Remembering and understanding communism in Bulgaria

Тhe main challenge before our Institute now is to change the research perspective and direct our attention deeper into the everyday functioning of the regime, to elucidate the social system it created and to observe and understand the specific professional and social groups that communism has “designed” and nourished.

Period: 2013 – 2016

The aim of this project is to go beyond these dividing lines and to explore the period from an independent and methodologically informed academic perspective that guarantees the accumulation and communication of academic knowledge to the wider public.

Most of the nowadays political, economic and social downsides in Bulgarian democratic development are deeply rooted in the decades of communist totalitarian rule. The thorough analysis and profound understanding of the regime-society relations and practices during these times can help decision makers, stake holders and society as a whole to proper identify and deal with these pressing challenges.

The broad aims within which we intend to deploy our initiatives can be summarized as follows:

  • Invest in collecting and preserving the memory of the recent communist past and engage Bulgarian society in an informed discussion on its impact on the transition period. Oral history will help us to preserve authentic first-hand knowledge of people with different social positions, perspectives and experience, thus allowing us to go beyond the descriptive historical facts and analyze at closer the realm of everyday life – a scarcely researched field in Bulgaria;
  • Produce critical and methodologically informed study of the ‘regime-society’ relations under communism in Bulgaria and effectively process academic knowledge about the communist past and the transition period to different levels of civic and history education and facilitate its wider public outreach and acceptance;
  • Provide wide access to the rich pool of primary data on the communist past – archives, official documents, personal memories, interviews, recollections, diaries and life narratives and sustain a lively and wide debate about the past;
  • Step beyond the narrow national context. It is of key importance to internationalize Bulgarian research and expertise on the period among foreign academia, as well as to bring to Bulgarian scholars the recent achievements and innovative perspectives implied by their international colleagues dealing with communist studies. The growing prestige of the Institute and its scientific team proved by the numerous invitations for cooperation and participation in conferences provides a good starting point for pursuing this direction  (Appendix 1: ISRP resonance in Bulgaria and abroad);
  • Develop and sustain the academic independence of the Institute. By upholding ISRP independence from traditional and state funded bodies we can preserve and enrich the critical and non-partisan approach to the recent past without compromises with the current political conjuncture.

Funded by the “America for Bulgaria” Foundation.