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06 February 2023

New publication: 'Murder on Waterloo Bridge: placing the assassination of Georgi Markov in past and present context, 1970 - 2018'

Daniel Salisbury and Karl Dewey published a new peer reviewed article in Contemporary British History journal exploring the assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in Cold War London.

Waterloo Bridge

In 1978, Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov was murdered on Waterloo Bridge by an unknown assassin. The brazen attack in central London, Markov’s public profile and the alleged use of an exotic spy gadget (a poison umbrella) made the murder one of the Cold War’s most infamous cases of political assassination. However, despite wide-spread suspicions the case formally remains open, with the British government taking only limited actions against Bulgaria, the presumed culprit. This article draws on recently declassified archival materials from the United Kingdom to provide the first historical account focusing on the British dimensions of the case. The article discusses Markov’s journey to London, his murder and the British government’s response. It argues that the limited response to Markov’s murder largely followed uncertainty regarding the identity of the assassin and culpability of the Bulgarian state, as well as the political climate in the twilight years of détente. In contrast, British authorities responded tentatively to the attack on Litvinenko in 2006 and much more decisively to the attack on Skripal in 2018. This was due to the step change in the information environment providing more actionable intelligence and increasing unwillingness to accept Russian belligerence on UK soil.

In this story

Daniel Salisbury

Visiting Research Fellow

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