Bulgaria: Dismantling of Soviet Army Monument continues amid tight security

Dismantling of the figures on the Soviet Army Monument in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia continued on December 13, with police and Gendarmerie guarding the perimeter as well as the workers and machinery.

Overnight into Wednesday, workers removed one of the figure’s arms that clutches an automatic rifle, with the removal being greeted with delight among Bulgarians who want the monument, which commemorates the Soviet invasion of Bulgaria at the close of the Second World War, gone.

Sofia district governor Vyara Todeva told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television on December 13 that the dismantling would cost about 260 000 leva.

This sum does not cover restoration work on the figures, which are expected to be moved to the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia or some other location away from the prominent place the monument has occupied for the past 70 years.

“This is the amount without the restoration itself and it has been approved by the Cabinet,” Todeva said.

“After the dismantling is finished, it will be known how much the restoration costs and we will be able to announce a public procurement for it,” she said.

Todeva said that the monument has been collapsing irretrievably for years, without anyone taking responsibility for maintaining it.

In 1955, during Bulgaria’s communist era, state ownership of the monument had been transferred from the culture ministry to the municipal council, but this transfer had been overturned in court, meaning that the culture ministry should have maintained the monument, she said.

According to Todeva, depending on progress and circumstances such as weather conditions – given that rain and snow are forecast for Sofia in the second half of the week – the dismantling of the figures could be completed before Christmas.

Pro-Russian minority party Vuzrazhdane and the Bulgarian Socialist Party oppose the removal of the monument and city councillors from the two groups intend asking the council to call a referendum on the future of the monument. It is considered improbable that they will muster the votes to call a referendum, given that the larger groups in the city council want the monument removed.

Vuzrazhdane was planning a protest at 6pm on December 13 in “defence” of the monument.

(Photo, taken on December 13: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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