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.
A remarkable document about how a Communist state saw itself and its place in a divided world.
Promotion for the Yugoslav State Tourism Office in 1975 -- focusing on natural beauty, heritage /including religion/ and open borders.
Unlike the other Communist states, Tito's Yugoslavia kept the country's borders open – both for its own citizens, who were allowed to work in Western Europe, and for foreigners, who travelled unhindered individually, from the Alps to Macedonia. This brought hard currency to the state and also, in effect, kept domestic dissent to a minimum, as Yugoslavs enjoyed privileges out of reach for their Eastern neighbours.
Transferred from 16 mm film in 2016.
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
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.
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.
Photography © James Crouchman
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.
(more to come)
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.
"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. "
Photography © James Crouchman
In the Kremlin, 1980s
Kostadin Chakarov (on the right of this image) was an advisor and personal assistant to Todor Zhivkov, who ruled Bulgaria between 1954-1989. He remembers the rituals of that time and the legacy of the 9 September 1944, the day of the Communist takeover in Bulgaria.
What are your memories of the 9 September before 1989?
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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.