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NEWS 09 Jun 16

Bulgarians Look to Restore Landmark Communist Monument

Left to crumble and molder for decades, a remnant of Bulgaria’s past is gaining new life thanks to an international resurgence in popularity.

Maria Cheresheva
The House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party at the Buzludzha peak. Photo: Corey Byrnes/ Flickr

Decrepit and collapsing, the House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party at the Buzludzha peak, internationally popular as Bulgaria’s UFO, may be brought back to life.

The impetus for the eerie building’s revival, neglected since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, does not come from political activists or supporters of Bulgaria’s totalitarian past.

On the contrary, it’s a revitalization project created by young and non-political Bulgarians who want to protect the country’s historical heritage. They’ve recently gained considerable attention for their efforts and may receive state backing.

On June 5, Bulgaria’s PM Boyko Borissov promised that he would put an end to the controversial building’s decay, located at an altitude of 1432m in central Bulgaria.

Borissov’s promise came after he met with 26-year-old Bulgarian architect Dora Ivanova, who presented him with a proposal for the conservation of the monument, called Buzludzha – Memory of Time.

Ivanova’s idea is to turn the “UFO” into a museum of Bulgaria’s history, from antiquity to modernity.

She has already received support for her 2.5 million leva (around 1.25 million euros) project from Nikolay Ovcharov, one of Bulgaria’s most prominent archaeologists, who introduced her to Borissov at the opening of a new museum in Kazanlak on Sunday.

“I was given a project for Buzludzha, I will show it to BSP (Bulgaria’s Socialist Party, the successor of the former Communist party), if they want us to do something together, to prevent the ruin there,” Borissov told journalists on Sunday.

The monument on the Buzludzha peak is property of the central Bulgarian city Stara Zagora, which closed it visitors in February.

It is the biggest ideological building in Bulgaria, built as a tribute to the creation of the Bulgarian socialist movement in 1891.

Designed by architect Georgi Stoilov, it was unveiled in 1981 after 7 years of construction work, involving over 6000 workers and 20 leading Bulgarian artists, who worked on its interior decoration.

The star on the top of its 107-metre tower is the biggest in the former Soviet world, and three times larger than the one in Kremlin.

Nowadays, the star is riddled by gunshots of vandals who thought it was made of ruby. Many of the glasses and mosaics have been stolen and the whole construction is disintegrating.

Ivanova, who graduated the technical university in Berlin, is not the only young Bulgarian inspired by the huge concrete monument.

Todor Rusanov, a 22-year-old Bulgarian student in Edinburgh, together with his Polish colleague Rafal Charnovski, developed the Buzludzha VR project - a virtual reality experience based on the environment of the Buzludzha monument.

“The main aim of this concept is to raise awareness about the monument and suggest a new purpose for the abandoned mega structure”, the students say about their initiative.

The augmented reality application, which can be downloaded for free, offers the users a virtual tour of the building, which has been turned into a modern complex with a concert hall and musem.

Not all Bulgarians, however, are so enthusiastic about the idea for restoration of the monument, built to honor the country’s Communist movement.

The news that the state may back Dora Ivanova’s project provoked criticisms and mockery in the social networks, with critics saying that “the UFO” should be left to ruin – as a symbol of the fallen totalitarian regime.

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