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Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria
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The Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria was installed in Sofia in 1981, to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the foundation of the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681 AD. Designed by the sculptor Valentin Starchev, this unique monument was conceived to be part of a large scale urban ensemble, which also included the Bulgarian National Palace of Culture (NDK) which the monument stands in front of. This art piece represented an architectural composition, constituted by three concrete bodies and three figurative sculptural elements, designed by the architectural team of Alexander Barov, Vladimir Romenski and Atanas Agura, and forming a spiral that culminated in a bronze wing.

Sculpted installations by Valentin Starchev on each section represented Bulgaria's ancient history, its wartime sacrifices, and finally, its optimistic future. Clad in marble exterior panels, the back of the monument – facing the National Palace of Culture – was decorated with quotes from Bulgarian poets and revolutionaries. The monument had exceptional cultural, artistic, architectonic and social values, which added meaning and significance to its historical symbolism.

Decline of the Monument

The monument began to deteriorate quite severely in the 1990s. Allegedly, its construction was somewhat rushed, with most of the attention at the time being given to the National Palace of Culture instead. Marble panels began falling from the monument, and prior to the Pope's visit to Sofia in 2002, the council ordered all remaining marble panels to be stripped off – to avoid the danger of having any elements fall onto the crowds that lined the city's streets for the event. The monument was subsequently left as a skeleton, bare concrete with parts of its metal skeleton exposed, and it remained in this unfortunate state for more than a decade.

Destruction of the Monument

For many years Sofia City Council had discussed demolishing the monument, though it wasn't until 2017 that they began work. There was disagreement from many in the city, and in July, when bulldozers were sent to the site, protestors called for a renovation, rather than demolition, and surrounded the monument in an effort to save it. The protests grew violent at one point, with substantial damage being done to one of the demolition vehicles. Nevertheless, the council went ahead and destroyed the monument. Initially they promised to move Valentin Starchev's sculptural elements to the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia, while the site would be restored with an earlier, pre-socialist monument – a WWI memorial which had stood in this place prior to its damage during WWII bombing raids.

However, the council are yet to fulfil this promise. Instead of restoring the WWI memorial, they simply placed a small stone lion (the symbol of Bulgaria) on the place where the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria used to stand; and Valentin Starchev's sculptures, rather than being relocated to the museum, have recently been spotted at a village scrapyard just outside Sofia.