In 2020, Centre for Advanced Studies Sofia became the host of a new discussion series, Forms of Ownership – Property in Communist Bulgaria, whose purpose is to address and investigate the issues of private versus state property as codified in Bulgarian socialist law, as well as the various types of legal or tolerated ownerships in the country’s socialist past.
The inspiration behind the seminar series is the paucity of systematic research on ownership in Bulgaria’s recent history that has not been comprehensively covered at university level, either by the faculties of History and Social Sciences, or by economics and Philosophy. A possible reason for its neglection is the relatively short historical period since the fall of the communist regime which puts certain limits to any disinterested academic evaluation. In addition, Bulgarian academics seem to be repulsed by the monotonous ideological clichés that were imposed by the regime on ownership, and thus avoid their scholarly deconstruction.
However, the liquidation of private economic property, limiting it to personal property in the domestic field, as well as the idea of merging cooperative and socialist property into ‘a common communist property’ was part of the Socialist Utopia. In socialist legislation, ownership was codified in numerous fundamental laws such as the Civil Law of Property, the Law of Rent, the Law of Landlord-Tenant Relationship, etc. These laws displayed the communist regime’s attitude towards ownership under socialist circumstances. Nowadays, under the new political circumstances in Bulgaria, private property is inviolable, and the issues of public ownership are pushed to the margins of property legislation.
The new discussion series acknowledges that there is a pressing need to explore ownership under socialism in-depth, by assessing property within the juridical framework of its time, and analysing it from various methodological standpoints by employing the methods of History, Sociology, Economics and Philosophy. There are numerous questions to be incorporated and addressed in the seminar series: Is it possible that some of the problems surrounding ownership in Bulgaria are rooted in the legacy of the country’s socialist past? Could the ideas of land cooperation and private forest nationalisation be justified even today, from a post-socialist point of view? Why does the Bulgarian society lightheartedly accept that any difficulties in the functioning of private capitalist ownership today are the result of the processes of collectivisation / nationalisation related to socialism? How did the restrictions imposed on one’s private property reflect on the common social mind and how do they influence the drive for ownership in modern-day Bulgaria? What impact does the prohibition on multiple private properties under socialism (i.e. more than one flat and one country-house per family) exert on the property market of twenty-first-century Bulgaria? Could there be a link between the ways flats used to be rented out in the recent past, on the one hand, and the current high number of empty flats in the densely populated capital, on the other?
What has once year-long, time-consuming queuing for cars and luxury goods ‘taught’ Bulgarians nowadays? Are there any morals in the field of socialist family legislation (e. g. the Law of Inheritance, the Law of Marital Property, etc.) that have been passed down to the legal field of family relationships today? And what are the modern metamorphoses undergone by the once codified socialist attitude towards art and artifacts, literature and science in the field of authorship?
The discussion series is led by Dr Stoyan Stavru (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) and Dr Roumen Avramov, Permanent Fellow at CAS.