Monument to the Soviet Army, Sofia
Taking a stroll around the oldest park in Sofia amongst the skaters and young drinkers, a huge monument is the only view that really draws your attention. Standing at 34 feet, it portrays a Bulgarian man (worker) and woman (peasant) stood either side of a Soviet soldier, triumphant in his victory. Embedded around the sides of it’s base are several other battle scenes which currently have remnants of different coloured paint smudged into the metal – evidence that some attempts have been made to clean up the graffiti that has been created over recent years.
The monument at the Soviet Army Monument Park was originally built to to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the ‘liberation’ of Bulgaria by the Red Army and a tribute to their soldiers that died in the process. Built in 1954, there are several social-realist memorials scattered throughout the park, some of which portray Soviet soldiers fighting next to Bulgarians, whilst others depict Bulgarians in a celebratory poses. However, the reality since is a constant reminder for some Bulgarian people of how the Soviet Army took control of Bulgarian land, and Communism’s subsequent role in the country’s history.
One monument in particular, has undergone various metamorphoses in recent years which have provoked anger from both Russian and Bulgarian governments, but for many Bulgarians the park has become an popular urban art place. While some might call it vandalism, many others would prefer to call it acts of political protest.
Anonymous artists first started a trend in 2011 when the monument was painted with superheros, comic characters and other popular Western icons including Ronald McDonald. The words, ‘In Step with the times’ were written underneath.
In 2012, as a tribute to the jailed Pussy Riot members, the soldiers’ heads were re-dressed in the infamous Pussy Riot masks.
On the anniversary of the invasion of Prague Spring of ’68 by the Red Army, with the support of several other counties including Bulgaria , the entire monument was painted in pink and written underneath were the words, ‘Bulgaria apologies’.
More recently, in February, 2014, to show support, the leading soldier was painted in the Ukrainian national colours and the words – ‘Glory to Ukraine’ were spray painted underneath along with other anti-Putin statements.
The park is situated close to Bulgarian Parliament and Sofia University was re-named Park of the Knayaz in 2011.
The four protest photographs are courtesy of Art and Politics
More photos of the monuments here