A piece of visual history - the first photo album of the Bulgarian capital after the Communist takeover in 1944.

Most of the over 100 photographs were taken by Architect Nikolay Popov and Pencho Balkanski, both established internationally in the 1930, with exhibitions in Vienna and Belgrade.

Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959
Sofia 1959

(more to come)

Published in Photo Gallery Bulgaria

Nomenklatura

 

Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria's undisputed leader for 35 years, playing host to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in a hunting lodge in Bulgaria. Early 1970s.

It is a unique photo - events like this were never reported, and usually no records were kept. The service personnel were sworn to secrecy, hence the facial expressions of some in the background!

The top Communist nomenklatura were often keen hunters. Some argue this was an attempt to emulate the old ruling classes they toppled, and in many cases managed to abolish, or 'liquidate' in their own terms.

Personal archive

Published in Bulgaria

Zhivkov Buzludja 1975 Lo

 

A piece of visual history – Bulgaria's leader Todor Zhivkov lays a 'time capsule' in the foundations of a Communist monument in the Bulgarian mountains.

From the original booklet for the opening of the Buzludja Memorial Complex, summer of 1981 .

As Communist Bulgaria entered the last decade of the 20th century, it prepared to celebrate the 1300th anniversary of Bulgarian statehood with suitable pomp.

One of the highlights of the celebration was the opening of a giant complex in the mountainous area of Buzludja – it was here that the foundations of Bulgarian socialism had been laid in a humble meeting back in 1891. It was later to be transformed into Lenin's model of Communism.

Buzludja was a feat of mountain engineering. The construction which included soldiers and unpaid workers, even helicopters, lasted 7 years, costing the Bulgarian state a staggering amount of money.

After the collapse of Communism in 1989 the memorial complex was abandoned, and left unmaintained. It's now partly derelict, but is still of huge importance to the successor to the Communist party, which often brings its followers to this isolated corner for morale-boosting gatherings.

 

booklet 012
booklet 013
booklet 017
booklet 018
booklet 009
booklet 006
booklet 001a
booklet 002
booklet 010
booklet 003
booklet 016
booklet 014
booklet 001
booklet 005
booklet 011
booklet 015
booklet 007
booklet 008

Published in Photo Gallery Bulgaria

Soon after the introduction of martial law in Poland in December 1981 the new military leader General Jaruzelski received a warm welcome in Sofia from Bulgaria's leader Todor Zhivkov and his entourage.

Chairing a military council after the takeover, and consolidating all powers of Communist Poland, Wojciech Jaruzelski intended to crush the Solidarity trade union. For ordinary Eastern Europeans military rule in Poland was presented as a necessary measure to 'protect Socialism' across the block.

With permanently damaged eyesight from his time in the Siberian Gulag (1940-42), Jaruzelski was forced to wear sunglasses most of the time, and they became his trademark.

Alongside Mikhail Gorbachev and East Germany's Egon Krenz, Wojciech Jaruzelski was the last surviving leader of a Warsaw Pact Communist state. He died on 25 May 2014 in Warsaw.

 Are you in this film? Do you remember that visit?

What's your memory of Poland's martial law?

We'd love to hear from you.

 

Скоро след въвеждането на военно положение в Полша през декември 1981 новият ръководител генерал Войчех Ярузелски пристига в София.

Поемайки изцяло контрол над Полша целта на Ярузелски е да унищожи независимия профсъюз Солидарност, изпраща в затвора лидера му Лех Валенса. Властите в Източна Европа представят военното положение в Полша като 'наложителна мярка за защита на социализма'.

Поради увреденото си в сибирския Гулаг зрение (1940-42) Ярузелски е принуден почти постоянно да носи слънчеви очила, които стават негова запазена марка.

Заедно с Михаил Горбачов и Егон Кренц, Войчех Ярузелски беше един от тримата останали живи бивши ръководители на комунистическа страна от Варшавския договор.Той почина на 25 май 2014 във Варшава.

Бяхте ли там през 1982? Спомня ли си някои от семейството Ви това посещение?

Какво знаете за военното положение в Полша 1981-1989?

Ще се радваме, ако споделите тези спомени.

Published in Bulgaria
May Day 1986

The 1st May 1986, and as every year tens of thousands of Bulgarians mark Labour Day by marching past their Communist leaders in Sofia. Unknown to them, just four days previously a fire at Chernobyl had brought about world's worst nuclear disaster.

By the 1st May the fallout had reached Bulgaria. The rain falling on everyone here was highly radioactive, but the nomenclatura seem oblivious to the danger in the air.

Were you there that day? Do you or your family remember these events? We'd like to hear from you.

 

Първи май 1986. Десетки хиляди българи отбелязват в София "Празника на труда" с традиционен парад пред комунистическите ръководители на страната. Манифестиращите не знаят, че само четири дни по-рано пожар в Чернобил е предизвикал най-тежката ядрена авария в света.

На 1 май радиационният облак достига България. Дъждът, който вали над парада е силно радиоактивен, но на трибуната сякаш не осъзнават опасността във въздуха.

Бяхте ли там? Спомня ли си някои от семейството Ви за тези дни? Ще се радваме, ако споделите тези спомени.

Published in Bulgaria

Vintage Communist narrative

Converted from 16 mm film

Published in Bulgaria

Rescued and converted from a 16mm film.

This Bulgarian government video presents the skiing resort of Pamporovo as a hotspot of catering and hedonism. In reality, some of its East German tourists were killed, while trying to cross the nearby border with Greece.

Пампорово, 1979-та. 16 мм филм. Идилия за външна консумация. В непосредствена близост до граничната зона, лобно място на източногермански туристи.

Published in Bulgaria

We follow 3 young Bulgarians to the former Communist Congress building Buzludja, located at the top of the Balkan mountains on the outskirts of the town of Gabrovo.

18 years after the collapse of Communism they talk about what they feel about this once mysterious building that has been both a symbol of suppression and a representation of freedom.

Directed and Edited by Stephen J Bell, 2007.

On 16mm film & DV.

 

Published in Bulgaria

Former camp inmates tell of the horrors in a Bulgarian Communist Forced Labour Camp. During the ex-inmates' first reunion in 1990.

Between 1944 and 1953, some 12,000 men and women passed through these camps, with an additional 5,000 between 1956 and 1962. The camp at Belene alone is believed to have held 7,000 people in 1952. Another source estimates a total of 187,000 political prisoners in Bulgaria during this period.

Another source estimates a total of 187,000 prisoners during this period, 'The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression', Paris 1997. By Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin. No one has been jailed so far for their responsibility for Bulgaria's Communist camps.

Бивши лагеристи разказват за преживяните години в комунистически лагери за принудителен труд. Oт 1944 до 1953 около 12 хиляди мъже и жени преминават през тези лагери в България, и още 5 хиляди от 1956 до 1962.
Само в Дунавския лагер край Белене се счита, че през 1952 са били държани 7 хиляди души. Друг източник оценява, че за този период в България е имало общо 187 хиляди политически затворници, 'Черната книга на комунизма: Престъпления, Терор, Репресии ', Париж 1997; Стефан Куртоа, Никола Верт, Жан-Луи Пан, Анджей Пачковски, Карел Бартошек, Жан-Луи Марголен. Досега никой не е осъден в България за комунистическите лагери за принудителен труд.

Епизод от документалния филм Лагерите
Режисьор Атанас Киряков, 1991

Published in Bulgaria