Buzludzha during winter time

Buzludzha, Relic of the Bulgarian Soviet Past

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

A little over two years ago, before coming to live in Cameroon, I lived in Bulgaria, a small country in the Balkan peninsula, nestled between Greece and Romania and Serbia and Turkey.

In facts, a small country in size, but with a vibrant history and traditions that date back thousands of years before our era.

What I will tell you about today concerns a relatively recent page of Bulgaria and goes back to the time when the world was still divided into two powerful blocs: The Western bloc and the Soviet bloc.

Today I decided to tell you about a building straight out of the communist era that will delight all fans of urban exploration: The Buzludzha Monument.

Aerial view of the Buzludzha Monument

Buzludzha, the historical and geographical background

It is impossible to tell the story of Buzludzha without first placing the historical context in which the rise of socialism in Bulgaria took place.

Everything started with one man: Dimitar Blagoev (1856-1924), one of the great thinkers, theorists, and founders of the communist political ideology in Bulgaria. It was he who founded the Bulgarian Communist Party.

I will spare you the details, but you should know that several socialist factions existed then. So, to make the ideological current stronger and more structured, Blagoev decided in 1891 to unite these different factions into the same organization: the Bulgarian socialist organization.

This unification took place in the country’s central location, at the top of a mountain that was already called at the time, Mount Buzludzha.

In addition to the convenience of the place, the surrounding mountains are also symbols steeped in history since they were the scene of military victories during the Russo-Ottoman war, the outcome of which marked Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman regime in March 3rd, 1878.

For more historical details about Blagoev and the mountain, I strongly recommend you to visit this site.

It was in 1961, seventy years after the unification of socialist factions by Blagoev, that three monuments were erected as a commemoration. Georgi Stoilov, an architect by profession, proposed a fourth monument that congress did not retain on that date.

We brought the project out of the boxes ten years later to prepare the ninetieth edition of this anniversary date.

That is how the construction of the site began in 1974, and the building was officially inaugurated in 1981 under the name: Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

Experts estimate today that the construction cost approximately sixty-three million current American dollars.

People have used the building for about ten years. When officials were not utilizing it for ceremonies or commemorations, it served as a public museum with free entry for the people.

Nevertheless, with the crumbling of the communist regime and the fall of the Eastern bloc, at the end of the 80s, celebrations and commemorations ceased, and the building was gradually abandoned to be left to itself.

Looters started coming to collect all what they could find there.

The authorities then decided to close the monument so that no one could return to loot and also avoid accidents caused by potential falling objects.

That is how started the sad end of the public Buzludzha monument …

The building was no longer free to access and may have seemed dead. But it was without counting on the fans of urban exploration who succeeded one another so that the memory of the site lasts, taking on an almost mystical dimension.

Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures

This sentence is the motto of urbexers. People passionate about urban exploration (Urbex contracted) who have as a hobby the exploration and discovery of abandoned places, sometimes discovering true little treasures there.

The places we visit are often difficult to access and sometimes require fundamental skills to overcome obstacles. For example, climbing, jumping, or crawling during an outing is common. And we love that! It is fun and challenging.

Urbex outings are also an opportunity for us to take a leap into the past and imagine these places that are now uninhabited at a time when they were still teeming with life.

In addition to the excitement and adrenaline these outings give us, it is not uncommon to feel a certain nostalgia witnessing for real the ineluctable passage of time.

A real urbexer does not degrade or influence the spot in which he is. He doesn’t bring anything back as items or leave trash or tags. He is someone who respects his environment and the place in which he finds himself.

Urbex inside Buzludzha

Buzludzha from inside

As mentioned above, the authorities have officially closed the Buzludzha site to the public for security reasons. Nevertheless, when I was in Bulgaria (2012-2021), it was still possible to go through detours, sometimes very acrobatic, to enter the building.

After climbing and crawling for a few minutes, the magic happened: we climbed the ragged stairs to reach the dome where a whole mosaic fresco in a typical communist-era style awaited us.

I also had the opportunity to climb to the top of the tower hosting the red star dominating the valleys of southern and northern Bulgaria.

I apologize for the poor quality of the following photos. They are from an old series that I posted on Facebook at the time (2013), and of which I have lost the original files. So I re-downloaded my Facebook album to be able to use these photos.

A New Life for Buzludzha?

From the last info I have, a foundation: Buzludzha Project, has launched a renovation project to bring the tired flying saucer back to life.

Renovation work has even begun and is progressing fast.

I do not have an opinion if this is good or bad for the site. But what is certain is that I am grateful that I was able to discover this abandoned site at any season.

The Buzludzha monument will remain in my heart a mythical site steeped in history, witness to a bygone past, the seat of memorable memories and fabulous adventures with great friends.

Time continues its course ineluctably …