The removal of the Soviet Army Monument from its place in the centre of Bulgaria’s capital city has been added as an additional point on the agenda of the city council meeting scheduled for March 9, according to the council’s agenda posted online.
The monument, which commemorates the Soviet invasion of Bulgaria at the close of the Second World War, has been the subject of dispute repeatedly in the decades since the end of Bulgaria’s communist era. Resentment of the monument has been invigorated by Russia’s current war on Ukraine.
It also repeatedly has been the target of the daubing of graffiti and attacks on it, most recently a few weeks ago when a 61-year-old academic smashed the plaque on its plinth with a hammer that he bought for the occasion.
Soon after that, Sofia municipality released a statement saying that an inspection had found that the monument was dangerous because of structural flaws, and its actual height considerably exceeded that officially approved before its construction.
A complication about the fate of the monument is a continuing dispute about who owns it, with the general interpretation being that while the municipality owns the land, the state owns the monument.
On March 7, the city council’s education and culture committee voted to ask the state to dismantle the monument and move it elsewhere, to the Museum of Socialist Art or somewhere else outside central Sofia.
In the time of the current Sofia city council, initiatives by Democratic Bulgaria figures to have the monument dismantled and moved have come to nothing, as councillors for Boiko Borissov’s GERB party laid a dead hand on the matter.
But this changed recently when Borissov called publicly for the removal of the monument.
GERB city councillor Anton Koichev told Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) on March 8 that the city’s chief architect (the equivalent of a town planner) would be told to initiate a competition through which to rethink the public space around the monument.
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) mouthpiece Duma reported that BSP city councillors intended forming a human chain around the monument on March 9, to protect it.
Kaloyan Pargov of the BSP told BNR that the monument was state property, and the issue should be discussed by the government and the National Assembly.
The monument was internationally protected through a bilateral agreement between Russia and Bulgaria, Pargov said.
Koichev said that Pargov’s statements were “full of legal and factual inaccuracies”.
“No one is talking about destroying the monument, but about moving it. Famous Bulgarian sculptors have worked on the figures. It also has artistic value. But it is a matter of national dignity that this issue should be resolved,” Koichev said.
(Main photo: Ivan Ivanov)
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