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Civil Initiative by journalist Hristo Hristov and the “Konrad Adenaeur” foundation


The site “Memory 1944-1989” is a joint project between journalist Hristo Hristov, founder of the internet sites desebg.com and agentibg.com and the Sofia bureau of the "Konrad Andenauer” foundation. It was developed between June and November, 2015, and has been operational since the middle of December, 2015. It will be officially launched at the end of January, 2016.


Project aims


The project aims to preserve the memory of the victims of the totalitarian communist regime in Bulgaria between 1944 and 1989, notwithstanding their views, convictions, political affiliation, social status or religious confession. This is achieved by means of creating a special site (pametbg.com), a modern online platform with broad capabilities to systematise the crimes of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) and the construction of a single data base for data and information about the victims. With the aid of an inbuilt expanded search system, it can be used freely in a rapid, easy and accessible way.  

At the beginning of the transition to a democratic regime, the victims of the communist regime were hastily shifted to the periphery of public attention, not only because of the uncomfortable truth about the repressions of the totalitarian dictatorship, but due to the lack of culture and tradition in Bulgarian national memory and are in danger of being forgotten.

The political and social debate during the next two decades has become corrupted and perverted, to the extent that the real victims have been forgotten, and the public media have become comfortably and enduringly occupied by collaborators of the former State Security Services. They have manipulated the past and presented themselves as “victims” of the legal process of access to the archives revealing their secret operational or agent activity during the communist regime.

The few inconsequential legal and civil initiatives aimed at overcoming the communist heritage in Bulgaria have been insufficient to create a culture of memory for the thousands of people who paid with their lives and other thousands who endured physical and psychological repressions due to their convictions, views, belief and free will contradicting with the totalitarian communist ideology and regime.


Filling the institutional void of knowledge about the victims and activating family memory


The site “MEMORY 1944-1989” is a civil initiative. However, it has the ambition of filling the institutional void, indifference and silence in Bulgaria, a reinterpretation of the communist dictatorship and improving the culture of respect for people who endured repressions during the totalitarian regime by providing free access to knowledge and information about the fate of the victims. By providing this information to society, we aim to launch and support the process of the moral condemnation of the anti-humane nature of the communist regime.

“MEMORY 1944-1989” brings together the accumulated research in Bulgaria after the end of the communist regime and aims to provide an objective source of facts and proof of the totalitarian regime, and to piece together the disparate elements of the puzzle of its crimes and victims. The site is founded on the spirit and understanding of key documents in this area and the missives of significant European public initiatives and institutions, such as:

  • Resolution 1418 (2006) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the need for international condemnation of the crimes of the totalitarian communist regime;
  • The Prague Declaration, “European Conscience and Communism” (2008);
  • Resolution of the European Parliament, “European Conscience and Totalitarianism” (2009).

The site aims to provoke and challenge the descendants of the victims who have preserved the family memory of their relatives, friends and families and who were victims of the communist regime. Whether they live in Bulgaria or abroad, they are invited to reveal and share their experiences by providing evidence in the form of information, archives, documents or photographs which will be published in “MEMORY 1944 – 1989”.

The project is carried out by a small team of students and members of the public whose activities is coordinated by the journalist, Hristo Hristov. The Commission for Archives of the State Agency “Archives” is also actively involved.



Acknowledgements


Thanks to the "Konrad Adenauer” foundation and the director of its Sofia Bureau (2011 – 2015), Dr. Marko Ardnt for his support and the active position in the European and Bulgarian debate about revealing the truth of the totalitarian communist regimes and their victims in their countries of Central and Eastern Europe and reinterpretation of this period by supporting various meaningful initiatives by representatives of the civil society in Bulgaria.

Thanks to Petar Bogdanov Auchagen from Cologne, Germany for being the first donor. He not only supported the idea for such a site, but also helped with its creation (see his message – HERE).

Thanks to Mrs. Krasimira Tasheva from Sofia, and Mr. Stoicho Stoev from Varna who were the first members of the public to share information about the fate and repressions of their fathers, Ivan Tashev and Andon Andonov, and that they provided me with access to their family archives and photographs. This is an example for other descendants who would like to share their family memory in a way which it could be shared with more people. Thanks also to Mr. Petko Chorbadzhiev who presented the first written evidence about repressions of his relatives describing their experience  of forced resettlement.

Thanks also to the site developer for the efforts and professionalism in the creation of this marvellous product and the students who have been working on extracting the information about the victims of the communist regime from the documents in the State Agency “Archives” and the Commission on Files (their names have not been mentioned for reasons of their personal security, since regrettably in Bulgaria there are still opponents of the process of the revelation of the truth about communism, which even a quarter of a century after its collapse could still harm them in one way or another). Thanks to Emiliyan Bogdanov for preparing the profiles of the victims by systematising the information from documents of the State Security Services, Military Intelligence and memoirs.

Thanks to the actor, Rusi Chanev, for his valuable advice and his participation in the special video clip on this site, and also the entire team who participated in its production: Dimitar Kotsev-Shosho, producer; camera operator, Ventsilav Neshev; composer of the music, Victor Stoyanov, and Zoritsa Kotseva, editor. Thanks also to Father Paolo Cortesi and Mihail Marinov for their hospitality and assistance in photographing in Belene and Persin island.

Thanks also to the translators, Professor Ana Dimova and Dr. David Mossop, who accepted the difficult task of presenting the information contained in “MEMORY 1944-1989” in German and English, thus making it accessible outside the borders of Bulgaria.

Thanks to Borislav Skochev, the founder of the site “Decommunisation”, for his advice in the creation of the structure of “MEMORY 1944 – 1989” and for the archive material he has made available for use. Thanks to Georgi Mihailov, the founder of the site desehistory.com, and for his friendly help and use of equipment. Thanks to Peio Kolev, the founder of the site lostbulgaria.com for the free use of photographs of specific individuals who were victims of the BCP regime. The title page of the site makes use of a photograph (the woman with the closed eyes to the right) by Rumen Pravchev, from the first generation of the former Belene camp in June, 1990, published in Democracy newspaper.


Mission: Truth and memory


There is much work ahead of us, but I believe and I am convinced that the site “MEMORY 1944-1989” will become that missing base resource which will systematise and expand knowledge of the victims of the communist regime and its repressions, and this knowledge will be concentrated in one place and will be easily accessible for the subsequent generations of Bulgarians. We hope that they will discover within this site real examples of human conduct, morality, patriotism and heroism in the name of freedom, independence and democracy in their homeland.

The small team has invested much hard work into this mission for truth and memory as a sign of respect and reverence for those people who endured the repressions of totalitarianism in Bulgaria, their families and relative, in order to remove the dust of oblivion from the known and unknown victims and that their names may find their just place in both public memory and history.

Speak, tell, share about victims of communism and remember!  


Hristo Hristov, founder of “MEMORY 1944 – 1989”.