Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Ideologies and National Identities

 | 
John Lampe
, 
Mark Mazower

Chapter 8. Sounds and Noise in Socialist Bulgaria

Rossitza Guentcheva

Texte intégral

“I would have died if, for a man concentrated on work, silence had indeed been so indispensable as it seems at first glance. I live quite near the baths and at this very moment I am surrounded by a multitude of sounds. Imagine, there are all types of sounds able to make anyone start hating the very organ of hearing. There is the noise of those who do physical exercises, and the noise of the swirling of the plumb-heavy ball, and the panting of those working, or better said pretending to work; I can hear how they breathe heavily, hold their breath, and then emit hoarse and rough exhalations. I can hear the slapping of a greasy hand on the shoulder of a body being massaged with oil; from the type of the sound I can even infer how the oil is being applied, with a stretched or with a curled palm … ‘Oh, you will exclaim, you are either made of iron or are deaf, if your mind is not affected by so diverse and inharmonious shouts, when the stoic Chrysippus was brought to death by some endless cheers alone.’ … I swear, this noise does not bother me more than the murmur of running water, although it is known that one people changed the site of their city just because they could not stand the noise produced by the river Nile … I force my mind to remain concentrated and unaffected by any external phenomenon … Calmness is not reached but by the mind.”
Seneca to Lucilius, Letter LVI, “On unpleasant sounds”

  • 1 Jo Tacchi, “Radio texture: between self and others,” in Daniel Miller, ed., Material Cultures: Why (...)

1This chapter is about the perception of sounds in socialist Bulgaria. Either wanted or unwanted, sounds are an intrinsic part of the everyday life of people, and, for the present case, of Bulgarians in the socialist society of the period 1944–1989. I explore the fragile threshold between sounds and noise and attempt to explain why certain sounds qualified as appropriate for the ears of the socialist citizen. The inquiry will also address the fate of unde sirable sounds disgraced as noise, and the Bulgarian Communist Party’s (BCP) ideological rationale for sanctioning the soundscape.1 Inasmuch as

2sounds belong to the domain of the everyday, the chapter will throw light on an aspect of people’s everyday existence which has remained as yet largely unexplored by historians. Equally, this research on human senses and their social control will reveal the reverse effects of categorization and regulation on broader everyday experiences. My intention is to capture the specific mean ing attributed to sounds and noise during the four socialist decades in Bulgaria through the concepts elaborated by Communist Party leaders and intellectuals.

  • 2 Penio Penev, Kogato se nalivakha osnovite (Sofia: Narodna mladezh, 1965), 43–44.

3At the end of the 1940s and through the 1950s, Bulgarian citizens were left almost entirely unassisted in judging the desirability of different sounds that surrounded them. The problem of noise, and especially of its control, regulation, and reduction, practically did not exist at that time. Far from the explicit endeavor to combat noise that developed in the late 1960s and the anti-noise euphoria which took shape in the 1970s, few sounds qualified as noise in the two preceding decades. At a time when massive industrialization was under way and building up heavy industry was the daily duty of citizens and authorities alike, the noise of machines in the factories was welcomed and celebrated. Workers, poets, and officials delighted in the roar of engines, recognizing in their squeaking and rattling the first sounds of modern industrial Bulgaria, successfully leaving behind its now outdated rural image. “Instead of birds singing—winches are grating” were the words by which one of the key figures of Bulgarian socialist realism, the poet Penio Penev, summarized this atmosphere. Like the whole generation of the 1950s, he was enchanted by the oily smell of motors, the seductive scent of lime, and the coarse voices of turbines and cement mixers.2

  • 3 In 1946, the number of urban dwellers in Bulgaria was 1,735,000, compared to 5,294,000 in the rura (...)
  • 4 Sofiiski Gradski i Obshtinski Durzhaven Arkhiv, f. 65, o. 1, a.e. 613, II-4.

4In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, fighting rural backwardness and modernizing the country through rapid industrialization were the paramount tasks of the Communist regime. In 1956, Bulgaria was still an agrarian country, where the rural economy still outweighed the industrial sector, and the village population was twice as large as the urban.3 Even the capital city of Sofia still exhibited traces of a small town, where some residents raised domestic animals and planted vegetables in their private courtyards and gardens. A 1957 edict of the Executive Council in one of the Sofia districts designated the specific locations in the district where domestic animals and poultry could be bred.4 For more than a decade after the socialist revolution, district authorities in Sofia were still working to assure large agricultural crops and the productivity of domestic animals. The sounds of Sofia at that time were closer to the sounds of the countryside than to those of a burgeoning urban agglomeration. The average Bulgarian citizen in the 1950s was most likely to be disturbed by the mooing of cows, the quacking of ducks or the grunting of pigs.

  • 5 Georgi Bitsin, “Shum v kharmoniiata,” in Ivan Radev, ed., Literaturnite pogromi:Poruchkovi “ubiist (...)
  • 6 Consider, for example, the portrait of the enemy in the first Bulgarian socialist operetta “Delian (...)

5At the same time, because one of the paramount goals of the Communist Party was to transform backward rural locations into modern and shining socialist sites, sounds associated with rural life acquired a pejorative connotation. They were identified with useless romanticism and harmful nostalgic longing for a peaceful way of life. A quiet existence was incompatible with the proletarian zeal needed to build a new socialist Bulgaria, to erect new cities and factories, and with the revolutionary drive forward to an ideal Communist society. A feuilleton, published in the daily Otechestven Front on 22 September 1955 and entitled “Noise in harmony,” ridiculed the sentimental yearning for the “tender ringing of guitars” and the singing of telegraphic wires and restless blackbirds. The author derided the idyllic verses to Nature written by three Bulgarian poets, and implicitly promoted rough proletarian enthusiasm and the raw beauty of pouring concrete.5 Silence was also associated with the capitalist enemy, “who now acts secretively and furtively, and tries not to make noise on the squares,” ruining socialist institutions covertly from within.6

  • 7 “Vredno proizvedenie,” 4–8. I thank István Rév for having brought my attention to instances where (...)

6This notwithstanding, rural sounds were not the only blight to the soundscape of the early socialist decades. A host of musical sounds turned out to be unwanted and marginalized, for varying reasons. The operetta “Deliana” was labeled a “harmful work” immediately upon its first performance at the season’s opening at the State Musical Theatre in Sofia.7 It was considered an “attack against our new cooperative village, a thoughtless, trite caricature of the new relations in that village,” which “nurtures petit-bourgeois vestiges in people’s consciousness.” In this instance, the libretto rather than the music itself was conceived as tasteless and pernicious. Depicting the protagonist in his romantic relationship with a woman (“and not in his relations to the cooperative villagers”), a village girl as “intriguer” and one villager as “drunkard” (“there are no such personages in our socialist village”), the authors were blamed for “having followed the canons of the tasteless and decadent Western operetta” and “espoused the reactionary bourgeois dream of a rural idyll.” Although the music itself was found worthy and accessible for a mass audience, it was turned into noise by a deviant text that did not conform to the rules of socialist realism.

7Yet music itself could easily acquire dangerous connotations and thereby become noise. Such was the fate, for example, of modern atonal music inspired by Schönberg, Hindemitt, Debussy and others. Bulgarian composers Konstantin Iliev and Lazar Nikolov, who wrote such music in the 1950s, were severely criticized as “militant formalists” and “imitators of decadent bourgeois music.” Here is how an article of 1956, proclaiming itself as “defending real music,” described their artistic experiments:

  • 8 Blazho Stoianov, “Protiv formalizma—v zashtita na istinskata muzika,” Bulgarska muzika 3 (1956): 5 (...)

Their works represent pandemonium, a senseless accumulation of dissonance, a sort of musical equilibristics. They have supplanted the piano’s melody with a clapping drum-drum. The charming cantilena of violins, the tender expression of wooden instruments, and the masculine beauty of brass are sacrificed to shrieks, twangs, and screams unbearable for normal human hearing … For such debased music, the words of Maxim Gorky in his article “Music for the fat” are the most appropriate: “Suddenly, in the deep silence, a stupid hammer starts clanking dryly—one, two, three, ten, twenty clanks, then, as a ball of mud splashing in the purest of water, savage shouts, screeching, thunder, clamor, crashes and creaks come in. Inhuman voices are invading, which remind one of a horse whinny; the grunt of a brass pig is heard, the braying of donkeys, a slimy croak of a frog.”8

  • 9 “Postanovlenieto na TsK na VKP(b) za op. ‘Velikata druzhba’ ot Muradeli i bulgarskata muzika,” Muz (...)
  • 10 For a variety of sounds in 1953 Warsaw see B. Brzostek, “Dz´wie,ki i ikonosfera Stalinowskiej Wars (...)

8Strictly following the official Stalinist line of suppressing atonal music in the USSR, even the works of Soviet modernist composers like Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev were criticized as “noisy decadent propaganda.”9 Jazz also figured prominently on the list of offensive sounds, being judged tasteless, erotic, vulgar, unserious, and American (see Document 1). Yet such noise was easier to control, as ideologically incorrect musical pieces were simply banned or deleted from public performances. Censorship— together with self-censorship—was sufficient to assure that the degrading sound of degenerate bourgeois music did not reach the ears of socialist Bulgarians.10

New Sounds and New Problems

  • 11 In 1969, the number of urban dwellers was 4,374,000 while the number of rural inhabitants was 4,09 (...)
  • 12 Tsentralen Durzhaven Arkhiv (TsDA), f. 136, o. 32, a.e. 162, ll. 1, 7, 41.
  • 13 Even settlements of less than 4,000 inhabitants—as, for example, Gara Kaspichan, with its 3,960 in (...)

9By the late 1960s, the official policy of forced industrialization and urbanization had brought significant changes to the urban as well as rural landscape of Bulgaria. By 1969, the number of urban dwellers for the first time surpassed that of rural inhabitants, following a rapid concentration of population in the cities.11 It was precisely the speed of this urbanization and its attendant abruptness which had crucial importance for the transformation of the everyday life of Bulgarian citizens. The policy of accelerated urbanization, going hand in hand with an ideological concern for town planning, also led to the concentration of population in multi-story buildings. Undertaking public works in widely spread villages and towns was considered time-consuming and expensive, and thus inefficient. In order to develop exemplary socialist cities and villages quickly, authorities adopted a policy of “shrinking the regulated inhabited territories” and “maximizing the concentration of building activities.”12 Compact multi-story buildings would allow faster and more efficient urban development that was measured in kilometers of asphalt roads constructed, linear meters of sidewalks and water-pipes laid, and numbers of trees planted.13

  • 14 Compare Svetlana Boym’s comment on the mathematical and bureaucratic division of home space during (...)
  • 15 This average socialist apartment had also a fixed average price—6,800 leva (7,200 for Sofia). Thos (...)

10While the increasing number of factories, cars, buses or trams diversified street and city sounds, the concentration of residents in multi-story buildings further multiplied neighborhood sounds. These “inner district” sounds came from public parks and playgrounds but most of all from private apartments: they were generated simply through too close co-existence in the crowded socialist-style buildings. Not only was the number of floors per building increasingly high, the number of apartments per floor also rose. Initially, the projection for the general town plan of Sofia envisaged just 7 square meters of occupied space per person, yet until advice from foreign architects helped to change this to 15 square meters.14 The small size of apartments followed from the urgent need to house a rapidly growing urban population and the authorities’ desire to fulfill and even surpass targets in the five-year plans for economic development. Since they were set at numbers of apartments constructed, the smaller their size the more the plan target was met. Since people were fitted to flats rather than the other way round, the average size of a Bulgarian flat was set by the Council of Ministers at 75 square meters.15

  • 16 Geno Tsonkov, “Korenni kachestveni izmeneniia i tendentsii v obshtestveniia, semeiniia i lichniia (...)

11Data from one of the first sociological surveys of living conditions in a central Sofia district revealed that in 1967 more than 97 percent of those interviewed shared a room with another person. (Yet only 29 percent declared that their flats were uncomfortable, meaning “flats where more than two people share a room or where two families are accommodated in one apartment.”) Not only were Bulgarians densely packed in residential buildings, but by the mid-1960s they also acquired enough modern appliances to pro-duce, or expose others to, new types of sounds. Of those interviewed 54 percent said that they had washing machines, 46 percent possessed vacuum cleaners, and 25 percent had refrigerators. The survey showed that 89 percent of the respondents owned a radio, 33 percent had a TV set, 14 percent owned record players, and 7 percent tape machines.16

12In this way, a new category of sounds emerged throughout the 1960s. They were specifically urban, that is, not related to socialist industry and the construction of the socialist homeland. They necessitated a new classification. Unlike rural sounds, they were not expected to die out gradually; unlike industrial sounds, they were not ideologically correct. Nor could they be easily suppressed through censorship, as was the case with undesirable music. These sounds demanded categorization which would change the existing perception of sounds. New classificatory work, however, started with the industrial sounds. A few more years had to pass before the multitude of urban sounds were officially interpreted as noise, account taken of them in the rules of socialist cohabitation, and measures prescribed for their avoidance on the path to the attainment of perfect socialist coexistence.

From Sounds to Noise

  • 17 For a similar approach explaining social reality through the conceptual tools elaborated by Commun (...)
  • 18 See Todor Zhivkov’s speech to the 9th Congress of the BCP (14 November 1966) in Todor Zhivkov, Int (...)

13Instrumental in the process of changing perceptions and sensibilities whereby sounds were degraded to the status of simple noise was the Bulgarian Communist Party’s policy of intensified industrialization, which was adopted in the mid-1960s.17 Industrialization in the preceding decades had been extensive, and involved the building of new factories and enterprises. Intensive industrialization meant that the already constructed industrial plants and machines had to be made more efficient.18 This was thought possible to achieve by raising the productivity of the labor force. Yet in the mid-1960s, contemporary scholarship, armed with new techniques, instruments, and sophisticated methodology, discovered that loud sounds negatively affected workers’ health, concentration, and productivity. The first sound to fall under direct regulation as harmful and inadmissible was the roar of machinery, now dethroned from its place as a palpable symbol of socialist Bulgaria in the late 1940s and 1950s. To be sure, machines continued to function as such a symbol until the very end of the Communist regime; it was only their roar which was now found offensive and damaging. From being a welcome sound it became unwanted noise, dissociated from the representation of machines as pillars of socialist development.

  • 19 For the rationalization of productivity, see Ulf Brunnbauer, “‘The League of Time’ (Liga Vremia): (...)

14Attention focused first on conditions at the workplace and on production noise, for it was in factories and plants that diminished concentration, lower productivity and illness-generated absences were judged to be most detrimental. From 1965 onward, a host of Bulgarian specialists, most of them medical doctors and acoustic engineers, published books on the great social harm of noise. Calling noise a “public enemy of contemporary life,” “a dangerous enemy,” and even “enemy number one,” they campaigned for a rationalization of the workplace and workforce.19 Summarizing these concerns and calculating the multiple damage noise did to productivity, Liliana Todorova wrote:

  • 20 Liliana Todorova, Shumut—vrag No 1 (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1978), 15–16.

With the country’s industrialization, with the growth of productive capacity, and the automatization and mechanization of work processes, conditions have appeared that lead to an increase in workplace noise too. A huge percentage of workers in different branches of industry and agriculture are exposed to noise which lowers their productivity and increases traumatization… It has been established that productivity at noisy workplaces is 20 to 60 percent lower than at quiet ones, the volume of waste production is considerably higher, while the number of mistakes during calculations rises by 50 percent… All this lowers work capacity and the precision of routine movements, while raising production errors by 20–25 percent in comparison to a noise-free environment.20

  • 21 For a similar concern see Nikola Zarkov and Maia Konstantinova, Akustichna kharakteristika na Sofi (...)
  • 22 Ibid., 17–19.

15Todorova also noted that in noisy environments the ability to understand speech decreased. This could endanger communication among members of a working collective and the ability to hear orders, whereas in professions requiring good hearing, the very ability to execute one’s professional duties could be reduced.21 She concluded: “Experience demonstrates that lowering the intensity of production noise is an important though as yet unused resource. It is established that reducing noise by 1dB raises productivity by 0.3–1 percent. Hence every defeated decibel would bring our socialist economy millions of leva.”22

  • 23 Vesela Tabakova, “Svobodnoto vreme i mladezhta v burzhoaznoto obshtestvo,” Novo vreme 2 (1987): 11 (...)

16Other sounds quickly suffered the fate of industrial noise as Bulgarian researchers realized that noise outside the workplace might equally imperil productivity. It was the Marxist notion of reproduction (i.e., restoration) of the capacity for work which formed the bridge to interpreting a growing number of sounds as noise. Reproduction of the labor force, which took place outside of working time, was crucial for the maintenance of the processes of work and production. Noise jeopardized the restoration of the ability to work by not letting people rest and relax, by harming their sleep and by destroying their leisure time. Since sleep and leisure had little meaning in the Marxist doctrine outside of their being a reservoir for renewed work capacity, damaging the socialist citizen’s sleep and leisure represented an unsuccessful renewal of the ability to work hard. Leisure was conceived of as a “sphere which continues human self-accomplishment in work,” hence contributing to the self-accomplishment of the socialist personality and its harmonious development.23 Leisure was not an alternative to work, it was its extension; if its effectiveness was impeded by noise, this would undermine the central tenet of socialist society, productive work itself.

17The logic of protecting productivity required that noise be regulated; it also determined its regulation along a public-private axis. Three types of noise were distinguished. To the production noise of industrial enterprises and machines, which was to be prevented from undermining workers’ productivity, two other types were added—public noise of private origin (the noise of cars, motorcycles, lifts, pipes), and private noise, incorporated in the notion of the socialist way of life, or bit (the noise of neighbors, family arguments, the loud playing of radios, television or musical instruments). Both of them negatively affected workers’ reproduction outside of the workplace.

  • 24 Eduard Gazdov, Shumut—vrag na suvremennia zhivot (Iambol: HEI, 1967), 15.
  • 25 Mitko Enchev, Tishina i zdrave (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1973), 18, 14.
  • 26 Emil Efremov, Nashata otgovornost (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1969), 23.

18Some specialists singled out public noise of private origin as the worst offender, although they were divided over which was more harmful, the noise of vehicles or that produced by shops, restaurants, bars, and manufacturing facilities located on the first floors of occupied buildings.24 Others thought private noise was the worst, with the human voice being the chief culprit and silence the optimal sound.25 Still others appealed for a “conscientious and civilized use of modern appliances, especially of radio and television sets, record and tape players, etc., which means reducing their volume so that some people’s entertainment and pleasure do not interfere with the tranquillity of their neighbors.”26 Music could also become pure noise. “The radio station at the factory, which thunders louder than the machines, tires the worker and increases waste, is also a source of noise, although, formally speaking, it broadcasts (entertaining) music,” said Iasen Moskov. And he went on:

  • 27 Iasen Moskov, Shum i zdrave (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1970), 6, 3. Such a small provincial t (...)

Noise is all around us—both at the workplace and in the street. It penetrates already into our homes which are supposed to be hearths of tranquillity. How many people are awakened in the morning by the ringing of the alarm clock or by the thunder of motorcycles and vans, then work in noisy conditions, and upon returning home when they need to rest, are again exposed to shouts, tapping, the piano of the neighbor, or to the street loudspeakers, in some small provincial towns still used at any hour.27

  • 28 Shumut kato faktor na zhiznenata sreda (Plovdiv: H. G. Danov, 1976), 6.
  • 29 M. Angelova, “Khigienno znachenie na shumoviia faktor v proizvodstvoto i bita” in Izsledvaniia i b (...)
  • 30 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 143, l. 65.
  • 31 “Children who sleep in a noisy environment become nervous and troubled, and their appetite reduces (...)
  • 32 Gazdov, 14–15.

19Public or private, noise was any unwanted, harmful, confusing or embarrassing sound. But being contingent on perception, it was relative, and because of that, elusive and extremely hard to combat. Sharp sounds might be inoffensive for some but disturbing for others. Still, noise was aggressive.28 It invaded and strained people’s ears against their wish, leaving them passive, defeated and incapable of reacting. Noise attacked human flesh by raising blood pressure, causing ulcers and cancer as well as an array of nervous, psychological, cardiac and gastric diseases.29 It was an enemy, but an invisible and hidden one, which no person could either touch or see.30 Noise was permeable, defying obstacles, and able to assault a disproportionately high number of city dwellers. When doctors found out that noise could injure the human body even during sleep,31 it was clear that a holy war would have to be waged against it. “A vital imperative of our society is to initiate a decisive fight against noise,” wrote a physician, adding “‘More quietly! Silence!’—these are vital imperatives which should be embodied in our everyday life, because they promote enthusiasm, health, and long life.”32

In the Vanguard of Combating Noise

20Once the point had been reached where the paramount assets of a socialist society—work, productivity and their reproduction—were believed to be at stake, it was time for official authority to step in. From the early 1970s, a massive campaign against plant noise as well as city, street, neighborhood, and private noise was initiated by the highest Bulgarian ruling bodies. The problem of noise moved onto the agenda of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the BCP and started being discussed at the meetings of the Council of Ministers. In the absence of private enterprise and an independent business sector, it was the central institutions of the socialist state which were obliged to control, regulate, and ensure the health of the labor force. Inevitably politicizing noise, these institutions would be the most effective not only in putting forward but also in enforcing prescriptions on what noise was and how to overcome it.

  • 33 Shumut kato faktor, 155–56.
  • 34 Za opazvane i podobriavane na prirodnata sreda v N.R.Bulgariia. Dokladi i izkazvaniia na Osmata se (...)

21Before the 1970s, the control of unpleasant sounds—chiefly public noise— had been entrusted to the trade unions and the organs of the Fatherland Front, a BCP-sponsored mass organization which dealt with the public sphere and the socialist way of life. At that time, noise was not perceived to pose a particular danger to the whole socialist citizenry and economy; it affected relatively few people (predominantly industrial workers) and was not regarded as a major social and public evil. “The history of the campaign against noise in our country is relatively short,” commented a Bulgarian scholar in 1976, referring to the fact that it was at the beginning of the 1970s that the initiative was taken “by the state, which started organizing, leading and implementing a complex of measures for combating noise.”33 Noise, according to a high-ranking official who addressed a session on environmental protection at the National Assembly in 1973, was a new problem which socialist Bulgaria had to address extremely seriously by adopting appropriate legislation.34

  • 35 I thank Ivan Elenkov for having brought this point to my attention.
  • 36 Todor Zhivkov, Za posledovatelno izpulnenie resheniiata na X-ia kongres na BKP za povishavane zhiz (...)

22The BCP’s engagement against noise coincided with the design and inception of the Program for raising the standard of living of the Bulgarian people, announced by state and party leader Todor Zhivkov in 1971.35 The concept of “standard of living” (zhizneno ravnishte) combined concern for environmental protection, citizens’ health and the socialist way of life, as well as the need to lengthen their leisure time, where the anti-noise drive would smoothly fit in. Raising the standard of living was to be achieved through 12 separate programs, from accelerated housing construction, the manufacture of scarce commodities (meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and things for children), and the building of kindergartens, sport facilities and youth clubs, to improving public dining, transportation networks, and the organization of working time, and training specialists through secondary and higher education.36 A polluted environment damaged the health of Bulgaria’s citizens, thus endangering their performance as socialist workers. Safeguarding the worker’s body would guarantee the increasing pace of socialist production. Bodies could be strengthened and made competitive through sports and improved diet. Since the Marxist notion of reproduction of the labor force depended extensively on material conditions outside of the workplace, the Communist Party found a rationale for participating in the management of these as well.

  • 37 For an excellent discussion of shifting concepts of bit reform in the USSR see Victor Buchli, An A (...)
  • 38 Izidor Levi, Shiroko dvizhenie za nov sotsialisticheski bit (Sofia: NS na OF,

23Although the new socialist way of life was conceptualized as being outside of the sphere of production and politics, it had a strong reciprocal connection with them.37 One’s productive and public work depended on the way one was eating, dressing, satisfying one’s needs, and renewing and improving one’s strength, knowledge and creative capacities.38 The problem of the new socialist way of life and the manner in which socialist citizens “satisfied their everyday material and spiritual needs” became more important in the early 1970s when the state set out to reduce working hours and adopt a five-day work week. A central pillar of the increased socialist standard of living, the two-day weekend, extended the amount of leisure time, hence accenting time dedicated to reproduction of the workforce.

  • 39 Tsonkov, 49.
  • 40 Zakhari Staikov, Izsledvaniia na biudzheta na vremeto (Sofia: BAN, 1989), 6–7.
  • 41 Kolio Kolev, Atanas Dimitrov, Vsichko za choveka (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na BKP, 1969), 87.

24At the same time, the question of how workers spent their leisure hours became even more important. Since the official premise was that every person organized their personal and familial bit, “using leisure time as they want and like,”39 from the 1970s onward socialist citizens had more time at their own disposal. Marxist research on time-budgets warned, however, that leisure time should have nothing to do with passive rest, loitering, or empty entertainment, nor even with spending time “alone” or “on one’s own.” Only activities oriented to physical, intellectual, professional, spiritual and social development of the personality should count for leisure time.40 The two-day weekend was a “direct investment in raising the education and professional qualifications of working people and in this sense the sixth working day which became a holiday will not be an empty day.”41 It would be a working day par excellence, spent on reproduction and improvement of one’s capacities for work.

  • 42 Todor Zhivkov, Otcheten doklad na TsK na BKP pred X-ia kongres na partiiata (Sofia: Partizdat, 197 (...)

25Thus from the early 1970s, the standard of living was conceived of as the “other pole of economy”; it depended on the state of the natural environment, the socialist citizen’s health and a meaningful way of life. Noise could put all three of these at risk. Todor Zhivkov summarized its negative effect on the environment in his report to the 10th Congress of the BCP in 1971: “The flourishing industrialization of the country has had some negative consequences too. I mean above all the pollution of air and water, the increase of noise, vibrations and infrasounds, etc… These phenomena should not be underestimated or treated lightly. They must be stopped through strict legislation and the active involvement of society.”42 The minister of construction and architecture, Grigor Stoichkov, also spelled out the detrimental influence of noise on human health, productivity, and way of life:

  • 43 TsDA, f. 136, o. 65, a.e. 37, ll. 23–24.

Construction acoustics treat the problems of sound isolation in private and public houses, of limiting and reducing the noise and vibrations in the production areas of industrial buildings and human settlements. These are problems relating to acoustic comfort in the way of life of the socialist citizen, industrial productivity, and the population’s health in general. Solving these problems now is of utmost social, economic and political importance and is linked to making the work environment healthier and to stabilizing the workforce in industrial enterprises.43 (See also Document 2.)

26The Bulgarian authorities were convinced that it was socialist societies, especially the USSR, which could best preserve the environment, because their relationship to nature was not contaminated by predatory exploitation. Quoting Soviet Supreme Court decisions of 1972 on environmental protection, as well as Leonid Brezhnev’s words on nature preservation in his report to the 24th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, they initiated a massive, complex, and large-scale attack on noise. It started at workplaces on the outskirts of cities, proceeded to streets, shops, and public gardens, then after going on to specify the location, size and shape of buildings and private apartments, it entered into apartment kitchens and sitting rooms and finally ended in the bed of the socialist citizen. Its ultimate goal was not to intrude into citizens’ private lives—as already noted, personal and familial bit was supposed to remain their own business—but to protect and improve their healthy relaxation and ensure useful reading and self-education in an atmosphere of calmness and tranquillity.

  • 44 TsDA, f. 136, o. 56, a.e. 173, ll. 10–17, 30.
  • 45 Ibid., l. 15. This measure was taken against Trabant and Wartburg cars. Yet after a protest from t (...)

27Directive No. 67 of the Council of Ministers of 6 April 1973 listed numerous initiatives for reducing noise and vibrations in industrial, public and residential buildings, and in all inhabited places.44 Identifying noise as “one of the cardinal problems of the living environment,” it required that all noisy activities in industrial enterprises be grouped together and isolated behind doors and special glass. All machines produced in Bulgaria or imported from abroad had to have their noise and vibration characteristics clearly defined, while all regional people’s councils were ordered to take all noisy productive activities out of residential districts. The directive authorized the Ministry of Interior to withdraw from circulation noisy motor vehicles and barred the use of cars with two-cycle engines between 10 pm and 6 am. It decreed that night deliveries to shops and supermarkets be reorganized so as to ensure silence in all inhabited places.45

28A variety of institutions turned to enforcing the new restrictions. By 1976, when the directive’s implementation was first monitored, regional district authorities had started putting asphalt on central streets (concrete pavement increased noise by 10–12 dB) and designing protective green screens against noise. The regional people’s councils in 11 cities elaborated programs for moving noisy industrial enterprises outside of residential neighborhoods. The Bulgarian refrigerators Mraz 160 and Mraz 200 were already being advertised with reduced noise as a feature. So were a host of other electrical products (ventilators, electric trucks, washing machines, air conditioners, etc.). The Ministry of Interior carried out more than 2.3 million checks and suspended from circulation about 30, 000 motor vehicles because of loud engines. In order to alleviate inner-city traffic noise, ring roads encircling the towns were built in Sevlievo, Pazardzhik, Sliven, Lovech, etc. In the major train stations, steam engines were completely replaced by diesels. The Ministry of Transport prescribed a list of measures for reducing noise in the area of train and bus stations, encouraging the use of light signals, radio-telephones and other noiseless means of transmitting information.

  • 46 N. Kamenov, N. Zarkov, “Shumozashtita na zhilishtnite teritorii,” in Mikroklimat i shum v zhilisht (...)

29From the cities’ industrial hinterland through their streets and stations, anti-noise concerns moved to the buildings where the socialist citizen lived, mobilizing town-planning and architecture to join in the struggle. Since greenery helped reduce noise, trees and bushes were to be planted around the main city transport arteries, with special attention to their seasonal growth. The parks of Sofia, which in the 1961 general town-development bill were located at the outskirts of the capital, were moved inside the city, closer to the population. Residential buildings were to be set apart from main city roads by two rows of public buildings—first shops and restaurants fronting the streets and behind them two- or three-story public garages to act as barriers to noise. This asymmetric zonal arrangement was intended to break up the boring sequence of identical blocks of flats and enhance the pleasure from contemplating beautiful architectural ensembles, since “the perception of architectural aesthetics was also contingent on the experience of noise.” The optimal height of residential buildings was set at 10–12 floors; their optimal position was parallel to the road.46

  • 47 Kamenov, Zarkov, 100. See also Shumut kato faktor, 154.
  • 48 TsDA, f. 136, o. 56, a.e. 173, ll. 58–65.
  • 49 Kamenov, Zarkov, 85, 108.
  • 50 Ibid., 63–70. On 2 July 1967, for example, noise measurements were executed on the southern balcon (...)

