In 1989, after 45 years of communist regime, Bulgaria began transitioning to a free-market economy. As in other Eastern European countries, this change was marked by enthusiasm and hope for a demoсratization of the political system. However, the absence of a structured civil society and the continuous influence of the former secret services on post-Soviet society soon complicated the emergence of democratic institutions.
The lack of public debate on these topics and the gradual degradation of the education system are at the root of a new local mass culture, glorifying the symbols of organized crime, abuse of power and male chauvinism. This culture was initially despised by the country’s intelligentsia, which failed to assess the attractiveness of rapid wealth increase among younger people. The combination of these different factors contributed a great deal to redefining Bulgarian cultural identity.
Today, Bulgaria is considered the most corrupt country in the European Union.
The name of the project, Olympic Hopes (Олимпийски Надежди), refers to the name of the preparatory school for professional athletes – in particular wrestlers – established during the communist era. Much of the organized crime of the 1990s in Bulgaria stemmed from this background, and some of its figures now hold political responsibilities.