The idea to build a monument started with a contest in 1955. Like most monumental art project contests in Bulgaria at the time, it failed because of a lack of participants and good enough project proposals. Following three failed contests, construction finally started in 1971. The monument was unveiled in 1974.
The Monument to Brotherhood in Plovdiv is one of many monuments dedicated to Bulgarians and Russians who sacrificed their lives in the wars. Most monuments, like this one, are also ossuaries. What makes this monument unique for Bulgaria, though, is its idea: form and decoration.
The monument has a centric structure. It is supposed to look like the traditional Thracian tombs in Bulgaria, buried under earth mounds and reminding the viewer of a wreath if looked at from above. The form of the monument creates the effect—with its inclined concrete surfaces, alternating at two different heights, which meet in the centre where there is an altar for the eternal fire.
Under the concrete “roof” there is a round, semi-open hall. Following the centric layout, at the end of the hall, there is a 90-metre-long composition of alternating sculptural scenes and decorative stone pillars.
The scenes are taken from Bulgarian history. The composition starts with the scene Yoke, followed by emblematic episodes from the struggles for freedom during different wars and ends with two scenes—The Birth of Socialism and Workers’ Strike that celebrate the position of the Communist Party in Bulgarian history.
The style of the sculptures is unique—the artist has employed recognisable historical figures, symbols, allegories and elements of varying scale in a single composition. The effect is that each scene registers as a symbol of the idea, or of the period, with the strongest impact. For example, the Yoke scene is represented by three gigantic stone arms in giant bronze shackles, among which a small female figure with a baby cowers.
During my research I found archive documents evincing that the municipal committee argued with the sculptor, Lyubomir Dalchev, about the compositions; they were too unusual and abstract for their taste. The author was unyielding in his position—he wouldn’t change the compositions for the committee’s convenience.
Today, the monument is locked up. It is rarely opened and only by special demand. The form of the monument, however, makes it available to marauders. Looking through its barred doors, it is evident that the brass parts of the sculptures have been stolen and that only unidentifiable stone parts and slabs have been left behind. Some publications state that the brass parts were taken down and locked in the crypt for safekeeping, for more favourable times.
Since the closure of the monument in 1990, there have been many project proposals for renovation and reuse of the space. Some projects focused on converting the monument into a modern art space, while others proposed the opening of a concert hall. In 2010, claims that a project by the original architect, Lyubomir Shinkov, had been approved made news; the project concerned the opening of a concert and cultural space and promised a one-year deadline for completion. Nothing happened.
Recently, in connection with the fact that Plovdiv won the competition to be European Capital of Culture in 2019, new rumours have spread about renovations and opening of the monument to the public. Alas, for now, the monument is still closed and waiting.
Researcher Aneliya Ivanova
1974Monument for annual events, ossuary
2018 Fair - still standing, but decaying
Form of government
1974 Totalitarianism under Soviet influence
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
1974 Monument with real cultural value of local importance
2018 Monument with real cultural value of local importance