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Slide item 1

The Largo ensemble in Sofia built during the Stalinist period: an expression of the power of the communist regime

Photo: Regional History Museum Sofia Archive

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The Largo ensemble by night, with the National Assembly

Photo: Municipality of Sofia Archive

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Luxury interiors of the former Communist Party House, today the National Assembly

Photo: Regional History Museum Sofia Archive

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The Monument of the Soviet Army: an example of socialist realism

Photo: ATRIUM Archive

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Ideological propaganda: the monument glorifying the Soviet army and the Bulgarian-Soviet friendship

Photo: Municipality of Sofia Archive

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Today, the monument is a popular meeting place for young people and subject to pop culture.

Photo: Hélène Veilleux (Spazi Indecisi Archive)

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Boyana Residence: a peculiar manifestation of totalitarian ideology

Photo: ATRIUM Archive

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The Bells Monument: landmark of “mature socialism“: towards modern European architecture

Photo: Municipality of Sofia Archive

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The 37 metres high “bell tower” is surrounded by 79 bells from all over the world.

Photo: Municipality of Sofia Archive

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National Palace of Culture – an example of the “mature socialist period”.

Photo: Regional History Museum Sofia Archive

Sofia, Bulgaria

Architectural landmarks from two different periods

Visiting the monuments and buildings left on the streets of Sofia by the communist regime is like a journey back in time: an experience of two very different historical phases that characterised Bulgaria’s communist period.

The power of monuments

A special place in the architecture of the communist regime in Bulgaria is occupied by monuments, which proclaim their support for ordinary Bulgarian citizens as well as the communist ideology as a natural fair outcome for all classes of society.

Two periods, two styles

Sofia is rich in architectural landmarks deriving from the communist period (1946-1989). These can be divided into two sub-periods. First, the early period of “democratic centralism” and the consolidation of the communist regime until around 1960. Second, the late period of communist rule from the beginning of the 1970s until 1989 under Todor Zhivkov – the affirmation of socialism as a natural progression from Bulgaria’s millennial history. The architectural language within the two periods varies considerably.

Early period: Stalinist architecture

Bulgarian architecture from the first period of the totalitarian regime applied urban planning mechanisms and the expressive tools of “Stalinism”. Under the Soviet influence, a new ideological orientation in architecture and art was introduced: “socialist realism”. As the country had become part of the Eastern (Communist) Bloc, Sofia rebuilt its city centre under the motto “socialist in content and national in form“. The Largo ensemble became the new city centre – a material expression of the power of the communist one-party doctrine from the period of Stalinism. Another example of this period is the Monument of the Soviet Army.

Late period: landmarks of “mature socialism”

During the second period, the communist regime changed its ideal and focused attention on landmarks of “mature socialism” – as a natural stage in 1300 years of development of the Bulgarian state and its international recognition. Within this process of liberalization, the architectural language is directed towards functional European architecture. Prominent examples are the Boyana Residence, the Banner of Peace Monument and the National Palace of Culture.

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