30Anti-noise activities penetrated within the buildings, too, and affected the size and architecture of the apartments themselves. Size related to the flat’s orientation to north, east, south or west.47 Floors and ceilings of apartments were to be laid down with special anti-noise insulation (containing penopolystirol, rubber, cork, etc.).48 Balconies and loggias—those longhonored sites of public communication within private property—were found to reflect street noise and blamed for letting it inside the flat; therefore their construction was not recommended. On the contrary, interior furnishings such as carpets, thick table-cloths and heavy curtains were especially endorsed.49 In order to best protect the socialist worker, state hygienic and epidemiological inspectors together with acoustic engineers were granted the right to examine citizens’ apartments, measure the level of sounds emitted by their refrigerators and washing machines, as well as the noise penetrating in their rooms from the outside.50 The new categorization of sounds did prove to be a powerful social agent, transforming the everyday environ-ment of citizens and dictating the shape and size of their homes.

Citizens’ Response to the Anti-noise Crusade

31There was one last type of noise where regulation and control were the hard-est to enforce, namely the noise produced by human beings in the course of their daily existence and communication. Sound-proof walls, ceilings and floors could indeed help enforce the duty of sleep and rest, protecting citizens from noisy neighbors, loud music, shouting in the street and lively conversation in the nearby district garden. Yet as Document 3 indicates, this was not always the case. People were often left with the dubious privilege of listening unwillingly to others’ conversations or with the temptation of eavesdropping, spying on and even participating in their neighbors’ private day-to-day activities. The Council of Ministers attempted to regulate that kind of noise too by approving a lengthy and extremely detailed Model Guide on Internal Order in Residential Buildings, produced by the Ministry of Justice (Document 4). Prescribing minutely when, where and what kind of sounds were permissible, it had to be posted in all buildings throughout the country with the goal of preventing conflicts among neighbors and assuring peaceful socialist cohabitation.

  • 51 TsDA, f. 136, o. 35, a.e. 616, l. 31.
  • 52 Which, during discussion of the draft guide, the Fatherland Front found too small to be effective (...)

32The struggle against human noise was carried on by more subtle means as well. Noise was progressively associated with uncivilized behavior, with savage manners and primitive conduct. Uncultured style and habits, betrayed by untamed voices and careless night-long parties, were to be confronted by the Fatherland Front, which struggled to uproot and replace them with considerate human relations devoid of aggression, rage and discontent. Eradication was practiced in gentle and mild forms, such as organizing children’s detachments for spending time meaningfully and courtyard squads for protecting order in residential buildings.51 Despite the military terminology, the techniques the Fatherland Front preferred were friendly persuasion, benevolent instruction and patient inculcation of the principles of polite behavior. There were other instruments of re-education, such as the fine of four leva codified in the Model Guide on Internal Order in Residential Buildings,52 or the district “comradely courts” which were empowered by a law of 1961 to enforce the rules of socialist coexistence in buildings and private flats.

33Respect for the right—and duty—to calmness, peace and tranquillity in interpersonal relations was also promoted through associating noise with remnants of bourgeois manners and sensibility. Describing noisy capitalist environments allowed clear anti-Western rhetoric to be deployed. Such depictions also associated Western noise with an outdated, unhealthy way of life. This is how Geno Tsonkov described the atmosphere in a typical Western bar:

  • 53 Tsonkov’s survey demonstrated that only 10 percent of those interviewed stated they visited pubs, (...)

It is certainly a happy phenomenon that the bit of the Bulgarian in the past was not contaminated by the habit of spending a great part of his leisure time in pubs, coffee houses and bars, which is a habitual and extremely widespread practice for certain Western people. Facts are showing convincingly that time spent in pubs, coffee houses and bars is not meaningful. Air inside them is filthy, impregnated with the smoke of tobacco, alcoholic fumes, carbon dioxide and noise. Hence it is self-evident that no sensible rest is possible in these places. In addition, too much time is lost unnoticeably there, most of all in empty talk.53

  • 54 I rely here on the notion of middlebrow fiction which Vera Dunham uses as a source to capture the (...)

34Middlebrow fiction also encouraged the association of noisiness with old ideological villains.54 Vividly portraying loud-voiced and noise-addicted characters as the conservative petit-bourgeois or the modern trickster, Iulian Vuchkov hoped to expose these sins as inadmissible in a socialist society (Document 5). Unlike in the early 1950s, the enemy was not silent and secretive anymore but stood out in the open, and his sharp voice made him ridiculous and unpleasant. He was not particularly dangerous any longer, but just a sad relic of the past which, with the readers’ effort, could be stricken from the face of the socialist society. Calm conversations, tranquillity and peacefulness were markers of the exemplary socialist way of life.

  • 55 For letters of complaint see Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinar (...)
  • 56 Such was, for example, the complaint of Kostadinka Ilieva from Sofia, addressed directly and perso (...)
  • 57 For several examples see TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 142 and TsDA, f. 136, o. 72,a.e. 143.

35Bulgarian citizens were quick to lend credibility by their now authorized complaints. That noise bothered and tormented them was evident from scores of letters of complaint sent to the highest institutions in the country, the Council of Ministers, the State Council, and quite often to the top state and party leader, Todor Zhivkov himself.55 These personal pleas abounded with descriptions of pain and agony inflicted by noisy neighbors, restaurants and light industry situated near or inside residential buildings. They were taken seriously by the authorities and always duly investigated, although some of them included grossly exaggerated and even entirely implausible assertions.56 When light industry plants came under attack, they were rarely closed down, as citizens wanted, but the noisy machines were taken out, fines were often levied, while precise measurements of noise were invariably made.57

  • 58 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 139, l. 20 (emphasis mine).

36These sources indicate that the majority of the protesting citizens had skillfully endorsed the motives behind the state’s concern with noise, namely that noise ruined their calmness, harming their productivity and the ability to replenish their energies for work. “Dear comrades,” began a letter of several Sofia residents on Struma Street, “with the feeling of people who seek assistance and protection from the highest state institution in our country, we write to you asking for help,” and then went on complaining about the noisy ventilator of a nearby snack bar. To back their appeal, the inhabitants of Struma Street nicely adopted the official standpoint: they claimed that the sleep and tranquillity at night of hundreds of people had been broken, that they could not sleep at all, and “on the next day we feel ill.”58 A much longer letter of residents on Alabin Street in Sofia, complaining of loud restaurant music, displayed a more poignant argumentation:

This noise is unimaginable and unbearable, accompanied by a terrible roar and unexpected echoes. Peaceful life in any of the surrounding buildings is unthinkable. But most of their inhabitants—we—are working people, workers and clerks, who seek their basic indispensable rest in order to gather forces for the next working shift … The repertoire of the orchestra lasts for a long time every day, and consumes the hours meant and destined for our relaxation. We ask you to interfere most energetically and order that the harmful consequences of the unwarranted impact of this extreme and obnoxious noise be liquidated.

37Having attached to their complaint excerpts from anti-noise regulations and instructions, published in the State Gazette and the daily press, the inhabitants of Alabin Street summoned a supreme authority whose pronouncements were given due emphasis with the help of capital letters:

  • 59 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 143, ll. 61–61a.

We refer to the thought of comrade Todor Zhivkov, expressed by him on multiple occasions, namely that MAN IS THE MOST VALUABLE GOOD in our socialist country. Everything is done and should be done IN THE NAME OF MAN AND FOR THE GOOD OF MAN ONLY. Especially now, in the months preceding the Party Conference of March 1984, for which we should demonstrate maximum achievements. Yet they presuppose and necessitate at least a MINIMAL TRUE REST—FOR RELAXATION FOR THE NEXT WORKING DAY!59

  • 60 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 140, ll. 89–91.

38It would be inaccurate, however, to assume that official rhetoric had in all cases been deeply or honestly internalized and that citizens sincerely believed that noise had to be evaded because it hurt their productivity at the workplace. It is difficult to discern the internal motives of ordinary people simply by reading their letters to the government. At least in one case, the antinoise correspondence between ordinary people and official power discloses that noise was used as an instrument for settling inter-personal disputes between neighbors. In 1981, Nedko Nakov from the village of Bukovets sent a complaint to the Presidium of the National Assembly against the village doctor. In an almost unreadable text full of grammatical and orthographic mistakes, he accused the doctor of being a hooligan and of gathering at his home large groups of people who shouted all night long. Since Nedko Nakov requested the doctor’s replacement on the ground of his not being able to rest calmly, an investigation was launched. It discovered that the doctor had not done anything of which he was accused, but had publicly exposed Nakov’s son who had stolen money and fishing tools from his house.60 Noise had been called in to settle a score between neighbors; the official policy of combating noise was used to serve individual ends, albeit unsuccessfully. What was more remarkable, though, was the deploying of this rhetoric by an almost illiterate villager.

****

39The exploration of the perception of sounds in socialist Bulgaria reveals a significant cultural transformation that took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sensual experiences, which are most often thought of as homogeneous and immutable over longer spans of time, underwent a remarkable change whereby calmness and tranquillity were restored as values for socialist Bulgarians. This shift was predicated on concern for raising the productivity of labor and assuring the successful reproduction of citizens’ capacity for work. Throughout the four socialist decades, particular sounds were ascribed different meanings that were contingent on the pace of industrialization and the phases of building a Communist society. The revolutionary roar of machines and the thundering song of marching workers were admissible only in the first two decades of socialist construction. In that period, revolution was indeed noise, a literal raising of the voices of the masses. By the early 1970s, however, the socialist infrastructure was already in place while socialism entered its second, developed stage. The revolution was over, and the voices of the masses could be allowed to subside. As a consequence, several sounds were reconceptualized as harmful and damaging to the productivity of workers. Quietness and peacefulness were reintroduced into the life of the Bulgarian citizen as barriers to noise, and new sensibilities were promoted.

40In addition to discerning a trajectory of sensory alterations, we were able to observe how the conceptual tools designed by Communist Party theoreticians affected the everyday life of Bulgarian citizens. The official assumption that noise damaged productivity resulted in notable transformations in plant safety, inner-city transportation, the provision of services, and even in architecture and interior design. Moreover, it was related to an ambitious project of social engineering, namely, to produce the new socialist personality which would be an amalgam of decency, propriety, and impeccable civility. These exemplary qualities were cherished as a viable channel for pushing calmness and tranquillity into citizens’ domestic space, where they depended entirely on individual expediency.

41Therefore by blocking unpleasant sounds, policies for limiting noise were designed to envelop the socialist worker in silence and grant him the chance for efficient reproduction and rest. A particular space was thus formed around the socialist worker, a space where offensive sounds and noise were not admitted. This space was not a private space: it sprang neither from interest in the individual, nor did it leave personal conduct to the discretion of the citizen. Yet it was meant to accompany the workers throughout, from the workplace to bed, shielding their repose in both public and domestic spaces. Although it was by no means free from state interference, it was created in order to protect the body, health, and meaningfully spent leisure time of the worker. This notwithstanding, it is interesting to consider how the authorities were able to discuss questions of leisure, lifestyle, and even eating and dressing, without touching on the problem of the private sphere. Even more interesting is how ordinary people, in accepting the rhetoric of calmness and tranquillity, came closer to the classic bourgeois notion of privacy as well, though still without conceptualizing it. Their reliance on the state to protect them from noise and their genuine belief in its power to do so places them very far, however, from the stoic individual endeavor of Seneca to defeat noise in his own head.

42Finally, to return to the quotation, we cannot forebear to add that Seneca succumbed to noise and lost the fight. Concluding his letter to Lucilius, he confessed: “Calmness is not reached but by the mind … Yet from all this it does not follow that it would not be easier to escape from noise. That is why I will leave this place. I wanted only to test myself. There is no need of further tormenting my ears, when Odysseus, protecting his fellow-travelers, invented a wonderful and simple means, even against the Sirens.”

Sources

Document 1:

43We arrive [in the city of Vidin] by steamer exactly on 9 September this year. In the Danube capital there reigns a festive, happy mood. The restaurant-garden in the city park is full of young people. Jazz is being played! We listen and cannot believe our ears. Amidst the sound of ‘Boogie-woogie’ and ‘Rumba’, stooped silhouettes of longhaired swingers are twisting. Among them healthy and robust young people from the masses attempt to imitate them. In the orchestra, a dozen musicians are smiling self-contentedly. We look more carefully and recognize one after another the leading Vidin symphonists. The ‘symphonist’ Slavkov, instead of a trombone, on which he plays not badly, has taken two hollow pumpkins and in ‘artistic trance’ tries to capture the foreign American rhythm of the rumba. The rest of the ‘symphonists’ chime in. Amidst the sounds of this cacophony, the city cultural leaders drink their wine with dignity. Nobody even thinks to protest against this musical barbarity …

44Source: Muzkor, “Vidinski neblagopoluchiia,” Bulgarska muzika 9 (1953): 44.

Document 2:

45The technical and scientific revolution resulted in significant positive transformations in the life of the people, but at the same time it brought about some negative consequences for people’s living environment. I refer to the pollution of water, air, land, to erosion and the intense increase of noise and vibrations, to the accumulation of solid waste, as well as to the over-use of natural resources, etc., all of which are of crucial importance … Increasingly, growing noise represents a paramount threat for a big part of the population. In some cases it reaches 80–100 decibels, which is 1.5–2 times higher than the approved standards. Long-term experimental research demonstrates that the constant pressure on the hearing organs changes the conditional reflex activity of the main brain, decreases attention and working ability, rases blood pressure, has a negative impact on the stomachintestinal tract, and speeds up the decrease of hearing. Psychic damage and nervous diseases caused by noise have become everyday cases in the hospitals. Unfortunately, no other harmful agent is so difficult to overcome and eliminate as noise …

46Source: TsDA, f. 136, o. 56, a.e. 520—Decision No. 56 from 10 October 1973 of the Council of Ministers, adopting the report of Mako Dakov [deputy-president of the Council of Ministers] on the protection of the natural environment, 1–44.

Document 3:

47Behind the corners of new buildings, still unthreatened by rigid requirements for green-planting, neighbors continue to gather from time to time, possessed by a hereditary passion for making compotes and jars of vegetables on inter-building fires. But those are the last Mohicans, for tomorrow the straightforward alleys, the grass and the trees will take over from them the compote-jar good-neighbor relationship. Would these relations be able to flower on the common concrete plane of floors in the building and the common corridors in basements and attics, fenced by thick concrete cages, well-closed windows with blinds and curtains, and doors barred by intricate locks? It is true that with the present type of construction one can hear everything through the walls, windows, and doors, thus neighbors can communicate in a strange modern fashion. But this is only temporary (let us hope!).

48Source: Ivan Stoianovich, Susedut—moi priiatel? (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na OF, 1983), 6.

