Ilia Stojanov Iliev


Assistant Professor of Ethnology, University of Sofia

Visiting Fellow
(January – June 2014)


Old Men at Home: Bulgarian Eldercare Policies, Family, and Gender

Since the late 19th century, Bulgarian policy-makers have encouraged younger generations to take the burden of care for their elders, and promoted a multi-generational family. This project focuses on the 1970s and 1980s, when the socialist authorities tried to redesign intergenerational relations. I will argue that the most successful aspect was the effort to promote the role of grandparents as surrogate parents, while the attempt to promote an image of old people as reservoirs of wisdom was rather counterproductive. Some of the most powerful ageist stereotypes emerged during this period, and the concept of care was revised. It seems that old men found these new old age-roles negotiated in the 1980s more difficult to adopt. The everyday life of old men, their choice to take care – or not – of their grandchildren, to follow higher career goals or just to stay busy, provides important insights into class inequalities in socialist Bulgaria, which remain otherwise obscure in official documents and statistics.

Previous stays at the IWM:
2000, Junior Visiting Fellow


The Social Construction of a Saintly Woman in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian family underwent significant transformations during the second half of the 20th century. One of the new and interesting patterns that emerged was the practice of entrusting grandmothers with the upbringing of children. Before the 1950s, this task was predominately a mother’s duty. This change provoked rearrangement of the age roles within the family, especially concerning child rearing. Today, older women, often the grandmothers, carry out activities that a generation earlier defined the mother’s role in the family...
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