Everyday Life in Southwest Bulgaria during Socialism
This fascinating collection sheds insight on generally unknown moments of everyday life in southwest Bulgaria during state socialism, including: the experience of and resistance against collectivization; experiences reflecting the religious policy of the communist regime (e.g. towards Muslims) and others elements of everyday life. The collection is one of the first created by the Balkan Society for Autobiography and Social Communication - Blagoevgrad (BSASC). It mainly consists of oral histories and photographic documentation, which aim to share ordinary people's experience of socialism.
Name of collection
- Everyday Life in Southwest Bulgaria in Socialism
Provenance and cultural activities
The archive is one of the first collections in Bulgaria of oral histories and photo documentation from the state socialism period. Scholars at the South-West University in Blagoevgrad - Kristina Popova, Anastasia Pashova, and Petar Vodenicharov - initiated student expeditions in the early 1990s, gathering life stories, photographs and documents in southwest Bulgaria. In 1996 they - together with public figures such as Silvia Blazheva (director of the Open Society NGO in Blagoevgrad) and the young scholars Nurie Muratova and Milena Angelova and others - established the non-profit organization Balkan Society for Autobiography and Social Communication (BSASC). This was one of the first centers for oral history and autobiographical studies in Bulgaria.
The members of the Society and students at the Neofit Rilski South-West University have been carrying out research projects, often together with students, for over 20 years, which they have also used gather material for the oral history archive. Projects include, among others, Language Behavior and Live Worlds of Muslims in the Western Rhodopes, Tradition, Fashion, Modernity in the Western Rhodopes, My Dossier, pardon, Biography, From Suburban Village to an End-city Quarter, Tolerance in Diversity and many others.
BSASC manages the maintenance and development of the collection. The collection of oral histories and photo documentation aims to present the point of view of "ordinary" people who lived through state socialism. Individuals from both the Bulgarian Orthodox and Muslim communities in southwestern Bulgaria are included. The collected documents and personal stories reveal little-known moments of everyday life in southwest Bulgaria such as the experience of and the resistance against collectivization; the encroachments of the state on the cultural traditions in the villages of the western Rhodopes and hidden forms of resistance; and the daily life of the Roma minority – a minority whose experiences are largely excluded from the official historical narrative.
Materials from the collection have been used in many scientific publications, oral history collections, teaching materials, exhibitions, seminars and public lectures. The members of BSASC - scholars at the Neofit Rilski South-West University- not only link their research work with maintaining the rich archive, but are also engaged in extensive work to deepen dialogue about the communist regime through active work with students and numerous initiatives aimed at the general public. BSASC has an archive that is used for research and work with students. Based on BSASC's experience and research, a Master's degree course in oral history was developed at the university where students learn methods for conducting interviews as well as transcribing and analyzing texts. The collection has published not only through in scientific literature, but also through the work of BSASC within the civic sector, popularizing the results of the projects by organizing exhibitions, working with students, elderly people and the general public.
The thorough research and awareness raising of BSASC has contributed to changes in the Bulgarian state’s official archival policy towards the Muslim communities and Roma.
The collection is actively used by students as well as by people of different age groups and social backgrounds. Thanks to the rich and varied promotional and teaching activities of the members of the Balkan Society for Autobiography and Social Communication, they increase their sensitivity to those groups of the population that remain largely "out of the narrative of national history".
Description of content
The collection contains audio and video recordings of the life stories of people born between the beginning of the 20th century and the 1980s including visual material, various other personal documents and scanned materials from archives. These materials contribute significantly to the knowledge of recent history, especially to various personal experiences of and reactions to political repression. A special focus is on the so-called "Revival process", also known as the "Process of Rebirth" ("Vazroditelen protses"), which was the official name of the forceful assimilation of Bulgaria’s Muslims (Turks, Pomaks, Tatars, Roma) by the Communist Party in the 1970s and 1980s. One important contribution of the collection is that it gives greater visibility to the daily resistance of Bulgarian citizens of Muslim faith, for example, against the state's policy of forced changes of Arabic-Turkish names into Bulgarian ones, against restrictions on the use of their native language and the official limitations on traditional customs and rituals, which inhibited the free exercise of religion. In parallel, the collection contains a wealth of materials on everyday life in Southwest Bulgaria of all groups of the population whose voices were overlooked by official history: women, minorities, inhabitants of remote villages, prisoners and others.
With anthropological and linguistic materials, documents and photographs about everyday life, documentation on the cultural practices and values of large groups of population, left out of the narrative of national history, the collection contributes significantly to help create a nuanced picture of the recent past. It offers important clues into the everyday culture of "ordinary people".
- paintings: 0-9
- photos: 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 0-9
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 10-99
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 100-499
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Pashova, Anastasia 2005. „Vsichki tsigani da se preobrazyat v balgari“. Politiki na totalitarnata vlast kam romite v Balgaria /1944-1989/, In: Popova, Kristina, Milena Angelova (Eds.) Obshtestveno podpomagane i sotsialna rabota v Balgaria. Istoria, institutsii, ideologii, imena. ["All Gypsies to Become Bulgarians." Politics of the Totalitarian Power to the Roma in Bulgaria /1944-1989/. In: Popova, Kristina, Milena Angelova (Eds.) Social Support and Social Work in Bulgaria. History, Institutions, Ideologies, Names.] Blagoevgrad: UI „Neofit Rilski“, pp. 142-162.
Пашова, Анастасия 2005. „Всички цигани да се преобразят в българи“. Политики на тоталитарната власт към ромите в България /1944-1989/, В: Попова, Кристина, Милена Ангелова (Съст.) Обществено подпомагане и социална работа в България. История, институции, идеологии, имена. Благоевград: УИ „Неофит Рилски“, 142-162.
Author(s) of this page
- Kasabova, Anelia Dr.
Popova, Kristina, Marijana Piskova, Margareth Lanzinger, Nikola Langreiter & Petar Vodenicharov (eds.). 2009. Women and Minorities: The Ways of Archiving. Sofia-Vienna: SEMARSh.
Pashova, Anastasia Nikolaeva, interview by Kasabova, Anelia Dr., . COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection