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Bulgaria has borders with Romania to the north, much of it denoted by the RIver Danube; Greece and Turkey to the south and south-east, and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia, to the west. To the east, Bulgaria is flanked by Black Sea, one of its biggest assets for summer tourism. Bulgaria has volatile and traumatic history, situated on the Balkan Peninsula, on the border between Christianity and Islam and between Europe and Asia it has always been in between.. “Bulgaria is today again - like so many times in its history - on the crossroads. The EU membership, which many in the country considered a panacea to cure all Bulgaria’s problems, is an accomlished fact, yet little has changed. If anything, the dissatisfaction and pessimsm of its citizens have only increased. The populist and nationalist parties are riding high on the wave of popular discontent and disgust over the corruption and incompetence of the traditional political parties. The inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions are on the rise, while only a few years ago, the country was seen as an island of multi-cultural coexistance on the volatile Balkans.” Population: 7 563 710 Area: 110,993.6 km2 Religion: Bulgarian Orthodox 82.6 %, Muslim 12.2%, Catholic 0.6 %, other 4.6% Etnic groups: Bulgarian 83.9%, Turkish 9.4%, Roma 4.7%, other 2% Capital: Sofia (1 173 988 citizens) EU accession: 1 January 2007
NaTioNal PSycology of The BulgariaNS
Bulgarians love their countryside and spend much free time in the nature; hiking, swimming, skiing. They love their traditions, folklore and heritage and yet there seems to be a certain lack of national pride. While in smaller towns and villages, locals overwhelm with hospitality (with the little they have) it could be found that the overall mood in the larger towns and cities is more pessimistic and self centred. Likewise the hospitality one experiences within Bulgarian families is not always reflected in the service industries, which I think it comes way back from the communist regime where carelessness in the workplace and towards “the common” seem to rule the country. After the WWII and the coming of Communist Party to power, Bulgarians abandoned nationalism (evident prior the regime) and to a large extent even their national identity for the sake of (proclaimed) internationalism and the creation of a supranational socialist identity. The last two decades of the communist rule witnessed the return to nationalism as the ruling elites tried to preserve their legitimacy by rallying the masses under the nationalistic-patriotic banner. The obvious victims of this nationalistic drive of the Bulgarian Communist Party were the Bulgarian minorities and another less visible “victim” were the country’s relations with the Western Europe, already practically frozen since 1945. Nowadays while the older generations remember their first-hand experience with the totalitarian regime, the generation of this age group, which does not perceive democracy as their utmost priority, does not have the privilege - or disadvantage - of such personal memories. The younger generation of Bulgaria relies on the second-hand experience of the cultural memory that is formed, developed, provoked, and woken up by told and untold stories about the past.
After 1989 Bulgaria emerged on a troublesome and painful transition not just towards becoming a functioning democracy and market economy, but also towards redefining its relations with “Europe” and findng its proper place in it. Twenty years later, the transition seems “completed”. The democracy is as to the outside functioning, the economy (afrer the collapse 1996-97) is relativly stable and Bulgaria also became EU member. However, after a long night of partying, fireworks and champagne, Bulgaria woke up into the same old reality. Bulgaria is still the poorest EU member, widely percieved (above all by Bulgarians themselves) as the most corrupt and crime-ridden, Above all, still deeply confused about the European nature of their national identity, many Bulgarians do not feel completely “European”, nor they see their country as fully “European”. “What exactly are we celebrating on 10 November? On that day, the Bulgarians were merely informed that they were free. The passive voice in the sentence is important. We were informed. Similarly to the way in which the communist regime ‘released’ oranges, red pepper, and sanitary towels to the market. You have been waiting, and waiting, and one day somebody informs you: ‘they were released’. This is an award for exceptional patience” *
* words by the Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov
In May 1991, 76% of Bulgarians approved the change to democracy but today only 52% harbour positive thoughts, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project in Eastern and Western Europe (EurActiv 06/11/09). This is the greatest approval slump (24 points) of the new EU and NATO members. Outside this group, only Ukraine has recorded a bigger drop – from 72 to 30%. The Bulgarian transition started on 10 November, the first day after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the Politbureau of the Communist Party toppled communist leader Todor Zhivkov, who had ruled since 1956. A ‘round table’ process then took place and gradually democratic reforms were introduced. However, it appears that a category of people close to the former regime remained very much in control. They made fortunes overnight, through murky privatisations and Ponzi schemes, and by draining the state banks. Simultaneously, the vast majority of the population saw their incomes drop far below the level of the 1980s. Bulgaria’s transition favoured the development of organised crime as a parallel centre of power. The UN embargo on former Yugoslavia in the first half of the 90s was one of the factors in the rise of criminal gangs, specialised in smuggling, trafficking of all kinds and tax fraud. Besides, the Bulgarian legislators have put in place rules which, as practice shows, allow criminals to avoid judicial prosecution. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in the second wave of the fifth EU enlargement on 1 January 2007. The European Commission made clear that there was still work to be done for the two countries to meet the necessary EU requirements. Unlike the 10 countries which acceded on 1 May 2004, the Commission has put in place a monitoring mechanism to accompany Bulgaria and Romania and help them step up progress made in the areas of judicial reform, organised crime and the fight against corruption.
Sofia is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha and is a city with multilayered history that has huge impact on the psyche of the bulgarians. The architecture of Sofia’s centre is a combination of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo, Neo-Renaissance and Neoclassicism, with the Vienna Secession also later playing an important part, but it is mostly typically Central European. Among the most important buildings constructed in Sofia in the period are the former royal palace, today housing the National Art Gallery and the National Ethnographic Museum (1882); the Ivan Vazov National Theatre (1907); the former royal printing office, today the National Gallery for Foreign Art; the National Assembly of Bulgaria (1886), the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1893). After the Second World War and the establishment of a Communist government in Bulgaria in 1944, the architectural line was substantially altered. Socialist Classicism public buildings emerged in the centre, but as the city grew outwards, the new neighbourhoods were dominated by many concrete tower blocks, prefabricated panel apartment buildings and examples of Brutalist architecture. After the abolishment of Communism in 1989, Sofia has witnessed the construction of whole business districts and neighbourhoods, as well as “modern” skryscraper-like glass-fronted office buildings, but also new residential neighbourhoods consisting of building of a poor quality.
ProBlem: Two realiTieS
The aim for this year is to investigate and question the role (if any) of the society during the transitional period and until now in Bulgaria, in relation to the built environment and the transformations occurring in the cities. The questions that are curious for me and will try to investigate deeply are my thoughts about our society: Does the term Civil Society exists in Bulgarian and if not, why? Is there a reason for the Bulgarian society to be united? How could this be achieved? How can the public play a role in the transformations of the cities they live in a way that the country and its varied organisations can offer them an opportunity to express, take part, be listened, participate, feel bespoken and valued. Could the pessisism and the deep pain that lay in the citizens psyche way back in the history be transformed and moved....Living in two realities, the memories and “ruins” of the communist era and the post soviet built environment has a traumatic influence that led to the pessimism that one can experience all around in the atmosphere.
“The Bulgarian Black Sea Riviera covers the entire eastern bound of Bulgaria stretching from the Romanian Black Sea Riviera in the north to European Turkey in the south, along 378 km of coastline. White and golden sandy beaches occupy approximately 130 km of the 378 km long coast. Prior to 1989 the Bulgarian Black Sea coast was internationally known as the Red Riviera and since the fall of the Iron Curtain, however, its nickname has been changed to the Bulgarian Riviera. The Balkan Mountains cross the country reaching to the edge of the Black Sea at Cape Emine, dividing the coastline into a southern and northern part. Parts of Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea Coast feature rocky headlands where the sea abuts cliffs up to 70 metres in height. The southern coast is known for its wide sandy beaches.” An important place for me is Nessebar - an ancient city and a major seaside resort, referred to as the “Pearl of the Black Sea”. It is a rich city-museum defined by more than three millennia of ever-changing history. This is hometown of my father and is a place of a special sentimental importance for me as I spend my summer vacation in my early childhood there and where I continue to live 3 months in the summer every year.
“uNeSco Statute of Bulgaria’s Nesebar hangs on Thread The picturesque beach town was slated for discussions over numerous requests to take if from the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The complaints, however, revolve around two well known facts – illegal large-scale construction and the large number of market stands that tarnish the image of the historical Old Town. The Town Hall declared they are making constant efforts to improve the situation and are undertaking serious measures such as restricting the street market stands, introducing police bike patrols, building parking lots with affordable prices, and developing restoration projects. Upset visitors further say historical churches in the town are used as places for illegal trade. UNESCO Statute of Bulgaria’s Nesebar Hangs on Thread” The building boom in Sunny beach started around 2002 when many foreign investors saw Bulgarian market very attractive. This economic situation gave an enormous boost for fast production of projects and their materialization without any considerations about the long term benefit of the resort. This was even further invigorated by no real urban strategies, laws and restrictions from the government in order to preserve the unique dunes and nature of the resort.
irakli aNd caPe emiNe (emoNa)
Irakli is a protected area with camping close to the village of Emona, Nessebar Region. It is 9 km from Obzor, 3 km from Bath, about 20 km from Byala. 70 km north is the city of Varna. Although the campsite has bungalows of various institutions, it is famous for its virgin nature and clean environment, which can not be found almost anywhere on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. There grow unique plants that are listed in the Red Book of Bulgaria and are protected by the Law on Environmental Protection. Since it is far from the big resorts - Golden Sands and Sunny Beach, and there is almost no infrastructure, Irakli is visited mostly by young people who ignore the absence of conditions at the expense of communion with nature. There are many tents and whole families are staying there from June to September. “The thread is that near the beach they are plans to build a holiday village with restaurants, gym, swimming pools and many apartments that threaten the unique nature of one of the last pristine Bulgarian beaches protected by the Law on Environmental Protection. According to the protesters’ works are shown in the protected area of the park, home to many endangered and rare species...”
BulgariaN cuSTomS aNd TradiTioNS
Many Bulgarian customs and traditions go back to pagan times whilst others have their roots in Christianity and mostly deal with the life cycle and the four seasons. Bulgarians devote certain days of the year to honour their past and participate in certain rituals. “Bulgarian folklore is defined as the aspect of tradition associated with the agrarian times of society and involving forms of creativity that can be described as artistic. By this are meant music and folk art, songs and dances mostly, the oral tradition in all its various forms - from popular tales to proverbs and sayings and the plastic art, which is found in embroidery, stone work, wood-carving, figures shaped on bread, etc. As a whole, this folk art developed until the second half of the 19th century and it has been perceived by the Bulgarian scholars as the classical folklore of the Bulgarian people who have their specific place in the Balkan and European cultural tradition. From the middle of the 19th century on there began a change in the Bulgarian cultural model represented by the establishment of an autonomous artistic culture - literature, music, theatre, etc. At all its stages of growth, this new model has implied a constant interest in folklore. Since then other forms of folk art have appeared and developed, and they have been connected most generally with the urban tradition in a society that has its own path in the modern world.”
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