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2021, vol. 55, br. 1, str. 156-173
Dokolica u Bugarskoj
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Sofia, Bulgaria
The cited data and conclusions are based on results obtained from a study within the project "Local festivals: A resource of local communities for coping with crises", funded by National Science Fund - Ministry of Education and Science (KP-06-H45/5 of 30th November 2020).

Ključne reči: dokolica; obrasci dokolice u Bugarskoj; kulturni centri u okviru zajednice; pandemija COVID-19
Ovaj članak istražuje obrasce dokolice u Bugarskoj u poređenju sa ostalim državama članicama EU, analizirajući podatke dobijene od Eurostat-a, Nacionalnog zavoda za statistiku Bugarske, Evropske ankete o kvalitetu života, kao i rezultate projekta "Lokalni festivali: način na koji se lokalne zajednice bore protiv kriza" itd. U Bugarskoj aktivno koriste internet i društvene mreže, ali NAM je teško da postignemo ravnotežu između posla, porodice i društvenih kontakata. Niski prihodi negativno utiču na aktivnosti u slobodno vreme, ograničavajući ih zahtevom za zadovoljavanjem osnovnih potreba domaćinstava. Zatvaranje prouzrokovano pandemijom COVID-19 dovelo je do povećanja slobodnog vremena, ali su mogućnosti njegovog korišćenja znatno smanjene. Široka primena rada na daljinu promenila je granice između radnog i slobodnog vremena.

The pandemic of the new coronavirus COVID-19 has a huge impact not only on human health and health systems of societies, it has caused a series of crises: economic, social, mental and others. It has also caused significant changes in the lifestyles of modern societies: on their consumption and leisure. The patterns of mass consumption and leisure are being reconsidered during periods of full or partial lockdown, by the imposed measures of social distance and isolation. In the COVID-19 pandemic many planned leisure activities are postponed for "better times". If we borrow Juliet Schor's expression “cannibalization of leisure” (Schor, 1992), which she uses to explain another social phenomenon related to leisure patterns, in the current pandemic, free time is "cannibalized" for all of us. The boundaries between work and leisure are changing due to the increase in telework. The described changes affect all European societies, but their specific dimensions are manifested depending on the peculiarities of leisure patterns, the balance between work and leisure, which existed before the pandemic in each particular society. Attitudes towards leisure are being reconsidered: they start to be conceived as constituting feelings of a "return" to "the normality" before the crisis and inspire social optimism. In some sense leisure activities are the antipode of fear and social isolation; they represent an instrument for overcoming the effects of social isolation.

The goal of the article is to study the leisure patterns in contemporary Bulgaria in comparative perspective with leisure patterns in other EU member states, in order to arrive to the conclusions about similarities and differences between them. Leisure is part of the reward structure of a social system with differential access to resources based largely on socioeconomic position. The resources of time, money, access, and autonomy are evidently unevenly distributed in any society (Kelly, 1972), as well as every modern society has different resources, traditions and leisure culture.

We assume that leisure can be defined as the time and activities outside paid labour; leisure activities are performed by choice, they are other than duties and necessities. Leisure patterns are the characteristic, typical, distinctive activities, fixed by the social-groups in certain social categories, groups, and strata, which the latter choose to perform. The more developed a society is, the greater the freedom of its members (all other things being equal) to form their consumption and leisure patterns. We also consider as relevant to the leisure patterns the specific attitudes, evaluations, expectations, and degree of satisfaction regarding the patterns one is following, as well as the desire eventually to change them (Keliyan, 2012, pp. 37–40)1.

An important role in the cultural life of Bulgaria and the focus of leisure activities of a large part of the population are the community cultural centres, chitalishte – a unique national cultural phenomenon2. This important institution arose during the Revival period, and has retained its importance for cultural life in this country down to our times. The name chitalishte in Bulgarian literally means "reading centre". The first of these appeared in 1856, and by the time of the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878 they numbered as many as 130. These cultural centres of the local community in the past were and they still are a venue for amateur artistic activities, and they included a library, an amateur theatre, amateur musicians and dance groups, various club activities; performances, lectures, and other events were held there, and over time they became firmly established as a focal point for the life and leisure of various social groups and categories of Bulgarians. Chitalishte was registered in 2017 by UNESCO3 as a "practical experience in safeguarding the vitality of the Intangible Cultural Heritage" (Culture statistics 2019 edition, 2019, p. 29). According to the law that regulates its activities, the chitalishte is a traditional self-governing Bulgarian cultural and educational association in the settlements, which also performs state cultural and educational tasks. All individuals can participate in its activities, regardless of age and gender restrictions, political and religious views and ethnic identity. Community cultural centre is non-profit legal entity – NGO.

