Between money and trauma - communist heritage tourism in Eastern Europe
Dr Milka Ivanov, Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and Prof. Dorina Maria Buda from Nottingham Trent University draw from their recent research on communist heritage and dark tourism to make sense of the troubled history of tourism sites and sights associated with the communist regime in eastern and central Europe.
As August 23rd is Black Ribbon Day, A Day of Remembrance for victims of Stalinism and Nazis, the two researchers explain the difficult and often controversial inclusion of monuments and sites associated with communism in the tourism offer of countries such as Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
While many western tourists are curious about life behind the Iron Curtain, many locals would prefer to forget the often traumatic experience of the communist regime. As a result, many sites such as the Monument House of the Communist Party in Buzludzha, Bulgaria which commemorates the founding of the party there in 1891 are left in ruins.
However, there is a strong economic incentive to satisfy the desire of tourists to gaze upon the recent past and many new tourism products have been developed recently in Poland, Bulgaria, East Germany and Hungary. Tours in Berlin, Krakow, and Sofia offer unique experiences such as visiting a typical flat from the communist era, driving a Trabant car, shooting a Kalashnikov rifle, and dancing in a communist disco. Such tours have often reignited the debates in eastern and central European countries about what should be done about many of the monuments, buildings and sites that remain from that period.
The contested and controversial nature of communist heritage is further detailed in a recent Conversation article.