Plovdiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office said on March 7 that it was investigating whether any crime, including possible unlawful authorisation of the demolition of an object of immovable cultural value, had been committed regarding an operation to demolish a historic warehouse in the city’s “Tobacco Town” area.
The Prosecutor’s Office said that it was responding to numerous media reports and complaints about the demolition operation, which began at the 8 Edirne Street building on the Sunday of Bulgaria’s four-day long weekend.
The demolition prompted a human chain protest by architects, conservationists and concerned citizens, while the municipality called a halt to the demolition pending its own inquiries.
Plovdiv news website podtepeto.com said that those taking part in the human chain in defence of the building included prominent architects, people from the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation, publishers, and several others from Plovdiv’s theatre and cultural world.
The Prosecutor’s Office said that in the course of its investigation, clarity would be sought on the status of the building and whether the procedures for granting permission for the building’s demolition had been lawful.
The supervising prosecutor had set a 30-day deadline for the completion of the investigation. Police from the economic crimes squad would assist in the investigation, the March 7 statement said.
The Ministry of Culture is also investigating how the destruction of the building came about.
Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television reported from Plovdiv that architects in the city said that the building had been declared a cultural monument in 1985 and demolishing it was illegal.
Penka Kalinkova, a researcher into the history of Tobacco Town, which began life in Plovdiv in the 1920s as the city became a burgeoning centre of the tobacco trade, said that she was “devastated” and described the question of whether the building was a monument of culture or not as “absurd”.
Plovdiv deputy mayor Dimitar Katsarski said that he had given the order to halt the demolition. “Our further actions will depend on the documentation that has been issued and whether the building is a monument of culture, and in what way the municipality is aware of what is being done here.”
Reports said that Plovdiv chief architect Roumen Rusev had issued a permit for the construction of a new building on the site a year ago.
Rusev said that he had had no legal reason to refuse and had a certificate from the Ministry of Culture that the building was not a monument of culture.
During the demolition operations, valuable paintings by the artist Vulchan Petrov were destroyed. Petrov came to the site to see whether any of the artwork could be saved. He described the demolition as “villainous”, adding that there had been a deliberate choice of a public holiday to begin the demolition operation, so as to be able to act with impunity.
Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, art director of the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation, also expressed indignation, saying that this was the second time since preparations began for Plovdiv to be European Capital of Culture in 2019 that a historic tobacco warehouse had been sloped. “And at the same time, we are planning to launch an online platform with the history of Tobacco Town”.