Discussion IV- “What Links Us to Sofia and How We Present it Externally”?

The objective of the discussion was to encourage the creative thinking and the debate on drafting a concept for Sofia’s candidature for European capital of culture 2019.


The Municipality of Sofia (Sofia Development Association) and the Centre for Culture and Debate “Red House” organized the fourth consecutive discussion on the candidacy of Sofia for European capital of culture 2019, titled “What Links Us to Sofia and How We Present it Externally”?The discussion was moderated by NADIA OBRETENOVA, journalist, Bulgarian National TV, and the topic was introduced by Associate Professor Dr. ALEXANDER KYOSEV, Director, Cultural Centre of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

The objective of the discussion was to encourage the creative thinking and the debate on drafting a concept for Sofia’s candidature for European capital of culture 2019.

Associate Professor Kyosev presented his personal experience in giving meaning to Sofia and living in it: the visual seminar about Sofia, the Alternative Map of Sofia project, and the third issue of the Piron (nail) magazine on the topic of “Personal Cities”. He drew the general conclusion that the direction of the development of his personal relationship with the capital was natural: instead of the constant criticism and dissatisfaction with the city, although having good grounds for that, and since we cannot change Sofia objectively, we can change our subjective perceptions of it.

Alexander Kyosev outlined the following trends of thinking about the city:

We all know the defects of Sofia. Usually, people try to make them invisible and to show the good sides: heritage, history, the will to “present ourselves to foreigners”. The other approach, however, is to turn defects into effects, to turn them into allurement for Sofia.

The candidature of Sofia for European Capital of Culture may be as well unsuccessful, but the very process of putting forth its candidature means that something in Sofia has to change, to attain a sustainable result.

Showing the city can be thought of in terms of several oppositions: boasting or modesty; the outer city or the inner one, the proud city or the intimate one? These are choices.

Mr. Kyosev led the discussion towards the inner city that is linked not so much with the official political life, but with the people, with the life style of the communities and the allurement of Sofia – understanding the metaphor in anthropological sense. He warned that when we put forward the allurement, we might fall into the trap of being uncritical with respect to the city’s problems.

The topics of pride, modesty and self-irony in presenting the city were dealt with; the self-irony must not be overused in order to prevent perception of complexes.

The differences between the internal view of Sofia, often tending to be boastful, and the external view, seeking exoticism, were discussed: most commonly – the poor, the minority, and the variegated. The one does not want to see and perceive the other and vice versa.

The vision of Sofia as a capital of culture was broadly discussed, as well as the relationship between cultural content, its audience and the objectives of the European Capital of Culture initiative. The participants united around the ideas that the major goal of the idea is to animate the cities and to improve the living standards; cultural standards are a means for achieving it. That is why it is important to distinguish the cultural element from marketing during the development of the vision. It is important to clarify what type of culture Sofia makes and will make in the future – for the elites, for the young Bulgarians and Europeans, or something else.

A considerable interest was roused by the mechanism for collecting, developing and presenting ideas among to choose one. The general expectations are about an open and transparent mechanism with clear responsibilities.

Several concrete ideas and suggestions were discussed, among them the culture of socialism and transition; compilation of chrestomathy “Reflections on Sofia”, which is to summarize the 120-year experience in this direction; compilation of the reasoning of young people regarding their choice of Sofia as a city to live in, or why they have preferred another European city; work in the city’s periphery and the active inclusion of all Sofia citizens; development of an online platform for sharing interesting, alternative sites in Sofia.

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