As of December 31st, 2017, there were 3,321 local community cultural centres functioning in Bulgaria, of which 663 in the cities and 2,658 – in the villages (National Statistical Institute)4. Their activities are expanding and growing more varied; today, in addition to the traditional amateur theatrical, dance, and singing groups, interest groups in the arts, etc., they also provide the very popular, in the last 30 years, courses for foreign languages, computer skills, modern sports and relaxation practices, various forms of social contact, etc.

In 2017, the local community cultural centres organized a total of 21,267 commemorial of notable dates, 7,130 discussions of books, 24 334 celebrations and festivals and 3,762 gatherings. There were arranged 1001 museum collections, presented 4,245 cinema and video shows, and they managed 1,253 other cultural activities. Just under half of the chitalishte in Bulgaria (48.7%) provided computers with internet for users; almost all of them had an operating library – 91.7%, and more than three quarters of them – 76.6% had an auditorium (National Statistical Institute)5.

Chitalishte are centres of amateur artistic creativity in both towns and villages; they are the cultural institutions that organize and promote it. In 2017, a total of 4,607 groups and formations for music and singing were functioning in them, of which 1,629 were in the cities and 2,978 in the villages. The most numerous among them were the groups for authentic folklore singing – 2,778, in whose activities 30,816 people participated. Other 56,640 people took part in the functioning 3,178 groups for dance art, among which the most popular were the dance groups for authentic folklore – 2,386, with 44,593 amateur dancers.

In 2017 in the local community cultural centres 3,077 clubs and study circles had been established, of which 1,327 were in the urban areas and 1,750 – in the rural areas, and a total of 39,375 people participated in their activities, of which 20142 were city dwellers and 19,233 – rural areas' inhabitants. These amateur art clubs performed a total of 13,985 performances in 2017, among which the most numerous were theatrical productions, followed by exhibitions in the field of applied arts – 2,197 and in the field of fine arts – 1,696, respectively (National Statistical Institute)6.

In many small towns, as well as in the rural regions, the chitalishte are the only cultural institutions; without their activities people living in these parts of the country would be deprived of any opportunity to attend cultural events, as well as to take part in them. It is no coincidence that it is called narodno chitalishte – "people's community centre".

Bulgaria has been a member of the EU for 13 years now and the condition and the development of our society is compared to those in the other member states of the Union in a number of indicators. What are the trends in the leisure patterns in our country, compared to those observed in the EU? What are the similarities and differences between us and to what extent do the leisure activities in our country approach (or move away) from those in developed European societies? The information provided by the statistical office of the European Union – Eurostat, by National Statistical Institute of our country, as well as by the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), etc., is a good basis for studying leisure in Bulgaria, as well as for comparing it with that shown in other EU member states.

According to Eurostat data, the frequency of contacts of Bulgarians with relatives, friends and neighbours as a leisure activity in 2015 was close to the EU average, although we are not among the countries with the highest relative shares of a similar kind of communication. Bulgaria ranked 13th among other countries, with 23.8% of women surveyed and 22.8% of men studied said they met with relatives, friends and neighbours several times per month. The EU average was 23.5% for women and 22.5% for men (The lives of women and men in Europe, 2018)7.

According to indicators taking into account the participation in a number of leisure activities, Bulgaria is on the penultimate place among the other EU countries, followed by Romania. These activities include practicing some kind of sport, going to the cinemas, attending live performances, visiting cultural sites and attending sporting events. The relative share of Bulgarians who played sports in 2014 was low: men and women who spend 150 or more minutes a week for sports or for non-work-related physical activity in our country was 15.3% for men and only 5.3% for women. The relative share of men exercising in their free time averaged 37.5% for the EU and 26.2% for women, respectively. The data show that the men in Bulgaria who chose sports as a leisure activity in 2014 were almost two and a half times less than the EU average, and the Bulgarian women performing this activity were almost five times less than the women in the rest member states of the Union. One of the reasons for the insufficient activities of Bulgarians in sports is the poor, unsatisfactory or inaccessible (for a number of reasons – financial, infrastructural and others) material base, where one could play sports in his or her free time. Bulgaria had the lowest level of satisfaction with sports facilities in the capital city in 2014, with Sofia ranking last among other EU capitals: only more than a third (38%) of its inhabitants found their city's sports facilities as "good enough".

In 2015, some 63.7% of the EU adult population (aged 16 years or more) reported that they went to the cinema, attended a live performance (theatre, concert, organized cultural event outdoors and so on) or visited a cultural site (museum, historical monument, art gallery or archaeological site) during the previous 12 months. One of the lowest levels of cultural participation was recorded in Bulgaria – 28.6%. For residents in the rural areas in our country this share was the lowest shown in Europe, below 10% (Cultural statistics 2019 edition, 2019, p. 125, p. 139).

In 2015, the share of the EU adult population (aged 16 years or more) that reported that they pursued at least one artistic activity (during the 12 months prior to the survey) stood at just over one third (35.2%), while in Bulgaria this share was about 17%, or twice less than EU average. There were about 83% of Bulgarians that did not practice any cultural activity during the same year (Ibid, p. 143).

Data on going to the cinema up to three times in the last 12 months for the EU averaged 28.6% for women and 27.4% for men; only 12,6% of women (or 2.3 times less than the EU average) and 13.6% of men (respectively two times less than the average for EU) in our country have stated they went to the movies. It is important to note that 20% of surveyed Bulgarians have chosen "the lack of interest" as main reason not to go to the cinema and less than a fifth of the respondents (18%) pointed to financial reasons as the main motive for not going to the movies.

The trend observed for the "going to the cinema" indicator is repeated for that of "visits to live performances": the average relative share for the EU was 30.3% for women and 27.7% for men. The share of Bulgarian women attending live performances was 14% (2.2 times less than the EU average), and men – 11.3% (respectively two and a half times less than the EU average). The main reason for not participating in this kind of cultural activity was again "lack of interest", shown by 23% of respondents, and "financial reasons" – by 18% of interviewed Bulgarian.

The average relative share for women in EU countries, who had visited cultural sites was 28%, and for men – 27.3%. In Bulgaria, this percentage of women, was two and a half times lower than the EU average, and for men it was even three times lower than the European average. The main reason for not participating in this kind of cultural activity was "lack of interest", shown by 28% of respondents, and "financial reasons" – by 17% of interviewed Bulgarian.

A popular leisure activity of Bulgarians is reading books. In 2016, the relative share of women who read at least one book in the last 12 months was 61.2%, and of men – 45.1%, respectively. As can be seen from the cited data, women were more active book readers than men, with a difference of 16% between both sexes. 48.5% of Bulgarian men and 42.7% of women have read newspapers every day or almost every day, with the difference between them being just under 6% (The lives of women and men in Europe, 2018)8.

In Bulgaria in 2018 were registered the lowest relative shares of households with access to the internet among EU member states – 72%, while EU average for this indicator for the same year was 89% (Culture statistics 2019 edition, 2019, pp. 153-154). Despite the lower spread of the internet in comparison with European countries, we were among the EU member states that actively use the network. In 2017, the average relative shares for men and women between the ages of 16 and 74 who used the internet during last three months before the survey, in the EU average level were 63% for the former and 67% for the latter. For women in Bulgaria this share was 82%, and for men – 76%, which was respectively 15% more for the former and 13% more for the latter, compared to the EU average. According to the cited indicator, Bulgaria was situated in the fourth place after Malta, Hungary and Belgium. The internet and the opportunities it offers are used in Bulgaria mainly in leisure activities, and not, as it was in most EU countries, for work-related purposes. For example, according to the indicator "use of the internet for job search and application", the average values of the relative shares of women and men in the member states was respectively one-fifth for each group, while for Bulgaria these values was half of the average for the Union – respectively 11% for women and 10% for men, and we were in the penultimate place before the Czech Republic. The internet for sending and receiving emails in the EU was used by an average of 87% of men and 86% of women, and Bulgarians were not among the most active users of the network in this regard: 71% of women and 70% of men in Bulgaria used it for such a purpose.

The relative share of Bulgarians reading online news was close to the average in EU countries: the percentage of women in the EU reading news online was on average 70%, while among Bulgarian women it was 74%; men in the EU who used the internet to read news had a relative share of 75%, and those in Bulgaria-respectively 74%.In 2018 near a half (47%) of Bulgarians were watching internet streamed TV or videos and were listening to the music; a fifth of respondents from our country were playing or downloading games. For comparison EU average for watching internet streamed TV or videos for the same period was less than three – quarters (72%), more than a half (56%) were listening to the music, and a third – were playing or downloading games (Culture statistics 2019 edition, 2019, p.160, p. 155).

