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Museum of Socialist Art

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Ulitsa Lachezar Stanchev 7, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Sofia
  • Posted 2 years ago

The Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia is an art museum that chronicles Bulgaria’s communist period. It opened on September 19, 2011, amid a disagreement over the name, which was originally suggested as “Museum of Totalitarian Art.” The collection of big and small sculptures, busts, and paintings in the museum spans the years 1944 to 1989, from the creation of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria to the collapse of communism. The museum, which covers an area of 7,500 square meters (81,000 square feet) in the Sofia suburb of “Red Star,” is divided into three sections: a park with sculpture installations from the communist era, an exhibition hall with paintings and easel representations, and a media or video hall where films and newsreels from the communist era are screened.

The museum, a division of the National Art Gallery, features an exhibition of art icons and other relics from the communist regime’s 45-year (1944–89) era, as well as archives and monuments in the park. The museum has a space of 7,500 square meters (81,000 square feet) and is located in the Sofia district of “Red Star.” It is divided into three sections: a park with 77 communist-era monuments or sculptures, including a statue of Vladimir Lenin; an exhibition hall with 60 paintings and 25 easel paintings representations; and a media or video hall with propaganda films and newsreels relating to the communist period. There is also a tourist shop where communist-era items may be purchased. The museum’s collection spans the years 1944 to 1989, from the establishment of communism in Bulgaria to the fall of the totalitarian state. A massive “five-pointed star” sits at the museum’s entrance, which formerly decorated Sofia’s Party House from 1954 until 1984. The statue park, described as the “most emblematic component of the museum,” includes statues, busts, and figures of prominent communist leaders and activists, poets, Red Army troops, agricultural and industrial workers, and so on.

Sculptures depicting communist leaders Todor Zhivkov, Vladimir Lenin, and Joseph Stalin can be seen in the exhibit hall. Some of the exhibitions with creative expression are ascribed to numerous well-known communist-era sculptors. Paintings created by artists under the communist government are also on exhibit, including images of the Soviet Army’s arrival into the country in 1944, the establishment of communist party branches, portraits, and landscapes. The majority of the exhibits depict “trials of the partisan and resistance movement during World War II,” the formation of the socialistic pattern of society, and people’s comfortable lives. “Herculean-sized workmen” are seen in several of the paintings. Many oil paintings promote Bulgaria and the Soviet Union’s imagined concept of “eternal brotherhood.” There are also pictures of Karl Marx, Lenin, Engels, and Stalin in the museum’s café that are reminiscent of incongruity.

In 2012, this museum hosted an exhibition titled “The Cultural Opening of Bulgaria to the World,” which was created by Lyudmila, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov, who governed in 1953, and focused on “a golden period of communist culture.”

History of Museum of Socialist Art

Many ideas to create communist museums in Sofia, Dimitrovgrad, and Haskovo have been proposed since the 1990s, but none have come to completion. During the same time period, several Soviet-era monuments were damaged or demolished. A group of painters painted “pop symbols” on the Soviet army monument in Sofia in June 2011 in an effort to generate displays on the role of the communist government in Bulgaria during the summer of 2011. At the time, the Bulgarian government resolved to construct museums as well as rehabilitate demolished monuments. As a consequence of that decision, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Ancient Sofia, and the National Museum Complex (renamed “the Bulgarian Louvre”) were created in Sofia. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Culture planned to develop the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia in order to improve the city’s cultural ambience and status as a major tourist destination, in line with similarly themed museums that had been created in numerous towns around Eastern Europe. The government also evaluated and agreed that the museum would be a subsidiary of the National Gallery of Art. Vezhdi Rashidov, the Minister of Culture and a sculptor, took the initiative to see the proposal of establishing a museum to display the communist regime’s cultural history through to completion. The Bulgarian government completely backed the plan and donated finances in the amount of 1.5 million euros to create the museum, anticipating that income from admission ticket sales would pay the cost within two years. Before the museum’s official opening on September 19, 2011, vestiges of the Soviet dictatorship were discovered in basements around Bulgaria.

The museum’s name was changed from “Museum of Totalitarian Art” to “Museum of Socialist Art” amid controversy. On September 19, 2011, the new museum was officially opened.

Finance Minister Simeon Djankov stated at the inauguration, which was attended by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova, and many ministers, “We are closing one page of Bulgarian history and communism is going where it belongs – in the museum… Bulgaria has already shaken it off and is moving forward.” The date of the opening coincided with the communists’ official conquest of Bulgaria in 1944. “Bulgaria must build a museum of communism that will explain future generations the tale of a time that should never again become reality,” journalist Georgi Lozanov said.

Location of Museum of Socialist Art

The museum is a little concealed and difficult to discover; it is also a little outside of Sofia’s city center. G. M. Dimitrov on the blue line is the nearest metro stop. After departing, go north along the station’s main road, bul. Dragan Tsankov, and then turn right into ul. Lachezar Stanchev. The museum is hidden behind a row of huge glass office buildings that obscure its view from the main road.

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