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History of Communism in Europe

Volume 1, 2010

Politics of Memory in Post-communist Europe

Radostina Sharenkova
Pages 65-82
DOI: 10.7761/HCE.1.65

Forget-me(-not): Visitors and Museum Presentations about Communism Before 1989

This essay opens up the question about museum presentations during the communist rule in Bulgaria that were arranged to materially prove the official state ideology. Their collections should validate the governing party’s pretences for historical continuity. Two museum institutions shall be discussed: “The Museum of Working Class Revolution”1 and the “Museum of Constructing Socialism”2. Both of them are analyzed as a propaganda machine for the dissemination of the party messages from the point of view of visitors’ perceptions of the recent communist past… Such museum presentations, normally part of the regional history museums or having a national status, were born with the regime and lived out some years after its end in 1989 when they were sentenced to “death” or closed behind the repositories’ walls. Two decades after 1989, Bulgaria still doesn’t have a separate museum space for presenting its recent past. In contrast, pre-1989 museum presentations about communism registered extraordinary numbers of visitors that later in the 1990s suddenly disappeared. Are people still interested in supporting official museums’ narratives about communism? This article offers an anthropological analysis of the former visitors’ motivation and memories about the communist presentations 20 years after their close. The research here has tried to provoke memory. It also attempted to find the reasons why people would consciously forget.