Communist Bulgaria

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BULGARIA UNDER COMMUNISM: NEW BOOK IN ENGLISH EXPLORES RECENT PAST

A new book, Bulgaria Under Communism, published by Routledge in 2018, fills the gaps for English speakers. Written by Professor Ivaylo Znepolski and historians from the Bulgarian Institute for Research of the Recent Past, the volume covers the most important aspects of Bulgaria as a Communist country. It provides all the background needed for a person unfamiliar with Bulgarian history to understand how and why Communism took over, in 1944. It also explores the profound transformation of Bulgarian politics, society, economy and culture in the 45 years that followed.

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 11:24
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URBEX BG: ABANDONED RUINS INCREASINGLY ATTRACT URBAN EXPLORERS

Yet the sombre aura of desolation and utter despair exuded by modern ruins can be evocative. They simultaneously frighten, disgust and enchant. When walking around spaces that were abandoned mere decades before, we begin to reflect on the people – almost our contemporaries – who used to live and work there, and who then left, leaving behind a soiled rag here, a rusty bed or a desecrated image of a once powerful party leader there. Who were these people? What did they experience there? Such places remind us of the fragility of our own civilisation.

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 08:48
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STARA PLANINA'S FLYING SAUCER

Recently, Bulgaria has become a staple in the Internet lists compiling the oddest abandoned places in the world with a building whose creators hardly imagined, not even in their darkest nightmares, the way it stands now: the Memorial House of the Bulgarian Communist Party at Buzludzha.

The complex of an assembly hall and an huge tower of exposed concrete was built on Stara Planina's Mount Buzludzha in 1981. It was meant to be a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the predecessor of the BKP, which had been founded at that mount.

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 07:52
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DIMITROVGRAD BEYOND CHALGA

If you have spent more than a couple of days in Bulgaria you should already be familiar with Chalga. This tacky music dominates the mass Bulgarian taste. It blares from your taxi's radio, permeates house parties and low-key restaurants, stuns popular disco clubs and resounds from the open windows of flashy cars driven by chiselled guys or silicone-enhanced fake blondes. Chalga also inevitably pops up several times while you are skipping through your local TV channels.

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 14:02
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WAS JULIA KRISTEVA A COMMUNIST 'AGENT'?

Bulgaria has had an uneasy transition from Communism to democracy as a result of which it continues to experience painful pangs related to its recent past. Unlike other nations in the former Warsaw Pact  Bulgaria never made a proper de-Communisation effort. Top Communist-era officials and thousands of apparatchiks continued, and some still continue, to hold public offices.

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 13:33
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BULGARIA'S PARTIZANI MONUMENTS

Made of stone or bronze, these monuments adorn squares and streets, peek over the trees by roads, and form whole, often overgrown compounds.

Some of these monuments are maintained, others have been abandoned and crumbling. Some are in the realistic style known as Stalinist Baroque, popular across the East bloc in the 1940s and the 1950s. Others bear the hallmarks of the peculiar combination of modernism, cubism and sheer extravagance, typical for Bulgarian sculpture in the 1970s and the 1980s.

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 13:54
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FROM UTOPIA TO DYSTOPIA

Like Dimitrovgrad, Smolyan appeared under Communism as a result of the amalgamation of several villages. But while Dimitrovgrad is an example of Stalinist urbanism, Smolyan is perhaps the epitome of city planning under Mature Socialism.

In 1960 the National Assembly decreed three old villages along the Cherna River in the Rhodope to be combined into a town called Smolyan. It was also proclaimed the centre of the region.

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 11:24
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LAND OF LOST LENINS

If you could (or would want to) go back in time 29 years and visit Communist Bulgaria, your trip would unfold under the constant presence of one man, Lenin. There was hardly a place in Bulgaria – big city, small town, village even – without a monument to Lenin, or at least a street, school, or kindergarten named after him.

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 16:07
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FALL OF 1,300 YEARS OF BULGARIA

In the summer of 2017, after years of debates, projects and protests, Sofia looked as though it would finally part with one of the most controversial monuments of the period referred to as Mature Socialism (roughly, the 1970s and 1980s in Communist Bulgaria). Everyone knows the monument in question: it is the 35-metre-high angular construction of granite plates and metal, crowned with ghostly statues and disintegrated slogans, in front of the NDK in central Sofia.

