Bulgarian court orders halt to dismantling of Soviet Army Monument figures – though they already have been dismantled

A week after the dismantling of figures on the Soviet Army Monument in Sofia began, and a few hours after the dismantling effectively was completed, Sofia Administrative Court upheld an application calling for a halt to the process.

On December 19, atop the monument where just more than a week ago the figures had stood, workers were clearing away concrete dust.

According to the Sofia district administration, the figures from the monument – which commemorates the Soviet Army invasion of Bulgaria at the close of the Second World War, which opened the way for the decades of the country’s communist era – were to be restored and transferred to the Museum of Socialist Art in the Bulgarian capital city.

The district administration has cited the deteriorated state of the monument, which was installed seven decades ago during the communist era, as a hazard to the public and as the reason to remove the figures.

The dismantling of the controversial monument has led to howls of indignation from pro-Russian minority political parties, two of which – former ombudsman Maya Manolova’s extra-parliamentary party and the Vuzrazhdane party – lodged applications in court to stop it.

The Sofia Administrative Court ruled that neither an administrative act nor contracts had been presented that made clear what would happen to the figures after the dismantling – where they would be taken and how they would be stored.

The court said that the evidence before it had not established that the actions in dismantling the figures were based on law or an administrative act, nor that they were aimed and preserving and protecting them, private state property.

It said that it was not clear what portion of the funds allocated for the project were for the dismantling, what for storage and security and what for restoring and installing the figures.

It also was not clear which officials should exercise control over the dismantling and restoration of the monument.

The Sofia district governor has three days to lodge an application to appeal.

The court ordered police to implement its ruling.

(Photos, taken on the afternoon of December 19: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

On the afternoon of December 19, police were on duty at the temporary fencing put up around the site, though in smaller numbers than in the first few days of the project. They were watching the workers who were busy atop the plinth, and those passersby who were taking photographs of the bare pile of concrete.

Throughout the seven days that it has taken to complete the dismantling, those who long have wanted to see the monument – a reminder of the oppression of the communist era – gone, have been rejoicing, with a typical comment on social networks being “now I feel liberated from the ‘liberators’”.

The monument as it was before the December 2023 process of dismantling began.

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