B U L G A R I A
0. INTRODUCTION *
Bulgaria lies in the eastern Balkans, in south-eastern Europe. It had 8.61 million inhabitants (mid - 1996) and covers an area of 110,993 sq. km. The population density is 201 inhabitants per sq. mi., and 68.11% of the population is urban 1. The official language is Bulgarian, a member of the Slavonic group, written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Minority languages include Turkish and Macedonian. Most Christians adhere to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and there is a substantional Muslim minority. There are, also, more than 25 officially recognized religious groups, representing a broad spectrum of faiths.
Bulgaria was caught in the great political changes and transition which swept the countries of the former eastern block in Europe in 1989. Political changes and the process of transition away from the communist regime started in Bulgaria in November 1989. The parliamentary elections of 1991 furthered the transition towards democracy. Bulgaria shares most of the problems of the other European countries now in transition towards a post-totalitarian society.
The Bulgarian culture, like the country's whole political and economic system, is also in a state of transition to democracy. Radical changes in the field of culture are taking place against the background of economic difficulties. The main problem of the Bulgarian culture and cultural policy is the survival of culture itself in the conditions of a general crisis. One of the aims of the new cultural policy is the integration of Bulgarian culture into the European cultural processes and the preservation of its national identity.
Although cultural planning and management have for the most part been rid of the ideological and totalitarian ideas of the former period, free initiative and enterprise have not yet been fully installed. The lack of management personnel is also felt.
In 1993, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Science were merged. However, now the highest authority for cultural policy is the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, which soon became a separate ministry again. There are several relatively independent cultural institutions in the structure of the ministry - the National Book Centre, the National Museum Centre, the National Film Centre, the National Centre for Cultural Heritage, the National Theatre Centre, the Centre for Music and Libraries, and the Community Centres Department. All of them receive fund allocations from the central ministerial budget. Regarding academic research in the field of culture, the Institute of Culturology, which is associated to the Ministry, is an important institution. Advisory bodies have been set up for assisting in decision making, covering the most important areas: cultural heritage, theatre, book publishing, music, and all questions concerning the privatization of cultural institutions.
On a local level, cultural policy is implemented by the local self-government bodies which are responsible for the territorial decentralization.
At municipal level, the cultural department are responsible for administrative and financial issues. Municipal cultural life is the direct responsibility of the municipalities. Depending on the size of the municipality, these departments are devoted either only to culture, or may combine culture, education, science and religion.
All structures and institutions are now in the process of decentralization and democratization.
Public expenses continue to be the main and leading source for the funding of culture: in 1995, 1.37 percent of total budget expenditure. The decentralization in the funding of culture has not changed after 1989.
Share of expenses for culture in the total
expenses of the consolidated budget and the gross domestic
Source: Based on materials of the Ministry of Finance
The funds for the municipalities come in part from the State budget, but they also have their own financial resources. Regional cultural development should receive more support, as opposed to the centralized cultural administration.
Participation of the state (Ministry of Culture, the municipalities and other state institutions) and households in the funding of cultural institutions in 1993:
Source: Ministry of Finance
Of the numerous State awards, only the order of St. Kirill and St. Methodins is still awarded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to important artists and cultural figures, Bulgarian tax law envisions various forms of support in the cultural area.
The first change in the Bulgarian Constitution, abolishing the monopoly of power of the Communist Party, was made in 1990. The new Constitution, guaranteeing fundamental freedoms, was adopted by the Bulgarian Parliament in 1991. The cultural life is governed by the laws also voted by the Parliament, which contains a Culture Committee and a Broadcast/Television Committee.
In 1993, the Parliament adopted a new law of the Copyrights as well as the Neighbouring Rights Act, modifying the 1951 Copyright Law. The new law forbids the sale or lease of audio or video cassettes or records without the author's written permission. The main aim of the law is to put a stop to piracy. The effectiveness of the new law may be judged by the fact that 300 private record producers and 50 video distributors have signed contracts for the distribution rights. The Copyrights department created in 1994 as part of the Ministry of Culture received a 'legacy' numerous responsibilities, as well as problems awaiting resolution. Within a short space of time, measures envisaged in the Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights Act were undertaken leading to some hundreds of penal acts issued with regard to the perpetrators. Bulgarian state institutions have undertaken considerable legal and legislative measures in this sphere over the last few years, committing themselves to international documents and agreements envisaging the practical implementation with regard, and in keeping with the exsisting legal regime. Decree no. 19/1991 of the Council of Ministers empowers the authors to seek their rights directly, without going through a state agency JUSAUTOR.
A new law on museums and the protection of cultural heritage was accepted in 1995. The regulations in force are gradually being adapted to those of Western Europe. They are part of the process of economic reform, a transition to market economy.
Museums and Galleries
At the moment, 226 state museums and galleries exist in Bulgaria, out of which 31 are in Sofia. Their structure as to number, kind and capacity (number of exhibits, visitors and staff) is given in the Following Tables:
Table: Number of Museums and Galleries in Bulgaria
Source: National Statistics Institute
Table: Exhibits and Visitors of the Museums
and Galleries in Bulgaria
Source: NCMGFA, NSI
During 1991, about one hundred new art galleries opened in the capital, Sofia. Artistic activity used to be strictly regulated during the previous regime, and the status of an artist in Bulgarian society was assured by the commissions, sales and handling of artwork by the state. The (at that time) Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and the Union of Bulgarian Artists used to organize exhibitions. The market for works of art, started to take shape in 1991, although there are still no mechanisms to regulate supply and demand. As a reaction to the removal of state-enforced norms, a proliferation of new galleries must be seen as a spontaneous activity. Private galleries have become communication centres, where artists and their works reach the buyers, patrons and collectors.
There is a well organized system of artistic education in Bulgaria, with 4 higher education institutions (State Academy of Music, National Academy of Arts, National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts, Academy of Musical and Dance Arts), 19 secondary specialized schools in arts ( 7 schools of music, 2 schools of folklore, 1 school of choreography, 2 schools of fine arts, 5 schools of applied arts, 1 school of industrial design, 1 school of scenography and stage lighting).
According to 1992 statistics, Bulgaria has fairly large numbers of artists in different fields: 438 writers, 746 cinema workers, 2,400 professional musicians, 500 dancers (ballet and folk style), 2,500 actors and stage directors, 4,200 architects, 336 translators of science fiction. Some of the artists are employed full-time, but there is tendency for more people to work as freelance artists.
Bulgaria has 10 symphony orchestras (3 of them in Sofia), 8 philharmonics (2 in Sofia), 39 drama theatres (11 in Sofia), 19 puppet theatres (2 in Sofia), 1 variety theatre, 1 pantomime theatre, 8 opera houses (1 in Sofia), 1 operetta, 3 circuses, 73 art galleries.
All of these institutions suffer from inadequate funding and lack of proper facilities, additionally aggravated by the law of restitution.
Until 1989 in Bulgaria there were no private theatrical institutions. At the end of 1992 there were 7 operating private theaters with a total of 544 seats, 500 performances per year, attended by a total of 53,592 theatergoers. In 1995 the number of private theaters increased to 10. These theatrical formations, which differ significantly from the state-run theaters, are often set up for the purposes of particular theatrical projects, the troupes have no permanent members, and they are very mobile, performing on different stages.
The number of performances per year of the dramatic theaters, after the drastic decline in 1991 (by 38.8% as compared with 1985), has been showing a stable trend of gradual increase. A similar conclusion can be drawn for the number of tickets sold (level of theatergors' attendance), with decreased by 2,7 times in 1991 as compared with 1985, although this indicator has also been characterised by a trend of slight increase during the last years.
The data referring to the number of performences made are more optimistic as it has been increasing since 1991. The number of performances made in 1994 increased 16% as compared with 1991.
Table: Number of theaters and the capacity
of theaters in Bulgaria
Source: National Institute of Statistics
See paragraph 4.1 above.
The need for a new legislative framework for Bulgarian libraries arises from the evolution of a democratic society and information growth. Amid social change libraries have to attain and maintain the status of modern information and cultural centres. To be satisfactory, legislation has to provide conditions for liberalisation and the encouragement of economic independence and enterprise, as well as financial backing for libraries. It must also direct efforts at integrating their resources in a national libraries fund.
Introducing modern information management and equipment into libraries is a basic condition for realising both their consumer potential to the maximum, and for integrating their resources into the worldwide information exchange.
The Ministry of Culture is collating a national libraries register, to include all libraries with over 4000 titles. National management falls to the Ministry of Culture through the Libraries Office of the NCQBLTRK. This is assisted methodologically by the National Library.
Table: Number, holdings and dynamics of Bulgarian libraries
N.B. 1. Metropolitan data is included in urban
Figures show a drop in library numbers from 9800 in 1985 to 8166 in 1994. Being due in most cases to closures of unviable libraries with low stocks and equipment and poorly trained staff, this does not give cause for undue concern. An analysis of libraries shows 41% with under 4000 titles and thus falling into this very group. 32% of libraries have between 4000 and 10,000 titles and therefore offer a baseline service. The remaining c26% are the country's mainstream libraries with prospects for further development. However, some closures of specialist scientific libraries with big collections and qualified librarians have adversely affected the national library service.
