New protests for the removal of the statue of the Soviet Army in Sofia

Yet another protest for the removal of the monument to the Soviet Army in the center of Sofia was conducted. Protesters gathered around the infamous site on September 5. Similar demonstrations have become a commonplace around the site, and the statue itself has been vandalized multiple times.

The new round of protests

The new rally is just one in a long round of events advocating for the dismantlement of the monument. The September 5 demonstration was organized by the political party “Democrats for Strong Bulgaria” and a few dozen people showed up. The protesters cite a government order from 1992 for the removal of the monument and the announcement of a government auction for a renovation of the surrounding area. The usual argument given by the protest leaders in the media was that a monument is supposed to unite the people of a country and not divide them as, according to them, the Soviet Army statue does. This protest comes days after the dismantlement of another iconic monument from the communist era.

More about the Soviet Army monument

The site of the monument is close to the original center of Sofia, located in the Knyaz’s garden, one of the landmarks of the then-small capital of the country. The idea for creating the garden in the 1880s came from the first head of state of the newly reborn Bulgaria – Knyaz Alexander of Battenberg. The garden is near Eagle Bridge and the University of Sofia, another two landmarks of the first Bulgarian state.

In the last stages of World War 2, the Soviet-backed communist party of Bulgaria overthrew the Tripartite pact (the treaty between Axis powers led by Nazi Germany) government and the Soviet army entered Bulgaria. The newly installed communist regime considered the entrance of the Soviet army as a liberation from fascism, despite the fact that the pro-fascist armies had mostly abandoned the country.

The communist government of Bulgaria built the controversial monument to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Bulgaria’s “Victory day” on the 9th of September. The statue shows a Soviet soldier “heroically” entering the country. Once the regime fell in 1990, the debates on what to do with the monuments of communism began, with the Soviet Army one being at the center as the most emblematic and problematic.

The debate around the monument

The site was often vandalized, painted, protested, defended, commented, and even celebrated by the citizens of Bulgaria. The argument of the detractor side is that the statue represents the occupation of Bulgaria and honors its invaders. The defenders of the statue claim that it represents the defeat of fascism in Bulgaria. Members of the detractor side often protest and paint over the statute, while the defenders, many of whom are communist sympathizers, organize concerts and celebrations around the monument on the 9th of December.

Some of the average Bulgarians like the statue for its aesthetic value and iconic status within the landscape of Sofia. The surrounding area has been called the “Army” area and not the “Knyaz’s garden” in the unwritten dictionary of the city for a long time. It’s hard to determine the exact position of the average Sofian, it varies from loyalty to the statue as an icon of the city to the desire for its removal, and to keeping the statue as a historical reminder of the country’s history.

 

Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a writer, editor, and weapons master for EUscoop.com

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