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Mount Buzludzha: Bulgaria’s Communist Party Headquarters

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Formally known as the House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party, the monument at Buzludzha Peak is like something out of a 1950s sci-fi movie.

Perched on a high promontory of the Balkan Mountains, this otherworldly structure resembles a great concrete saucer adorned with rousing socialist slogans. Now abandoned, the site has become one of the world’s most famous modern ruins; but as a symbol, Buzludzha is more than just a building, and its demise carries a deeper significance than can rightly be understood by the crowds of foreign visitors who now visit the monument from week to week.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Buzludzha now – but I’ll always remember my first time. What follows is an account of that first visit, on a cold spring day back in 2012, with the saucer still cloaked in its winter coat of snow upon the mountaintop; but first, a little background to this surreal memorial.

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The House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party

In 1891, as the last of the Turks were being expelled from Bulgaria after 500 years of Ottoman rule, it was here on Mount Buzludzha that the country’s early socialist philosophers met in secret to lay the foundations for the Bulgarian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party: a precursor to the later rule of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

Communist-Party-HQ-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-5The House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party was opened 90 years later, in 1981, to celebrate both the country’s liberation from Ottoman rule, and the 1944 victory against Hitler’s fascist domination of Bulgaria: both events in which Russia (and later, the Soviet Union) had played a key role. The monument further served as the symbolic headquarters for the Bulgarian Communist Party, its crowning jewel, in an effort to better associate that regime with the heroes of Bulgaria’s past.

Construction of the monument cost in excess of 14 million Bulgarian levs; that’s almost £7 million today. The money was raised from citizens in the form of suggested donations – the architect’s own idea – with the intention of creating a monument for the people, and by the people.

The saucer, along with its 107-metre tower, was designed by Georgi Stoilov. More than 60 Bulgarian artists collaborated on the design of murals for the site, and thousands of volunteers were involved in the construction process. The Soviet-esque star which adorns the tower of Buzludzha was three times larger than that at the Kremlin; and it was claimed that the red light it emitted could be seen from as far away as Romania in the north, and the Greek border in the south.

Bulgarian communism came to an end in 1989 after which the Buzludzha monument was inherited by the State. It was during the mid-1990s that the building was ransacked and opened up to the elements, during a period when Bulgaria’s right-wing government was attempting to distance the country from its socialist heritage; at least in part, by vandalising or removing the vestiges of communism. Since then, left to the mercy of the mountain climate, the monument has been allowed to slowly disintegrate – in doing so presenting a powerful symbol of the changing times.

 

A Visit to the Buzludzha Monument

In winter, the approach to Buzludzha is murder.

The House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party sits on the peak of Mount Buzludzha, at an altitude of 1432m (the peak was 1441m high originally, but it was levelled by 9m to create a platform for the building). It’s located 12km from the Shipka Pass, where in 1877, in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees, a garrison of 7,500 Bulgarians and Russians successfully repelled 38,000 Ottoman troops during the epic Battle of Shipka Pass.

Communist-Party-HQ-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-41When we visited, the road from Shipka was blocked by heavy snow and so instead, we were forced to approach the mountain from the southern road; taking a turn-off close to Kazanluk. We drove as close as possible, before ditching the car in snow to make the last leg on foot – past a severe-looking sign, which read:

“Passing is absolutely forbidden! DANGEROUS SITE!”

From here a flagstone path wound its way along the top of the mountain ridge, until passing over the crest, I caught my first glimpse of the vast saucer sat beyond. The sheer size of the monument was staggering – and combined with the bizarre contours of its design, there was something vaguely unsettling about standing in the shadow of this concrete monstrosity.

The monument sits at the top of a long flight of steps, looking down over a paved courtyard; it was here that the Party faithful would have gathered for rallies and public addresses. On either side of the stone stairs had once stood great, sculpted flags… though little remained of these now, but featureless weather-worn husks. The copper which once coated them was looted long ago.

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Scrawled above the main entrance in red paint, Latin characters spelled the phrase, “FORGET YOUR PAST”; flanked on either side by poetic stanzas stamped in Bulgarian Cyrillic. Many of the letters were missing, their message fading into obscurity. What remained however, was a rousing call to arms: the popular socialist anthem The Internationale, written here in an old Bulgarian tongue.

(In Bulgarian, terms such as “на крак” for “on your feet” and “нех” for “yes”, have long since fallen from common speech, and so their use here would presumably have been intended to stir feelings of national pride and solidarity.)