The share of people in the EU making online purchases of any goods and services was 69% in 2018, and the share of those purchasing tickets for events was 27%. The proportion of internet users purchasing books, magazines and newspapers online was 22%, and the share of those buying online films and music was 17%. By contrast, less than 10% of internet users in Bulgaria made online purchases of films or music – 1%, of books, magazines and newspapers – 2%, or of tickets for cultural events – 5%. Less than a third of Bulgarians made online purchases of any goods (Ibid, pp. 168-170).

The involvement of Bulgarians in voluntary activities in their leisure time is an extremely unpopular activity, which determines the low civic activity in the country. The share of the adult population that participated in voluntary activities in Bulgaria in 2015 was less that 10% (Living conditions in Europe, 2018, p. 119).

There are significant structural differences in the budget expenditures of households for the EU average and those in Bulgaria: the households' expenditures on culture for EU average in 2018 were 3% of their total expenditures, while for Bulgarian households these expenditures were 1.6% of their total expenditures. While 42% of all expenditures of Bulgarian households on culture were for the payment of TV and radio fees, rental of equipment and accessories for these services, the average relative share of expenditures on the same items for the EU were half as low – 20% (Ibid, p. 183).

The division of labour in the family and the involvement in household maintenance activities, such as cleaning, cooking, shopping, home care, care for household members, etc. has a decisive impact on women's and men's leisure opportunities. The relative share of women in the EU member states, occupied on a daily basis with cooking and housekeeping in 2016 was 79%, while that of men was 34% respectively. Near three-quarter (73%) of Bulgarian women are engaged in different activities in the field of domestic work, i.e. it was 6% lower than the EU average. But the share of Bulgarian men doing the same domestic work was 13%, or 2.6 times lower compared to their European counterparts. According to the indicator "reported the largest difference between the participation of men and women in domestic work", Bulgaria was in third place after Greece and Italy. Bulgarian men, together with their Croatian counterparts, compared to men in other EU countries, participated the least in housekeeping activities, respectively –13% involvement of Bulgarians and 12% of Croats in cooking and housekeeping (The lives of women and men in Europe, 2018 10)9.

In 2019, people in the EU worked on average 37.1 hours a week in their main job. In 2019, employees in Bulgaria had the longest average working week among the EU countries – 40.4 hours per week (The European Union Labour Force Survey)10.

According to Eurostat data for 2019,9% of respondents in Bulgaria answered they feel always time pressure when work, 31% – feel often pressure; 51% – sometimes, and 9% – never11. We can arrive to the conclusion that Bulgarians were working in time pressure working environment.

We also had the biggest problem achieving a balance between work, family, and social contacts. The surveyed Bulgarians indicated the greatest degree of difficulties in finding the time and energy to fulfil domestic and family tasks and in concentrating sufficiently at work. When looking at the breakdowns by gender, women in Bulgaria experienced more work-life balance related problems. They also experienced a faster deterioration in worklife balance than men. For instance, in 2016, 70% of women reported being "too tired from work to do some of the household jobs which need to be done" at least several times a month, compared with 68% of men (European Quality of Life Survey 2016: Quality of life, quality of public services, and quality of society, 2017, pp. 41-42).

Low incomes affect negatively leisure activities by limiting them in order to meet the basic needs of households. During the years of its membership in the EU, Bulgaria permanently retains the last place in terms of incomes. According to Eurostat data, while the average hourly wage in the EU in 2019 for men was 16.64 Euros and for women – 13.72 Euros, in Bulgaria it was 2.52 Euros for men and 2.16 Euros for women. Low incomes also determine the corresponding quality of life in Bulgarian society12.

Actual individual consumption (AIC) is a measure of material welfare of households. According to Eurostat data for 2019, AIC per capita expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) in Bulgaria was 58% of the EU average level. In 2019, GDP per capita expressed in PPS in Bulgaria was 53% of the EU average (Ibid).

