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Boris III of Bulgaria
Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria (January 30, 1894 - August 28, 1943), son of Ferdinand I, came to the throne in 1918 upon the abdication of his father, following Bulgaria's defeat in World War I. This was the country's second major defeat in only five years, after the disastrous Second Balkan War (1913). Under the Treaty of Neuilly, Bulgaria was forced to cede land to its neighbors and pay crippling reparations, thereby threatening political and economic stability. Two movements, the Agrarian Union and the Communist Party, were calling for the overthrow of the monarchy and change of government. It was in these circumstances that Boris succeeded to the throne.
One year after Boris's accession, Aleksandar Stamboliyski of the Agrarian Union was elected prime minister. Though popular with the large peasant class, he earned the animosity of the middle class and military, which toppled his government in 1923. In 1925, Greece declared war. Despite the intervention of the League of Nations, the turmoil continued until 1934, when Boris helped the military establish a dictatorship. The following year, he assumed control of the country, ruling as an absolute monarch.
Boris married Giovanna of Savoy, daughter of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, first in Assisi in October 1930, and then at an Orthodox ceremony in Sofia. The marriage produced a daughter, Marie-Louise in January 1933 and a son and heir in Simeon in 1937.
In the early days of World War II, popular sentiment swayed toward Germany, which had forced Romania to cede southern Dobruja back to Bulgaria. In 1941, Boris reluctantly allied himself with the Axis powers and joined Germany's war against Greece and the Yugoslavia in an attempt to regain territories lost under the Treaty of Neuilly. However, in spite of siding with Nazi Germany, Boris consistently refused cooperation on two major issues. In early 1943, Nazi officials requested that Bulgaria's Jews be sent to Poland as part of Hitler's "final solution." The request caused public outcry, led by prominent figures such as Parliament Chairman Dimitar Peshev and Archbishop Stefan of Sofia . Boris then intervened and prevented the deportation of Bulgaria's 50,000 Jews to Auschwitz. Even more threatening to Hitler, however, was the tsar's refusal to declare war on the Soviet Union, particularly as the war was turning against Germany.
In August 1943, Hitler summoned Boris to a stormy meeting in Berlin. While Boris agreed to declare war on the distant United Kingdom and United States, he again refused to get Bulgaria involved in the war against the USSR. Shortly after returning to Sofia, Boris died of apparent heart failure, though many believe he was poisoned by Hitler in an attempt to put a more obedient government in place. Boris was succeeded by his six-year-old son Simeon II.
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