Witnesses of stone

Witnesses of stone - Stella rossa


Walking the streets of Bulgaria one still comes across monuments, sculptures and images dating back “1944-1989” years. The website is a first, reasoned, collection of these survived communist-era memorials.

Trips dedicated to take picture of every survived monument joint togheter with archival analysis aimed at identifying, as far as is possible , date and commemorative purpose of all of them are the very bulk of this passionate work.

Memorial monuments: events and characters

Memorial structures of different kind and size began to spring up since early post-war years: promoting the construction of monuments following soviet example, actually became an unvaried political practice in communist Bulgaria. The regime entrusted the building of those evocative artifacts with two different, linked, purposes: to declare in marble the supposed “immortality” of every portrayed character or event and, doing so, identifing public spaces suitable for hosting the inexhaustible party rituals related to memory.

First favourite subjects were “Red Army”and communist movement with its struggles and leaders. Several monumental structures dedicated to eternalize "Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship" followed.
It was not until the early 1950s that commemorations of the partisan movement began to appear. In the years ahead a number of them appeared all over the country.
In this period started to be builded too many memorials dedicated to the "World's first anti-fascist uprising”, that of September 1923. This tragic event- insurrection organized by the Party was quickly crushed by government forces and hundreds of rebels lost their lives – became quickly a providential event carved in many monuments : the final triumph of Communism - it was rhetorically affirmed then - had its roots in the sufferings endured then by its heroic militants. The episode fell too among those consecrated, in the 1960s and 1970s, to “three revolutionary epochs” or “three generations of fighters”: “September 1923” became then the intermediate stage between the “April 1876” revolt against the Ottomans - which paved the way for the Country's 'Independence two years later - and the socialist revolution of “September 1944”, when the party seized power in Bulgaria.
From the early 1960s “Pantheon” of figures deserving monumental recognition expanded to include leaders of Indipendence struggle like Vasil Levski and intellectuals of Bulgarian National Revival like Paissiy Hilendarski. Special attention was paid then to Hristo Botev: the extremely popular patriot and poet became, thanks to propaganda, an hero, at the same time, national and “communist”. A copious memorials of him appeared then throughout Bulgaria.
In the last decade of the communist regime two centenaries promoted new bunch of monuments : that of 1877-78 russian-ottoman war and that of 13 centuries passed by 681d.c. when a first national entity formally called “Bulgaria”was born . Many tsarist marble big soldiers and legendary medieval kings filled by then public spaces.
.A final note: reception centers, variously organized and often heavily attended, were placed alongside the more “pedagogically” relevant memorial structures. They were dedicated to accommodating the celebratory tourism strongly promoted by the regime: Shipka, Buntovna complex, Botev Trail, the huge House of the Bulgarian Communist Party in Buzludja offer the most striking examples of that.

Statues and decorations

Statues and political decorations out of any direct historical reference appeared too: they were consecrated, for example, to “The Miner”, “The Workman” or “The Peasant” or dedicated to happy life secured by socialist power to citizens of “new” Bulgaria started 9th september 1944.

Minor monuments

On the website appear, alongside the best-known and most important structures, less conspicuous memorials celebrating events of only local or secondary relevance such as the foundation of the first communist cell in a village, the departure for the mountains of a partisan brigade or the speech given by a party leader. Anyway they effectively show the almost obsessive importance attached by the regime to commemorate every kind of events that somehow belonged to its history. No one excluded, it would be added.
This determined, almost “ideological”, will to promote always new monumental structures is reaffirmed by the very presence of memorials simply consecrated to an object, considered as such, politically meaningful: they range from soviet tank to tractor of a village cooperative. Accordingly with that many airplanes still dominate squares and public gardens of small towns.

Monumental traces

In some cases it has been provided documentary evidence of what just remains of a monument. After 1989 “not communist” architectural elements, plaques or symbols have been added sometimes to them. This peculiar interweaving of opposing messages became too part of the communist monumental legacy that this website aims to describe.

A final dedication: the website is especially pledged to those who will visit Bulgaria, whether they are interested in the “visual” history of communism in Eastern Europe, in the artistic aspect of the subject, or, more simply, in the discoveries that every real trip should consider.