Feeling of happiness in Bulgaria in 2016 was measured 6.4, below the EU averages of 7.4. This phenomenon could be explained by the economic difficulties and deprivations in which a significant part of the Bulgarian population lives. The share of respondents reported difficulties making end meet – in 2016 was 63%, still higher than the EU average of 39% (European Quality of Life Survey 2016: Quality of life, quality of public services, and quality of society, 2017, pp. 14-16).

The COVID-19 crisis has caused far-reaching changes over a very short period of time. "The Living, Working and COVID-19" Eurofound 2020 e-survey provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people's lives in EU member states. The e-survey with data collected online was conducted in April 2020, at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic and again three months later, in July 2020.

Public health measures designed to stem the spread of COVID-19 have included the active encouragement of home working for those in a position to do so. With many workplaces in enforced closure from spring 2020, teleworking became the customary mode of working for many employees who had limited or no previous experience of working in this way. Respondents who worked from home more often report working in their free time, especially when there are children in the household. Telework has also proved to be burdensome for many working mothers as they juggle work, home-schooling and care, all in the same pocket of space. Teleworking is likely to become much more commonplace post-crisis based on the generally positive response of employees and employers to the COVID-19 teleworking experience. However, more extensive telework means increasingly blurred work-life boundaries, and makes large segments of workers being at risk of physical and emotional exhaustion.

The e-survey in April 2020 revealed that respondents – especially women with children under 12 – were struggling to balance their work and personal life. Indeed, although teleworking was a key factor in ensuring business continuity, it has led to a rise in the number of people working from home, resulting in difficulties in managing work-life conflicts and an increase in the incidence of overtime work. The relative share of employed persons in Bulgaria working from home as a percentage of the total employment was very low in 2019 – 0.6%, followed only by Romania. The average share for the EU member states for the same period on this indicator was 10.8%. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed employment patterns in Europe, with the relative share of teleworking increasing significantly in 2020: the EU average was 34% or slightly more than a third of those employed, while for Bulgaria this percentage was 22% or between one fifth and one quarter of employed Bulgarians (Eurofound, 2020)13.

Among all EU member states, the highest proportion of surveyed Bulgarians reported the deterioration of their financial situation in July 2020 compared to that in April: 49% indicated this answer in July against 39% in April, compared to EU averages of 34% and 30% respectively. This undoubtedly affects Bulgarians life satisfaction14. For total EU 27 member states mean of life satisfaction in April was 5.5 and in July – 5.2: this mean for Bulgaria was 6,7 in April and 6.3 in July, which indicates lower level of life satisfaction compared to other countries (Ibid).

On the one hand, due to lockdown, free time increases. But, on the other hand, due to the closure of leisure centres, concert halls, the suspension of theatre productions, operas, performances, etc., the possibilities for its use have significantly decreased. But, at the same time, other such opportunities appear – for online activities, communication, concerts, even for some kind of sports (for example, online yoga courses), etc., for activities at home. For some social groups, as a result of the pandemic, free time increases, and for others it significantly decreases – for example, for the parents of children who study online, for those who work online, for teachers and others.

The conclusion we can draw is that the pandemic has changed and even to some extent erased the boundaries between working time and leisure.


1See file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/Pecob_Volume_Keliyan.pdf
2The cited data and conclusions are based on results obtained from a study within the project “Local festivals: A resource of local communities for coping with crises”, funded by National Science Fund – Ministry of Education and Science (KP-06-H45/5 of 30th November 2020).
3The UNESCO Register of Good Safeguarding Practices, which was set-up in 2009, collects significant safeguarding experiences and examples of how communities around the world successfully face and solve challenges in the transmission of their living heritage, with a collection of best practices and knowledge that can be adapted to other circumstances for future generations.
4, accessed on December 30th 2020.
5, accessed on December 30th 2020.
6, accessed on December 30th 2020.
7, accessed on December 30th 2020.
8, accessed on December 30th 2020.
9, accessed on December 30th 2020.
10, accessed on December 30th 2020.
11, accessed on December 30th, 2020.
12, accessed on December 30th, 2020.
13, accessed on December 30th 2020.
14Life satisfaction is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means very dissatisfied and 10 means very satisfied.


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O članku

jezik rada: srpski, engleski
vrsta rada: pregledni članak
DOI: 10.5937/socpreg55-30552
primljen: 26.01.2021.
revidiran: 16.03.2021.
prihvaćen: 16.03.2021.
objavljen u SCIndeksu: 16.04.2021.
metod recenzije: dvostruko anoniman
Creative Commons License 4.0

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