Newly acquired: Footage filmed by a British couple, holidaying in Bulgaria and their return to Croydon in London - 1978.

Amateur filming by western tourists in Communist Bulgaria was rare, compared to its neighbours in the same period. Those visits were almost exclusively limited to the big tourist complexes, controlled by the State Security through its officers, agents and other vigilantes.

Like Sunny Beach on the Black Sea. It specialised mainly in West German, British and Scandinavian tourists, and so did the agents of the state. Briefed in an inconspicuous office by the luxurious hotel 'Kuban', the agents scoured from dawn till dusk the beaches and alleys - on scooters, posing as street sweepers, coachmen, or simply butlers.

On Kodachrome 8 mm film.

 

Published in Bulgaria

 

The story of Maestro Alipi Naidenov - conductor, musician, teacher and mentor to hundreds of young Bulgarians, who crossed the Iron Curtain to follow their passion for music in Italy.

Alipi chaired the Conductor Courses at the Sienna Music Academy for over three decades.

Now in his 80s, he recalls a life lived in the shadow of a Communist dictatorship with its ever present 'secret' agents, yet always absorbed by the beauty of music, and his love for Italy.

Published in Bulgaria

The story of Alipi Naidenov - conductor, musician, teacher and mentor to hundreds of young Bulgarians, who crossed the Iron Curtain to follow their passion for music in Italy.

Alipi chaired for decades the Conductor Courses at the Siena Music Academy. Now in his 80s, he recalls a life lived in the shadow of a Communist dictatorship with its ever-present 'secret' agents.

Coming up soon on MyCentury

Published in Bulgaria

 

Amateur filming by Western tourists in Communist Bulgaria was rare.

This footage was filmed by a West German visitor, who travelled up and down the Bulgarian Black Sea coast in 1981.

Converted and edited from the original Super 8 mm silent Kodachrome film. Bought at an auction from Mallorca.

 

Published in Bulgaria

Atidje's story takes you back to 1973, when her family was caught up in dramatic events that no one could have dreamt would occur in the quiet, mountainous village of Kornitsa, on Bulgaria's Greek border.

The entire Muslim community stood up against the Communist government, demanded their rights, and cut the village off from the rest of the country, camping out for months in the main square. Atidje's husband was the leader of the rebellion. When the crackdown came, she paid her price.

Four decades later she still remembers vividly what happened that night, the deportation with her children, and her missing husband, who was sent to prison. Both of them now live in Turkey.

Published in YOUR STORY

 

Amateur filming by western tourists in Communist Bulgaria was relatively rare, compared to its neighbours in the same period. Here is some footage, shot by a group of British youths, who travelled from the Bosphorus to Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. They even filmed in the strictly prohibited border zone on the Bulgarian side!

Converted from Kodachrome Super 8 mm film

Published in Bulgaria

James Crouchman travelled mainly on foot across Bulgaria's North West - the mountainous lands between the Danube and the border with Serbia, today the Bulgarian province of Montana. He explored and documented on film an area full of history, where dialects overlap and once gold and silver miners came from as far as Saxony, brought in by the Ottoman Turks.

James: I met Asparuh from Glavanovtsi village. He gave me apples and told me he disliked Churchill. He was five during the worst bombing of WWII, but still remembers Allied planes flying overhead to target the oil fields in Romania just across the Danube, before returning and unloading their unused bombs on this part of Bulgaria. He told me about the sound the explosions made, echoing for miles around.

From Glavanovtsi I walked nearly 100km over four days to Belogradchik, crossing mountains and taking detours to villages on the way. People would often stop me and give me food or drink. In Protopopintsi village, two old ladies invited me in to their garden and gave me 'compot', not the British sort but fresh fruit juice from figs and peaches. It's a fascinating area, one that deserves to be spoken about more than just in terms of GDP and employment figures.

Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW
Bulgaria NW

Photography © James Crouchman

Published in Photo Gallery Bulgaria

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

"When I first moved to Sofia, I knew hardly anyone, and spent most of my free days wandering the streets around ulitsa Pirotska, taking photos and drinking coffee in 'Halite'.

One of the first people I got to know was a fellow English photographer, a 50-something divorcee working for a financial institution in Sofia. In emails he referred to the city as 'So Fear' and the name stuck. It became some kind of title to our photography of our Sofia. For a year I lived in a flat with paper-thin double glazing next to a busy junction on Dondukov, so the sound of So Fear for me has always been a trolley bus pulling away from traffic lights, perhaps why I take so many pictures of public transport. "

Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear
Sofia So Fear

Photography © James Crouchman

Published in Photo Gallery Bulgaria