The Red Flat – gateway to the life of Bulgarians in the 1980’s

A non-traditional museum opened doors downtown Sofia. The museum is located in an apartment and takes visitors back in the 1970’s and the 1980’s – the last stage of the communist regime in Bulgaria. The Red Flat is a joint project of Association 365 popular with its city walks in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia and the collector of socialist relics Valeri Gyurov – owner of a gallery-shop, where the fascinating journey in the past actually begins.

The flat has a living-dining room and every evening the living room becomes a bedroom, just like many Bulgarian apartments in the past. There is also a room furnished as a children’s room, a bathroom, a toilet and a kitchen with a closet. Petrov family – mother, father and their son live in that model flat. This family is a collection image of many Bulgarian families. It is not a real family, but we tried to tell as many things as possible and inform people about this past time through this family, collector Valeri Gyurov told Radio Bulgaria.


It took the organizers almost a year to collect emblematic items of this past period. Visitors are fully freed to explore the items, open the wardrobe, read newspapers, books and magazines and the lockers of the closet are full with historical items. A tapestry with the image of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin decorates one of the walls in the living room.


Two TV sets Sofia 31 and Sofia 85 which broadcast fragments of TV shows of the 1980’s are among the most emblematic items of the museum. The museum collection also consists of Resprom gramophone and VEF radio receiver, which is a very famous classical radio receiver. The Bulgarian National Radio gave us signature tunes of popular radio broadcasts. Visitors can also see Mraz refrigerator, Mechta cooking stove, Perla washing machine, empty beer and lemonade bottles, Balkan bicycle, toys, etc, Valery Gyurov went on to say.


An audio guide acquaints visitors with the life of an average Bulgarian family in Bulgarian and English. It tells 46 stories about the museum’s items. Visitors can learn many interesting details such as whether people had to take their shoes off in the apartment, what they used to eat and drink back then, etc:

We provide visual and audio information about a past period, which left a mark on our lives for sure, because this was the closest historical period. Of course, foreigners have different perceptions. We tried to be impartial and avoid showing the biggest extremes, i.e. there is not much information about terror or entertainments. We tried to move as delicately across history as possible, so that people can receive the basic information and then go in details in certain topics by asking the host or finding additional information in the literature or on the Internet, Valeri Gyurov pointed out and added that people, especially the Bulgarians react with a smile on their face when they see things they met in their parent’s or grandparent’s houses:


They recall moments of their childhood or their youth. The people born after 1989 see some of the items for the first time such as the rotary dial phone and food products that were once part of the daily menu of the Bulgarians. The foreign visitors, especially those who don’t live in Eastern Europe perceive this collection in a completely different way. Thus, they try to learn more about our country and we hope their efforts are successful.


The hosts of the museum offer the guests a traditional lemonade soft drink, boza (millet ale – a thick, fermented beverage made of various kinds of flour-barley, oats, corn, wheat), Etar soft fizzy drink, rustic bread with butter and savory, etc.


English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: archive

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