Life Beyond the Pattern of Communism
The private collection, established in 2016, presents the life and work of Sevdalina Panayotova. It shows this literature teacher, theater director, public figure, and citizen daily and consistent opposition to the hypocrisy of the structures of state socialism and against the status quo. Sevdalina Panayotova, a teacher and cultural activist, was neither a well-known writer, director, nor a popular dissident, but her whole life and creativity was a rebellion against the attempt of the socialist state to impose narrow standards and norms on everyday life and thinking, a rebellion against pseudo-morals and pseudo-arts, against the principles of socialist realism in literature and theatrical art.
The collection of books, scripts, photos from theatrical productions, interviews given by Sevdalina Panayotova and interviews with her, published articles, among others, shows an "ordinary" life of civil and cultural opposition. Sevdalina Panayotova pursued opposition through critical themes in literature and theater as well as through the use of innovative means of expression by resisting against imposed artistic forms. The collection highlights individual estrangement from the socialist state, the dynamics of criticism, and the risks criticism entailed for "ordinary" people. The collection shows the attempt of a "life of truth" and of repeated defiance borne out of a strong moral stance. It is also a good example of a small family collection that maintains personal memories without having a grand political agenda.
Name of collection
- Life Beyond the Pattern of Communism
Provenance and cultural activities
The collection presents the life and work of Sevdalina Panayotova - a teacher of literature at a school in Chepelare, an amateur theatre director, a public figure, and a citizen. Sevdalina Panayotova was not a well-known writer, director, or a popular dissident but her whole life and creativity was a rebellion against the attempt of the socialist state to impose narrow standards and norms, against pseudo-morals and pseudo-arts, against the principles of socialist realism in literature and theatrical art.
The collection shows the attempt of a "life of truth". The daughter of Sevdalina Panayotova, Teodora, who together with her sister Boryana created and maintain the collection, explains: "Opposition discourse and opposition activity were part of the everyday life of Sevdalina Panayotova. They are expressed in a series of non-eye-catching acts, gestures and words, such as a non-traditional reading of a work (for example of the proletarian poets Hristo Smirnenski and Nikola Vaptsarov); an 'inappropriate' statement of a teacher's meeting; a reference to a forbidden fact or an author in front of the students; lecture with the students of forbidden or semi-forbidden books; education in non-fear and non-obedience; rehearsal of the literary-club scene after the evening hours; singing of free-guitar songs; giving lessons for free, i.e. refusal to participate in the natural exchange of services against goods; integrity, dignified behavior, and assertion of principles. Accumulated over the years, these 'little' things seem to turn into a dissension/dissent with no less importance than the impressive escapades across borders and the talks on Radio Free Europe. The cultural and, above all, moral opposition of Sevdalina Panayotova prevented many from losing the measure for good and evil, honest and low, responsible and irresponsible, bold and sneaky, and so on. And the preservation of moral values is the first condition for building civic behavior."
Sevdalina Panayotova was a characteristic and vivid representative of the cultural opposition to the socialist regime. The life credo of Sevdalina Panayotova, a third-generation teacher, was that education and upbringing are key factors in the formation of one’s personality and the path to emancipation. Education in the sense of knowledge, scientific approach, and analytical thinking; education, in the sense of observance of basic moral norms, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, building critical thinking (i.e. questioning common and imposed top-down "truths") among relatives, friends, and especially among students was Sevdalina Panayotova’s approach to opposition. It took different forms: a literary circle, a theatrical performance, a script, and above all, teaching literature in high school with an approach different from those officially accepted.
The scenes and performances of Sevdalina Panayotova were not only popular at the regional level (Smolyan); they have also won first place in national reviews of school and amateur theater and have been highly appreciated by lecturers at the Krastyo Sarafov Higher Institute for Theater Arts (since 1995 known as the National Academy for Theater and Film Arts). A number of students of Sevdalina Panayotova graduated from theatrical institute and went on to become professional actors.
Sevdalina Panayotova's activity provoked the constant disapproval of the socialist power - from the national party to city and district party committees, State Security, and other structures of the totalitarian system. As a teacher, screenwriter, and theater director, Sevdalina Panayotova has created numerous scenes and plays that have been blocked and hindered by state institutions, but which have imbued different generations with courage, and anti-totalitarian thinking.
Description of content
The collection contains books, theatrical scripts, photos from theatrical productions, audio and video recordings of interviews given by Sevdalina Panayotova and interviews of her, published articles, and an album with drawings from her students. Throughout her life, Sevdalina Panayotova was "subject" of observation by State Security. Part of the collection also hosts a copy of Sevdalina Panayotova's over 1000-page dossier at State Security, the original of which is kept in the Central Archive of the Commission for the Disclosure of Documents and Declaration of Affiliation of Bulgarian Citizens to the State Security and Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian People's Party Army. The materials presenting the life and creativity of a teacher in a small town draw attention to the forms of daily and consistent opposition to the socialist regime, against the narrow norms imposed in art, and the assertion of civic responsibilities and morals. The collection shows the possibilities of "ordinary people" and reveals the importance of cultural activity in the creation of personal autonomy and spiritual independence.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 0-9
- photos: 10-99
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 10-99
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 0-9
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 10-99
Date of founding
Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Panayotova, Sevdalina 2014. Urokat-spektakal. Igrovi metod za priobshtavane kam literaturata [Lesson-Performance - Game Method of Inclusion in Literature]. Sofia: "Aleksander Panov".
Панайотова, Севдалина 2014. Урокът спектакъл. Игрови метод за приобщаване към литературата. София: ИК "Александър Панов".
Author(s) of this page
- Kasabova, Anelia Dr.
Konstantinov, Georgi 2011. Emigrantski spomeni [Emigrant's Memories], t. 1. Sofia: Shrapnel.
Panayotovi, Teodora I Boryana 2017: Sevdalina Panayotova – uchitel, obshtestvenik, vechniyat dissident [Sevdalina Panayotova – Teacher, Public Figure, the Eternal Dissident]. In: Otzvuk, 25.09. http://www.otzvuk.bg/sevdalina-panajotova-uchitel-obshtestvenik-vechniyat-disident/ (31.1.2018)
Panayotova, Teodora, interview by Kasabova, Anelia Dr., December 04, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection