On 24 November 2016, the Bulgarian parliament passed a new law that bans the public display of communist symbols. This ruling builds upon existing laws relating to the ‘Criminal Nature of the Communist Regime,’ and follows similar developments in countries such as Poland and Ukraine, where processes of de-communisation are already in effect.
The law bans the creation of new communist symbols (one Sofia-based travel company offering ‘communist tours’ in Bulgaria has had to change its logo from a red star to a fist, for example), but it is slightly more vague in how it will affect pre-existing heritage sites. Communist symbols should be removed from public if possible, the law states, but when that can't be done they will need to be contextualised with captions or signs that remind visitors about the ‘criminal nature’ of the regime which built them.
As far as the Buzludzha Project is concerned, we are optimistic about working with the Bulgarian government to present this monument as a place of education. It is now more important than ever to reframe the Buzludzha Monument not as a living site of communist pilgrimage, but rather as history, a place of significant 20th century heritage where visitors are able to learn about the past without bias or nostalgia.
The new law does raise questions regarding the ongoing safety of Bulgaria’s other communist-era memorial sites; many of which are already suffering from extreme neglect. However, we believe that coming to terms with the country’s difficult past is the surest way towards rehabilitating those enduring works of art and architecture that have proven themselves capable of transcending the political systems that created them.