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A link to the interview only:

The nostalgia of communism

TV show: ‘’The Day Starts with Culture’’

TH – The Television host

K - Krasimira Butseva

TH: Our show continues with a topic related to the socialist nostalgia in relation to one, or

two projects of the young photographer Krasimira Butseva who lives in the United Kingdom.

TH: Hello and welcome!

K: Hello!

TH: I think it is good to have this conversation right now. What is your opinion about the

destiny of the monument in front of the National Palace of Culture? Of course, you may not

share your thoughts, if you would like.

K: I think that it should be preserved. Because it is somehow architectural work, a sculpture

– and despite the period in which it was made. I think that this is my opinion about all of the

monuments from the Socialist time, because they are all works of art done by artists despite

the fact that they were commissioned by the government or someone else. I don’t think the

monuments should be destroyed, they are our culture.

TH: Calling them ‘’monuments’’ at the end of the day, they are related to our memory and

reminding us something. Actually your works is exploring how memory works for this period

of time. But not a memory that just preserves and collects, but a memory that realizes and

thinks, we can see this from the tittles of your practice – we can see the word Utopia and

Unhappy i.e. you are already giving your thoughts about this time. Could we start from

Slices of Red? This is what we see behind us.

K: Yes, this project is inspired by personal family stories with which I grew up, but which I’ve

never seen as different or interesting. Only because they were told to me when I was little,

as any other person in my age would have heard the stories of communism from their

family. But when I left for England and spend a few years there, I started to see the world

very different from how I used to when I was living here, the world in which I grew up and

these stories started to impress me. Especially when any of these stories are told to

someone in England, for them they sounded very absurd. No one believed me that this

happened in my country and to my parents, and that it didn’t happen hundred years ago.

And this was when I decided to try and create an image, an impression of the experience of

communism from my point of view, because the stories I am using are very specific. But the

feelings and memories are the same as how other people have experienced them not only

in Bulgaria but in any other Soviet Republic.

TH: By the way, you know what worries me in your work and specifically the way you write

in your work, that in these individual stories and subjective ways to live the socialist time,

you are trying to make a collective story that will sound universal.

K: Yes.

TH: Aren’t you risking here, because no matter what the time is there is no way for a story

to be collective and universal?

K: Yes, you are completely right. But one of the stories in my book is from my Grandmother

and the story itself is about the nationalization – which is a process that happened in every

family, not to every person but in every family. Which was a process when the government

took people’s houses, hotels, businesses etc. And in that sense, I was seeing this as a

universal, because it happened to a lot of people. Even though the story I am telling is from

my grandmother who shared her personal memory, the feeling and experience is the same.

Some of the other stories are from my father, who used to be a rebel – he wasn’t against

the regime but he was following what he thought was right. And I think that there is a big

part of the people who wanted to express themselves no matter if they are against or

supporting the communist system. And in that sense that the stories are universal not


TH: I was a teenager in the 80s and this reminds me of what you are saying. I’ve always

wanted to wear long hair at school and this wasn’t a revolution against the system, but it

was a big problem for them and this is a fact. And the accent in the Utopian, another of your


K: I am exploring the nostalgia of the Bulgarian society.

TH: Is this nostalgia fake?

K: I don’t think so. There are many different points of view which I’ve explored regarding

this topic. For example, I would never blame the people for being nostalgic, because I

completely understand them and why are they feeling like this.

TH: We are nostalgic for our childhood. The fact that it happened to be in that system

doesn’t mean that we are nostalgic for the period.

K: Yes, this is one of the reasons. Despite the repressions and restrictions of the communist

time, for which people are completely aware this is what have formed their individualities

and identities. Also, they have lived their childhood and adolescence through that time and

they will always want to go back there no matter from which country they are and despite

the conditions they have lived in.

TH: I don’t know if you are regularly in Sofia. But have you noticed that on the buildings in

the centre the graffiti aren’t the communist symbols but are the swastika. Do you think this

is nostalgia?

K: No, I think this is a kind of illiteracy.

TH: Yes, because the people drawing them haven’t been born in the 50s.

K: Yes, I don’t think they even know what they mean. They probably know what they

reference but that will be pretty much their whole knowledge. I think this is a way for them

to show they are rebels, rather than a well-thought decision.

TH: You are visiting labour camps from the 50s and photographing them? What is the

feeling of doing this?

K: Now, I am working on my final work for my Master’s degree, which is for the labour

camps. My family is not related to any of these events, but last summer very randomly I

watched a short film about the camps and after that I was very shocked. Because I had no

clue about these things, this information has never reached me from the media, news,

television, school or my parents. And this made me feel as if I must try to tell this story again

and see what happened with these places. And specifically, to capture the passage of time

on these places. Some of the buildings are remaining on some of the locations, while others

are completely empty without a trace that something had happened there and now they

have turned into beautiful landscapes. But even where there are remains the nature has

taken over.

TH: I want to ask you a bad question, not a nice one. How old are you?

K: I am 23 years old.

TH: And have you studied in Bulgaria before going to University?

K: Yes.

TH: And were there lessons about communism in your history book?

K: Yes, they were. But they were at the end of the book which was studied at the end of the

year too when no one is paying that much attention. Communism has been mentioned, but

wasn’t studied in depth.

TH: So, you think that every young person should have a duty to remember and preserve

what the education officially hasn’t given or explained to them.

K: I don’t think so, not really. I think that it is good for people to be informed despite of their

age even. Because the new information expands the way you see the world and then you

look at some things in another way and become interested in other things or you start to

understand why the place you live in is such. Because the past is the core of our present.

TH: The problem is that for the close past there is no consensus in Bulgaria yet therefore

this is still handing and left behind.

TH: On what else are you currently working now? Where could we see your work in


K: In September, on the 15


, 16


and 17


there will be a group show in Plovdiv a part of

the Night of Museums and Galleries festival. The show will be with me and four other

photographers who are Bulgarian as well and whom I’ve met at University in England. We

are all exploring Bulgaria – different aspects of the country and there I’ll show the project

Slices of Red.

TH: Okay, great! When September approaches, we’ll remind our viewers to stop by your

show in Plovdiv. Thank you very much for visiting us! And wish you good luck.

K: Thank you too.

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