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Communist-Party-HQ-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-35“ON YOUR FEET
DESPISED COMRADES
ON YOUR FEET YOU SLAVES OF LABOUR!
DOWNTRODDEN AND HUMILIATED
STAND UP AGAINST THE ENEMY!
LET US WITHOUT MERCY, WITHOUT FORGIVENESS
YES, WE TAKE DOWN THE OLD, ROTTEN SYSTEM…
WORKING MEN
WORKING WOMEN
FROM ALL COUNTRIES COME TOGETHER
FORWARDS! COMRADES WITHOUT FEAR
BUILD STRONG OUR GREAT DEEDS!
TO WORK AND TO CREATE…”

The main doors at the front of the monument hung open as I approached, and I stepped quietly across the threshold, through a wall of propaganda and into the void beyond.

My first impression was one of roaring noise and darkness. All winter long, Buzludzha lies buried in heavy snow – so that by now the Spring thaw was causing the accumulated drifts to melt, and torrents of water cascaded down walls and stairwells, or fell in noisy rivulets from the ceiling. Wherever the water is allowed to sit for more than a moment it freezes; so that the floor of the monument was encrusted with a thick layer of ice. In some places the concrete was literally falling apart, where moisture had found its way into fine cracks, expanding as it froze.

Out of the dark, low-ceilinged entrance chamber, three double flights of steps led up to the hall above. From this point, movement began to get more difficult.

The wide concrete steps had become so treacherous with ice, that in some places their corners had disappeared altogether; the steps themselves only just visible through one smooth slope of thick ice and running water.

Communist-Party-HQ-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-31It felt a little like climbing a frozen waterfall, and inevitably I found myself crawling on hands and knees, clutching at outcrops of brick for leverage. Turning the first corner, a slogan was scrawled across the wall: “Тук почват твоити кошмари. ха ха ха.”

Here start your nightmares. Ha ha ha.

Past the stairs, round one more corner, and the space above opened up into the main auditorium… revealing the monument’s dramatic centrepiece.

The main chamber of Buzludzha is breathtaking to behold.

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This circular conference space – originally titled the ‘Solemn Hall’ – was surrounded by low benches, many obscured beneath the drifting snow. The once-proud ceiling was no more than a metal exoskeleton now, a rusting shell, adorned in the centre with a vast hammer-and-sickle motif. Around the outside, the walls were inlaid with fine mosaic designs. Some of the colourful murals showed scenes of labour and the construction of the monument itself, while others depicted wars and harvests.

On this visit the central space was filled with a deep layer of compacted ice, giving the arena the appearance of a surreal, decaying ice rink. On the far wall, three familiar faces looked down at me from the murals: Engels, Marx and Lenin.

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Meanwhile, taking pride of place on the wall behind the prime council seats, there appeared another three portraits. The image on the left had once shown Todor Zhivkov – communist leader of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria from 1954 until 1989. Towards the end of his career, Zhivkov is criticised with having allowed the country to slump into a stagnating economic crisis, and failing to deal with the disatisfaction of his citizens; his face was removed from the mural early after Buzludzha’s abandonment.

Beside Zhivkov, their likenesses still intact, appeared Dimitar Blagoev – the founder of Bulgarian socialism – along with Georgi Dimitrov, the first leader of a communist Bulgaria, from 1946 to 1949.

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From the central hall, I followed the steps out to the rim of the saucer. This circular balcony was bare and windowless, left open to the ravaging elements of the mountain pass. Many of the murals had weathered beyond recognition, but those that remained showed similar themes of victory and prosperity.

Both the central chamber and these encircling walkways were covered by the same domed roof, and here I had another reminder of the very real danger of the site – narrowly avoiding a falling tile, a sheet of pressed metal the size of a road sign, that suddenly clattered to the marble near my feet.

I stopped for a moment on the balcony to admire a mural composition: on the right, a group of Russian soldiers, met on the left by Bulgarian women who stood offering gifts of bread, salt and flowers. It was the same picture I’d seen before, rendered in concrete form at the Park-Monument to the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship.

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After that, I headed back inside; out of the biting winds that screamed through the windowless balconies, and down towards the hidden inner spaces of the Buzludzha monument.

 

The Bowels of Buzludzha

Before my visit, the only photographs I’d seen of Buzludzha showed its central hall, its hammer-and-sickle mural, or its saucer form in exterior, perched upon the mountain. It wasn’t until I got inside that I discovered a further network of passages and tunnels – dark spaces beneath and behind the auditorium that lay half buried in snow, and crossed by sparkling, frost-encrusted spider webs.

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I followed a staircase down into the cavernous bowels of Buzludzha. Crossing the floors of ice in darkness made for very slow progress – slipping and sliding all the way. Some of these passages led to dead-ends – boiler rooms, stores and lavatories, thick with unseen snow. Another passage, however, spiralled down and around into the very base of the building.

