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News 23 Oct 17

Huge Sculpture to Replace Communist’s Mausoleum in Sofia

A huge bronze sculpture to celebrate Bulgaria’s EU presidency will be installed on the site of former Communist International leader Georgi Dimitrov’s demolished mausoleum – a plan which has caused controversy.

Mariya Cheresheva
Georgi Dimitrov's mausoleum in 1969. Photo: Angela Monica Arnold

The new, 14-metre-tall sculpture by Bulgarian artist Plamen Deyanoff, called ‘The Bronze House’, is set to be installed at the site of the former mausoleum at Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square in Sofia by the end of the year, to mark the start of Bulgaria’s first EU presidency in January.

The installation is supported by the Austrian government and the Sofia municipality and is to remain in place until the end of 2018 – the year in which Bulgaria and Austria share the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“The use of this space in the present time will help us overcome the traumas of the past,” Vienna-based Deyanoff said at a presentation of the project in front of the Union of Bulgarian Architects on Friday.

The choice of location for the installation has attracted controversy, however.

Many architects who attended the presentation of the project expressed harsh criticism for the choice, which they said they found inappropriate and provocative.


Vizualisation of the Bronze House at the site of the former mausoleum. Photo: Sofia Municipality. 

The white marble mausoleum of Bulgaria’s first Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov, who also led the Communist International between 1934 and 1943, was built by the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1949.

It contained Dimitrov’s remains until 1990, when they were cremated and buried in Sofia’s Central Cemetery.

Following heated debates, the mausoleum was demolished by the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov in 1999, despite the majority of Bulgarians opposed the demolition, according to opinion polls.

But Kostov’s party, Union of Democratic Forces, or UDF, maintained a strong position that the ideological building had to go because it was a manifestation of Bulgaria’s repressive totalitarian past.

After three unsuccessful attempts to demolish the massive marble structure, which embarrassed the government, the building finally fell on the fourth attempt in August 1999.

Since then, no final decision has been taken a replacement for the mausoleum, which left an empty spot in the heart of central Sofia.

Despite the criticisms, Deyanoff maintained that the place he chose to install his massive project is the right one.

“We live in the present and also have the right to use his space. It had not been reserved for anybody,” he said.

The Sofia municipal administration has also defended the choice of location for the ‘Bronze House’.

“This location is not a provocation. This is art which passes on a message at a very important moment, which is directed both at Bulgaria’s cultural traditions and at European integration,” said architect Boyka Kadreva from the Sofia municipality.

He explained that he spent 12 years working on the project, which was inspired by the architecture and wood-carving of the Bulgarian Enlightenment during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The author says the sculpture, which is made of over 1,000 bronze elements, is a “functional architectural object” which could be used by the capital’s administration for holding social and cultural events.

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