. After certain difficulties Markov received a visa and left Bulgaria for Italy for a few months. He stayed with his brother, Nikola Markov, who had emigrated in 1963. For the next few months he traveled to Austria, West Germany and the UK, trying to find a market for his literary works. The communist authorities in Bulgaria were exerting pressure to compel him to return to Bulgaria. He refused to return and in 1970 he settled in London, where the famous Bulgarian émigré and producer, Petar Uvaliev, promised to make a film of his novel, ‘Women of Warsaw”. “I have to tell you that the recent years for Bulgarian literature have been the most difficult of the period since the war, and in some ways even more difficult that the Stalinist period”, Markov wrote in one of his letters from that time.

In 1971 Markov began to work with the Bulgarian section of the BBC and in 1972 he was appointed to a full-time post.

The 6th department of the SSS (Political Police) commenced an operation against Georgi Markov under the code name “Wanderer” as a non-returnee in 1971. A the end of the same year, the Bulgarian Embassy in London refused to extend the period of his passport, thus compelling him to become a political émigré. Markov applied for and received political refugee status from the British government.

At the end of 1971 he began freelance work in Deutsche Welle radio which began to broadcast his essays. For these broadcasts in December 1972 he was sentenced in absentia to six and a half years to prison as a traitor to the homeland and for placing himself at the services of “hostile” radio stations.

Markov achieved literary success in the UK in 1974. One of the London theatres staged his play “To Pass Under the Rainbow”. The same year his play, “Archangel Mihail” won first place in the prestigious literary festival in Edinburgh.

In 1975 Markov married Annabel Dilk, a journalist from the BBC, and later a daughter was born to them.

In 1975 Radio Free Europe began to broadcast extracts from his book “Distant Reports about Bulgaria”, which became the most profound criticism of the Bulgarian communist system. 137 programmes were broadcast, one per week over a period of 32 months, with a repeat the following day. The series began at the beginning of November 1975 and the last was in June 1978. The broadcasts led to an 60% increase in the listening figures of Free Europe. At that time the SSS analysed them and submitted reports to the ruling elite:

“The series of broadcasts entitled, “Distant Reports about Bulgaria”, by the traitor, Georgi Markov are considered to be the most massive propaganda attack against the socialist way of life during the period under examination”.

During the same year, the First Main Directorate (FMD) of the SSS (intelligence services) began an operation against the writer under the code name, “Wanderer”. A year later an operation for his “disarming” was planned.

In November 1977, Free Europe began to broadcast reports describing meetings between writers and Todor Zhivkov. The first of 11 extracts was broadcast in the middle of November, 1977, and the last at the end of January, 1978. In these broadcasts Markov subjected Zhivkov to merciless criticism:

“Not for single moment did he have the illusion that he might go against the will of the leaders of the Kremlin. Even in the most serious and, I admit, sincere feelings of patriotism, he never forgot that the USSR comes first and only then – Bulgaria…
He was the strongest, most reliable and most practical and above all the most loyal. It might be said of him that he served the Soviet Union more zealously than the Soviet leaders themselves”.

At the beginning of 1978 the director of the FMD of the KGB, General Vladimir Kruchkov, received a telegram from the Minister of the Interior of the PRB, General Dimitar Stoyanov, with a request for assistance to fulfill instructions made by Todor Zhivkov for the liquidation of the Bulgarian writer, Georgi Markov. The request was reported to KGB Chairman, Iuri Andropov. He initially resisted but in order to avoid any deterioration in Bulgarian Soviet relations he instructed the KGB to provide technical assistance for the assassination. In connection with this the director of the counter-intelligence services of the Soviet FMD, General Oleg Kalugin and a number of high-ranking KGB officers visited Sofia on a number of occasions. “During the next six months using the talents of KGB scientists trained in the art of poisoning and other methods of murder, together with the Bulgarians we prepared the path for the murder of Georgi Markov”, Kalugin notes in his memoirs.

During the summer of 1978, Markov and a number of émigrés took the decision to create a new émigré journal, “Nov Zlatorog”. However, the idea did not come to fruition.

On the 7th September, 1978, Todor Zhivkov’s birthday, a strange man bumped into Georgi Markov on Waterloo Bridge in London. The writer felt a pricking pain in his right thigh. During the night his health deteriorated and he was admitted to hospital where he died on the 11th September. The medical diagnosis stated that the reasons for death was blood poisoning and during the autopsy a miniature pellet made of platinum-iridium ally with poison-bearing channels was removed from his right thigh. Specialists established that the most probable explanation was that the dissident had been poisoned with ricin which leaves no trace in the body. A few days later a similar pellet was found in the back of a Vladimir Kostov, an SSS officer who had defected the previous year in Paris. He had felt a pain similar to Markov’s in his back on the 26th August, 1978, while waiting on the platform in the Paris Metro. Kostov had been sentenced to death by a military court in Bulgaria for treachery.

Scotland Yard carried out a large-scale investigation but was unable to trace the perpetrator of the murder of Georgi Markov. At the same time the communist intelligence services undertook a whole series of active operations to direct Scotland Yard’s attention in the wrong direction, suggesting that the murder had been a result of conflicts in the circles of the Bulgarian émigrés. The western media published their opinions that the murder had been carried out by the secret services of the communist regime in Bulgaria. In the PRB no information was published about the death of the writer and the state prosecutor’s office did not commence any proceedings, which it was obliged to do by law. The regime disseminated their official commentary only to the western media in which it rejected all charges and declared that the incident was a case of anti-Bulgarian propaganda.

The murder of Georgi Markov became a matter for public discussion in his homeland only twelve years later when Zhivkov and his regime collapsed and communism came to an end in Bulgaria.