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It would take 50 years before our society properly assesses the socialist past

16 June 2014 / 22:06:51  GRReporter
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Polina Spartyanova

    Every Bulgarian has a personal memory of the beginning of the democratization of the country about a quarter of a century ago. Some remember the big political rallies that supported the fall of communism in Bulgaria while others are dissatisfied with privatization, which they believe adversely affects the interests of the majority of the population to the benefit of a smaller part of it. However, if there is one thing remembered by every Bulgarian who was at a conscious age at the time, it is the removal of the red five-pointed star from the top of the former Party House (now the administrative building of the National Assembly).
    The removal of the ruby ​​star, which was the symbol of socialism and communism in the People's Republic of Bulgaria for 30 years, became a symbol of the emerging Bulgarian democracy and so, for 20 years no one has asked where this historic relic is stored. In fact, before the opening of the Museum of Socialist Art, the red five-pointed star was abandoned in the yard of the public bath in Sofia and needed considerable restoration before becoming part of the museum exhibition. Nevertheless, the ruby star and other items of the permanent museum exhibition were fortunate in comparison with the majority of the Bulgarian monuments built in the style of socialist realism and praising the communist cause.
    Regardless of its efforts over the years to be an example for other cities in Bulgaria

Sofia has only managed to show how not to approach the cultural heritage of a past era. From the transition to this day, all marks of socialist realism and monumentality in the capital have been gradually deleted, thus leaving only scars on the new look of the city. Nowadays the monuments in Sofia that praise the socialist cause and the Bulgarian-Soviet friendship are a thorn in the eyes of its residents, because they are not maintained and, at the same time, a lot of discussions are ongoing about their removal from the contemporary urban environment. This is indicative of Sofia’s paradox, namely that the five-pointed stars, and the hammers and sickles have been scraped out from the central part of the city in the early 1990s but the socialist monuments, close to them in terms of meaning and perception, have however remained in the city centre.
    Only the four-metre high statue of Lenin in the central Largo complex, where the statue of Saint Sophia is located today, was removed during the transition period and can be seen today in the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Socialist Art. Here is the point to raise the question that has remained unanswered for a quarter century now, namely, why, in the capital of Bulgaria, there is no place for Lenin and the "hammer and sickle" symbols that once adorned the Party House but there is room for the Soviet Army "liberator" of Bulgaria.
    Although regarded as a huge pile of concrete and iron, the monuments from the time of socialism in Bulgaria symbolize all those fears that the majority of the Bulgarians harbour deep inside themselves, namely that the totalitarian regime can return at any time. The half-expressed understanding that the so-called "socialist art" is bad for the nation, hampering it from overcoming the nostalgia for the recent past, still exists in Bulgarian society. For this reason, the decisions on the architectural appearance of the heart of the capital are extreme, including the demolition of the mausoleum of Georgi Dimitrov or the "undressing" of the semi-ruined monument "1300 years of Bulgaria", which is why Bulgarian citizens ultimately do not feel in any way obliged to preserve this bygone historical era.
    Therefore, the socialist heritage in Sofia seems like it has been awaiting its fate for years, as well as the bulldozers that can come any moment to raze it to the ground. The majority of the Bulgarian population does not want to be reminded of the 45-year totalitarian regime in the country in any way and believes that the demolition or removal of a monument can delete all memories of that era. However, according to some historians, Bulgarian society cannot yet actually perceive in the correct manner the past socialist period of the history of the country and it will take at least another 50 years before it understands it and gives a meaning to it.
    That is why Bulgarian society is still "blindly wandering" when looking back in history and is not yet able to objectively perceive the socialist monuments. Previously in the "Sots Art" section we saw that the very capital of Bulgaria is not a model example in terms of the preservation of its socialist heritage. Subsequent publications on will continue to inform you about other cities and towns in Bulgaria and their attitude towards the monuments glorifying the socialist cause.

Tags: Socialist artSofiaCapital of BulgariaMuseum of Georgi DimitrovFive-pointed star on the Party HousePolina Spartyanova
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