I’ll Send You A Postcard

A comparison between Budludzha monument in Bulgaria as pictured in 1970’s publications and its abandoned state in 2015. The Getty Foundation’s investment of $185,000 in July 2019 to support the creation of a conservation and management plan for the monument hopes to reverse its sharp decline.

Reverberations of Socialism

In 1961, architect Georgi Stoilov submitted a design inspired by the Roman Pantheon and 1950s sci-fi films for a monument to commemorate the founding of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party. The party was established by Dimitâr Blagoev’s group at a gathering at Buzludzha Peak 70 years earlier. Construction began a decade later. Within two decades it had again become symbolic – of the decline of the Soviet Union and Bulgaria’s unwillingness to memorialise its political past. The Getty Foundation’s investment of $185,000 in July 2019 to support the creation of a conservation and management plan for the monument hopes to reverse its sharp decline. The circular form of the Buzludzha monument appealed to Stoilov “as it seemed to symbolize infinity, and thus echoed the popular communist theme of building an eternal future and eternal glory.” [https://buzludzha-monument.com] It also seems to speak of a more inclusive, egalitarian politics. Wild acoustics were an unexpected discovery in this exploration shot in 2015.

Ossuary

One’s ability to walk freely into this petite Bulgarian ossuary is somewhat unsettling and confronting in relation to patterns and codes of behaviour around human remains that exist elsewhere. However, the artful calligraphy on the skulls, and our desire and that of others before us – and presumably after us – to leave them undisturbed affords some welcome sanctity. Memento mori: we remember death – both as a concept and the personalisation of it – in these bodily fragments of individuals who have passed away.

My Teacher’s Left

In 1987, the teachers at this now-abandoned Bulgarian school were likely told to destroy all artefacts relating to the Soviet era. Instead, they stowed images of Lenin, the communist flag and other left-leaning iconography in the basement and in the attic. One teacher was committed enough to keep anti-Fascist partisan artwork in the classroom, featuring scenes of the educating of children in secret, the supplying of food and water to resistance units hiding in the woods, partisans and their supporters being apprehended by the military and by their fellow villagers, and the brutal interrogations that swiftly followed.

Above The Glass

A couple of old chimneys tower over an abandoned glass factory near the village of Krushevo, in the municipality of Sevlievo, in Gabrovo Province, northern central Bulgaria. Gunner thanks his generous and kind hosts, Nicola Miller and Jonathan Taylor.

 

Anatomy Class

The teacher in this Bulgarian classroom clearly wanted her/his students to fully know their surroundings and themselves. Anti-fascist partisan artwork was still on display well beyond the fall of communism from 1987, and about a decade later took on a state of suspended animation with the closure of this village school.