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Obituary: Andrei Lukanov

Andrei Lukanov, assassinated in Sofia on Wednesday, was a representative member of the lost generation of Communist leaders who attempted to free their countries of totalitarianism whilst retaining the basic structures of socialism.

Lukanov's public life went through three phases. The first was that of rising Communist official. He had a good start. His father had been a Communist exile in Moscow, where Lukanov was born in 1938. He was educated in the Soviet Union, graduating from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. In 1963 he entered the Bulgarian foreign service. His career was to culminate in his appointment as permanent Bulgarian delegate to Comecon.

Whilst making his way up the diplomatic ladder, Lukanov had carefully nurtured his party career. He became a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1963 and by 1979 was a candidate member of the politburo. For a man of Lukanov's ability, experience, and connections, promotion to full membership appeared to be only a matter of time. It was not.

That Lukanov did not reach the very highest echelon of power was because the gerontocratic party chief, Todor Lukanov, with his close relationship with the Gorbachevites in Moscow, was the natural chief for Bulgaria's small but impatient reformist clan.

It was no surprise that Lukanov headed the central committtee faction which finally persuaded Zhivkov to step down on 10 November 1989.

The second phase of Lukanov's life began with Zhivkov's fall. Lukanov was elected a full member of the politburo: he stepped on to the bridge just as the ship began to take water. But he was no rat; he did not desert; instead he put his hands to the pumps. He was a natural choice for the round table meetings between government and opposition which charted the way towards the first post-Communist elections in June 1990. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), as the Communists had become, emerged as the largest party and it fell to Lukanov to form an administration.

It did not last long. Lukanov failed to persuade the other parties to join him in a coalition government to administer the unpleasant medicine necessary to cure the nation's manifold economic ills, and there were deep suspicions that the elections which had brought him to power were fraudulent. As the economic situation deteriorated even further, opposition mounted until it drove Lukanov from office in November.

In the final stage of his life Lukanov continued his political campaign for reform and reactivated his old connections in the foreign trading sector. In the political world his vociferous support for thorough and rapid reform made him sharply critical of the BSP government which came into office in January 1995.

His commercial life at first seemed even less successful than his political campaigns. In 1992 he spent some months in prison for alleged financial misdemeanours, and further accusations were to follow. They did not, however, prevent Lukanov from becoming a prominent example of what Bulgarians had come to call "red businessmen". His previous experience in foreign trade and his close association with Russia were important factors in his appointment in May 1995 as chairman of the Bulgarian-Russian gas company Topenergy, which was to construct a gas pipeline from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to carry energy to Turkey, Greece and Macedonia. In July 1996, for reasons which have never been made clear, Lukanov was removed from this post.

During both his political and financial careers Lukanov had made many enemies, but he had also made friends. A most accomplished linguist and a man of considerable culture, he was clubbable as well as capable.

Richard Crampton

Anatoly Karlov Lukanov, politician: born Moscow 26 September 1938; Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Bulgaria 1987-90, Prime Minister 1990; married (one son, one daughter); died Sofia 2 October 1996.