With the demolition of the late socialist monument erected on the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state, Sofia lost an important part of its urban history.
In June 2017 Sofia Municipality had begun the destruction of the of a huge monument, standing in the center of Sofia. This was a long awaited step from the major public, and the government finally acted in preparation for the Bulgarian EU Council presidency in the first half of 2018.
The original state of the monument. Photo: Save 1300 Facebook group
The 35 m tall monument was built in 1981 to celebrate 1300 years of the foundation of the Bulgarian State. Its sculptor is professor Valentin Startchev. The monument was planned as part of the urban ensemble including the National Palace of Culture and is a peculiar part-brutalist part-deconstructivist structure. As it is widely seen in states of the region, this peculiar example of Socialist Modernist art, seen as a representation of the former oppressor state, lacking the proper maintenance began to crumble after 1989, and was fenced off since 2002.
Detail of the monument in 2014. Photo: Mark Ahsmann, Wikimedia Commons
The history and the monument and its present-day reception has always been controversial. While architects and historians might have praised its artistic values and brave, expressive power, locals often highlighted the fact that the ‘1300’ itself was also a memorial for destruction – as its predecessor, inaugurated in 1934 by Tsar Boris III to honour the fallen of WWI, was demolished by the Communist authorities. In 2014, activists began to propagate the replacement of the current monument with a newly built copy of the previous one. At the end of the year, the municipal council decided the demolish the monument. This however was opposed by the artist, Starchev and his supporters, who started a legal process to halt the decision. In January 2016, the Bulgarian Supreme Court dismissed Starchev’s appeal, practically paving the way for dismantling the monument and moving the sculptures to the Sofia History Museum.
Still, artist, architects and experts have strongly opposed the plans of demolition, and in started a webpage and a campaign to save the monument, calles Save 1300. The step, however, came too far: the dismantling was finished by the end of June 2017. Even with the monument gone, the future of the location will certainly spark new debates in the Bulgarian public.