See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Bulgaria: Bloggers Discuss the Soviet Army Monument in Sofia

Photo by Ivan Ivanov, Wikimedia Commons

The Soviet Army Monument in Sofia was built in 1954, in honor of the victory over the Nazis in World War II. Today, this monument is the subject of dispute between left- and right-wing political groups. Recently, a group of right-wing activists started a discussion in the Bulgarian society whether the Monument should be demolished or not.

Bulgarian blog DeCommunization wrote:

[…] Who are we? Where do we come from? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?? This is actually one single question: “What do we want”? […]
[…] Everything started with a monument of an army that no longer exists. A country that no longer exists. Or maybe it does. Maybe a new version of that country. Masked and hidden. How else would it have so many apologists? How can something nonexistent be able to mobilize so much human energy every time we attempt to answer difficult questions? No, we can't move forward unless we look back. […]

And some more from DeCommunization:

[…] Why I want the monument of the occupying Soviet army to be moved to the Museum of Totalitarian Art

I appeal again to all of you who hold ‘Red’ feelings and sympathies. There's a monument in the city of Varna for all the fallen Soviet soldiers, who gave their lives for the freedom of Bulgaria. On it, there are written dozens of names and titles. As a teenager, I wondered how and where these soldiers died, when there weren't any battles in our region, nor across the country. Older adults said that many soldiers from the Red Army have paid with their lives for their thefts, murders, arsons, rapes. At the time, infected by the Communist propaganda, young and inexperienced, I didn't believe this was possible. But today, with a lot more knowledge and experience, I can categorically state that the Red Army monuments are monuments praising killers, robbers, arsonists, rapists and other criminals. They did not die “for the freedom of Bulgaria,” but were killed without trial, next to a wall or a tree, by their own regiments, which sought to restrict some of these barbaric excesses by poorly educated and uncultured savages. […]

A Bulgarian historian and lecturer of Political Sciences, Antoniy Todorov, wrote this on his blog:

[…] This debate is actually nothing new, there were already several initiatives to demolish the monument, but all governments since 1989 have refrained from doing so, moreover, Russia has always made it clear that this would be considered an offense.

Both sides have strong arguments. Therefore, the question is political, and its resolution will also be political, regardless of what it is. This means that it's not enough to simply take a side in the discussion (we can assume that both sides have a case). It's a political decision in the sense that it has to fit within the prioritized issues that we consider particularly important for our entire community. […]

[…] So what about Bulgaria? The main question here is: are we committed to honoring the Day of Victory over Nazism, or not? The answer is not an easy one, and it's essentially a choice of civilizational belonging. […]

Nikolay Sisoev, a Johannesburg-based Bulgarian, commented on the Soviet Army Monument in Sofia on his blog, Truden:

[…] Bulgarians have always been cheering for their future and booing at their past.
Thing are pretty much the same with our most recent and “most democratic” history – the years of our past have gotten quite a lot of boos… None more so than a certain 45-year period. During these 45 years, we have been allied with those who liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule, and Europe – from the fascist dictatorship. For the first feat, grateful Bulgaria raised monuments in their honor.
The second feat was honored the same way. Today, however, it appears that the 20 million Russians who died, do not deserve a monument in Sofia, even in Bulgaria. […] Why? Well, because we are now Democrats, and those who died on the battlefield against fascism were communists. […]

In his personal blog, Ivo Indzev, a prominent journalist who is known for his anti-Soviet stance, wrote:

[…] For the umpteenth time, let me remind the hesitant among us what exactly this monument represents. It demonstrates the Russian imperial hegemony over Bulgaria! It is not even a monument to Communism, much less to the left-wing ideals. It's not a monument of the Soviet Union either, though it carries the name of the Soviet Army. If it was a monument to the Soviet Union, the idea of demolishing it would rile up all the former republics that “equally” constituted the union. Can you imagine Estonia sending a note to Bulgaria to preserve the monument? That sounds like a joke (although a note from Russia is not a joke at all). […]

Pavel Yanchev, another Bulgarian blogger, wrote:

[…] The Soviet Army Monument is neither a Roman amphitheater, nor the house of a wealthy business family from the '20s. It was built (and designed by pretty good architects, by the way) to perpetuate the idea of some nonexistent happiness and joy, and it is pure communist propaganda, which aims to strengthen the local regime and its ideology. However, before we decide to just demolish the monument, we should remember about the incident with Georgi Dimitrov's mausoleum in 1998. We removed a building that no longer served a purpose, other than to personify a totalitarian regime, but we didn't think what to put in its place. Destroying the building took more time than it took to build it. The decision to destroy it was made with a similar totalitarian swing – without asking anyone, not even the citizens of the city. […]

Muiiio, a popular blogger, shared his opinion about Bulgaria's Soviet past:

[…] Hmm… let's tear down all the buildings from the Bulgarian Renaissance, because they are monuments of the Ottoman domination! Let's just eradicate any memories and symbols of our land's past, because it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Or should we leave just the beautiful memories?

Let's ask the question: who will we give the hard task to choose what's “good” and what isn't, and what's going to be destroyed next – the Soviet Army Monument, or the Central Bathhouse?

To those who believe that a monument in memory of the Soviet Army desecrates the center of Sofia today (and/or the Bulgarian people as a whole), let's put in a new plate, well-illuminated, with large letters, telling the story behind the creation of the monument, as well as all the symbols that appear on it. Let's build a museum around the monument – this isn't just an important part of our history, but an interesting thing for many people who haven't seen it before; I'm not just talking about foreigners, but also people from my generation, as well as those younger than me. […]

5 comments

  • AugusII

    I can only think: Are Bulgarian morons? Who paid for? Use of this construction? a deceiving of public money scheme?

  • V

    “The Soviet Army Monument in Sofia was built in 1954, in honor of the victory over the Nazis in World War II.”

    In theory, while in practice it was built to intimidate the armed resistance against the regime, which regained strength after the Soviet Army left, as a reminder they could come back. Also note that it’s a monument to the “Soviet” army, not the Red Army as it was called during WWII. It was renamed in 1946.

  • V

    Also, what quote #2 said — the Bulgarian Army was ordered to not resist the Soviet invasion. There were no casualties during it (plenty of casualties once they occupied the country, of course — Bulgarian civilians). The names on the monument are ones that were executed by their own regiments for their murders, rapes, theft and arsony.

  • wayne

    The russian monument by the national palace of culture is a eye sore! I would let companys like coca cola pay to advertise on it and at least it would generate income.

  • […] the locals thought. I realised that way over there in another part of the world, people were having debates over the removal of soviet-era monuments like the one in […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site