Boris III, Tsar of Bulgaria (January 30, 1894 – August 28, 1943), originally Boris Klemens Robert Maria Pius Ludwig Stanislaus Xaver (Boris Clement Robert Mary Pius Louis Stanislaus Xavier), 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 new territories and pay crippling reparations to its neighbors, thereby threatening political and economic stability. Two political forces, the Agrarian Union and the Communist Party, were calling for the overthrowing of the monarchy and the change of the government. It was in these circumstances that Boris succeeded to the throne.
In the coup on May 19, 1934, the Zveno military organisation established a dictatorship and abolished the political parties in Bulgaria. King Boris was reduced to the status of a puppet king as a result of the coup. In the following year, he staged a counter-coup and assumed control of the country by establishing a regime loyal to him. The political process was controlled by the Tsar, but a form of parliamentary rule was re-introduced, without the restoration of the political parties.
Boris married Giovanna of Italy, daughter of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, first in Assisi in October 1930 (attended by Benito Mussolini), and then at an Orthodox ceremony in Sofia. The marriage produced a daughter, Maria Louisa, in January 1933, and a son and heir to the throne, Simeon, in 1937.
In early 1943, Nazi officials requested that Bulgaria send its Jewish population to Poland. The request caused a public outcry, and a campaign whose most prominent leaders were Parliament Vice-Chairman Dimitar Peshev and the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Stefan, was organized. Following this campaign Boris refused to permit the extradition of Bulgaria's 50,000 Jews. Nonetheless, he did sanction the German demand for the extradition of 11,343 Jews from those territories re-occupied by Bulgaria. These two decisions have led to a position today where large numbers of people regard Boris as a hero for 'saving' Bulgaria's Jews, and large numbers revile him for condemning those of the occupied territories. The extent to which the Tsar was able to influence events in either case remains a matter of debate.
Most irritating for Hitler, however, was the Tsar's refusal to declare war on the Soviet Union or send Bulgarian troops to the Eastern front. On the 9 August 1943, Hitler summoned Boris to a stormy meeting at Rastenburg, East Prussia, where Tsar Boris arrived by plane from Vrajdebna on Saturday 14 August. While Bulgaria had declared a 'symbolic' war on the distant United Kingdom and the United States, at that meeting Boris once again refused to get involved in the war against the Soviet Union, giving as two major reasons for his unwillingness to send troops to Russia -- first, that many ordinary Bulgarians had strong Russophile sentiments; and second, that the political and military position of Turkey remained unclear. The 'symbolic' war against the Western Allies, however, turned into a disaster for the citizens of Sofia as the city was heavily bombarded by the US, and the British Royal Air Force, in 1943 and 1944.
Following a large and impressive State Funeral at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, where the streets were lined with weeping crowds, the coffin of Tsar Boris III was taken by train to the mountains and buried in Bulgaria's largest and most important monastery, the Rila Monastery. After taking power in September 1944, the Communist-dominated government had his body exhumed and secretly buried in the courtyard of the Vrana Palace near Sofia. At a later time the Communist authorities removed the zinc coffin from Vrana and moved it to a secret location, which remains unknown to this day. After the fall of communism, an excavation attempt was made at the Vrana Palace, in which only Boris's heart was found, as it had been put in a glass cylinder outside the coffin. The heart was taken by his widow in 1993 to Rila Monastery where it was reinterred.