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Title:Occult Communism: culture, science and spirituality in late socialist Bulgaria
Author(s):Ivanova, Veneta Todorova
Director of Research:Todorova, Maria N.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Todorova, Maria N.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz; Koenker, Diane P.; Fritzsche, Peter; Gille, Zsuzsa
Department / Program:History
Discipline:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Communism
Eastern Europe
Late Socialism
Occultism
Cultural Policy
Cultural History
State Socialism
Religion
Eastern European history
Religion and Communism
Bulgaria
Abstract:“Occult Communism” explores the unlikely infusion of state-sponsored spiritualism into the materialist ideology of Bulgarian late communism. In the 1970s, Minister of Culture Lyudmila Zhivkova initiated grandiose state programs to inject the “occult” into Bulgaria’s national culture, art, science and even political philosophy. Inspired by her Eastern religious beliefs, she sought to ‘breed’ a nation of “all-round and harmoniously developed individuals,” devoted to spiritual self-perfection, who would ultimately “work, live and create according to the laws of beauty.” My project focuses on how Zhivkova translated her religio-philosophical worldview into state policies. I examine three realms of what I have termed “occult communism:” Zhivkova’s domestic and international cultural initiatives; occult religiosity and the mystical movement known as the White Brotherhood; and occult science as embodied by the Scientific Institute of Suggestology. I contend that as quixotic as Zhivkova’s vision was, her policies contributed to the liberalization of art and culture in a period that has long been associated exclusively with stagnation and decay. In so doing, my work questions the failure of utopianism in late socialism and demonstrates that impulses to attach "a human face” to the communist project endured even after the Prague Spring of 1968. Occult Communism” demonstrates that late communism was far less monolithic and dull than typically imagined while challenging our understanding of the relationship between communism, spirituality, and science in the global 1970s and 1980s.
Issue Date:2017-04-25
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/97623
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Veneta Ivanova
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05


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