After a series of narrow rooms and chambers, the outer wall suddenly fell away to reveal the curved lower hull of the saucer. This wider space ran almost the entire circumference of the monument, a conduit for the air-conditioning system – red ducts for hot air, blue for cold, I guessed. At one point an opening on the inside wall led into the confined space beneath the seats in the main auditorium; elsewhere I found a service shaft descending so deep beneath me that my torch beam couldn’t find the bottom.

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Eventually I made my way back out, passing once more through the central chamber. This time I paused to read the inscription written around the radiant hammer and sickle, emblazoned high above in tiny pieces of red, green and golden stone;

“THE PROLETARIATS OF EVERY COUNTRY JOIN TOGETHER”, it read.

My next problem of course, was getting out – down the deadly flights of ice-encrusted stairs. Climbing up had taken me what seemed like forever, crawling slowly and carefully up a hill of water and ice. On the return journey however, I stumbled across an effective – if inelegant – solution; sitting down on the top step I pushed off, sliding at breakneck speed down the iced slope before hitting the bottom wall with a crash.

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The Future of Buzludzha

It might be hard to envisage a future for the House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The damage that the monument has suffered, the vandalism, looting, and the work of its ferociously wild surroundings, look to be almost irreparable. There are, nevertheless, those who would like to see the Buzludzha monument returned to its former glory.

Communist-Party-HQ-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-2During my visit to the site, a group of four Bulgarian men came to make an inspection of the monument. Back outside, where my local friends had waited for me by the car, we had a short conversation with these new arrivals.

They didn’t seem worried that I was inside without permission, but rather expressed concern only for my safety. One of these men was an architect, and claimed he had been involved in the original construction of the site; it looked as though he was here now giving a tour to a prospective buyer. From his comments, this potential investor’s interests were political, rather than purely aesthetic in nature; he talked about restoring the monument to its original condition, describing it as a sight that every Bulgarian should be able to look up at with pride.

Commenting on the severe dereliction of the monument, he added,

“Of course [the post-communist state] let it fall apart. Its decay marks a victory over their predecessors.”

The state of ruin into which the Buzludzha monument has been allowed to sink might appear as a near-criminal act of disrespect, towards something that is undeniably an integral icon of the country’s recent history.

For what it’s worth, that’s my opinion.

I never lived through communism though, I never dealt with its aftermath, and so it’s easy for me, as a visitor to this country, to separate the monument from its meaning. For those who lived in its shadow however, for those Bulgarians who came to regard Buzludzha as the symbolic heart of a regime that so many associate now with historic pain and suffering, the separation of form and philosophy becomes more difficult.

Perhaps for many, it would be preferable after all to simply Forget Your Past, as the graffitied slogan recommends.

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  1. A great set of pictures of Buzludzha. Thanks for putting together the history as well, a really well written post. Hopefully one day this monument can be restored and more details about it discovered, but it is special the way it is. Must have been amazing in the winter.

  2. Great work, I really like your blog and your urban explorations. Your articles are also very well written. I find one thing puzzling, however. Why is it that you are always so ill-prepared when you embark on a visit like this? It’s not like you were strolling around and stumbled upon this behemoth. You decided to take a day off and do the tour. So why not carry a flashlight, gloves, helmet, snow boots, rope, etc.??? Just curious.
    One last thing. What the hell where they thinking when they build this thing atop a 1400 m mountain? Sure, the place has symbolic and historic significance, but did no one stop for a second to think how people would get there or what to do with the -30C temperatures and freezing wind? This is the kind of lunacy that only an authoritarian state would embark on, a democracy would allow critical opinions to be voiced and talk some sense into these projects. Lastly, I’m not sure where exactly this place is located as you didn’t provide any reference besides Shipka Pass – like how far from a town or village? Is it close to the capital, or in the middle of nowhere or close to a border? How far to get there?
    Anyway, great work, keep it up. Greetings from Brazil.

    • Hi Gus, thanks a lot for the kind words! Glad you’re enjoying the blog.

      You’re absolutely right, I do often go into these places quite poorly prepared. This particular report is now almost 3 years old, and I’ve probably got a bit more organised since then – for example, you certainly wouldn’t catch me without gloves, a flashlight or heavy boots these days! Having said that though, if I’m ill-prepared it generally only means that I’ve got to work harder at finding a way inside – and to date, I’ve never been seriously injured, nor have I failed to gain access to a site purely due to a lack of proper equipment.

      On top of that, many of my explorations occur while I’m backpacking around the world, which makes it very difficult to carry serious equipment such as ropes, helmets, harnesses, etc. As a result I usually need to focus on initiative rather than resources!

      I didn’t mention the location of this site, but it is very easy to find – right in the middle of the country, close to the Shipka Pass that cuts across the Balkan Mountains from Gabrovo in the north, to Stara Zagora in the south. And yes, I agree… the determination to build such an iconic monument in a location that is both difficult to access and hugely inhospitable for much of the year, really is a bold statement! The ongoing cost of heating and maintaining this building, year after year, would have been crippling to any government. Perhaps it’s inevitable that it would have been abandoned sooner or later – even if communism here hadn’t ended.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. How about a public Ice Rink? That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the surface of the floor all covered in ice and that high beautiful ceiling. (Keeping in mind the book “The Forsaken” by Time Tzouliadis while gazing at the hammer and sickle.) Ice rink in the Winter and concerts in the Summer. That really is a neat looking building. All the way around.

  4. This place should be restored. As it is art. And for the blood forced from the people to build it. I have a hard time accepting “voluntary donations” in relation to this place.

  5. I think also this building should be restored in the first place as a sign of respect for all the people having worked to its realisation. Dolf Pauw
    http://rdpauw.blogspot.nl/2014/11/darmon-richter.html

  6. I think this building should be restored in the first place as a sign of respect for all the people having worked to its realisation. Besides, it was built for the glory of humanity and, allright, during the communist era. It could have been maintained as such after 1989 and as well as an exceptional historical and architectural house monument. No matter how hard you run, the past will always catch up ! So its useless to forget the past ;-o

    • I absolutely agree with your last statement… although I think that given the extreme state of decay, restoring the building to its former glory might just prove impossible. Besides, the current Bulgarian government don’t want to fund it, as the move could be perceived as associating themselves with the former regime. So, unless someone decides to come forward independently and donate a vast amount of money for the job, I’m afraid to say I think it’s doomed to rot!

  7. Wow, this is an amazing post! Great photos, wonderfully descriptive writing and you’ve really done your research. I visited Buzludzha this year in August and it was the highlight of my month in Eastern Europe – the atmosphere was just incredible and I loved reading your post and learning more about the history of this fascinating place! I also love how you have translated the slogans – it’s really interesting to know what they say.

    • Thanks a lot, Anna! Glad to hear that you enjoyed your own visit to the place… it’s really rather wonderful, isn’t it?

      And yes, the translations – I felt it was important to actually share the message behind it, as knowing the full story added a lot to my own experience of visiting. Thanks for commenting, it’s great to meet you.

  8. Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is a ballet.

  9. interesting history — and a compelling relic.
    I wish it could have been preserved — and I’d like to see more photos of when it was in use. Though I respect and dimly understand the tragic history that this place symbolizes for Bulgarians, as an outsider I see it as a wonderful and curious artifact

    • Exactly. This building and what it symbolises is a very complicated matter for Bulgaria… and the reason that no government wants to restore it is largely for fear of being linked to the ideology which inspired the design. Us foreigners however, have the luxury of appreciating it purely for what it is: a breathtaking and utterly unique work of pioneering architecture. Thanks for adding your perspective!

  10. Thank you for adding in the history of the monument. The pictures combined with the history made for a great brief and comprehensive article. Great job and keep up the great work

    • Thanks Ben, glad you found it useful! I’m actually working on a book about Bulgaria’s monuments right now, and it’s going to feature interviews with some of the politicians and architects behind these projects. Hoping to have more news about that later in the year.

  11. You did a great job on combining the notes of your expirience with a compact overview of the political history of the era which lead to this concrete monstrosity. And I commend you for taking an interest in Bulgaria. As a Bulgarian from Kazanlak, I lived most of my life having to stare unwillingly at this… thing. To me it is a disgusting disgrace to the beautiful Balkan landscape! A disgusting symbol of a 45 year long yoke upon the Bulgarians, in which the freedom of being able to freely express oneself (through art, speech, travel, etc…) was denied and even an everyday convesation could lead to a life long condemnation and even death. I read that you had contact with an artist who had problems with the regime. Well my father and uncle, both painters had similar problems, both almost denied admission to the School of Arts and Design in Kazanlak and later in university. For them it panned out probably better than for your acquaintance as they were able to graduate, but at the cost of lots of nerves and struggle.
    Anyway the revolting sarcasm and the grotesque of the enormous concrete snot perching on the mountain is that it stands in close proximity(10km in a straight line) to one of the greatest bulgarian symbols since the liberation of Bulgaria – The Monoment of Liberty aka Shipka Memorial atop the neighboring peak Shipka. I hope you’ve already seen it/been there; it is as well of similar generous proportions and doesn’t lack in any glory and magnificence, plus the view is breath-taking. Can you see the irony?! It must have been a deliberate decision to be able to mock the freedom of the people by overshadowing its neighboring memorial. I undestand the thrill you must feel by exploring the mind-boggling vastness of this building, it surely is in a way mysterious, even agoraphobic in its vast openness, but I also wish this pile of concrete UFO excrements called House-Monument of the BCP disappear and be forgotten for good, because it symbolises a still open 25 year old sore which is keeping watch over us like the eye of Sauron, with its sparkling red star. It reminds us that no matter what we do, the legacy of that 45 year yoke and its glorified apogeе manifesting itself atop Buzludja will always haunt us and will try to pull us down to the abyss of its obscurity. As for the “slogan” – “Forget your past” – history wouldn’t ever be forgotten and won’t repeat itself, because there are enough other scars left by this regime( I already read some of your other adventures throughout Bulgaria), which will be a lasting reminder for decades to come.