The 1985 to 1994 period has also seen a drop in readers and lending.
After 1989 book publishing underwent fundamental changes. They were sparked off primarily by getting rid of state monopoly in publishing and the emergence of private publishers who mushroomed after 1989. About a third of the private publishing houses is located in the country. State publishing houses are independent business units and do not receive subsidies but use state-owned facilities.
There is a continuous growth in published titles, primarily due to the efforts of private publishers who also introduced positive changes in the territorial distribution of book publishing.
The weighted average of different books and pamphlets in relation to total output changed. Also, the original/translated titles ratio and the relative share of translated titles from different languages changed.
A steady trend is in evidence, that of fiction dominating the publishing business. It comes as a response to reader demand for contemporary fiction by foreign authors. The growth of children's and adolescent's books is also exhibited. The relative share of titles and prints of general reading and political literature is in reduction, while reference titles increase their relative share.
As far as it concerns the trend of a changing original/translated books ration in the overall body of books, the share of translated books from English, French, German and other languages increased while that of translated books from Russian dropped.
A Parliamentary commission on radio and television was created in 1990, with the aim to propose legislation and determine the country's policy in the field of mass communication. Transitory provisions were adopted in 1990, but the new legislation did not come into effect until 1991, owing to political differences regarding the degree of autonomy to be given to radio and television. The media are an object of a lively political struggle, controversy and debate, and in such a climate the credibility of the audio-visual media is low. There is a strong tendency in the professional circles towards the privatization of the audio-visual sector. The Concession Act was adopted by the Parliament in 1995, providing the concessions for numerous issues, among them also the radio-frequency spectrum, and national postal and telecommunication networks.
Officially, the State television and radio still enjoy a monopoly, although some 3,000 new local radio stations have been created by the municipalities since 1990. 1991 saw a strong push towards the legalization of the private radio, and more than 50 applications were received by the Committee for Communication and Information. In 1992, more than 25 new radio stations were licensed, 6 of them in Sofia.
Formerly broadcast on short-wave only, the western radio stations (BBC, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Deutsche Welle, and Radio France Internationale) can now be broadcast on the medium wave.
The Bulgarian State television (created in 1959), with its three channels (BTV 1, BTV 2, and the third one that broadcasts Russian programming) still enjoy a de jure monopoly. They transmit 80 and 35 hours a week, respectively. The first channel is of a general type, while the second is cultural and educational. 61 per cent of programmes are domestically produced, and 31 per cent are imported. The television system has been tremendously altered in a couple of years. Now the citizens of Sofia (about 1, 350 000 inhabitants) watch two national television programmes, Channel One and Effir Two, two private Bulgarian channels Nova Televisia (1994) and Sedem Dni (1995), the Russian TV Ostankino, the French TV 5, and CNN. Dominant in the country are the state controlled Channel One and Effir Two.
Percentages of domestic and imported TV programmes broadcasted by the National TV channels
The current developments in the audiovisual industry tend to stratify the audiences in an unique way: since the state controlled two channels slowly tend to lose some of their audiences, the private channels are focussed at relatively limited local consumers, and cannot grow beyond the scope of the technological broadcast limits. Powerful foreign TV stations, and the satellite TV channels diversify the national television landscape, but their audience reach folows the current huge income stratification in the country. Thus, the audiovisual reach becomes a result of the economically determined social access to modern technologies.
TV channels daily reach (1994-1995)
Source: Statistical Yearbook- cinema, television, video and new media in Europe 1996
After 1989 the state lost its monopoly over the production and marketing of audio-visual recordings. The liberalisation of trade and the existence of a legal vacuum cultivated "intellectual piracy" in the audio-visual industry and market.
The Copyrights and Related Rights Act, adopted in 1993, is a modern code that specifies legal relations in the area of intellectual property, aspiring to European legal canon. In 1995 the National Assembly ratified the International Convention for the protection of performing artists, sound recording producers and broadcasting organizations, and the Convention on the Protection of Sound Recording Producers against unlawful reproduction of their records.
The video is estimated to have penetrated 27,6 % of households in 1994. Piracy is widespread, and steps are currently being taken to counter it.
The prices of cultural products are sharply rising, between 4 and 10 times. Bulgaria does not produce the technology for film and television, or musical instruments. There is a shortage also of materials such as cassettes, paper, paints, metal, and most other necessities required by artists.
The production of books has dropped 10 times, and of films four times. The Bulgarian film industry is facing serious difficulties because of the lack of funds. State subsidies are falling, and the market is not sufficient to uphold this type of cultural creation. The public support for film production is channelled through new institutions, like the National Film Centre. An independent organization which promotes the idea of privatization has been established, called Independent Cinema.
