Ever wondered what happened to all those great Soviet sculptures that were orphaned with the fall of Communism? While many of then have been left to rot and disintegrate in the wilderness, here in Sofia a lucky few have found a new place at the delicately-named Museum of Socialist Art–a kind of retirement home for the peasants, workers and great leaders dreamed up by Soviet artists during the reign of Communism. Being fans of the old Soviet aesthetic, we couldn’t bid goodbye to Sofia without having a look.
It’s not the easiest place to find, tucked behind a giant shopping mall and protected by a tall white fence. The most apt landmark was the giant red Soviet star in the parking lot, which once topped the former Party House in the very Stalinesque Largo.
With a variety of Soviet sculptures from the 1950’s up through the fall of Communism in Bulgaria in 1990, this place is a must-visit if you know your Balkanski from your Petrov–which we don’t. But six Bulgarian lev (about 3€) was more than a fair price for people who just wanted to see some huge statues of Lenin and some old propaganda artwork. There were definitely enough huge old statues to impress, taken from different locations around the country and, presumably, stacked up in the yard for years before someone decided to make a museum out of them.
There were other statues besides Lenin too, we swear.
Inside there were some pretty impressive paintings in “Socialist realism” style. We received a handout from a big guy, who was either been a museum curator or a security guard, about how the Socialist realism style flourished during the Communist era and proved its “superiority” over other artistic styles of the time. Nice. The paintings were indeed excellent works of art, but the images of eager beaver workers, serene party leaders, and defiant partisans were put into perspective by a giant bronze bust of Stalin. We all know what a great guy Stalin was!
While it’s not nearly as wacky as the acidtastic Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi, and they haven’t really capitalised (ahahaha, get it?!) on their full potential like the Memento Park in Budapest (which we unfortunately missed… booo booo booo, next time), it’s worth the excursion if you just can’t get enough of that great old Communist kitsch–like us!!