x-feat Communist Party Headquarters Buzludzha

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 is like something out of a 1950s sci-fi movie.

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Perched on a high promontory of the Balkan Mountains, this otherworldly bastion resembles a great concrete saucer, adorned with rousing socialist slogans.

Now abandoned, the site has become something of a Mecca for urban exploration in Bulgaria; however, despite the number of striking photographs of Buzludzha in online circulation, it seems that few people have yet taken the time to decode the rich history and significance of the monument – or in some cases, to explore further than the main chamber. As a result, it was my intention to dig a little deeper into the story of Buzludzha… presenting here its past, its future, exploring every corner of the complex, and translating every written word.

The Bulgarian Socialist Movement

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 socialist revolutionaries such as Dimitar Blagoev met secretly to lay the foundations for the Bulgarian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party – a precursor for the Bulgarian Communist Party.

House-Monument-Bulgarian-Communist-Party-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-2The House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party was opened 90 years later in 1981, to commemorate both the 1878 liberation from Turkish rule, and the 1944 victory against Hitler’s fascist domination of the country. It was also to serve as headquarters for the Bulgarian Communist Party, who were keen to associate themselves with the nation’s historic heroes.

Construction of the striking monument cost in excess of 16,000,000 Bulgarian Levs – that’s almost £7,000,000. The majority of this money came in the form of suggested donations, collected from the Bulgarian people by state officials. There are more than 150 Soviet monuments scattered across the country, but Buzludzha is by far the largest – and the most extravagant – of them all.

The saucer-shaped monument rises to a height of 107m, and was designed by the architect 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 star which adorns the tower of Buzludzha was three times larger than that at the Kremlin, and in its heyday, the site was considered one of the greatest icons of the communist world.

Bulgarian Communism came to an end in 1989 and the monument at Buzludzha, being the property of the communist party, was inherited by the state in 1991.

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In my last report on a soviet monument, the Park-Monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship, I decided to provide a fitting soundtrack… and due to the positive feedback I received, I’m doing it again. That time it was Shostakovich’s Seventh. This time, I’ve decided to go with a little Prokofiev.

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev is perhaps best known for his ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’, but during the time he spent living in the USSR, he also composed a number of works on behalf of the communist party. These included the rousing ‘Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution‘, as well as ‘Zdravitsa‘, a somewhat nauseating piece that he was ‘invited’ to score on the occasion of Joseph Stalin’s 60th birthday. Here however, I’ve chosen to set the mood with his funeral hymn, taken from the Soviet opera ‘Semyon Kotko’; an inspiring piece of communist composition, based on Valentin Katayev’s 1937 novel, ‘I, Son of Working People’.

Hit play when you’re ready, and then read on.

The Buzludzha Monument

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 1441m, and 12km away from the Shipka Pass. Here, in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees, a garrison of 7,500 Bulgarians and Russians successfully repelled 38,000 marauding Turks in 1877, during the epic Battle of Shipka Pass.

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Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Communist-Party-Headquarters-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-40-DRHowever, the road from Shipka was blocked by heavy snow drifts on this occasion, despite the mild Spring climate. Instead we were forced to approach the mountain from the sunnier South side, taking the turn-off close to the town of Kazanluk, and Bulgaria’s Rose Valley.

Having driven as close as possible, the last leg is on foot – and past a severe-looking sign, which reads: “Passing is absolutely forbidden! DANGEROUS SITE!”

From here a flagstone path winds its way along the top of the mountain ridge, until passing over the crest, you catch first sight of the bizarre object beyond. The sheer size of the monument is staggering, and, combined with the bizarre contours of its design, there is 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 is here that the party faithful would have gathered for rallies and public addresses. On either side of the stone stairs stood great, sculpted flames… all that remains of these now, are featureless weather-worn husks.

Scrawled above the main entrance in red paint, Latin characters spell out the phrase ‘FORGET YOUR PAST’, flanked on either side by powerful socialist stanzas emblazoned in Bulgarian Cyrillic. Many of the letters have long since disappeared, their message fading into obscurity. What remains however, are rousing calls for a socialist uprising, written in an old Bulgarian tongue; terms such as “на крак” for “on your feet” and “нех” for “yes”, have long since fallen from common vernacular, and their usage would have been intended to stir the embers of Bulgaria’s proud and independent past.

Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Communist-Party-Headquarters-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-3-DR“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…”

Only one door allows access to the building, the entrance to the tower having been securely bricked up many years ago. Stepping across this threshold, through the gateway of bold socialist propaganda and into the darkness beyond, feels a little like passing through the gates of hell.

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The first impression is one of roaring noise and darkness. All Winter long, Buzludzha has been buried in heavy snow – so that now the Spring thaw is causing the accumulated drifts to melt, and torrents of water cascade down walls and stairwells, or fall in noisy rivulets from the ceiling.

Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Communist-Party-Headquarters-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-33-DRWherever the water is allowed to sit for more than a moment it freezes; so that the floor of the monument is encrusted with a thick layer of ice. In some places the concrete is literally falling apart, where moisture has found its way into fine cracks, expanding as it freezes.

From the dark, low-ceilinged entrance chamber, three double flights of steps reach up to the higher level. These, along with the main entrance, are placed so as to mark the four compass points.

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At this point, things start to get dangerous.

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

It feels a little like climbing a frozen waterfall, and inevitably I find myself crawling on hands and knees, clutching at outcrops of brick for leverage. Turning the first corner, a slogan is 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 opens up into the main auditorium… revealing the monument’s dramatic centrepiece.