Number of film production companies:
Source: European Audiovisual Observatory
The number of producers listed in the Unified National Register exceeds 160. The freeing of personal initiative has permitted a decentralisation of film production and its relative preservation given the impossibility of supporting full-cycle film production companies. But it must be stated that many producer units are inactive while those which are or have been active are unable to ensure continuity. A trend emerging in the course of reform has been the weakness of film output structures, none of which has succeeded in becoming established as a lasting producer.
The sharp drop in cinema admissions is caused by the economic crisis and the fall in living standards on the one hand, and the development of pirate cable networks and pirated videotapes on the other. Between 1986 and '91 viewers dropped 4.2-fold. By 1993 the drop had grown to almost nine times.
Table: Cinema admissions 1986-1994 /millions/
Source: European Audiovisual Observatory, cinema, television, video and new media in Europe
With the social changes under way, various new creative multimedia projects are being initiated in Bulgaria.
Cultural activities in all areas of culture are stagnating or declining, owing to the disappearance of the former sources of state financing and the generally bad economic position of the country. All this has caused a sharp drop in cultural production. Opera production has fallen by 20 per cent, and philharmonic and other musical performances by 40 per cent. Audiences are also falling sharply, as is the reading of books.
The material and technical condition of the cultural infrastructure is also bad. Museums, galleries and libraries lack adequate space. Information is also scarce: owing to financial difficulties, the National Library and other scientific libraries are not able to subscribe to international journals.
The lack of funds is closing down cultural institutions, or reducing the capabilities of the existing cultural infrastructure. Massive unemployment in the cultural sector is causing emigration.
International cultural cooperation is the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ratifying the cultural agreements. The Ministry of Culture supervises the application of those agreements and the implementation of cultural programmes with the international organizations. The cultural atttaches in Bulgarian consulates come under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the cultural and information centres are attached to the Ministry of Culture.
Bulgaria is a member of UNESCO and the Council of Europe. It also has bilateral cooperation in the field of culture. It has signed the European Cultural Convention and the European Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (revised).
Guide du cinéma et de l'audiovisuel en Europe centrale et orientale, chapter on Bulgaria. Paris, Eurocréation Production, Idate, Institut d'études slaves, 1992, 350 pp.
Trajanova, Iskra. Private Art Galleries - A New Phonomenon in Bulgarian Culture. Balkanmedia, Winter 1991/92, pp. 59-60.
Kulezic, Luba. The Clinical Death of Bulgarian Cinema. Balkanmedia, Winter 1991/92, pp. 21-23.
A Politician's View of Television in Bulgaria. Balkanmedia, Winter 1991/92, pp. 17-18.
Arete - The First Private Copyright Agency in Bulgaria. Balkanmedia,1/1993, pp. 26-27.
Enchev, Dimitar. Copyright Law in Bulgaria 1921-1995. Balkanmedia, Vol.IV/3, 1995, pp. 54-55
Dr. Petev, Todor. Television Landscape in Bulgaria: Cracks in the National Union "TV Church". Balkanmedia, Vol.IV/3, 1995, pp. 25-27
Kr’stop’t (Crossroad), Bulgarian Culture Today, 1994, Sofia, Institut of Culturology
Kr’stop’t (Crossroad), Cultural Institutes in the Big City, 1994, Sofia, Ministry of Culture, Institut of Culturology
Kr’stop’t (Crossroad). Evropeijska i nacionalna identicnost, ed. by Anns Serafimova, 1995, Sofia, Institut of Culturology
Handbook of Cultural Affairs in Europe, Baden-Baden, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1995, pp. 167-176.
Cultural Policy and Cultural Administration in Europe: 42 Outlines, Vienna, Oesterreichische Kulturdokumentation, 1996, pp. 33-34
Preservation and Development of Cultural Life in the Countries of Central and eastern Europe, Budapest. 23-25 January 1997, 57 pp., International Conference: country papers - Bulgaria
UNESCO International Conference on Financing and Privatization in Culture, Blue Danube Program, UNESCO, Sofia, 26-27 May 1995, final report, 16 pp.
Final Report of the International Expert’s Meeting ‘The East-West Migration after the Cold War: Cultural and Educational aspects’, Bourgas, Bulgarian National Commission for UNESCO and Institute of Culturology, 1995, 5 pp.
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1997, Mahwah, New Jersy, World Almanac Books, 1997
10. FOOTNOTES* The author of the original draft is Zrinjka Perusko Culek. Additional data and information have been contributed by Bulgarian Institute of Culturology. The draft has been revised by Daniela Angelina Jelincic and Pavle Schramadei in 1997.