New Exhibition Offers a Digital Resurrection of Bulgaria’s Belene Camp

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the harrowing history of Bulgaria’s most notorious gulag with the groundbreaking exhibition Belene – A Bulgarian Resistance Story. This poignant and immersive experience will be on display from June 11–14, 2024, at the Victims of Communism Museum in Washington, DC.

Through state-of-the-art AI technology, visitors will traverse the stark realities of life in the Belene camp, following the story of Nikola Daskalov. The son of a former regional governor in Plovdiv, Nikola experienced firsthand the brutal tactics Bulgaria’s post-1944 communist regime used to suppress anyone connected with the former government or daring to think differently. The exhibition meticulously reconstructs his experiences, from the brutal murder of his father to his own imprisonment and exile.

An initiative of Sofia Platform in partnership with the America for Bulgaria Foundation, Belene – A Bulgarian Resistance Story was designed through the talent and creativity of Atelier 3 Architects, MP-STUDIOS, The Convo,, and Lens2Lens.

A Journey through Bulgaria’s Gulags

Under a Soviet-aligned communist dictatorship from 1944 to 1989, Bulgaria is often said to have been one of the Soviet Union’s closest allies. In reality, Bulgaria was a stronghold of forced conformity, lacking genuine support for communist ideology. To enforce alignment, the regime established around 80 detention facilities, some of them euphemistically labeled “labor and education centers.”

Anyone could end up in these gulags for any offense, perceived or real: people practicing their religion, farmers resisting land collectivization, ordinary people telling an inappropriate joke or listening to western music. Individuals were detained without trial and subjected to back-breaking labor and inhuman treatment in the gulags, often for years, some of them never to return. The Belene camp stood out for its longevity, operating until 1987, just two years before the fall of communism in 1989.

Nearly 60,000 individuals are believed to have passed through the Bulgarian gulags, with the scars of that experience carried by many more – families, friends, and colleagues.

Preserving a Fading Memory

The exhibition Belene – A Bulgarian Resistance Story is an extension of Belene.Camp, a digital repository housing interviews with survivors of these oppressive camps. Along with Nikola Daskalov, the platform features Tsvetana Dzhermanova, a rare female survivor speaking publicly about her imprisonment. At a time when physical memorials are scarce and historical accountability remains elusive in Bulgaria, this digital archive safeguards the memory of resistance and serves as a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

About Sofia Platform and Its Work

Sofia Platform, Bulgaria’s leading nonprofit dedicated to civic education and the history of the recent past, is the driving force behind this exhibition. Their advocacy and educational initiatives have been instrumental in keeping the memories of Bulgaria’s communist era alive. With support from the America for Bulgaria Foundation, Sofia Platform’s projects, such as Belene.Camp, the comic strip book Communism V2.0, and educational programs, continue to foster a deeper understanding of democracy and history.

An Invitation to Witness History

Don’t miss the chance to engage with this powerful exhibition that bridges the past and the present. Belene – A Bulgarian Resistance Story is not just a historical recount but a vivid reminder of the enduring spirit of resistance against tyranny. Join us at the Victims of Communism Museum and witness the digital resurrection of Bulgaria’s gulags, a tribute to those who fought for their freedom and humanity.

What: AI-aided exhibition Belene – A Bulgarian Resistance Story
When: June 11–14, 2024
Where: Victims of Communism Museum, Washington, DC

Sign Up Here

Never miss a story from ABF.

Sign Up Here

Never miss a story from ABF.