The fate of this monument is in no way different from that of all Socialist monuments from the period. However, it doesn’t make it any less impressive.
Its story began with an open contest for submitting projects in 1958. After two failed contests on the grounds of few participants and want of good enough projects, the third contest ended with an approved project.
It was very big and ambitious, and the Municipality wanted it completed in only 7 months. The tight deadline made it impossible that only professional construction workers be employed for the job, so volunteers were recruited too. Their number within the seven months reached the colossal figure of 27 000 strong. The stunning fact is that among them were not only workers but doctors, teachers etc.
The monument is situated on a hill close to the outskirts of the city. The park surrounding it was part of the composition and the infrastructure of the whole project. At the foot of the hill was a 22-meter-long concrete wall with a long text (eight rows along the full length) of bronze letters, tracing the history of the Bulgarian – Russian cooperation in the region. An impressive flight of steps leads from the wall up to the fundament of the monument.
The monument itself is 23 meters high and 48 meters wide and is supposed to look like a triumphal arch. It has a central space, holding the giant bronze letters (200-300 kg each) of the text Friendship from Centuries and for Centuries. There are two flanks on the sides of the central part, looking like spread wings with two groups of highly stylized figures. On the right are four marching Soviet soldiers looking almost identical, with helmets and guns; on the left are three Bulgarian women, greeting the soldiers. One of the women is holding flowers; another is carrying bread and salt – symbols of a warm reception of the anticipated guests to Bulgaria. Each figure is made of concrete, 11,5 meters high, comprised of 6 segments, each of which weighs 5 to 8 tons.
The monument holds much more than what the eye sees. To begin with, it is hollow with several rooms inside. The two flanks accommodate big halls for holding exhibitions and events. Each hall was decorated with more bronze texts and a big star along the entire far wall.
There is also a giant bomb shelter underneath the monument and the steps leading to it. It is so big and wide, that cars could have been driven on the way to it.
The whole area around the monument was a magnificent park. Texts on the subject claim that there were more than 10 000 trees and 11 440 bushes planted there. They were maintained by an underground irrigation system with a 3500 cubic meters’ capacity. There were also 1 300 meters of plumbing and heating systems and 5 kilometres of electric wires.
All that work, money, capacity was left to its fate immediately after the fall of Socialism in 1989. Its life-span was precisely 10 years. After that everything was forsaken, the letters were stolen, the park lost its previous glory.
This monument is one of the few to boast a lot of projects on its restoration and reuse – from a cultural centre to an ecological park and centre. Nevertheless, it still stands lonely, shattered and forgotten.
TEXT BY ANELIYA IVANOVA
1979Monument for annual events, bomb shelter
2018 Still standing but vandalized and abandoned
Form of government
1979 Totalitarianism under Soviet influence
2018 Parliamentary Democracy
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
1979 Monument with real cultural value of local importance
2018 Monument with real cultural value of local importance