Ghost-like ruins of post-Communism continue to 'inhabit' towns and countryside
by Bozhidara Georgieva; photography by Anthony Georgieff
Bulgarians are proud of their ruins. There is probably no expat in the country who has been spared the conversation with an overenthusiastic history lover boasting that Perperikon outshines the Acropolis in beauty and importance or that the new discoveries in Sofia's Roman centre make Rome itself look provincial in comparison.
Indeed, over their millennia of continuous habitation, the Bulgarian lands have acquired more than their fair share of prehistoric shrines, ancient cities and fortresses.
The country, however, is also full of another type of ruin. Most of those are less that 20 years old, and can be found everywhere – in suburban Sofia, along busy roads and near small villages. No one, however, is eager to boast about them. If you point to them and ask what they used to be before they became a ruin, be prepared for a lot of grumbling about that "damn democracy," when everything built under Communism – factories, schools and houses – was destroyed for no particular reason except to enable Bulgaria's new "businessmen" to rob the state of its properties.
The reality behind the appearance of Bulgaria's newest ruins, however, is somewhat more nuanced. You'll find it here, in our second article on the subject. If you missed the first one, which is dedicated to the deserted military bases and factories, the Belene Nuclear Power Plant and the empty villages, check this article out.
Under Communism people often suffered shortages for things as varied as electricity and toilet paper. The Party, however, was never short of money when it needed to boost its own image with the construction of grandiose monuments. The building craze peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the extravagant celebrations of the 1300 years of the founding of the Bulgarian state became the pretext for the realisation of several ambitious projects like Buzludzha. With Communism gone, most Party property was nationalised. In the years that followed, no one was able or willing to take care of this legacy, as the Bulgarian planned economy struggled on its way to the open market. The grandiose monuments, which were often shoddily built because of tight deadlines, quickly decayed into ghostly ruins. No one has the exact numbers, but it is estimated that there are at least 10,000 such monuments in Bulgaria of 2012.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers