A New Future for Buzludzha

  • July 23, 2018 - 2:51 pm
  • Bulgaria
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by Isabel Post

ARIA Undergraduate Researcher, McGill University

A crumbling communist monument in eastern Bulgaria faces a new hope of restoration. According to a report by the Calvert Journal, Bulgaria’s “Buzludzha” monument recently opened its doors to a group of reporters for the first time since its abandonment after the fall of the Bulgarian communist regime. This development is a major breakthrough for an ongoing grassroots movement to restore the monument as a museum and tourist attraction.

Construction on the “House-monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party” began in 1974 and was finished by 1981. Buzludzha mountain was chosen as the site in order to commemorate an 1891 secret convention of Bulgarian socialists that resulted in the formation of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, a forerunner to the Bulgarian Communist Party. The construction of the monument was a massive undertaking, funded primarily by stamps sold to the Bulgarian people. Over 70,000 tons of concrete and 35,000 tons of cobalt glass were used to complete the structure and the mosaics inside, and the total cost of the project was more than 25,000 lev (about 35 million USD today). The investment had a short return-- the monument was open to the public for only eight years before it was abandoned in 1989, when the Bulgarian communist regime fell from power. It has since fallen into serious disrepair as a result of neglect and vandalism.

Despite being officially closed, the site has maintained limited popularity in recent years as a tourist attraction (for those who dare to find their own way in) and as the backdrop for a few music videos, thanks to its aesthetic and historical appeal. Massive and striking, Buzludzha dominates the mountainous landscape. Inside, the walls are covered with mosaics depicting famous figures in the history of Bulgarian communism.

For the past few years, a conservation effort known as The Buzludzha Project has appealed to international conservation groups for funding to repair, renovate, and re-open Buzludzha. The long-term goal of the project is not only to preserve the monument, but to transform the monument’s content to fit within a modern cultural context. The content of the monument, which in its present state celebrates Bulgarian communism, will be upgraded with “new museum elements” in order to present a “full and comprehensive account of Bulgarian history.” The end result, according to the project’s website, would be an educational complex that positions Bulgaria’s communist past within the entire framework of the country’s history since antiquity.

A major breakthrough for the project came in March, when conservation group Europa Nostra named Buzludzha as one of Europe’s seven most endangered cultural heritage sites. Most recently, the monument was opened officially for the first time since its closure, when reporters were allowed inside to photograph the decaying interior. According to the Calvert Journal, this is in anticipation of a visit later this year from European and Bulgarian experts who will assess the structural integrity of the monument, “with the view of opening it officially to tourists.”

Before the announcement in March of Buzludzha’s classification as an endangered site and the resulting snowball of administrative progress, the future of the site was hardly certain. In November of 2016, Bulgarian lawmakers voted to outlaw the public display of communist symbols. This was a blow for the Buzluzhda Project’s organizers, who feared the law might preclude Buzludzha monument from re-entry into state-sanctioned commemoration. It remains uncertain how this law and the iconography of the site will reconcile. Perhaps the monument will experience the same fate as the Heineken logo in Hungary, where a similar ban on communist iconography threatened display of the logo thanks to its red five-pointed star, but ultimately did not lead to enforced censorship. In any case, while restoration presents significant obstacles-- both physical and bureaucratic-- a reconstructed and repurposed Buzludzha will allow Bulgaria to benefit from a cultural asset almost lost to time.



Davies, Katie. "Bulgaria's Buzludzha Monument Opens Its Doors for the First Time in 8 Years." The Calvert Journal. May 18, 2018. Accessed May 25, 2018. http://www.calvertjournal.com/news/show/10037/bulgarias-buzludzha-monument-doors-open-tourists-survey.



Lee, Nathaniel. "Take a Look inside an Abandoned $35M Communist Monument." Business Insider. December 12, 2017. Accessed May 25, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/inside-abandoned-buzludzha-monument-in-bulgaria-2017-12.



Testado, Justine. "Bulgaria's Buzludzha Monument Opens Its Doors for the First Time in Eight Years, with Restoration Plans Underway." Archinect. May 23, 2018. Accessed May 25, 2018. https://archinect.com/news/article/150065970/bulgaria-s-buzludzha-monument-opens-its-doors-for-the-first-time-in-eight-years-with-restoration-plans-underway.



The Buzluzhda Monument Project website: