End of Soviet Power, Bukhara 1995.

End of Soviet Power, Bukhara 1995.

The 16th century Miri-i-Arab Madrasah defaced before its extensive renovation. It closed in 1924 and it was used as the city’s children’s library. The Madrasah re-opened in 1946 as part of Stalin’s post-war concessions to the region.

The Miri-i-Arab Madrasah was the only Islamic spiritual educational establishment in the Soviet Union.

The Miri-i-Arab Madrasa was the only Islamic spiritual educational establishment in the Soviet Union

The Austrian writer and soldier Gustav Krist was captured on the Eastern Front in WWI and ended up in Soviet Turkestan. Later on he returned to the area and in his 1937 book 'Alone Through the Forbidden Land' he recounted his visit to Bukhara - the ancient city known as Bukhara the Holy:

…The Russians were reluctant to rob it completely of an impressive epithet and is now entitled Bukhara the Noble. You may here see the Red Star or the portraits of Lenin in queer juxtaposition with the ancient text books of Sharia Law and commentaries on the Quran. The Madrasah Mir Arab is a typical example. The narrow cell of the Imam has shelves along the walls, laden with sacred books in Arabic and Kufic script, above which hangs a poster in Uzbeg which screams: 'Proletarians of all Lands Unite!'

End of Soviet Power, Bukhara 1995.

End of Soviet Power, Bukhara 1995.

Photography © Velislav Radev

Published in Red Square

18th May 2014 marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the entire nation of the Crimean Tatars. On this day in 1944, on Stalin's orders, they were forced to leave their homes by the Black Sea and were dumped onto the steppes of Central Asia and other places far from home. 

As the USSR was collapsing, the Tatars started returning to Crimea, longing for their ancestral land. The authorities did not allow them to settle down properly and the Tatars set up camps across the peninsula. The Ukrainian photographer Oleksandr Klymenko had the rare opportunity to capture their first steps back home.

001 Tatars 1989
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Photography: © Oleksandr Klymenko

Сталинское выселение народов: воспоминания очевидцев

70 лет назад - 23 февраля 1944 года в 02:00 по местному времени - на Северном Кавказе началась операция 'Чечевица' по депортации чеченцев и ингушей. Всего в 1944-м году было выселено на восток около 873 тысяч человек, а к октябрю 1948 года - 2 млн 247 тысяч. В ходе депортации и после нее погибли тысячи людей.

Российский журналист и фотограф Дмитрий Беляков в течение двух лет встречался на Северном Кавказе с участниками тех событий. Результатом этих встреч стал специальный проект -  серия фотопортретов, а также свидетельства очевидцев и жертв переселения. Би-би-си публикует фрагменты этих рассказов.

Published in Red Square

This is how Chechen schoolchildren imagine the deportation of their entire nation 70 years ago.

On 23 February 1944 Soviet security forces moved into the area, and loaded hundreds of thousands of Chechen and Ingush people onto lorries, and then cattle trucks. They were moved from their homes to Central Asia and Siberia. About 700,000 people were affected across the North Caucasus, and nearly half of the deportees that freezing winter were children.


It's estimated that 170,000 to 200,000 of the Chechens alone lost their lives. That's over a third of the total Chechen population. The Chechen and Ingush who survived only started returning to their homeland after the death of Stalin in 1953.

To this day the foreign trucks used in the deportation are deeply ingrained in the collective memory – and they're shown in the drawings here. The Chechens were rounded up and loaded onto Studebakers, which were produced and supplied by the US. They were then packed into the freight carriages of trains.






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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


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?

Споделете вашите спомени.

Published in YOUR STORY

Odessa Mama 002
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© Velislav Radev

Todor Zhivkov , Bulgaria's Communist leader for 35 years, regularly met writers and artists.

There were very few among them who didn’t feel obliged to attend, or privileged.

Here is one of those gatherings, in Borovets, spring 1966. The newly-elected leader of the Writers’ Union Georgi Djagarov is pledging loyalty to the Communist party. His message is clear: 'Writers are obliged to further embrace the ideas of Communism, reflect its glory and beauty.  We are the bearers of a new spirituality.'  There'll be no Sofia Spring in 1968.


Audio starts at 2'11"


Тодор Живков редовно се срещаше с писатели, художници и артисти, обединени в техните «творчески съюзи» - тук нa среща в Боровец през март 1966 с новоизбрания начело на Комитета по култура и изкуство Павел Матев.

Малцина бяха онези, които не се ласкаеха от тези срещи. Посланието на Георги Джагаров, току-що поел Съюза на писателите, е ясно: 'Писателите са призвани да утвърждават идеите на комунизма, величието и красотата на неговите строители. Ние сме носители на нова душевност.'  През 1968 няма да има 'софийска пролет'.

Published in Bulgaria

In this rare 1976 recording, Georgi Markov introduces some of his favourite music. My Kind of Music, with Paddy Finney, BBC World Service.