The main chamber of Buzludzha is a breathtaking sight to behold.

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This vast, circular conference hall is surrounded by low benches, many obscured beneath the drifting snow. The once proud ceiling is no more than a metal exoskeleton now, a rusting shell, adorned in the centre with a vast hammer and sickle. Around the outside, the walls are inlaid with fine mosaic designs. Some of the colourful murals show scenes of labour and the construction of the monument itself, while others depict 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 Soviet ice rink.

On the far wall you may notice three familiar faces, portrayed in richly coloured tile. From left to right the images depict Engels, Marx and, of course, Lenin.

Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Communist-Party-Headquarters-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-29-DRMeanwhile, taking pride of place on the wall behind the prime council seats, there appear another three portraits. The image on the left has been removed with painstaking care, and would appear to have been a likeness of Todor Zhivkov – communist president 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 protests of his citizens; this is one explanation for the removal of his face. Another story has it that he ordered his own face removed in 1991, in an effort to distance himself from the collapsing Soviet regime.

Placed centrally, Dimitar Blagoev was an idealist and philosopher, often credited as the founder of Bulgarian socialism, and later a key figure in the communist party of Bulgaria. A statue of him marks the turning to Buzludzha, from the main road south of the mountains.

Finally, on the far right we have Georgi Dimitrov. Another Bulgarian Communist politician, Dimitrov led the People’s Republic of Bulgaria in the early years, from 1946 to 1949.

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From here, regularly spaced arches lead out onto the perimeter walkway. This circular passage is now bare and windowless, left open to the ravaging elements of the mountain pass. Many of the murals here have weathered beyond recognition, but those that remain display similar images of victory and prosperity.

Both the central chamber and these encircling walkways are 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 steel the size of a road sign.

Here a group of murals show a common image. On the right are young Russian soldiers, marching to Bulgaria’s aid once again. On the left, they are welcomed by a group of Bulgarian women, who stand offering them gifts of bread, salt and flowers. A similar theme is illustrated by the concrete statues at the Park-Monument to Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship.

Between the two groups, the central image is likely to represent the ancient Slavic creator deity, Rod, known in the Bulgarian pantheon as ‘Stopan’ – used here as a symbol of Bulgaria’s ancestral power, and of the cumulative force of a united socialist movement.

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The Bowels of Buzludzha

While most visitors to Buzludzha seem to be interested only in the outside of the building, its conference room and its walkways, there exist a further network of passages and tunnels, which, from the heavy build-up of accumulated snow, and sparkling, frost encrusted spider webs, appear as though unexplored in many years.

Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Communist-Party-Headquarters-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-26-DRThe cavernous bowels of Buzludzha can be reached from several discrete entrances, branching off from the main walkways. Here there is no light, and so it is necessary to traverse the treacherous ice in darkness, making for very slow progress. Some of these passages lead swiftly to dead-ends – boiler rooms, stores and lavatories, thick with snow. One 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 falls away, to reveal the curved lower hull of the saucer. This wider space runs almost the entire circumference of the monument, serving as a conduit for the air-conditioning system – red ducts for hot air, blue for cold.

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 deep down into the ground. Beneath me I could see a tunnel, which appeared to continue in the direction of the bricked-up tower.

Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Communist-Party-Headquarters-Buzludzha-Bulgaria-9-DRWhile I was deeply tempting to try and pursue a way inside the foreboding tower of Buzludzha, the adverse conditions made it an unrealistic option on this visit – with every concrete surface covered in two inches of hard, compacted ice, and working as I was in absolute darkness, even if I had managed to climb down the shaft without suffering injury, climbing back out again would have been impossible. Another day, perhaps…

I made my way back out, passing once more through the central chamber. This time I paused to read the inscription written around the magnificent hammer and sickle, emblazoned high above;

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

The next problem of course, was getting out – down the deadly flights of ice-encrusted concrete 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, I stumbled across an effective, if not so elegant solution; sitting down on the top step I pushed off, and found that I cleared each flight of twenty steps in less than a second.

The Future of Buzludzha

It might be hard to envisage a future for the House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The damage that has been allowed to happen to the site, the results of poor maintenance and an inhospitable setting, is bordering on irreparable. However, there are those who would like to see the Buzludzha monument returned to its former glory.

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During my visit to the site, a group of four Bulgarian men came to take a look at the moment. They seemed unconcerned that I was trespassing inside a state structure, and expressed more worry for my safety.

One of these men was an architect, and claimed he had been involved in the original construction of the site; he was here now giving the grand tour to a prospective buyer. Bulgaria still features a strong socialist current, and from his comments, this potential investor’s interests were political, rather than purely aesthetic in nature.

He talked about restoring the decrepit monument to its former glory, describing it as a sight that every Bulgarian should look up at with pride. Commenting on the structural decay of the site, he said,

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

It’s true – 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. However, it is not for visitors to pass judgement on this seeming negligence, as so many Western Europeans have; one might just as easily criticise the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square, Baghdad as the work of philistines.

Perhaps for many, it would be preferable after all to simply ‘forget your past’, as the graffitied slogan recommends.

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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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…

  15. 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…

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. Hi,

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

  19. 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!

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

    Les

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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…

  30. Outstanding!

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

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

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

  33. 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 84 comments on “Mount Buzludzha: Bulgaria’s Communist Party Headquarters”

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