Soviet Army Monument – Sofia

Soviet Army Monument - Иван Иванов

Soviet Army Monument – Иван Иванов

Soviet Army Monument – Sofia

Possibly the largest existent sculptural work of Socialist Realism in Sofia, and quite possibly the whole country, is the Monument to the Soviet Army which was commissioned and erected in 1954 on the occasion of the 10 anniversary of the Liberation of Sofia by the Red Army.

The principal monument was a group sculpture of; a Red Army soldier in the centre, with his rifle held high above his head in his right hand; to his right there’s a young Bulgarian woman holding her baby; and on his left there’s a Bulgarian man. This trio was standing on a 37 metre high pedestal which is reached by a series of stepped platforms from the edge of the complex which starts near the main road.

It is ‘was’ rather than ‘is’ because this particular element of the monument was removed in December 2023. In theory this will eventually be given a place in the garden of the Museum of Socialist Art. It had not appeared there in April 2024 and the reason for the delay is unknown, possibly because it would be in need of some cleaning and restoration. It is hoped that is the only reason for the delay and that reactionaries in the Bulgarian political community are not using it as an excuse in the hope the delay will erase the sculpture from the public consciousness.

Although this trio might have been the focal point of the monument it is by no means the only element of complex.

The principal entrance is the stepped route to the pedestal which is flanked by two, low level group sculptures. Both these groups represent Red Army men and women being welcomed by the local populace. They bring food and drink for the tired soldiers and the appreciation of their efforts are being demonstrated by Bulgarians of all ages. There’s a feeling of joy and celebration as the people are freed from the dominance of the invading Nazis and the possibility of being able to build a new future.

On the sides of the platform on which the pedestal stands are three, large bas relief panels. The ones on the right and left depict war scenes from battles that would have proceeded the liberation of Bulgaria as the Red Army swept west to eventually crush the Nazi beast in its lair in Berlin the following year. The third panel, on the south side, depicts the Soviet ‘home front’ where those not in the actual fighting were making the success of the Red Army possible by their work in the factories and the fields.

All these five sculptural elements have suffered quite severe vandalism, mainly by paint, but there doesn’t seem to be any serious physical damage. At least nothing that couldn’t be rectified with careful cleaning and restoration. Whether that will be their fate or not is unknown.

Although the sculpture on the pedestal might have been recently removed access to the complex is still restricted. A 2 metre high metal fence surrounds every single element of the monument, the sculptures as well as the approach steps and platforms.

Obviously there have been efforts, some at least successful, to breach this barrier in the past but equally serious efforts have been made to repair those breaches. I walked around the whole perimeter and was unable to find any way to get inside the fence. For that reason the photographic record is not dependent upon what I would have liked to have presented rather it what was possible through gaps in the fence or standing on benches at one the edge of the barrier.

The fact that the final fate of this monument has been under discussion for 30 years indicates the uncertainty that the reactionaries in power in Bulgaria feel about the public memory of the liberation from Fascism and the role the Red Army played in that. Removing the principal trio with the ‘promise’ they would be relocated to the Museum of Socialist Art is only part of the ‘solution’. Those sculptural elements that remain are larger and more difficult to place outside of their present, and original, context.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any information about those artists and architects who were involved in the creation and installation of the monument.

How to get there:

Leave the underpass of the Sofia University Metro station by the south east exit and walk along the south side of Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard. After about 200 metres the area of the complex is unmistakeable on the right. In April 2024 the pedestal was still surrounded by scaffolding but the shiny metal fence stands out like a sore thumb.


In the park, on the south side of Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard, close to the Sofia University Metro station.




Museum of Socialist Art – Sofia, Bulgaria

Museum of Socialist Art - Sofia

Museum of Socialist Art – Sofia

Museum of Socialist Art – Sofia, Bulgaria

The Museum is in two parts; the internal gallery and the garden with the collection of statues (almost certainly the most interesting part of the site). The internal gallery has an exhibition that might change. I don’t know how regularly. When I visited in April 2024 there was an exhibition of cartoons, both pro-Socialist and (mostly) anti.

The sculpture garden doesn’t seem to change, There’s probably much more in store than is possible to put on display. And some of the sculptures may not have been designed to deal with outside conditions and will never be put on show if not in the internal gallery.

