My latest trip to my home until the age of 12, Bulgaria, coincided with the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Bulgaria’s ascent to democracy since then has been quite a personal story, as my grandfather is a survivor of one of its political prisoner camps in the 1950s, which became one of the reasons my family was granted political asylum to the United States post-1989. And so, this is a tale that has shaped my life, one of which I've become a symbol.
This project attempts to gauge the state and effect of democracy in the former Soviet satellite nation, two and a half decades later. The story of democracy in Bulgaria at age 25 stands as a cautionary tale about transplanting one-size-fits-all Western values to a nation still undergoing social and economic upheaval. Bulgaria is still one of the poorest, most corrupt nations in the European Union—its post-1989 hopes wilted by political instability, high crime rates and skyrocketing inflation. While Bulgarians can now freely vote and protest without much threat to their freedom, their new oppressor is corruption, now at a 15 year high, across political and civil sectors alike. Ennui is so casually etched on the passerby's face that it becomes routine—one that fits in sadly well against a startling backdrop of rotting architecture, joblessness, and a vast population decline.
I aimed to address all of the above: the ways in which democracy has changed my country, yet somehow, without a large impact on the quiet struggle for survival of the everyday Bulgarian, one who is still trapped in a post-communist time capsule.