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.