Sofia, just like most cities in the former Eastern Block, has a Monument to the Liberating Soviet Army—one of prominent size and location.
A quarter of a century after the fall of Communism this monument still strikes controversy.
The structure, like many other monuments across the continent, pays tribute to the Soviet victory in WWII.
In Bulgaria, though, the end of the WWII also led to a Soviet-backed totalitarian regime.
Acts of political repression in the country picked around the 1950’s when the monument was constructed.
It was inaugurated in 1954 to mark 10 years from the Soviet invasion of Bulgaria. The decision to build it was in no doubt a gesture of obedience to the USSR.
Today some look at the monument and see a symbol of the victory over Nazism. To them the monument makes sense.
Others see a painful reminder of a foreign-backed regime and want the monument gone.
Occasional rallies calling for the demolition of the monument and contra-rallies in its support gather in the area.
A LIVING MONUMENT
And while most would agree that the city has many more pressing issues than demolishing a monument, anonymous street artists have started using the area as an art canvas giving the controversy a new dimension; is it ok to paint and what to do with the result? What is a smile-provoking brilliant street art to some is vandalism to others.
Within the last few years the monument was doused in pink as an apology for the 1968 invasion of in Czechoslovakia and painted in yellow and blue during the protests in Kiev, to mention just a few.
In 2011, American comic book action figures, Santa and Ronald McDonald along with the words ”Moving with times” appeared on the western wall and made the international news. T-shirts and coffee mugs with the painted monument can still be purchased.
SOVIET MONUMENTAL PROPAGANDA
To Soviet art aficionados, the monument is worth a closer look.
A prime example of the distinctive Socialist realism and the Soviet monumental propaganda, it depicts the victorious Red Army greeted by the exalted local population. A place of honor goes to the unknown Red Army soldier atop a 37 m high column….. waiving a machine gun.
True to Socialist realism, the 50+ individual cast-iron human figures of the monumental complex exhibit distinct utopian elements: lean, muscular and fit, with idealized facial and physical features in accordance with the heroic qualities of the socialist man (and woman).