Thousands of Bulgarians continue to venerate a 'flying saucer' designed to assert the eternal supremacy of Communism
Issue 38, November 2009
by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff
This monument is the largest completely useless structure in Bulgaria. On a clear day, its oval body and 70 m, or 230 ft, high pylon are visible to the naked eye from the roads north and south of the central part of the Balkan Mountains. The concrete behemoth was built in 1981 to commemorate the establishment of Bulgaria's Socialist party, which post-war Communists and present-day Socialists regard as their spiritual progenitor.
The first Bulgarian Socialist party was founded in 1891. In the late 19 Century, Bulgaria was a peasant country and it remained so until the Communist coup of 1944 which brought about forced collectivisation and mass albeit not very well thought-over industrialisation. In the 19th Century cities there were intellectuals who embraced Marxist ideas of a proletarian revolution, but they faced a problem. Prime Minister Stefan Stambolov was firmly leading the country towards modernisation, but "democracy" was not among his favourite words. The parliamentary opposition was subjected to persecution and the future of organised Socialism did not look rosy. Then Socialist Dimitar Blagoev came up with a bold idea: he and his associates would hold their constituent assembly right under the nose of the authorities. On 2 August 1891, about 20 Socialists mixed with the crowds climbing Mt Buzludzha to commemorate the Bulgarian revolutionary leader Hadzhi Dimitar, who died there in a battle with the Ottomans in 1876. Dimitar Blagoev's small group, which adopted the first statute of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, or BSDP, remained unnoticed. It was simply one of the many groups of young enthusiasts who had come to attend the remembrance ceremony.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers