Have you read and listened about it? Perhaps you have seen movies focusing on the dramatic stand-off between the two powerhouses of the world at the time – the US and the Soviet Union. You probably know about the arms race, the never ending competition between them, constantly designing more and better weapons and ways to destroy each other. You also likely know about the space race, the start of humankind’s exploration of the so-called final frontier. If you come from the West, you would have been exposed to propaganda about the evil communists whose main objective was to destroy your peaceful and prosperous way of life. If you come from the East, you would have been constantly flooded with propaganda about the evil capitalists, who live and breathe to ruin your attempt at a just and perfect social system. But have you ever wondered how the regular citizen of the “Empire of Evil”, as per Ronald Reagan, actually lived like? If yes, then… The Red Flat is here!
In April we opened The Red Flat; a downtown apartment in Sofia, which is designed to teleport you back to the 80’s and explore the life of a fictional Bulgarian family, Petrovi or the Petrovs. There you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the last decade of the Cold War. You will also listen to stories covering the everyday activities, work, school, fun and games, dreams and aspirations of Elena, Plamen and their son Boyan. You are not just welcome, but encouraged to explore and play with the objects you will see in their home. In about an hour and a half you will get a comprehensive picture of life in socialist Bulgaria.
We at the 365 Association have strived to present an ever more complete picture of our history and culture to our guests. Starting back in 2010 we have the Free Sofia Tour and Free Plovdiv Tour; the general sightseeing walking tours of our country’s two main cities. We also have the Communist Tour and Culture Tour in Sofia, the Plovdiv Arts & Crafts District Tour, the Sofia Alternative Experience, showing different facets of what we, the locals, are all about. Just this spring we also launched the Sofia Jewish Tour; focusing on the long and unique history of the Jewish community in our country. So The Red Flat appeared as the most natural addition to the overall story we want to tell.
Communism is an important topic and a crucial aspect of our story as a nation. As post World War II Europe split into two hostile factions, Bulgaria found itself in the Soviet sphere of influence. Therefore, the communist ideology shaped half a century of our history. At the time some saw it as a radical means to do away with unbearable and omnipresent social injustice. Others, regarded it as ill-conceived and socially destructive. Communist regimes in Europe collapsed at the end of the 80’s. Memories of those days have started fading away or changing shape. However, the effects on culture and mentality are still present and therefore an important part of what defines us today.
Although Bulgaria was never actually a part of the Soviet Union, it was one of the Eastern Bloc Soviet satellites, together with the likes of East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. All of them shared a common ideology – communism, and very similar economic, political and social systems. At the same time, every country had its own peculiarities and unique characteristics. Because of the great interest in the topic, in 2015 we started our Communist Tour, which has now been running for four years to great acclaim. However, it focuses mostly on the big picture, big events, big personalities.
We got so many questions about the everyday life of regular people. That’s why we decided we need to show what it was like. So, there you have it! We cooperated with architect Valeri Gyurov, owner of Gifted Urban Culture Hub. We had one goal – to create a real life communist era experience for you.
You can visit it every day from 10:30 am to 7:30 pm (last admission 6 pm). Just go to Gifted on 24 Ivan Denkoglu street and meet your host! Admission costs 18 BGN (9 EUR) per person.
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Me encantaría hacer el tour comunista en español,¿ hay alguno disponible? Voy a viajar en octubre
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The Red Flat’s front door might just as well be a time portal to the 19. As you enter the apartment, you’re instantly teleported to the private world of the Petrovi family for an audio-guided, true-to-life journey back in time.
I find it interesting that you say “Bulgaria found itself in the Soviet sphere of influence”. That glosses over the fact that the Soviets invaded Bulgaria and subsequently supported brutal repressions, disappearances, forced labour camps, and murders of dissidents as well as intellectuals.
I strongly encourage everyone to watch a recent documentary about Bulgaria 1944-47 during which they discuss the brutal Soviet occupation in Bulgaria. They discuss how in those years, the Soviet invasion and occupation was indeed called an occupation.
Only a couple of years later, under the direction of the Soviets, the Communist Party in Bulgaria stopped referring to the occupation as one and instead adopted the Soviet talking points. The fact is that the Soviets along with the Communist Party in Bulgaria were directly responsible for co-opting and re-writing certain aspects of Bulgarian history. You do not seem to confront this historical fact at all. The fact that you gloss over Communist erasure and subversion of history, and then sanitize it through this purportedly “real life” view of Communism in Bulgaria in the 1980s only makes you an ideologue.
Anyone who views the spectacle of the “Red Flat” should be aware that you are viewing a sanitized, white-washed view of Communism without any problematization of the absolute brutality of the Soviets and their Communist compatriots in Bulgaria.
Thank you for your comment! The feedback of our guests is of utmost importance to us. The intention and purpose of the Red Flat is to portray the everyday life and lifestyle of an average Sofia family during the last decade of the communist regime in Bulgaria. For a broader historical review and context we provide another service, namely the Communist Tour, which discusses how and why Bulgaria became a communist country, including a discussion of the Soviet invasion, as well as subsequent continued violent practices.
The Free Sofia Tour Team