Sofia - Helsinki How can our society get back in touch with itself and overcome its internal rifts?

Ten years after Bulgaria’s EU accession and nearly thirty years after the collapse of the Eastern bloc, old wounds have yet to heal in Sofia. So experts here have been discussing individual and social traumas – a complex palimpsest of historical events and current political developments. Through a model description of the problem, Sofia seeks to enable people to create free spaces and take others there along with them.


The Helsinki-Sofia tandem are working on several fronts. The STOA cultural centre invited Bulgarian artists Vera Mlechevska and Dimitar Shopov to Helsinki in September 2018 for a three-week residency to address the Finnish question: "What are the minimum rules we need in order to live together?” They made contact with local artists, and Mlechevska also conducted research on parasitic plants that drive out existing vegetation in urban areas. Her playfully metaphorical thesis is that nature is taking on human competitive, colonizing traits in the Anthropocene. A performance based on her research was held in late September at the Nomads Festival in Helsinki, along with a film and slide show by Dimitar Shopov.

Down in Sofia, the Luft-Studio on the ground floor of the Goethe-Institut is ready for action. This “Air Studio” is an empty, airy space intended to serve as a programmatic in-between realm, a literal Freiraum, or free space, a playful multi-functional venue for diverse ideas, people and formats.

In early October, the Goethe-Institut Sofia also hosted a workshop for teachers to discuss Sofia’s question about how to talk constructively about the experience of suffering in their day-to-day pedagogical practice. Teachers should help young people find ways of coping with experienced injustice that will not widen the divides that already exist in society.

Finnish-Bulgarian filmmaker Tonislav Hristov was also brought on board to put together a line-up of short films from both countries that take up both cities’ questions: What drives wedges into a society still damaged by past injustices, and what in turn holds society at least minimally together?

(September 2018)

Our Partner

The New Bulgarian University in Sofia was founded in 1991 by intellectuals with the intention of modernizing post-communist studies in Bulgaria. Rumen Petrov is a sociologist at the university.

“Air Studio”
The Luft-Studio, or “Air Studio”, is a multifunctional room in the Goethe-Institut building in Sofia, on the ground floor beside the entrance, between the lobby and the library. It is intended to serve as an intermediate space, a space of freedom and playfulness, a breathing space between deadlines and completed events, where diverse ideas can be aired and different people and formats can come together.

There is room here for public events and discussions, workshops and seminars, as well as meetings, rehearsals and experimental endeavours. People of any age and profession, from any scene, can apply to use the Luft-Studio. On one condition: the space is for working in a group.

The event
For further information (in German and Bulgarian)

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