Communist Political Monuments in Bulgaria
Reading the graffiti above “Forget Your Past” at the entrance of the Buzludzha monument in Bulgaria illustrates the common belief of people that had lived under the communist period. The People’s Republic of Bulgaria ended in 1989 as many Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, as well as the Soviet Union itself began to collapse, and after that, mostly all monuments now share the same fate –to be silent symbols of the forgotten past. Today, despite the dismantling of most of the monuments in Bulgaria there are over 150 monuments built between 1945 and 1989. Just as the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman in Moscow, that now has been restored, the raising of the Communist regime was the end point of this way of represent history.
Blagovest Valkov wrote for Abitare 492 in The Stones of Memory article:
In defining the fate of monuments, their significance for shaping the public environment is also of particular importance. The landscape is complex and rich in terms of memories and forms, as well as with relation to power. Pulling down monuments creates fragmentation and indifference, as well as insecurity.
Here is a review of some of these monuments:
The memorial complex is located in the ‘’Recreation and Culture’’ park in Plovdiv. The monument symbolizes a Thracian mound. It reminds of a stone wreath from above and in the middle of the memorial there used to be an eternal flame. The 90m long sculpture composition inside the monument is dedicated to the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule and to the victims of the Balkan wars and the two World Wars.
The “Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial Complex” is dedicated to the soldiers died during the battle of Stara Zagora, one of the first major battles of the Russian-Turkish Liberation War, that took place on July 31st, 1877. After a six-hour fight, Russian soldiers and Bulgarian volunteers surrendered to the pressure of the enemy army that greatly outnumbered them. The town then lived its greatest tragedy, as it was burned down and razed to the ground during the following three days.
The monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet friendship was built on the Turna Tepe hill. That was where the Russian forces command had its base before the successful attack on Varna during the Russian –Turkish War of 1828–1829. Constructed for 7 months with the help of 27.000 volunteers, the monument has dominated the hill since 1974 and is made of 10.000 tons of concrete and 1.000 tons of construction steel. Today the eternal flame has disappeared, just like the massive bronze letters from the inscription reading “Friendship for centuries throughout centuries”. The internal space of the monument, used for Communist party gatherings, is now used as a depot for used tyres.
When talking about the monument to the Founders of the Bulgarian State in Shumen, Aneta Bulant-Kamenova, architect who collaborates on Abitare’s project [The Stones of Memory] says
The monument has an abstract deconstructivist shape with dual impact, created out of the parts of a cut-up and deformed cube, crowning the hill. The concrete blocks are in a state of unstable equilibrium and exude a dramatic feeling.
The memorial complex Founders of the Bulgarian State is located on the “Ilchov hill” near Shumen. Located 450 meters above sea level, is visible within a radius of 30 kilometers. Built in honor of the anniversary of the establishment of the Bulgarian state, the monument depicts key moments in the history of the First Bulgarian Empire. Architectural spaces of the memorial consists of eight units forming a concrete spiral – the historic symbol of prosperity.
Now, the question is: Should we preserve memories of socialism? Valkov says that in this time, these memories provoke negative emotions in a part of Bulgarian population, the youngest generations are indifferent, and the future ones will preserve them without emotion and with a desire to create a historic memory. And he adds: “It is good to bear in mind that forced amnesia is not going to change history, but will most probably compromise their identity.”