Buzludzha – Inside Bulgaria’s, UFO like, abandoned, temple to Communism
Perched on top of a remote mountain the UFO like, communist monument Buzludzha in Bulgaria is surely one of the most surreal, unique and captivating buildings ever built.
Buzludzha is like a temple to communism and it’s neglect mirrors the decline in popularity of the beliefs that it stood for and of an ideology no longer worshipped. A monument to a future glory that never really materialised in the buildings short, only 10 year long life.
Buzludzha rises imposingly out from a high promontory of the Balkan mountains like a UFO from a old sci fi movie with its saucer shaped concrete mother ship complete with a huge tower still crowned with a red soviet star. Buzludzha’s star is three times larger than the one on Russia’s Kremlin, rising 107 meters high proudly pointing to the heavens.
The Former Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters
For such an impressive ideological monument, the former Communist headquarters of Bulgaria had a short life of only 10 years. It was built in 1981 by the Bulgarian communist regime as a tribute to events of 1877 – the epic battle of Shipka pass where a only about 7000 Bulgarians and Russians successfully fought of an attack by over 38,000 Turks.
Later in 1891 when, after liberation from 500 years of Turkish Ottoman rule, a group of socialists revolutionaries secretly assembled on this lonely, remote mountain top and began to form an organised socialist movement that founded the Bulgarian Communist Party.
Buzludzha cost over £7,000,000 to build, a lot of which was raised by donations and in its prime the UFO like monument was considered one of the greatest icons and architecture of the communist world.
Abandoned and Neglected
After the fall of Communism across Eastern Europe the otherworldly Buzludzha now stands neglected and alone, like a UFO thats has just landed on top of a lonely mountain pass not far from the charming, medieval town and former capital Veliko Tarnovo.
As Buzludzha is not really a tourist attraction the only way to get here is by hiring a car, which is not too expensive in Bulgaria. As you wind up the mountain pass on the decrepit roads the first glance of Buzludzha as it appears on top the mountain behind Socialist flaming torch statues is utterly surreal.
Exploring the surreal derelict UFO
As you climb up towards the once grand entrance you try to get a sense of this extraordinary place in its heyday but the desolate setting makes it difficult.
Under the shadow of the mothership’s saucer the main entrance, long since blocked up due to the building’s dangerous state of disrepair, surrounded by the Cyrillic letters of socialist slogans emblazoned across the monument now missing and hanging off, their meaning falling into obscurity and their ideology no longer worshipped.
The writing reads – “On your feet despised comrades. On your feet you slaves of labour! Downtrodden and humiliated stand up against the enemy! Let us without mercy, without forgiveness, yes we take down the old, rotten system … working men, working women from all countries have come together. Forwards! Comrades without fear build strong our great deals to work and create. “
Translation taken from the excellent post about Buzludzha at The Bohemian Blog – seriously, you must check it out!
Breaking in to Buzludzha
The main entrance has long been blocked up due to Buzludzha’s dangerous state of disrepair but that wasn’t going to stop me from exploring this unique building. I scout around the side of the monument, admiring the views and managed to find a way in but climbing up and through a small hole in the concrete.
I half fall through the small entrance and am encased in darkness. I find myself on one of the stairways in the circular building and head up until reaching the main dome and am taken aback by the dramatic centrepiece of a golden hammer and sickle against a red and green background.
The Cyrillic writing reads “The Proletariats of every country join together”. The hammer and sickle still shine among the gloom in a vast circular conference hall. All around me the walls are adorned with colourful mosaics and murals in varying stages of decline, depicting scenes from socialist life and principles, of labour, harvests, wholesome socialist citizens, brave soldiers and wars.
Communists icons and leaders including Engels, Marx and Lenin also feature heavily in the elaborate mosaics, but the most unpopular ones have long since been vandalised, their faces now just a grey empty hole in the surrounding mosaic.
Surrounding the main hall runs a circular perimeter walkway, the walls again covered with mosaics. The bare, windowless holes give awe inspiring views but again are open to the ravaging elements of the mountain pass causing destructive weathering to many of the murals.
This is what it used it look like …
It is also possible to delve into the dark passages underneath the main hall, to pick your way through the darkness through the debris along the sides and climb the precarious, steep stairs behind the perforated red of the soviet star, shot because it was rumoured to be made out of rubies, and emerge right up to the top of the tower, looking down on the metal skeleton of Buzludzha.
The future for Buzludzha looks bleak
Over head, what is left of the roof shakes and rattles as the wind whips round the peak and through this surreal building and presents a very real danger of falling roof tiles. Buzludzha actually means ‘glacially or icy’ and in the winter this snow blanketed peak lives up to its name, exposed to the elements high up on its lonely, snowy plateau, accelerating the ruin as it becomes merely a shell of its former glory.
I wonder how long it will be until the roof collapses in completely, how many more winters can Buzludzha survive? The atmosphere inside this building is incredible and eerie but will anyone stump up the cash to rescue this unique, captivating, historically and ideologically important monument?
For more about Buzludzha, and fascinating urban exploration and off the beaten track travel check out the amazing Bohemian Blog.