    P.S. You know what is missing in Bulagaria – monuments to all the repressed and murdered during the regime. It is mind-boggling right – in 25 years noone thought of dedicating more than just one commemorating plate to all the tens of thousands victims of the regime and people are whining that that UFO should be restored “in its former glory”. Yes a paradox, sad but true!

    • Vanko, thanks for the really interesting reply & I appreciate hearing the perspective of the people who lived under the shadow of this regime…

      From a western perspective I can only see it as a piece of history not a personal experience.
      Personally I see it as a wasted resource that all the people of Bulgaria had to pay for.
      Naturally I don’t have an emotional conflict to fight against as my family didn’t suffer under the ideology of this symbol.

      Thanks for sharing your story & for the points you have made.

    • Zdrasti, Vanko. I just wanted to thank you for this comment… In all the confusion of having my site redesigned, I’m afraid I missed it at first. I can understand how for many people, yourself included, it is an unwelcome appearance on the skyline. It’s clear that the builders were trying to dwarf the Shipka monument, as you say, and for right or for wrong, they have created something that still dominates the view for many kilometres both in the north and the south.

      Like KiwiGuy here, I also have the luxury of being an “outsider”. I’m free to appreciate the monument for what it is, architecturally, without having a strong personal and emotional connection to what it stands for… or for the results of that ideology. Still, I have been in Bulgaria for long enough to appreciate both sides of this, I think.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts about the monument. I’m actually writing a book about this subject at the moment, and so I would love to talk to you more about this – if you might have the time? If so, just send me an email using the contact form on this site, and I’ll get back to you.

  12. I’m planning on going there in a few days. Anybody been there this year?

  13. I’m heading there tomorrow, hopefully. My friends went two weeks ago and apparently you can climb in through a window.

    • Yep, that seems to be the way most people are getting in these days. They sealed it off a while back, but I gather it’s open again.

      It’s the 8th today… so I hope you had an amazing trip yesterday!

  14. Great blog!
    A good read even for me & I’ve been there many times now.
    Currently lots of snow in the region so it would be a challenge getting up the hill in a 2wd car, they don’t clear the road often from Shipka to Buzludzha…

    • Thanks – and nice profile picture!

      Yeah, the roads get pretty rough round about now. The route up the south side of the mountain should be alright for a while longer – I’ve made it up there with 2wd before, in late December. By the time we get to the really heavy snow in Jan/Feb though, even 4x drive is no guarantee.

  15. great write up! i’m planning to visit this site in a few days time, hopefully it won’t be blocked by snow

    • You should be alright this week. If there is snow up there, it’ll remain fairly light until we’re well into December. That’s when things go crazy…

  16. I was there last summer with my friends and the entrance was already seald. But some guys were making some kind of a colorful light show on the monument, so we set up tents under the hill and watched Buzludzha shine. It was cool.
    In the morning we woke up surrounded by thousands of people with some flags. It turned out that it was a meeting od Bulgarian socialits. It was a nice trip

    • What an incredible experience! It’s easy to treat this place like a ruin, and forget that for so many people it’s still an important symbol. I’ll have to try and gatecrash one of these Socialist meetings one day…

  17. This is a brilliant post. Really great stuff. I’m heading for Buzludzha in a couple of weeks. Hope the weather will be bearable. Thanks for posting all the info and your historical research – very useful/interesting.
    All the best.

    • No problem, I’m really glad you found it useful. The history to this place is fascinating, so I wanted to share as much as I could fit into this post without suffocating it.

      Good luck with your trip!

  18. I just had to say, I think this building was modeled after a church Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Milwaukee called “the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.” I grew up down the block from it and couldn’t help but notice the striking similarities. Google the church and see for yourself.

    • Wow! Just seen the church you’re talking about – here.

      Personally, I’m not convinced the Bulgarian Communist Party would have been looking to base their design on a religious building in a capitalist nation – it sounds too much at odds with the ideology behind their movement.

