Chalkmarks Pulling down the years: Thirteen centuries of Bulgarian history bulldozed as monument is razed

ON a bright summer’s afternoon in Sofia, demolition begins on a statue that has stood as a symbol of Bulgaria’s long and proud history.

Crowds gather to watch the 1,300 Years Bulgaria Monument being dismantled. Some hold hands, forming a protective ring around the site as the bulldozer swings on to the stone.

The sculpture was built in 1981 in the square in front of the National Palace of Culture – one end of the busy Vitosha Boulevard filled with shops, ice cream sellers and outside cafes – to mark the anniversary of the First Bulgarian Empire founded in 681.

After only 36 years, the giant grey Communist-era sculpture is being destroyed.

Valentin Starchev’s granite and steel structure that depicts the founding fathers with quotations was never very popular.  Some complained it was an eyesore and within months of completion it started to crumble.

In her book, Street Without a Name, Kapka Kassabova says the statue “was supposed to resemble a flag, but it always resembled a chunk of asbestos encased in granite.

“It was built in record time in 1981 for the 1,300th anniversary of Bulgaria’s founding. And in record time, only a month later, letters started falling from the poetic quotes glued around its girth.”

Whether to protect the monument or the public it was then fenced off and had remained hidden behind a metal fence for decades until a decision was taken to finally destroy it in July 2017.

Back in the square, demolition continues as the crane crashes down. The warm early evening attracts tourists and cyclists stop to see what’s happening, some joining the human chain.

While many will be glad to see the monument come down others want it to remain as a poignant piece of art that represents the country’s history. Residents don’t know yet what will stand in its place so for now all they can do is watch the past razed to the ground.

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