A peaceful demonstration by the Bulgarian Libertarian Society (BLS), an Atlas Network partner based in Sofia, decorated a campus statue of Karl Marx with a bloody crown and plastic bones in order to illustrate the real consequences of Marxist ideas. Communism is responsible for a horrifying death toll, but today’s students in Bulgaria are still schooled in socialist thought rather than being taught its true bloody legacy.
“There are 22,000 students at the University of National and World Economy and they were our main target — drawing attention to the hypocrisy and evilness of professors who still venerate communism and giving them a different perspective on what they hear in their classrooms,” explains Stoyan Panchev, BLS founder and director and member of the executive board of European Students For Liberty. “Additionally signaling that pro-liberty youth in Bulgaria are on the front lines of the resistance against false narratives about the communist past that are steadily creeping into the mainstream.”
The days of single-party communist rule in Bulgaria are a distant memory after the Eastern Bloc revolutions of 1989, but communist thought remains a strong influence and political force within the country to this day. Bulgaria’s University of National and World Economy still teaches many of the same economic principles as it did during the years when it was known as the Karl Marx Institute of Higher Economics, Panchev continues.
“Most of the university students have never actually seen communism,” Panchev points out. “They learn about it in stories.” This socialist indoctrination has an ongoing effect on the direction of the country’s political climate. The Coalition for Bulgaria, an alliance that includes both communist and socialist political parties, holds 39 out of 240 seats in Parliament.
“The story of our skulls and bones stunt quickly became viral on Facebook, mostly because students started uploading pictures with the monument, with the skulls and the handmade laurel,” Panchev said. “We were featured in the evening news of NOVA TV, and major news site OFFNews posted about the stunt and reported to us that it was their most viral news piece for the season.”
BLS passed out leaflets that explained communism’s horrifying legacy of death and destruction, and followed the event with a discussion at Sofia University titled “The Price of Socialism” that included lectures by Krassen Stanchev, an associate professor at Sofia University and founder of Atlas Network partner the Institute for Market Economics; and renowned journalist and communism researcher Hristo Hristov. More than 100 students attended.
Panchev originally pitched the idea of this project during Atlas Network’s Student Impact Competion, held at the 2016 International Students for Liberty Conference, which awarded students $1,500 grants to fund their unique proposals on spreading the ideas of liberty.