      However, the similarity in the design is really quite striking. Who knows?

      Thanks for sharing this!

  19. Hi,

    it is possible to get inside?
    maybe someone from Bucharest are going there these days?

  20. Anyone of you guys is planning on visiting it next week? (My mum and I will be in Bulgaria at that time)
    thx

    • Hi Marion, sorry for the slow reply – I’ve been on the road.

      If you’re still about, take a look at the FB group mentioned in the comment above. Hope it helps!

  21. I’ll find you on FB, please feel free to join the group:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/262912937185603

    Les

  22. I’m planning a trip to Buzludzha sometime between mid-May – Mid June (2013). Since Darmon mentioned the interest he’s had from people wanting to visit the monument I suggested it might be an idea to try to put us in touch with each other. So with Darmons permission I’d be happy to set up a mailing list or closed facebook group so people can team up with like-minded urbexers and maybe arrange a trip. It would be up to individual’s weather you want to meet there or travel together. I’m planning to go for three days as I’ve got a lot of ideas for different shots at the monument including night star trails light painting etc. I might go for a bit longer if I can team up with people wanting to do more urbexing in the area. I’m travelling from Scotland. Anyway please e-mail me and I’ll sort out a forum to discuss. Email les@xxxx replace xxxx with lesj.co.uk (to stop email harvesting bots spamming me!)

    • Hey, we are planning to visit it approximately in 19 of June. If you are interested, please feel free to add me in Facebook: Marat Dupri. Cheers from Russia

    • Sounds great, I’ve sent you a friend request.

  23. One more thing, a local guy told me that they have recently blocked all entry ways into the building, have you got any info on this?

    • The last person I know who went there visited the site in late March. They had no problems getting in.

      I spoke to the custodians recently as well – they told me that they don’t actually mind people visiting. The ‘keep out’ signs and blocked entrances are mostly just to avoid accidents and injuries. If, for example, you decide to climb in through the broken window just around the corner to the right (hint hint), then you take responsibility for your own safety.

      Have fun!

    • A quick update: I have been there in August 2013, and they did block every entrance with chains so that it’s really impossible to break in (it was said the building was too dangerous for visitors). I have tried to find another access or a secret door but it was impossible.

      It is still really worthy to go near the building though. I was born in 1988, I haven’t personally experienced what communism means, but I have to stay getting near that building or standing next to the two giant hands at the beginning of the path, really made me realise, more than any book or article I could read, how different those time must have been. I hope they will manage to prevent the building from its destruction.

      Thanks your very much for this post.

      PS- I am looking for high definition pictures of the walls of Veliko Tarnovo church, so as to print them. Would you happen to have that somewhere by any chance?

    • It was possible to get inside until very recently – not breaking in, but climbing through a small hole on one side. However, even that was sealed up last week. It gets harder to enter the building all the time.

      I agree with you though – Buzludzha is still well worth a visit. Even just from the outside, this is one of the most fascinating buildings on the planet, and anyone with an interest in striking, unique architecture really needs to see this place.

      Sadly though, I’m not able to help you with pictures of the church in Tarnovo – though I think I know the building you’re talking about, and it really is quite beautiful.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment!

  24. Hey, really good to read a bit more about Buzludzha in English. Have you got a clue how to get there by public transport? I live in Sliven and could take the bus to Kazanlak and then the Gabrovo one and get off at the monument and right turn. It is still 17km then but do you think there are enough visitors there in may/june/july that i could hitch a ride up? Or is taxi the only option? Thanks and all the best!

    • Hi there, glad you found my site!

      Getting to Buzludzha by public transport might be a little tricky. However, I guess the best way would be a bus to Kazanlak, as you say. Does the Gabrovo bus go up through the Shipka pass? That would make sense, and if so, you should be able to get off at the turning to Buzludzha, just after the village of Kran.

      There is a small hotel just near the monument, the Shipka IT Hotel. There might be some traffic, allowing you to hitch a lift up. There won’t be much though, even in the Summer. Perhaps if you book a night at the hotel, they might agree to drive down and pick you up from the turning? It’s worth asking, the staff there are very kind and welcoming.

      Otherwise, your best option would be to get a taxi from the town of Shipka itself.

      Good luck!

    • Hey, thanks for the answer! Yes, the Gabrovo bus stops straight in front of the steps of the Shipka monument.
      Thanks for the suggestion about the hotel, i’ll send them a message.
      Do you think there are taxis serving the town of Shipka, was there in January and it seemed slightly deserted. Wouldn’t they call one from Kazanlak anyway? Any idea about costs of a taxi up to Buzludzha?
      Regards,
      Sabina

    • OK, great. Good luck with the hotel. I have never been, but I’ve heard lots of good things about them. They recently hosted a film company making a documentary at Buzludzha, and it sounds like they did a lot to help.