Sculpture Garden - 01

Sculpture Garden – 01

In the garden you will find;

some fine (and sometimes very large) statues/busts of Comrade VI Lenin. There seems (to my non-expert eye) to be a ‘chunkiness’ – no doubt not an artistic term – to Balkan statues, especially when compared with what would have been produced at the same time in the Soviet Union. As an illustration of that see the two version of JV Stalin in the (now closed, as far as I know) ‘sculpture park’ at the rear of the National Art Gallery in Tirana, Albania;

a number of busts and full length statues of GM Dimitrov. I’ve nothing to compare them to but they also demonstrate that solidity of Balkan sculpture;

a couple of very fine busts of Felix Dzerzhinsky (‘Iron Felix’), the first leader of what started out as the Cheka (and which eventually became the KGB), the organisation Comrade Stalin described as ‘the bared sword of the working class’. For reasons which I admire, but don’t totally understand, Iron Felix was admired throughout the Socialist world, probably due to his steadfast defence of the interests of the working class and peasantry – even though his personal background was that of a minor Polish aristocrat. However, the image of Iron Felix closest to the entrance of the garden is erroneously signed as being VI Lenin. How so called ‘curators’ can allow that error to go unchallenged just goes to show the depths to which education has gone in capitalist Bulgaria;

Sculpture Garden - 02

Sculpture Garden – 02

some quite delicate and beautiful images of female co-operative/collective farm workers;

a number of statues which celebrate/commemorate the struggle of the Partisans against the Nazis in the Great Patriotic War. There’s one that reminds me of a number of groups of Albanian lapidars and another which, with its religious reference to a trinity and the deposition from the cross, with Paskali’s statue in the Martyrs Cemetery in Permet;

a bust of Che Guevara;

a very gentle and moving statue of two Korean children being subjected to the carpet bombing of the ‘United Nations’ (read the US and its lackeys) armed forces during the Victorious Fatherland National Liberation War of the early 1950s. The older boy has his left arm in a sling and he his sheltering his younger sister with his right arm – something that will be happening all the time in Gaza now and which Socialist Bulgaria would have been condemning as opposed to slavishly supporting as a member of NATO;

a couple of group sculptures whose original orientation can present a different idea once that orientation is altered;

a strangely androgynous representation of ‘The Republic’ which has the body of a female but the facial features of a male;

but no ‘Uncle Joe’. Joe and Georgi were like two peas in a pod but after the revisionists took control in the Soviet Union, all the other countries of Eastern Europe (apart from Albania) quickly followed and any statues of JV Stalin would have been taken down in the 1960s. I’m sure they must still exist somewhere. Perhaps one day they will emerge from the darkness;

Sculpture Garden - 03

Sculpture Garden – 03

also (which I almost missed) those statures not considered worth anything, left in a back yard, just left to decay, one even showing how the statues were given their bulk and weight – through its sacrifice of destruction – including a rare ‘classic’ nude female;

and a number of statues that can only have been considered unacceptable due to the sculptor and not the content – unless I missed something.

There’s obviously a lot more Socialist realist artworks still in storage somewhere in Sofia. In recent years the internal art gallery hosted a selection of paintings of the Socialist leaders and also another exhibition of those Socialist Realist paintings that celebrated the working class and peasantry. There were a couple of catalogues of these exhibitions available in the book stall of the National Art Gallery.

The principal aspect of the Monument to the Soviet Army, which used to stand on the top of the pedestal and which was removed in December 2023, is supposed to be coming to this gallery at some time in the future. Whether the delay is political or if the statue is undergoing restoration and cleaning I don’t know. This consists of a trio, a Red army solder, a Bulgarian woman holding her baby, and a Bulgarian man. However, I see at least three problems with this installation in the museum garden.

The first is that something that was designed to be seen from more than 30 metres below will look very strange at ground level. Secondly, I can see very serious problems on getting such a structure physically through the entrance to the museum garden. Even if it is in three parts it will be a major logistical task to lower the statue into position. Thirdly, where would it go? There’s not a lot of space available.

How to get there:

Get to GM Dimitrov Metro station on the lines 1 and 4. After leaving the station and getting to street level follow the ‘tunnel’ of the Metro heading to the city centre. On the opposite side of the road is the office of Fibank. At the first road junction (still within sight of the Metro station) turn right. Within a few metres there’s a modern shopping/cafe complex on the right and immediately after this you’ll see an entrance controlled by a barrier. Go through this into a car park and you’ll notice a large red star amongst the shrubbery to your right. The entrance to the museum statue park is to the left of the star. The ticket office is in the small souvenir shop on the left.


g.k. Iztok, ulitsa Lachezar Stanchev 7, 1756 Sofia, Bulgaria





Bulgarian Lev 6

Opening times:

10.00 – 18.00, Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday