“Kambanite” in Sofia, Bulgaria: The Bells of Many Nations

The Stalinist regime in Pyongyang sent one of the largest bells. They were friends with the Shivkov regime. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

In 1979, Ljudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Bulgarian dictator Todor Zhivkov, who was also a member of the Politburo and Minister of Culture, had an idea. She wanted a place at which bells of all nations would be displayed, for “unity, creativity and beauty”, for what the Communists called peace, and for all children.

While political prisoners were tortured and murdered, while the State Security, many former agents of which are in Bulgarian politics and big business today, spied upon Bulgarian citizens and arrested them for the “wrong” thoughts or statements, and while most citizens were confined in their own country, the Communist regime was playing peace, right there, at Kambanite.

The bell provided by the U.S. was pretty modest. To Bulgarian Communists, America was always, and still is, the source of all evil. A big bell would have distorted that picture. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The location of those bells is the “International Park of the Children of the World”, at the southern edge of Sofia, between the Mladost Quarter and the Vitosha mountain range. When this park was inaugurated on August 15th, 1979, the International Children’s Parliament, which actually was a festival for literature, music and art, took place.

That festival was used as a propaganda tool by the Sofia regime, back in the days. After the fall of Communism, it was revived by Evgeniya Zhivkova, the dictator’s granddaughter, in 1999. It is unclear whether it still exists today.

What a nice bell, from Japan. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The park of bells was also used for promotion activities. The Rotary Club of Bulgaria put up a bell in 2005, while celebrating some anniversary. But most of the bells on site are originals, which were provided by many states. These include countries which do not exist anymore, such as the GDR and Yugoslavia, countries which should not exist anymore, such as North Korea, and countries which never existed in the form portrayed here, such as Palestine. And one bell, of an existing country, was obviously damaged on purpose. Guess which one. Hint: It is the only multi-ethnic country and the only democracy in the Middle East.

Another very impressive bell. But this one was added much later. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

There are huge bells and small ones, beautiful and ugly ones. Some still look like new, while others do not. Some were made out of high quality material, others were not. And many have already been stolen or removed for other reasons.

Ljudmila Zhivkova died of a brain tumor in 1981, two years after her “International Park of the Children of the World” was inaugurated.

A little trip to “Kambanite”, the bells, is very interesting, and it might feel like time travel, to a certain extent.

By Imanuel Marcus

Photos by Imanuel Marcus

Another beautifull bell. By the way: Most of them can still be rung. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

A Middle Eastern bell. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

One if the nicest bells down there. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Maybe London did not want to be part of this officially. So they sent a more commercial gift. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

More bells. Lots of them. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

All bells are fixed to concrete holders, which would not win any beauty prizes. But they are doing their job. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Even the host country has its own bell. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

One bell carries this impressive animal. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Well, this country ceased to exist. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

This country does not exist anymore either. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.





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