В този рядък запис от 1976 година, Георги Марков представя любимата си музика. С Пади Фини от Световните Служби на Би Би Си.

Georgi Markov was one of the few open critics of Bulgarian Communism, a writer and a broadcaster, a BBC journalist. On 7 September 1978, on Waterloo Bridge, just across from Bush House, Georgi Markov's desk at the BBC World Service, he was jabbed in the thigh by a man holding an umbrella. The man apologized and walked away.

Markov later would tell doctors that the man had spoken with a foreign accent. He recalled feeling a stinging pain from where he had been hit by the stranger. Back at work in Bush House, Markov noticed that a small red swelling had formed and the pain from being jabbed had not gone away. He told his close friend and colleague at the BBC, Teo Lirkoff, about this incident.

That evening Georgi Markov developed a high fever and was admitted to hospital where he died three days later, on 11 September 1978, at the age of 49.

British police ordered a thorough autopsy of Georgi Markov's body. The forensic pathologists discovered a spherical metal pellet the size of a pin-head, containing traces of highly toxic ricin.

An acclaimed writer in the 1960s, Georgi Markov was leading a privileged life in Bulgaria and knew many Communist leaders personally. After 1968 he was becoming more outspoken against the system; one of his novels was banned, and, just as a new play was about to be stopped, in 1969 Georgi Markov left Bulgaria.

He first went to Italy, where his brother lived, in 1971 he came to Britain, where he joined the BBC's Bulgarian Service. In 1974, his play 'The Archangel Michael' -- his first after coming to the UK -- won an award at the Edinburgh Festival. Georgi Markov regarded this as a breakthrough as a writer in the West.

Between 1975 and 1978 Markov worked on his analysis of life in Communist Bulgaria. His pieces were broadcast weekly from Munich on Radio Free Europe. Their criticism towards Bulgaria's Communists and personally towards the Party leader for 35 years, Todor Zhivkov, made Georgi Markov one of the most hated enemies of the regime. The 7th September 1978, when he was attacked, was the birthday of Todor Zhivkov.

No one has yet been charged with the murder of Georgi Markov. The investigation in the UK, where the crime was committed, will continue until the case is resolved.

Velislav Radev

38 години от смъртта на Георги Марков - един от малцината открити критици на българския комунизъм, писател, глас в ефира, журналист от Би Би Си.

На 7 септември 1978 година, на моста 'Ватерло', недалеч от Буш Хаус и работното му място в Световните Служби на Би Би Си, Георги Марков е ударен в бедрото от мъж, с чадър в ръка. Непознатият се извинява и се отдалечава.

Марков по-късно ще каже на лекари, че човекът говорел английски с чужд акцент. Той си спомня остра болка на мястото, където го удря непознатият. Завръщайки се в Буш Хаус Георги Марков забелязва малък червен оток, болката  от убождането не отминава. Той разказва на близкия си приятел и колега от Би Би Си Тео Лирков за случилото се.

Същата вечер Марков развива висока температура и е приет в болница, където умира три дни по-късно, на  49-годишна възраст. По настояване на британската полиция се провежда пълна аутопсия. В тялото на Георги Марков, точно там, където той посочва на своя приятел и колега, че го е ударил непознат, патоанатомите откриват миниатюрна метална сачма. В нея те намират следи от високотоксичната отрова рицин.

В България 'Задочните репортажи...' на Георги Марков все още не са включени в учебната програма.


Published in Bulgaria

'Bulgaria and Russia are marching in one column under the banner of labour...' goes this song. The march was a favourite of the Soviet Army Group in Bulgaria.

In September 1944 the Red Army crossed the Danube and entered Bulgaria.

It ignored the announcement of the Bulgarian government that it was withdrawing unilaterally from the Axis, pulling its troops out of Greece and Yugoslavia and then declaring war on Germany, hoping to avoid a Soviet occupation. By the time the Red Army entered Sofia on 16th September 1944, the Bulgarian capital was already controlled by armed Communist activists. The Soviet army presence enabled the Bulgarian Communists to later seize power and establish a Communist state.

One of the first tasks for Soviet Power in Bulgaria was to establish continuity between the XIX Century Russian presence in Bulgaria and its new rulers. The myth of the Dual Liberators was born.

The new administration was equally harsh towards all within Bulgaria's borders. Tens of thousands of White Russians lived in Bulgaria after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Legally, they were not Soviet citizens, some of them had Bulgarian passports, others the so called Nansen Passports (as stateless people in need of protection), issued by the League of Nations in Geneva.

Similarly to the post-1945 practice across Eastern Europe, some of those Russians were taken to the Soviet Union, others to Bulgaria's Forced Labour Camps: first the Kutsiyan Mine near the town of Pernik, later to Bulgaria's largest Gulag on the Danubian island of Persin.

Published in Bulgaria