The Monument of the Soviet Army in Sofia painted in the colours of Ukrainian flag, in act of protest, 24 February, 2014, Source: Vassia Atanassova - Spiritia on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Sofia to dismantle contentious Soviet-era monument

Sofia to dismantle contentious Soviet-era monument

The monument has been the site of many anti-Russian activist campaigns over the years

Yesterday evening, Traicho Traikov, mayor of the Sredets district in Sofia, announced that the municipality will dismantle the contentious Monument of the Soviet Army. The monument, located in the heart of the Bulgarian capital, was built in 1954 to commemorate the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany in World War II, as well as the successful Communist coup in the country in 1944.

It has also been the subject of many debates over the years, as Bulgaria has sought to remove many communist-era symbols from cities since the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Monument of the Soviet Army in Sofia has since become a gathering place for many left-wing and pro-Russian organisations, especially on days of commemoration like 9 May, also known as Victory Day.

Monument of the Soviet Army

The Monument of the Soviet Army in Sofia in the 1970s,
Source: Bin im Garten on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

According to Traicho Traikov, despite a municipal council decision to remove the monument dating from 1993, there has not been a district mayor in Sredets ready to implement it. As the crisis in Ukraine ramps up, he explained on social media, the time has come.

Furthermore, representatives in Sofia City Council support the move, with the notable exception of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Traicho Traikov ended his statement with a message of peace: “Good night to all the people with broken hearts and tears in their eyes in Ukraine and may God help all people.”

An outlet for activism

The 45-metre-tall monument has been a contentious landmark in the capital for many years. Despite pro-Russian organisations using it as a space for commemoration, various activist groups have also used the monument as an outlet for activism.

In 2011, a bronze relief on the side of the monument was painted so that the figures resemble pop-culture heroes like Captain America, the Joker and Ronald McDonald.

  In line with the times

The message reads: "In line with the times"
Source: Ignat Ignev on Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0

In 2013, parts of the monument were painted in pink, as an apology for the occupation of Prague in 1968. The Bulgarian army was one of the first to enter Czechoslovakia during a Soviet punitive action against Alexander Dubček’s attempt to liberalise the country’s totalitarian regime.

Prague Summer

The message reads: "Bulgaria is apologising" in Czech and Bulgarian
Source: Ignat Ignev on Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0

In 2014, when the Ukrainian crisis first broke out and Russian forces occupied the Crimean Peninsula, the monument received yet another makeover.

Ukraine polandUkrainian soldier, next to a polish soldier holding the Bulgarian flag
Source: George Valkov on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0



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