Residents of Bulgaria’s second city of Plovdiv woke on September 21 to the sight of the landmark giant monument to the Soviet soldier, Alyosha, draped in a red cloak and adorned with a black gag over his mouth.
Alyosha, modelled on a Russian soldier and erected during the communist era, is visible from all parts of the city – but not usually with this sartorial supplement.
The draping took place as the city was host to the two-day Night of Museums and Galleries, but initially it was not clear whether the incident was connected to this or was a political gesture, local media said.
However, Radio Plovdiv reported the Night of Museum and Galleries’ Vesselina Sarieva as saying that the draping was not connected to the festival. She was quoted as saying that she was “pleasantly surprised” by the work of the unknown authors and at least did not want to condemn it.
Hristo Markov, one of the anti-government protest organisers in Plovdiv, said, “it wasn’t us, but I fully welcome it. It is high time for Plovdiv to rethink part of the legacy of communism”.
Recently, Alyosha acquired a “resignation” banner, linked to continuing anti-government protests which reach their 100th day on September 21, which was rapidly removed by local authorities.
Plovdiv police sent officers to investigate the addition to Alyosha. Local media quoted police as saying that if someone was making fun of the monument, the cape would be removed, but if it turned out to be part of the cultural programme, it would be left in place.
Radio Plovdiv said that police had cordoned off the area around the monument and were awaiting climbers to remove the cloak.
In Sofia, the Soviet Army monument in the centre of the capital has been redecorated more than once in protest against the legacy of the communist regime in Bulgaria, which currently again is under Bulgarian Socialist Party rule.
The draping of Alyosha was reminiscent of the redecoration of the Soviet Army monument in Sofia in the style of superheroes. Other observers in the local media likened the new (if short-lived) look of the Soviet soldier to a Byzantine emperor.
(Photos: Vessela Tcherneva)