This paper briefly narrates the history of the Bulgarian women’s movement.
I make two claims: On the one hand, I show that, due to two abrupt regime changes in 1944 and 1989, it is difficult to speak of one women’s movement in Bulgaria. Even though a movement dealing with women’s issues has long been present in Bulgaria, there has been little to no continuity in terms of membership and processes of learning between movements in different historical eras (before 1944, 1944-1989, and since 1989). On the other hand, however, I argue that there is a paradoxical continuity within this movement. Despite changes in the actors involved and the frames utilized by the movement in different historical periods, it has largely been the purview of an establishment of elite women, well-positioned to cooperate with the state and international high-level political actors, but with few links to the grassroots.
A picture emerges of a movement characterized by an elite-driven continuity of rupture: a repeated a historical pattern in which elites skilled in the accumulation and management of state capital abolish and re-found the women’s movement anew.