On Monday, September 11, 1978, Bulgarian émigré, writer, and broadcast journalist Georgi Markov died in London at the age of 49. A political murder, his death remains one of the Cold War’s greatest mysteries.
Markov was an acclaimed literary figure in Bulgaria before he defected to the West in 1969. Later, he succeeded in getting official permission to leave Bulgaria. After arriving in England, he joined the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and became a freelance scriptwriter for Radio Free Europe (RFE) in Munich, Germany.
On June 8, 1975, he contributed his first freelance program to RFE, called “The Debts of Contemporary Bulgarian Literature.” For the next three years, he wrote more than 130 Sunday-evening programs for his series called IN ABSENTIA: REPORTS ABOUT BULGARIA. These programs not only covered cultural life in Bulgaria but also revealed the otherwise hidden lifestyles of leading regime figures, especially Communist Party leader Todor Zhivkov, who reportedly appealed to the KGB for help in silencing Markov.
Two failed attempts to poison Markov followed. But on September 7, 1978, while Markov was waiting for a bus, he felt a sudden stinging pain in the back of his thigh. He turned and saw a man bending to pick up a dropped umbrella. The man apologized and departed. By evening, Markov developed a high fever. He was taken to a hospital and treated for blood poisoning. But his condition worsened, and three days later he died.
Watch the full documentary (53 minutes)