Document 4:

49Art. 1. This guide regulates the internal order in the residential building located in.............../town/, on ...................../street/, ...................................../No/, .............. /PO Box/............. … Art. 7. /1/ The dusting of carpets, clothes and other objects must be executed only at the places reserved for that end in the building’s courtyard. During weekdays, this can be done between 7 and 10 am in the morning and 4–7 pm in the afternoon, and on holidays, from 8 to 11 am.

50/2/ When no place is reserved for it, dusting cannot be done from the balconies and windows on the building’s facade.

51Art. 8. Washed clothes can be left to dry only in the courtyard or on the balconies, verandas and terraces which are not situated on the building’s front.

52Art. 9. It is forbidden to put boxes, cartons, and other objects on the balconies, verandas, and terraces on the side of streets, squares, and public gardens.

53Art. 10. Garbage containers must stay on the places specially reserved for them.

54Art. 11. The glass of windows cannot be replaced by newspapers, wooden or plastic pieces, etc.

55Art. 12. It is forbidden to keep domestic animals and birds on balconies, verandas, terraces, and in attics and basements.

56Art. 13. Wood can be cut only at the places specially reserved for this in the courtyard and the basements. This can happen daily between 7 and 12 am and 4 and 8 pm.

57Art. 14. Playing on instruments, singing, making noise, turning on the radio loudly and other similar things are forbidden between 10 pm and 7 am and 2 and 4 pm. Exceptions are allowed in special cases only for families which have received permission from the building’s warden or the president of the managing council.

58Art. 15. Parents are obliged to not allow their children to make noise during the above-specified hours, as well as to write on walls and damage the building.

59(…)

60Art. 18. Inhabitants must clean the places of public use and the areas around the building. It is forbidden to pour water out of balconies and windows, as well as to throw out paper or other rubbish. This can be done only at the places reserved for this.

61Source: TsDA, f. 136, o. 66, a.e. 40—Decree No. 44 from 8 September 1978 of the Council of Ministers, about the changing and supplementing of the Guide on Management, Order, and Surveillance in Buildings, and the adopting of a Model Guide on Internal Order in Residential Buildings, 8–21:

Document 5:

62[T]he petit-bourgeois moves around like a dark cloud, filled with a sense of territorial supremacy. Where his intelligence fails, his tongue comes in, and the rude man walks with an open mouth. When you win the battle with him, he loses his temper. And he sinks to the “enchanting” sound of a yell. And in a gradual release of the content of his vocal cords. Then he gesticulates and points at you as at a thief in a bare field. Then the voice of the boor resonates and winds about as a whip. It reverberates freely and powerfully. And you faint before you can hear the end of his phrase. Because the boor within the conservative petit-bourgeois likes to explain things and strip them of their sense, until we start hating them before we understood them. When he argues, he breathes heavily and does not allow you to move even if you are about to lose consciousness … Understanding between you and him is like a postponed quarrel. Your calm conversations are something like a digging in a desert …

63The modern trickster conceives of conservative petit-bourgeois as incomplete, raw persons. They like the noisy chaos of the rooms, attics, basements, and villas or the walk in the neighborhood. He seeks the urban noise of boulevards, cars, and restaurants where he feels like a son of his century … What happens with leisure and pleasure from the beauty of nature, when one is chased by the habits and ‘services’ of urban noise?

64Source: Iulian Vuchkov, Choveshki nravi (Sofia: Narodna Mladezh, 1975), 204–17.

Notes

1 Jo Tacchi, “Radio texture: between self and others,” in Daniel Miller, ed., Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 25–45.

2 Penio Penev, Kogato se nalivakha osnovite (Sofia: Narodna mladezh, 1965), 43–44.

3 In 1946, the number of urban dwellers in Bulgaria was 1,735,000, compared to 5,294,000 in the rural population. In 1956, the numbers were, respectively, 2,556,000 against 5,058,000. See Demografiia na Bulgariia (Sofia: Nauka i izkustvo, 1974), 438.

4 Sofiiski Gradski i Obshtinski Durzhaven Arkhiv, f. 65, o. 1, a.e. 613, II-4.

5 Georgi Bitsin, “Shum v kharmoniiata,” in Ivan Radev, ed., Literaturnite pogromi:Poruchkovi “ubiistva” v novata ni literatura (V. Turnovo: Slovo, 2001), 59–62.

6 Consider, for example, the portrait of the enemy in the first Bulgarian socialist operetta “Deliana,” written by Parashkev Khadzhiev in 1952. The librettist was criticized for erroneously describing the village kulak as “noisy, open, and straightforward” while “now the enemy acts secretively in the village,” etc. See “Vredno proizvedenie,” Bulgarska muzika (1952): 5.

7 “Vredno proizvedenie,” 4–8. I thank István Rév for having brought my attention to instances where music becomes noise and to the content of noise, not only its level.

8 Blazho Stoianov, “Protiv formalizma—v zashtita na istinskata muzika,” Bulgarska muzika 3 (1956): 51.

9 “Postanovlenieto na TsK na VKP(b) za op. ‘Velikata druzhba’ ot Muradeli i bulgarskata muzika,” Muzika 1–2 (1951): 3–11.

10 For a variety of sounds in 1953 Warsaw see B. Brzostek, “Dz´wie,ki i ikonosfera Stalinowskiej Warszawy anno domini 1953,” Studia i Materialy 5 (2001): 11–27.

11 In 1969, the number of urban dwellers was 4,374,000 while the number of rural inhabitants was 4,090,000. During the first 25 years of the socialist regime, the share of the urban population in the total rose from 24.7 percent (in 1946) to 54.7 percent (in 1971). See Demografiia na Bulgariia, 437–38.

12 Tsentralen Durzhaven Arkhiv (TsDA), f. 136, o. 32, a.e. 162, ll. 1, 7, 41.

13 Even settlements of less than 4,000 inhabitants—as, for example, Gara Kaspichan, with its 3,960 inhabitants—had seven blocks of flats by 1961. The project for its center envisaged the construction of several three-story buildings. See TsDA, f. 136, o. 32, a.e. 162, l. 25. In order to limit the territory of the capital, the 1961 bill for the general town plan of Sofia restricted the number of low-rise buildings to around 5 percent of all new housing construction. This notwithstanding, in 1970 the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria expressed concern that “Sofia had spread over too large a territory, which has resulted in complications in the development of communication and transport links, public utilities, housing construction, industry, the supplying of provisions and services, etc.” It was not until 1978 that the Council of Ministers contemplated limiting the number of stories per building, ordering 60 percent of all new dwellings constructed throughout the country to be at a maximum five stories. See TsDA, f. 136, o. 32, a.e. 198, ll. 2, 4; o. 50, a.e. 460, l. 7; o. 66, a.e. 187, ll. 4–5.

14 Compare Svetlana Boym’s comment on the mathematical and bureaucratic division of home space during socialism, “as if it were not a ‘living’ space … but some topological abstraction.” Note also her personal memories of living in a Soviet communal apartment, her attempts to “muffle the communal noises” and her experience of the “fluttering sound of a curious neighbor’s slippers.” Svetlana Boym, “Everyday Culture,” in Dmitri Shalin, ed., Russian Culture at the Crossroads: Paradoxes of Postcommunist Consciousness (Boulder, Co., and Oxford: Westview Press, 1996), 157–83.

15 This average socialist apartment had also a fixed average price—6,800 leva (7,200 for Sofia). Those Bulgarian regional authorities which allowed the average size of a flat in their areas to reach “80–90 and even more square meters” were severely criticized by the center because these deviations reduced the pace of planned progress in house construction. See TsDA, f. 136, o. 55, a.e. 790, l. 15.