Ironically, the name of the monument slated for demolition is 1,300 Years of Bulgaria.

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 15:24
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ST ANASTASIA ISLAND

To the British, He gave mastership over the seas, while the Swiss received the mountains, the Russians got the great plains, and the Germans took possession of the thick forests. When God ran out of gifts, He noticed that there was a people who were still empty-handed: the humble Bulgarians, languishing at the end of the queue of nations. Baffled, God soon realised what had happened: the Devil had stolen all the best pieces of the earth. The Almighty took everything back, and gave it to the Bulgarians.

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 14:51
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COMMUNISM'S FLYING SAUCER

Bulgaria has yet to produce an architectural site capable of generating a high-degree wow-factor, with the likely exception of Sofia's NDK, Shumen's Founders of the Bulgarian State monument and the urbanisation solutions seen at Sunny Beach. Yet, the country does have a strong contender for world fame in a new, but growing field of interest: abandoned, ghoulish, straight-out-of-a-dystopian-movie-set constructions visited by folks interested in off-off-off-the-beaten-track tourism and captivated by anything from extraterrestrials to Goths, Communists and urban decay.

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 12:48
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HORROR ISLAND

If there was a competition for the most surreal road sign in Bulgaria, Belene would be a top contender. The standard signposts in the centre of this 8,300-strong town on the Danube list the following places of interest. First is "Municipality," the building of the City Council. Then comes the Bus Station. And then – hold your breath – you can choose to go to either the Nuclear Power Plant or the Prison.

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 13:31
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DIMITROVGRAD

Travelling in Bulgaria can become a surreal experience when you look at the expensive cars parked in front of shabby apartment buildings, at the stunning landscapes dotted with relics from either Antiquity or Communism, and when overwhelming hospitality alternates with plain rudeness and paranoid suspicion.

Few places in Bulgaria, however, can rival Dimitrovgrad in strangeness. It seems to epitomise best the three main characteristics of 21st Century Bulgaria outside the gated communities and the five-star spa hotels: chalga, tackiness and post-Communist destitution.

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 14:38
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DERELICT BULGARIA, PART 1

One of the major things that will impress first-time visitors to Bulgaria, especially if they stray off the beaten track or undertake a trip through the countryside on their own, is the huge number of abandoned and dilapidated buildings that no one cares about and that look as if they have just emerged from a major armed conflict. Only that, notwithstanding some sporadic Allied bombing in 1943-1944, Bulgaria hasn't had a "proper" war on its territory since at least 1878 when it gained independence of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire.

Mon, 07/02/2012 - 14:04
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FORGOTTEN PLOT

There is hardly a village in Bulgaria without a monument. Those to local victims of the two Balkan and the two World wars are the most common, followed by memorials to Communist partisans and monuments of workers and other "builders of Socialism." There are also the monuments to Revival Period figures, who were usually born or met their end in a particular village.

Mon, 07/02/2012 - 13:48
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Communist Party House

STALINIST SOFIA

More than 20 years after the fall of Communism, Sofia still bears the signs of the regime in its architecture and monuments. The very centre of the city is constructed in the ostentatious style and design popular in the time of Joseph Stalin. The larger parks have monuments of Soviet soldiers, commemorating their feats in the Second World War and the supposed "eternal friendship" between the Bulgarian people and the Russians. Although the old buildings and monuments are despised by many, they bear witness to the country's past, which cannot easily be erased.

Sun, 08/07/2011 - 11:59
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THE RED STAR REVISITED

At the end of the summer of 1990, less than a year after the collapse of Communism in Bulgaria, parliament passed an act providing for all Communist symbols in the country to be removed. The Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party agreed to take down the big red star from the roof of the Party House.

Tue, 03/15/2011 - 15:19
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Within three months 350,000 Turks were forced to leave Bulgaria for Turkey

THE SUMMER OF THEIR DISCONTENT

On 15 September 1989 the school year began in an unusual way. Our class teacher announced in a stern voice: "Children, we have to be very happy that Marin did not leave for Turkey. If he had, he wouldn't now be sitting at his desk; he would be shining shoes on the streets of Istanbul instead. But he and his family remained here because they know that their true motherland is Bulgaria, not Turkey."

Mon, 08/03/2009 - 14:43
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