      You’re right, Kazanluk is probably a better place to get a taxi. As for price, I don’t know… but this is Bulgaria. It won’t be much.

  25. The Bulgarian text on the outside of the building (“On you feet despised comrades…etc) are the lyrics to song The Internationale. It is a revolutionary song from the 19th century adopted by many socialist/communist/anarchist/leftist political groups. It was also for a while the anthem of the USSR. More details on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Internationale There’s a recent version of it performed with its old-style English lyrics here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtAfIjRKUak and a version of it with a more modern interpretation of the lyrics here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk69e1Vcmvg

  26. Nice pictures, I lived in Bulgaria during the socialis regim (not comunist) and found it very interesting.

    Is a pity that the building is destroyed and despite that was a monument to the Comunist Party, Bulgarians decide to leave it to rot. They do not understand that is part of Bulgaria History either they want it or not.

    Do you think any country would reject part of its history, no matter good or bad? I admire the Germans, they don’t deny what was wrong and they keep those places no matter what happened.

    Congratulations for your site

    JL García

    • That must have been absolutely fascinating… awful, but fascinating.

      I agree with you, and I do admire the Germans for their careful preservation of historical artefacts – even the ugly ones. However, I think it’s difficult to apply the same logic to Bulgaria.

      Many Bulgarians are keen to forget this period of their history, no matter whether or not they understand its importance. Although I think it’s a terrible shame for breathtaking monuments such as this to be allowed to fall into ruin, without sharing their history, I don’t feel comfortable judging them on their decision one way or the other.

  27. wow, it’s amazing how something so monumental can go unknown by so much of the world. I’m planning a post graduation tour through ukraine, moldova, romania, and bulgaria. This is DEFININITELY made the list of things to see, I hope for it to be revived and recreated but not before I can visit the decayed one and do some exploring like you :D Really though, you write so well, I love it.

    • Awesome, glad I was able to inspire you!

      Sounds like an excellent trip you’re planning – there are some truly breathtaking sites to visit in this part of the world. I don’t know if you have seen them, but I have a few posts from Ukraine on here already – and I’ll be uploading reports from my explorations in Romania shortly.

      I agree with you, it would be great to see this site restored – perhaps in the style of the Statue of Mother Russia in Kiev, which now serves as a museum charting the course of Ukraine’s involvement in WWII. However, due to the remote location and the ridiculous amount of money such restorations would cost, I can’t see it happening any time soon.

  28. TheTimeChamber needs to visit here. Superb write up and photos, did you ever go down the shaft you found?

    TTC

    • Thanks, guys! I would highly recommend that you pay a visit sometime…

      As for that shaft, I managed to scramble down there when I went back the week before last. It doesn’t go anywhere as it turns out – just a large square chamber, which is now about waist deep with trapped rain water. I did managed to find a way into some more tunnels that run beneath the saucer itself, though… I’m planning to upload a follow-up report on the site sometime soon.

  29. What an amazing building it must have been in it’s time. The artwork is astonishing. Just … wow. Many argue against the communistic system, but they surely did value the arts far more than the current united states seems to.

    • Well, this is true. Every political system has its strengths and weaknesses, but one thing I have always appreciated about communism is the importance placed on creative traditions – be it art, music, song or dance.

    • I think your idea of “valuing art” may be different from mine. communist leaders in the USSR and China forced artists to paint only Soviet Realist images – farmers, soldiers, workers, all happy, enjoying the unending bounty of Socialism. Someone making other kinds of art risked persecution, and was likely to be sent to reeducation through hard labor, or committed to a mental hospital.

      This museum, in middle of nowhere Uzbekistan, is famous for having one of the largest collections of Soviet art that didn’t meet the regime’s requirements, and could only survive so far away from Moscow. Read about what happened to the artists who created these works. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nukus_Museum_of_Art

      And regarding the appreciation of traditions, have you heard of Pol Pot’s Year Zero in Cambodia? And the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution in China? Every communist government I’ve heard of has made the eradication of tradition one of their primary goals, regardless of how many people need to be killed in the attempt.

      So what is it about the current US that leads you to believe they value art and tradition less than communist countries?

    • Hi David, thanks for your comment.

      I guess you’re mostly aiming your questions at the other commenter, “RoughOne”, as you raise the issue of comparisons to the US – something he mentioned, but I avoided.

      Nevertheless, I can certainly try to answer your questions from my own perspective.

      I have never been to Uzbekistan, though I hope to – and the museum you mentioned has definitely made it onto my list of places to visit, so thanks for that.

