At the request of Sofia district governor Vyara Todeva, the city’s police are mounting 24-hour guard and checkpoints on the avenues leading to the Soviet Army Monument in Bulgaria’s capital city as dismantling of the controversial object gets underway.
Police also will protect workers and machinery at the site.
The Sofia regional directorate of the Interior Ministry appealed to the public to avoid the designated perimeter around the site.
On the morning of December 12, the first steps were taken towards dismantling the figures on the monument, which dates back 70 years to Bulgaria’s communist era and commemorates the Soviet invasion of Bulgaria towards the close of the Second World War. The dismantling has been ordered because an inspection found the deteriorated state of the pile is a threat to public safety.
The first steps involve the placing of scaffolding and then the dismantling of the tallest figures, Todeva told reporters.
The figures will be put in storage at a state-owned site, before being restored and moved, in terms of a current plan, to be displayed at the Museum of Socialist Art, which is outside central Sofia.
The monument has been the subject of repeated calls during the decades of Bulgaria’s post-communist era, for it either to be destroyed wholly or at least moved out of its current place of prominence in the centre of the city.
It also repeatedly has been targeted for graffiti, and ire against it has heightened since Russia’s February 2022 illegal invasion of Ukraine.
While on social networks, pro-democracy Bulgarians rejoiced that at last something was being done to get rid of the pile, minority pro-Kremlin parties expressed outrage.
Pro-Russian minority party Vuzrazhdane said on December 12 that it had complained to the Prosecutor’s Office, alleging irregularities in the procedures regarding removal of the monument.
According to Vuzrazhdane city councillor Deyan Nikolov, “the monument symbolises the victory over fascism, this is its concept, and if a country treats a historical monument like this, it means that it is restoring fascism and that we are a totalitarian regime”.
The day saw protests by MPs and supporters of Vuzrazhdane, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and minority extra-parliamentary grouping The Left against the dismantling of the monument. In the afternoon, protesters briefly blocked traffic at Orlov Most (Eagle Bridge).
In an incident at the fence on the edge of the site, BSP MP Georgi Svilenski’s hand was slightly injured. He alleged that a district administration official was responsible and said that he would complain to police and take civil court action against the official.
BSP leader Kornelia Ninova said that they would meet Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov to ask him to “stop all the lunacy that is happening in the centre of Sofia”.
The move against the monument also prompted a lengthy, brutally worded reaction from the Russian foreign ministry.
(Photo: Ivailo Mirchev’s Facebook page)
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