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A Washington, D.C. Remembrance of Bulgarian Communism

State of the Union: A new AI venture seeks to keep the memory of Bulgarian communism survivors alive.
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The Victims of Communism Museum (VOC) Tuesday unveiled a new pop-up exhibit entitled, “Belene–A Bulgarian Resistance Story.” This effort was spearheaded by the Sofia Platform Foundation with support from the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

This experience provides visitors to the VOC with the unique opportunity to speak “with” Nikola Daskalov, a survivor of the Belene labor camp, through AI technology. By adapting over 120 hours of in-person interviews, the organizations have made it possible for museum visitors to sit in an interactive booth and ask Daskalov’s AI simulacrum questions about his experiences in the Bulgarian gulag, receiving answers in real time. 


The exhibit seeks to shed light on this dark period of Bulgarian communism, which is often ignored even in Bulgaria, where over 40 percent of the Soviet-era archives were destroyed.

Present at the event were the American ambassador to Bulgaria, Kenneth H. Merten, and the Bulgarian ambassador to the United States, Georgi Panayotov. Both spoke about their support for NATO, highlighting that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Bulgaria’s accession to the alliance. Panayotov also described Russia as a “menace” and a “threat” in the context of the current war in Ukraine.

Panayotov highlighted the patriotism of Bulgarian resistance against communism going back over a century, saying, ​​“Bulgaria was a democracy, even before the First World War. So we know what democracy is, we know what is to be free.” Panayotov also compared Bulgarian resistance to communism to Bulgarian resistance to the Ottomans, without mentioning that Bulgarian liberation was affected by the Russian Empire.

Merten acknowledged that “none of this would have been possible without the difficult but necessary transition some 35 years ago, and those courageous leaders and people who resisted the communist regime.”

The exhibit is open to the public until June 14, 2024 at the Victims of Communism Museum in Washington, D.C.