Geographies of Transition: Heritage, Tourism & Identity in socialist and post-socialist Bulgaria

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In 1989 the fall of the Soviet Union brought new economic, socio-cultural and political realities to many Eastern European states, which were faced with a long and difficult period of transition. Along with economic restructuring and political changes, most of the post-socialist republics experienced a ‘cultural transition’, adopting new cultural policies concerning heritage management, interpretation and development. In this new social and political context, heritage has become an important site for the construction and contestation of new post-socialist identities as well as an important economic development tool through heritage tourism.
The research explores the development, management and interpretation of cultural heritage in socialist (1944-1989) and post-socialist Bulgaria (1989-2016), focusing particularly on the period of transition before and after 1989. Alongside a national level analysis of the shifting institutional and policy context for the development and maintenance of cultural heritage in Bulgaria, the thesis investigates two case studies. The case study of Sofia investigates the role of specifically socialist heritage sites in the post-1989 strategies of heritage development. The case study analyses the ongoing disputes and debates regarding the management and interpretation of socialist heritage in the post- 1989 era and explores the changing importance of socialist heritage as sites of collective memory and potential (communist) heritage tourism attractions. The second case study explores the role of UNESCO World Heritage Status across socialist and post-socialist eras in the Ancient City of Nessebar. Drawing on various confrontations and tensions largely associated with the development of mass tourism, the main purpose of this case study is to demonstrate the contested nature of World Heritage designation of Nessebar in different political contexts and to explore the changing value of World Heritage as a tool for economic regeneration and political recognition.
Overall, the thesis contends that a focus on heritage brings to light the ambivalent, contested and unfinished nature of political, economic and cultural transition in Bulgaria.
Date of Award1 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorDavid Harrison (Supervisor) & Ruth Craggs (Supervisor)


  • Heritage
  • Bulgaria
  • Geography
  • Socialism
  • Tourism

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