      I do have some knowledge of what it was like to be a free-willed artist under a Soviet regime, however – as a side project, I’m currently managing a site for a Bulgarian artist who spent half his life battling the communist authorities. He was rejected from art school no less than seven times, as the entry exam consisted of four tests – portraits, landscapes, Bulgarian language and communist politics.

      This artist would repeated get full marks on the first two sections (you know, the art bit), which one might hope was enough – but his dyslexia meant he never scored well on the written tests, while his anti-authoritarian sentiments – so visible in his art – meant he was never going to be accepted to any position of respect within a communist society.

      Do, please, have a look at the website I’ve made for him:
      Dreams of Rust and Revolution

      I myself am well aware of terrifying movements such as Year Zero, and the Cultural Revolution, in Cambodia and China respectively. As someone with decidedly artist leanings myself, to live in any one of these places would have been a hell for me, I’m sure.

      However, history and geography have blessed me with the ability to judge the results of these movements from an outsider perspective. In the Soviet Union, for example, a coherent movement in art and architecture was almost used as a form of branding for their label of politics – and while I can say that I find it visually appealing, the luxury of my ability to do so, from the outsider perspective I mention, is not lost on me.

      Sometimes on this blog I’ll talk about my appreciation of Soviet art and architecture, and I really do mean it – I love the styles they were creating. However, although I won’t precede every comment with an acknowledgement of the costs, the many independent, rebellious or free-willed artists who were left by the way-side (at best) or persecuted for their artist statements (at worst), that’s not to say it doesn’t trouble me.

      Thanks again for your comment though. It’s a very good point, and something that we should all be aware of when considering the ‘art’ left behind in the wake of such regimes.

    • Yeah, mostly aimed at the comment about art in communist countries vs. in America. But also about valuing tradition. I see what you mean, that art was valued in communist countries, but from my understanding that was strictly as a tool for propaganda, for controlling the masses and glorifying the party. Art outside of what was allowed (required) was destroyed, and the artists punished, often losing their freedom or their lives. The museum in Nukus is amazing precisely for that reason – if the communists had their way it wouldn’t have existed. So yes, communist art is fascinating, it shows talent by it’s creators, but I don’t think it demonstrates any positive traits of communist regimes.

      Anyway, great article. When you’re in Nukus it’s not too far north to the former Aral Sea, and south to Darvaza Gas Crater, which make for equally visits as eerie as Buzludzha. :)

    • You’re absolutely right, and I can’t emphasise enough how I realise I’m able to appreciate the Soviet aesthetics from an outside perspective. It’s impossible to say how much art was lost, how many artistic voices silenced by the various regimes inspired by Marxist doctrine… and it isn’t much, in comparison, to be able to say that their state sanctioned art was at least visually pleasing in itself!

      Nukus has definitely made it onto my list. I was in Kazakhstan in 2012 and had originally planned to visit the Aral Sea… and if possible, get to Vozrozhdeniya Island. I never quite made it though, so perhaps I’ll do the trip from the south sometime instead.

      And of course, Darvaza…! I would dearly love to see that place for myself.

  30. OH. MY. GOD.
    The interiors are way much better than i just could wonder. August is near: real socialism, here i come!

    • Photos do nothing to convey the experience of actually being inside that place! Let me know if you’re ever heading towards Bulgaria…

  31. Outstanding!

    • Thanks Gerv, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it…

  32. Wonderful Post, Amazing content…thanks so much for sharing!

  33. Great write up, amazing history and pictures to match

  34. I am beginning to run out of superlatives to sufficiently describe how impressed I am with your adventures. Along with the usual wealth of information and photographs, the extra links that bolster this report with historical and geo-political detail really help give the reader a sense of how this amazing structure impacted on the area.
    It is gratifying that there is someone who sees it as a worthwhile project to return the monument to it’s former glory, no matter how unlikely that may seem to westerners. Some of these old communist edifices really are astonishing architectural masterpieces, and it is a shame that they’re not widely known. Many congratulations on bringing them to a wider audience.

    • I am beginning to run out of superlatives to sufficiently describe how insanely flattering your comments are. Thank you, though – I completely agree with you that architectural wonders such as this as grossly overlooked by most of the world.

      I personally would love to see the monument returned to its former glory, though not necessarily as a tool of the revivalist socialist movement.

      However, it may perhaps work as a museum, in the same way that the Museum of the Great Patriotic War has been built beneath the towering statue of Mother Russia in Kiev. The striking appearance of the building alone, I believe, would be enough to induce a lot of visitors to make the journey up Mount Buzludzha.

See all 94 comments on “Mount Buzludzha: Bulgaria’s Communist Party Headquarters”

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