The Sofia Platform initiative “25 years free Bulgaria” celebrates the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev. Download the initiative’s catalogue containing all activities related to the project and an essay collection from prominent historians, researchers, writers, public and intellectual figures. Below you can find the events which were part of the project.
1) 25 Years of Freedom in Bulgaria
The ambition of this initiative and its side-events was while marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, to take another step towards restoring trust in the Bulgarian society, which has hardly been more polarized and the political debate more deprived of strategic perspective and basis for national consensus. Differentiating the democratic values and principles from the realities of the anti-humane communist regime is fundamentally important for united Europe. It doesn’t matter if we look towards the past or in the future, where we stand in the political spectre, what is our social status, what are our incomes and what is our way of living.
2) Remembrance and Culture
The initiative “25 Years Free Bulgaria” was launched with a public screening of the film “The Lives of Others”. It was showed in Plovdiv on 13th September 2014 and in Sofia on 20th September 2014.
The cultural events included also “Documentary movies programme” in partnership with Odeon Cinema and the Bulgarian National Film Archive. The programme included free entrance shows of seven Bulgarian documentaries, related to the transitional period.
Free screenings in partnership with cultural institutes in Sofia: the Polish Institute, the Hungarian Cultural Center and the Czech Center. The programme included Bulgarian and foreign features and documentaries, 11 in total.
The exhibition “1989: Now and Then” featured the winning posters from the contest organized in cooperation with the National Academy of Arts on the topic “25 Years Free Bulgaria.” The open-air exhibition was located on the so-called “Bridge of the Beloved” near the National Palace of Culture in Sofia and was launched on October 18. The exhibition was also showed in Ruse, Burgas, Plovdiv and Smolyan.
This exhibition featured portraits of Belene prisoners drawn in the period 1948-1953 by their fellow inmate – Petar Baychev. The opening took place at the National Art Gallery on the symbolic date November 10, which is considered for the start of the democratic transition in Bulgaria after the communist leader Zhivkov was displaced.
The exhibition was realized as a joint initiative by the Committee for disclosing the documents and the Archives State Agency. The period of de-Stalinization is a dramatic part of the history of countries form the Eastern bloc, when a breakthrough in the Soviet model was for the first time hoped for, when the first acts of ‘rebellion’ against the communist regimes and the first break of the Iron Curtain took place. The exhibition followed the internal and international aspects of the de-Stalinization process in Bulgaria and the rest of the countries from Eastern Europe, disclosing historical documents that had not been publicly shown until this moment.
“The Concert of Freedom” as the largest public event of the initiative was organized on November 1 at the symbolic square at the “St. Alexander Nevsky” cathedral, where the major concerts in the 90s and protests of the democratic forces took place. Performances were given by the Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria, the jazz duo Vlado Radulov and Ventsi Blagoev, the youth bands CRUSH and Revolution Z, the well-known Valdi Totev, Vania Kostova, Milena and Vasko the Patch with his Poduene Blues Band.
3) Education in Transition
Open history lessons
The educational strand of the initiative “25 years free Bulgaria” aims to address this knowledge deficiency among youngsters and attract their involvement in the reflections on the recent past. Nationwide, а team of renowned lecturers gave open lessons and discussed with both students and teachers a variety of historical topics of their interest and concern. The lessons shed light on a diverse array of issues related to the communist period and the 25 years of transition in Bulgaria. Within three months we covered more than 30 destinations with lecturing styles differing among the speakers and ranging from more traditional narrative style to highly interactive formats.
Today, 25 years after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the complex trajectory of the Bulgarian transition toward democracy is gradually becoming a subject of research in various disciplines including history, politics, social studies, anthropology and economics. The actual definition of the concept and periodization of the transition itself is not yet certain, and remains a matter of interest for further research. Of course, the Bulgarian case cannot be considered in isolation. It is a part of a causality order, following on from Gorbachev’s Perestroika and the state of international relations at the end of the Cold War. With this context the initiative organized an international research conference at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” on December 13th-14th, 2014.
Monument dedicated to the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Makov
The monument of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was unveived on 11 November 2014 in the presence of President Rossen Plevneliev and former Presidents Zhelyu Zhelev and Petar Stoyanov. Georgi Markov, a dissident author and journalist who defected to the West in 1969 and worked for Radio Free Europe, Deutsche Welle and the BBC World Service, was assasinated in London in 1978, the assasination widely suspected to have been the deed of the communist secret services. The unveiling of the monument, located in Sofia’s Journalist Square, marked the 80th year since the birth of Markov, who at the time of his murder was only 49.
Civic Duty Award
Bulgarian dissidents and individuals repressed by the communist regime were awarded the Civil Duty Award – first rank by President Rosen Plevneliev. The awards were bestowed for significant contribution to the establishment and strengthening of civil society, to the development of democratic institutions and the protection of human rights and freedoms in Bulgaria.
The following individuals were awarded: Alfred Foskolo, Sabri Iskenderov, Todor Tsanev, Georgi Saraivanov, Petar Manolov, Zeynep Kelesh, Blagoy Topuzliev (1946-2010), Vasil Uzunov (1947-1994), Stefan Valkov (1925 – 2012), Georgi Zarkin (1940-1977), father Dimitar Ambarev (1944- 2014), Dimitar Vlaychev (1942-1972), Eduard Genov (1946-2009), Kostadin Sabev (1930-2014), prof. Yordan Todorov (1920-1996), Rumiana Uzunova (1936-1995), Nuri Adali (1922-2004).
5) International Events
“Liminal Crossing” is the reenactment of moving a piano through the Bulgarian-Turkish border at the peak of the so called “Big Excursion” – the forced migration of Bulgarian Turks from Bulgaria to Turkey in the summer of 1989. Ergin’s two-screen video instalation is made in 2009, 20 years later, on the same spot – the border crossing point Kapitan Andreevo, and comments on these events through the lens of contemporary art. Ergin Cavusoglu is one of the most interesting artists on the European cultural scene today. His biography and its Bulgarian dimensions can help us rethink some of the most controversial moments in the history of the previous regime. He is a significant author on the regional Balkan scene, his works impactful both in Bulgaria and Turkey, constantly interpreting the geopolitical cliches. Ergin studied art at the Sofia Art High school, and later in Marmara University, Turkey. Today he lives and teaches in London.
His installation was presented at the premises of and in cooperation with the Red House Centre for Culture and Debate.
6) In the Media
Traveling Summer Cinema
In July 2014, the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) as the main media partner of the initiative “25 Years Free Bulgaria” started a Traveling Summer Cinema with its own production movies focusing on the transition period. Under the brand of the initiative, the programme included the movies “Zift,” “Sneakers,” “Ave,” “TILT,” “Mila from Mars,” “Shelter,” and “Monkeys during the winter.” For the period of two months (July – beginning of September) the Travelling Summer Cinema had 32 screenings throughout the country with an estimated total of 10-12 thousands viewers. In October-December 2014 BNT broadcasted the official video of the campaign “25 Years Free Bulgaria”, as well as “The Concert of Freedom” in full.
7) Public Debates
The official launching of the book by Dr. Zhelyu Zhelev “Myths and Legends about the Bulgarian Transition” took place in the Aula of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski “. The event was organized by publishing house “Ciela”. The author Dimitar Bochev made the introduction to the presentation and moderated of discussion. With this book Dr. Zhelev aimed to accomplish a rather immodest task – i.e. to help detect the major truths about the Bulgarian transition by deciphering the lies, illusions and delusions.
Public discussions “25 Years Later”
Five public debates covering five different parts of the country were organized with the support of Friedrich Naumann Stiftung and local partners. Those took place in September and October in five university cities of Bulgaria (Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv and Ruse) and discussed the results from the public opinion poll.
8) National opinion poll
Public Opinion Survey “25 Years Democratic Changes in Bulgaria”
The national representative public opinion survey “25 years democratic changes in Bulgaria” was conducted among 1200 Bulgarian citizens over the age of 16 through direct interview at their homes. The interview included a stratified group by type of settlement with sample quota on the main socio-demographic indicators – gender, age, education.
The research team agreed on the conclusion that retrospection about communism and the transition could not be put an end to, and is not limited to the collective memories and expectations in one specific time frame. This could be achieved only when doing a complete and comprehensive analysis of all archive documents from that specific period: the judicial, legal, constitutional and economic model, the cultural layers, media and others, an analysis which is be yet to be done. The main aim of the survey is not to tell the ‘truth’ about the transition, but to reveal the ‘white gaps’, the contradictions and differing versions of our newest history, which are looking for an explanation and raise urgent questions.