16 Geno Tsonkov, “Korenni kachestveni izmeneniia i tendentsii v obshtestveniia, semeiniia i lichniia bit na naselenieto ot Blagoevski raion na Sofia,” Nauchni trudove na Visshata partiina shkola “Stanke Dimitrov” pri TsK na BKP 32 (1967): 58–60.

17 For a similar approach explaining social reality through the conceptual tools elaborated by Communist Party theoreticians, see Dejan Jovic´’s chapter in this volume.

18 See Todor Zhivkov’s speech to the 9th Congress of the BCP (14 November 1966) in Todor Zhivkov, Intenzivno razvitie na sotsialisticheskata ikonomika (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na BKP, 1967), 7–11.

19 For the rationalization of productivity, see Ulf Brunnbauer, “‘The League of Time’ (Liga Vremia): Problems of Making a Soviet Working Class in the 1920s,” Russian History/Histoire Russe 4 (2000): 461–95.

20 Liliana Todorova, Shumut—vrag No 1 (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1978), 15–16.

21 For a similar concern see Nikola Zarkov and Maia Konstantinova, Akustichna kharakteristika na Sofia (Sofia: BAN, 1988), 7.

22 Ibid., 17–19.

23 Vesela Tabakova, “Svobodnoto vreme i mladezhta v burzhoaznoto obshtestvo,” Novo vreme 2 (1987): 115. Contrary to socialist reality, Tabakova claimed, leisure time in bourgeois societies did become an alternative to unhappy, cheerless work, offering an illusory possibility for self-accomplishment and a refuge for the devastated personality.

24 Eduard Gazdov, Shumut—vrag na suvremennia zhivot (Iambol: HEI, 1967), 15.

25 Mitko Enchev, Tishina i zdrave (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1973), 18, 14.

26 Emil Efremov, Nashata otgovornost (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1969), 23.

27 Iasen Moskov, Shum i zdrave (Sofia: Meditsina i fizkultura, 1970), 6, 3. Such a small provincial town was, for example, Smolian; the use of street loud-speakers there was even codified in the town-development plan approved by the Council of Ministers in 1973. See TsDA, f. 136, o. 56, a.e. 264. Street loud-speakers were more often used for propaganda purposes in the towns and villages of the compact Turkish minority in Bulgaria, allegedly because of its more pronounced backwardness and higher level of illiteracy.

28 Shumut kato faktor na zhiznenata sreda (Plovdiv: H. G. Danov, 1976), 6.

29 M. Angelova, “Khigienno znachenie na shumoviia faktor v proizvodstvoto i bita” in Izsledvaniia i borba s shuma v stolitsata (Sofia, 1970), 5.

30 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 143, l. 65.

31 “Children who sleep in a noisy environment become nervous and troubled, and their appetite reduces; if they are of school age, their grades in school drop” (Moskov, 10–11).

32 Gazdov, 14–15.

33 Shumut kato faktor, 155–56.

34 Za opazvane i podobriavane na prirodnata sreda v N.R.Bulgariia. Dokladi i izkazvaniia na Osmata sesiia na Shestoto NS 1973 god. (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na OF, 1974), 61.

35 I thank Ivan Elenkov for having brought this point to my attention.

36 Todor Zhivkov, Za posledovatelno izpulnenie resheniiata na X-ia kongres na BKP za povishavane zhiznenoto ravnishte na naroda (Sofia: Partizdat, 1972).

37 For an excellent discussion of shifting concepts of bit reform in the USSR see Victor Buchli, An Archaeology of Socialism (Oxford and New York: Berg, 1999).

38 Izidor Levi, Shiroko dvizhenie za nov sotsialisticheski bit (Sofia: NS na OF,

1969), 3.

39 Tsonkov, 49.

40 Zakhari Staikov, Izsledvaniia na biudzheta na vremeto (Sofia: BAN, 1989), 6–7.

41 Kolio Kolev, Atanas Dimitrov, Vsichko za choveka (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na BKP, 1969), 87.

42 Todor Zhivkov, Otcheten doklad na TsK na BKP pred X-ia kongres na partiiata (Sofia: Partizdat, 1971).

43 TsDA, f. 136, o. 65, a.e. 37, ll. 23–24.

44 TsDA, f. 136, o. 56, a.e. 173, ll. 10–17, 30.

45 Ibid., l. 15. This measure was taken against Trabant and Wartburg cars. Yet after a protest from the Union of Bulgarian Automobilists it was revoked with Directive No. 278 of 30 December 1973. Expressing ultimate support for the protection of the “reproductive relaxation of working citizens,” the Union nonetheless reminded that these cars were produced by a sister socialist state, the German Democratic Republic. See TsDA, f. 136, o. 56, a.e. 353.

46 N. Kamenov, N. Zarkov, “Shumozashtita na zhilishtnite teritorii,” in Mikroklimat i shum v zhilishtnata sreda (Sofia: BAN, 1972), 91–98. See also Nikola Zarkov, “Otsenka i zashtita na akustichnata sreda v zhilishtni teritorii,” Tekhnicheska misul 6 (1980): 87–90.

47 Kamenov, Zarkov, 100. See also Shumut kato faktor, 154.

48 TsDA, f. 136, o. 56, a.e. 173, ll. 58–65.

49 Kamenov, Zarkov, 85, 108.

50 Ibid., 63–70. On 2 July 1967, for example, noise measurements were executed on the southern balconies on two floors of building No. 13 on Vladimir Zaimov Boulevard in Sofia, between 8 and 9.45 am. Measurements continued on the balcony and in the living room on the fourth floor, between 9.50 and 11.30 pm. The door of the living room was left ajar, “as it stays usually during that season of the year.” The observation team arrived at the alarming conclusion that the level of noise in Sofia at night was significantly higher than permitted.

51 TsDA, f. 136, o. 35, a.e. 616, l. 31.

52 Which, during discussion of the draft guide, the Fatherland Front found too small to be effective and proposed the fine be raised to 10 leva. See TsDA, f. 136, o. 66, a.e. 40, l. 111.

53 Tsonkov’s survey demonstrated that only 10 percent of those interviewed stated they visited pubs, coffee houses or bars, while 42 percent said they did not visit them. Slightly embarrassed by the high number of non-respondents, the author nonetheless concluded that the percentage of people who did not attend bars was not small and that this was a great advantage of the socialist bit. See Tsonkov, 66.

54 I rely here on the notion of middlebrow fiction which Vera Dunham uses as a source to capture the relationship between the Soviet regime and the Soviet middle-class citizen in the years between the end of the Second World War and Stalin’s death. Echoing official views, this literature is compliant, didactic, unimaginative, gray, routine, pedestrian and uninspired. Because of its prescriptive purpose and its linking the social with the political realm, it lends characters from the immediate present an intense verisimilitude. See Vera Dunham, In Stalin’s Time: Middleclass Values in Soviet Fiction (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1990), xxv, 28–9, 31, 22.

55 For letters of complaint see Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1999), 175–8.

56 Such was, for example, the complaint of Kostadinka Ilieva from Sofia, addressed directly and personally to Todor Zhivkov. She insisted that noise from a neighboring light industry enterprise caused dilapidation and destruction of her apartment as well as the severe illness and subsequent death of her husband. See TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 143, ll. 116–117.

57 For several examples see TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 142 and TsDA, f. 136, o. 72,a.e. 143.

58 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 139, l. 20 (emphasis mine).

59 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 143, ll. 61–61a.

60 TsDA, f. 136, o. 72, a.e. 140, ll. 89–91.

Auteur

Rossitza Guentcheva completed her doctoral dissertation in history at Cambridge University and teaches at the University of Sofia; her research interests include the history of Communism and the history of perception.

© Central European University Press, 2006

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540