Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leaders in front of the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia. (Photo: via BSP)
Leftist and anti-fascist groups in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia are protesting the city council’s decision to relocate the Monument to the Soviet Army to the Museum of Socialist Art. Right-wing parties hold the majority in the city council.
On Thursday, March 9, activists from the Bulgarian Anti-Fascist Union, along with hundreds of activists from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and its youth union, formed a human chain to defend the monument. Subsequently, people also demonstrated in front of the offices of the Sofia municipality.
On Thursday, the Sofia city council—dominated by the conservative Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB)—voted in favor of relocating the monument from the city to the Museum of Socialist Art. Councilors from the BSP opposed this move. Several groups have decided to move to court to challenge the city council’s decision, as the monument is protected by several national and international agreements. Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Galab Donev has reportedly said that it is better to further look into the matter only after the general elections scheduled for April 2, once greater consensus is reached.
According to reports, pro-European Union (EU) forces, against the backdrop of the ongoing Russia-NATO war in Ukraine, have targeted the statue in order to take advantage of Russophobia in the upcoming general elections. It may not be easy for them to relocate the monument—as has already happened to many Soviet Red Army monuments across eastern Europe—as there is strong opposition to the move. Bulgaria has been experiencing a political crisis, marked by back-to-back snap elections, and has not had a a stable government since April 2021.
The Russia-NATO war in Ukraine has led to a spike in Russophobia and anti-communism across Europe, especially in eastern Europe. Right-wing groups and governments have also intensified their attempts at decommunization in the region. In 2019, the European Parliament had passed a controversial resolution calling for the erasure of all memorials of “totalitarianism” across Europe, including memorials dedicated to the Red Army.
The leader of the Socialists in the Sofia Municipal Council and leader of the Sofia organization of the BSP, Ivan Takov, told baricada.org: “we will not allow the Monument of the Soviet Army to be demolished or in any way desecrated. The decision of the Sofia City Council has no legal value, as the monument is the property of the state.”
Boyko Klechkov from BSP told duma.bg: “It is a pity that here we are trapping ourselves by trying, under external dictation, to destroy our monuments and history and thus to break the link with the Russian people. A people who liberated us from Ottoman rule and saved not only Bulgaria but the whole of Europe from the Nazis and fascism during World War II.”