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Arriving in a country without much beforehand Acknowledge about it can be of advantage, even from an intellectual point of view. As I had never been to Bulgaria and had met few Bulgarians in my life, I armed myself with a reasonable amount of travel literature for the plane tide from Copenhagen to Sofia. I did not want to look totally ignorant, on the other hand I did not mind having to ask a lot of questions. Having travelled widely in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the last fifteen years or so, after I decided to learn the nature of these societies the only way possible, through personal experience and participant observation, I expected yet another variety of the same pattern of historical continuity in the midst of tremendous political change.
What I found in Bulgaria was a bizarre mixture of Oriental-European atmosphere, premodern pastoralism, and the ruins of communism and postmodern philosophy. The fact that I suddenly spotted Agnes Heller and Ferencs Feher at the breakfast table next to me on my second day in Sofia only seemed to confirm my suspicion of having arrived in a nonexistent country, a patchwork of bits and pieces assembled from everywhere, and for no obvious purpose.
On the day of my arrival in Sofia, I took a stroll around the city in the accompany of Anna Krasteva, a Bulgarian philosopher whom I had met in Prague the previous year and who bad arranged for my participation in the Seventeenth Philosophical School at Varna. The international conference, which is held every second year, was previously an inner Eastern European affair and was totally dominated by Soviet philosophy. Today Marxism-Leninism has been wiped from the Institute of Philosophy's roster. All connections with Moscow and the former Soviet Union had been severed almost overnight. Two years ago there was still a large delegation of Soviet philosophers present, balanced by an equal number of Americans. Now there were no Russians at all and only few foreigners.
As it happened, the central committee building in Sofia was located only a few hundred yards from my hotel. It had been stormed by angry protesters recently and was partly burned inside. The building was closed but for a cinema operating on the entrance floor) and discussions still were going on what should be done with it. The sinister-looking building overlooks the main square, its architectural style recognizably Stalinist, a sixth copy of five buildings in Moscow, all resembling gigantic birthday cakes, crowned with a red star. As we approached the structure from behind, we passed a tiny, una ssuming building situated in front of a park and facing out on a large, empty space. This was the Dimitroff Mausoleum, the holiest shrine in communist Bulgaria. Today it is an empty shack. The authorities have yet to decide what is to become of it, whether it should be demolished or used for some other purpose. In Prague, a similar telic from the Stalinist past had been transformed into a center for rock music, perhaps this one could serve a similar purpose? On the other hand it looked somewhat to small and miserable.
Observing the deserted building in front of me, I could not refrain from comparing it with the Lenin Mausoleum at the Red Square. The Bulgarian communists had a reputation of being servile admirers and imitators of the Soviets and the political architecture in Sofia only underline this unreserved loyalty to Moscow but the diminished scale of everything made this copy look ridiculous and pompous.
Everywhere in Eastern Europe today the venerated names and symbols of yesterday are exterminated. This attack on the realm of the sacred and symbolic can be seen as a declaration of hate, an eagerly awaited revenge on a despised regime that held on to power long after it lost any legitimacy. Only gradually have people come to realize that this act of destruction is partly illusive. You cannot wipe out forty-five or more years of dictatorship overnight. The experience remains more or less hidden in the values, habits, and preferred lifestyles of a people used to saying one thing in public and doing just the opposite in private.
The collapse of the previous social order has left the individuals in a moral and ideological void. Building up a new morality, a conscience collective, …