Communist Bulgaria

fraternal mound sofia.jpg

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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smolyan.jpg

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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lenin bulgaria.jpg

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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1300 years of bulgaria monument.jpg

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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anastasia island.jpg

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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buzludzha bulgaria.jpg

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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belene island.jpg

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 4.jpg

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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abandoned factory.jpg

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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gorunya monument.jpg

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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party house sofia in the 1980s.jpg

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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