> Buzludja <

Bulgarian Balkans, October 1st, 2013.

I was walking for some time now, following an icy road running through a dense forest to reach the windy, treeless part of this white mountain. Alone with my guide. The weather was unusually cold for this part of the season, even at an altitude of 1400 m. The cold wind was burning our lungs, the heavy fog was reducing the visibility to minimum distances, making our progression difficult... when I bumped into something not natural. A human construction. In the middle of nowhere. It might be it. It must be it. Yes. The gate is here, discovering giants stairs disappearing in the cold mist. It has been here for several decades. The visibility is getting worse and worse but I have to reach it. Is it still far? Climbing the stairs one by one with difficulties, protecting my face from the glacial wind, when suddenly the fog cracked and it appeared above me. A dark and impressive shadow in the whiteness. Like a gigantic UFO. The surprise made me step back and I stopped for a while, my heart wildly beating. The monument of peak Buzludja, the abandoned house of the Bulgarian communist party. I am welcome by what remains from the popular socialist anthem 'The Internationale' written in old Bulgarian around the main entrance. Going around it, I realize the giantism of the construction, composed of a large congress hall and a 70 m high rectangular tower ornamented at its top with the symbol of communism, two huge (12 m) red stars on each side. The entire monument is imprisoned in ice, symbol of an abandoned ideology. However, I have the feeling that it can wake up at any time. I am alone here but I see shadows around me. Most probably the fog passing in front of the surrounding trees. I also hear crying voices... maybe the souls of the 7500 Bulgarian and Russian soldiers who defeated more than 35000 Ottoman in a bloody battle 150 years ago. Most probably the wind that rushes into the narrow corridors and along the concrete walls. Or maybe not. Whatever you might think, the energy I felt at the top of this mountain that day was strong. The extreme conditions maybe amplified this feeling but I know that I will remember it all my life. Hopefully I can share it a little bit with you through these photographs.

This monument was build at the top of the peak Buzludja (Turkish: Buzluca - lit. meaning "glacially/icy") to commemorate the founder of the Bulgarian communist party, Dimitar Blagoev, and other comrades who assembled secretly there in 1891 to form an organised movement. The place was chosen because it was where the final battle between Bulgarian rebels and the Ottoman Empire occurred in 1868. After 7 years of construction by more than 6000 workers and at the cost of an enormous amount of money, the monument was opened in 1981. It now falls into disuse since the fall of the regime in 1989. There are plenty of such monuments that remain from the communist past in Bulgaria and the government does not know what to do with them. Should them be destroyed or renovated and preserved? The question continues to feed the debate between pro- and anti-communists in the whole country.

R. Dejarnac (c) 2013.