For several years now the Buzludzha Project Foundation has been campaigning for the conservation of Bulgaria’s Buzludzha monument. This has taken the form of public events, exhibitions, conference presentations, meetings with EU representatives and a series of applications to heritage protection bodies such as UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund and Europa Nostra.
On 16th January 2018, Europa Nostra – Europe’s leading heritage organisation – announced its new list of “the 12 most endangered heritage sites in Europe”: and the Buzludzha monument has been included.
According to a press release from Europa Nostra:
“The 12 monuments and sites were selected while taking into account their outstanding heritage and cultural value as well as the imminent danger that they are facing. The engagement of local communities and the commitment of public and private stakeholders to saving these sites were also considered crucial. Another main criterion was the potential of these sites to act as a catalyst for sustainable socio-economic development.”
Early in 2017 a proposal was written by Dora Ivanova and Darmon Richter, requesting that the Buzludzha monument be considered for this title. Right now, with the structure still yet to be awarded ‘monument’ status by the Bulgarian government, taking any steps to preserve the site has been near impossible. It is hoped that raising global awareness of the monument, and the dangers it is currently facing, will invite crucial dialogue regarding the site’s significance and potential future.
We hope that this objective and independent evaluation of Buzludzha – identifying it as a heritage site worth defending – will act as a catalyst within Bulgaria, reminding the country and its government that for those able to move beyond the difficult and complicated context of its creation, the Buzludzha monument itself is an asset to the country, and a heritage site that deserves to be preserved for future generations.
In Bulgaria the response has already started. On 17th January, Dora Ivanova held a press conference with Stara Zagora's regional governor Gergana Mikova, while the municipality of Kazanlak, where the monument is located, also expressed its support for any future preservation projects.
Europa Nostra provide the following assessment of the site:
“Today the ostentatious finish of its Brutalist architecture, heavy iconography and colourful mosaic has decayed, however the building attracts increasing attention with its dramatic history, its striking architecture and the vision of deteriorated extravagance.
Its destiny is similar to that of several hundred monuments built during the Communist regime in Bulgaria and the entire former Eastern Bloc. The recent heritage of these post-Communist countries is often traumatic and unfamiliar to a broader public. The significance of this monument on a European level is therefore evident. As a lieu de mémoire, the monument presents a challenging and often difficult history.
On one hand, the environmental impact of the building, which so drastically altered the surrounding context when built, can present itself as point of contention when discussing its preservation. The strong ideological message that is communicated by the sheer size of the monument and its interior imagery likewise presents a problem: how can this be preserved in a way that is sensitive to the human experience of this site and which does not inadvertently glorify or reiterate a political ideology?
On the other hand, other parties will argue that allowing the monument to gradually decay does not acknowledge the human labour which was spent to construct the monument or indeed the immense cost of its inception.”
You can read more about Europa Nostra’s 2018 list of Europe’s most endangered heritage sites here.