Notes on Communism

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Notes on Mapping the Northwest of Bulgaria (2008 - 2009)


In a few days time we begin work on a project to explore how the events of "1989" are reflected in contemporary discourse in Bulgaria. Below you can read a bit about the project (written by Mariana Assenova) which will run throughout this year in Bulgaria.

In 2009 Bulgarians will face the fact that 20 years have passed since the end of Communism. But does everyone know what happened in 1989? It’s hard or even impossible to find any signs of the memory of 1989 in Bulgarian cities. How many young people know that in this year the dramatic change of the political and economic systems started? Can 20 years olds appreciate how these changes affected people’s life in their own cities? Which facts still remain half-expressed by our parents?

Due to various reasons the events of 1989, the year of the dramatic changes that ended the Communist era in Bulgaria and in Europe, are still not reflected upon enough and in different geographical regions "1989" is still differently perceived. The Northwestern region of Bulgaria is of special interest. The majority of the population saw "1989" not as the end of the totalitarian regime and a new opportunity for the better, but as a mourning 
for the old. The greater part saw the changes as shocking, disturbing and upsetting. Traumatic.

This project aims to address the asymmetry in perception and the way it affects at least three generations – our parents, us and the generation born after 1989. It will also ask how they make life choices, about ways of thinking, ways of looking at identity. The project aims to involve young people, together with their teachers, parents and grandparents from the region in a debate and search for the answers and - in an interesting journey with one “simple” mission - to search for their own identity.

The Communist past and the changes in 1989 can’t be left any longer without neither reflection nor connection to the present, with everyday life and patterns of behavior. This project is to address the deficit of approaches that activate young people in conversations about the recent past and that bring young people in the centre as history mediators.

As was already mentioned our Bulgarian cities do not keep any memories of what has happened in 1989. One of the important reasons is the general lack of knowledge and qualitative research. Why was Communism so strong in Bulgaria and for its citizens in comparison with Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic? How can the post-Communist elites still manage to force their philosophy and reading of past and present upon the 
general public?

We see the main goals to be achieved in several stages:

  • to identify how young people today (who had not been born in 1989) connect with the recent past.
  • to provoke young people to get interested in the "1989" topic and to start asking questions about this recent past.
  • to involve young people in a constructive dialogue with their parents so as to identify the emotions of "1989".
  • to investigate how recent history is taught in Bulgarian schools. 

Download the full text from here.