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Monument to the Founders of the Bulgaria State

Shumen, Bulgaria
1 of 7

Bulgaria was founded in 681 AD, and in 1981 the country celebrated its 1300th anniversary with the creation of many new monuments and cultural centres built across the country. Undoubtedly the largest of these, was the Monument to the Founders of the Bulgarian State, at Shumen.

The capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom was at Pliska, an ancient city close to the modern settlement of Shumen. And so the plateau above Shumen was chosen as the site for this remarkable memorial complex commemorating the founders and early leaders of Bulgaria (who took the title 'khan,' until the Christianisation of Bulgaria, after which they became 'tsars').

Designed by architects Georgi Gechev and Blagoi Atanasov, this monument takes the form of concrete pillars rising around an enclosed courtyard to a height of some 50 metres. Cubist sculptures by Krum Damyanov and Ivan Slavov decorate these pillars, illustrating Bulgaria's early leaders.

The ensemble also features a mosaic decorated wall, by artists Simeon Venov and Vlasislav Paskalev, that illustrates the establishment of language and culture in Bulgaria, and is reported to be the largest mosaic panel in southeast Europe. The monument is reached by a processional concrete stairway from Shumen (with 1300 steps), or by road. It stands at a height of 450 m above sea level, and can be seen from 30 km away.

Naming Confusion

There has long been a confusion around the name of this monument, as it is also sometimes referred to as the 'Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria' - the same name as a monument in Sofia. Georgi Gechev and Blagoi Atanasov had originally wanted to use that title for their monument here in Shumen. But the Sofia team took it first, and so Gechev and Atanasov were forced to pick a new name for this one - opting for 'Monument to the Founders of the Bulgarian State' instead. While this latter name is now the official title of the Shumen monument, it can still sometimes be seen referred to by either name.

Condition of the Monument

Unusually for socialist-era monuments in Bulgaria, this site is well cared for nowadays, featuring an adjacent museum, cafe, souvenir shop and ticket office. While it is easy to enter the complex without paying, visitors are strongly encouraged to visit the office and pay the 3 lev entry fee, as this money is what pays for the maintenance of the structure. The monument shows some signs of decline, with erosion to corners of the concrete, and evidence of cracks and water damage in places. So while the will to conserve it is on clear display, the site is nevertheless somewhat underfunded and would benefit from a thorough conservation effort before long.

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darmonrichter, June 4th, 2021
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