Bulgaria at the Cross-Roads of Post-socialism and EU Membership: Generational Dimensions to European Integration



Socialist ideology in Eastern Europe strived to remodel all aspects of social life and to provide a framework for political, economic, and moral authority. For twenty years after the fall of socialism in 1989, Eastern Europeans have been entangled in dynamic transitions from socialism to democracy, from nationalized to privatized economies, and from ‘thinking local’ to ‘thinking global.’ Now, they are struggling with a new set of transformations: becoming part of the European project for politico-economic and socio-cultural integration. This multifarious process affects people in different ways according to their age, economic status and gender, among other factors. This paper investigates how age affects the experiences and conceptualizations of European integration of citizens in one post-socialist EU member-state—Bulgaria. It attempts to reveal differences in ideological motivations, degree of intensity and nuances in experiencing, conceptualizing, and engaging with the European Union. Exploration of these various experiences and conceptualizations suggests the existence of significant conceptual and metaphoric discrepancies between the pre-and post-1980s generations and within the youth generation of the 1980s itself. Both disappointment with the failure of the Soviet model of social engineering and nostalgia for the socialist past inform anticipation of the effects of and reaction to European integration. However they do not capture or explain new ways of reconstructing the past or emerging narratives of the present and the future, influenced by the differential access to a range of new economic opportunities, social realities, and domains of knowledge enabled by European integration.