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

Moscow Metro – Baumanskaya – Line 3

Lenin in Baumanskaya Metro Station

Lenin in Baumanskaya Metro Station

More on the USSR

Moscow Metro – a Socialist Realist Art Gallery

Moscow Metro – Baumanskaya – Line 3

Female Miner

Female Miner

Baumanskaya (Бауманская) is a station on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line of the Moscow Metro, named after the revolutionary Nikolai Bauman. It was designed by Boris Iofan and Yury Zenkevich and opened in 1944. The Art Deco design features white marble pylons with rounded corners, projecting, fluted piers faced with red ceramic tile, and decorative ventilation grilles. In the bays between each set of piers are bronze sculptures by V.A. Andreev depicting Russian soldiers and workers of the home front during World War II. At the end of the platform is a mosaic portrait of Vladimir Lenin. This station is very busy, as one of the biggest Moscow institutes (Moscow State Technical University) is located not far away.

Partisan in snow camouflage

Partisan in snow camouflage

Baumanskaya is the second busiest station in Moscow Metro. The facts:

  • There are at least 3 major universities near the station: Bauman Moscow State Technical University main and secondary buildings Moscow State University of Civil Engineering and Moscow State Academy of Law.
  • Army Officer

    Army Officer

  • Specific configuration of central hall like garmon (Russian accordion) before the escalator, where some passengers try to short jump queue.
  • Bricklayer


  • Most passengers prefer Baumanskaya to other station if they would get to the area which is at half-way between Baumanskaya and another station even if causes additional transfer or even best accessible by ground transport.
  • Female Partisan

    Female Partisan

  • The escalators here were the oldest working in Moscow Metro and the entire world. Their replacement began on 8 February 2015 and was completed on 24 December 2015.


A cryptic inscription is on the wall of station. It is situated near the first car stop towards the Shchyolkovskaya station just under the last ventilation lattice. The inscription is deeply carved in marble on about 120 centimetres (47in) above the floor, is about 8 centimetres (3.1in) in length and 1.5 centimetres (0.59in) in height. It consists of two dates, divided by hyphen:

19 14/XI 46 – 19 15/XII 54

These dates translate to 14 November 1946 – 15 December 1954. The way of writing is very similar to the way dates are written on gravestones. The origin of that artefact is unknown. [I missed this on my visit.]

Soldier with Red Flag

Soldier with Red Flag

Text from Wikipedia.








32.5 metres (107 ft)


18 January 1944

More on the USSR

Moscow Metro – a Socialist Realist Art Gallery

On the paths of war by Hektor Dule

On the paths of war

On the paths of war

More on Albania ….

On the paths of war by Hektor Dule

Rather than give my own interpretation of this statue I thought to reproduce the article below which includes a number of interpretations of the statue of the Partisan and the women offering him a refreshing drink. It originally appeared as Eros on the Roads of War: Some Brief Notes on Hektor Dule’s Në Udhët e Luftës For and Against the Decadences of the Fles by Raino Isto

First exhibited in during the National Exhibition dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of National Liberation, Hektor Dule’s Në Udhët e Luftës [On the Paths of War] (also called Në Rrugën e Luftës) now stands in Tirana’s Great Park,[1] near to the fountains (and also to the new assortment of exercise equipment installed in the last few years). The bronze statue, depicting an Albanian woman holding up a jug of water and allowing a partisan soldier to drink deeply from it, seems appropriately placed in its pseudo-natural surroundings. It is, after all, about the nourishment of the body in the course of its struggles…what better location for it that the Great Park, where the body—in exercise, in sex, in relaxation and communion with an artificial nature—is fundamental to the creation and experience of space?

In 1975, writing of the work’s appearance in the exhibition (in its earlier version done in plaster), Fatmir Haxhiu wrote that ‘precisely in this moment both ordinary and life-affirming, in this fundamentally simple act—one that may people have encountered during the war years (a mother giving a jug of water to a partisan)—the artist struggles to show the love and intimacy that our people felt for the partisans, and the support that ordinary people gave to the partisans during the National Liberation War. And the artist achieves his goal. The two figures are connected to each other in a conceptual unity and by the complete harmonization of their forms.’[2] Later, Haxhiu writes, ‘It is an intimate work’ [my emphasis].[3] The remainder of his article praises Dule (who at this point was one of the important figures in a new generation of Albanian sculptors, best known for the Mushqeta monument and his work with the famous ‘monumental trio’ of K. Rama, Sh. Hadëri, and M. Dhrami), offers the typically supportive assessment of his treatment of themes from the National Liberation War, and makes some minor aesthetic criticisms aimed at his future improvement as a sculptor.

Without dismissing the relevance of the ever-present theme of the partisan struggle, and certainly without wishing to poke fun at either Haxhiu’s analysis or Dule’s work, I would like to suggest a slightly different interpretation of Në Udhët e Luftës. Perhaps it is more accurate to say: I wish to expand upon our understanding of the themes of the partisan struggle precisely by pausing as we read the words love and intimacy, and considering what sculptural traditions Dule’s work is truly in dialogue with. In short, I would like to introduce (or perhaps, since so much popular discourse seems so committed to separating the two, to reintroduce) the question of the body, sensuality, and sex into the discussion of Albanian socialist realist sculpture.

For it seems undeniable to me that Dule’s sculptural group carries an immense sexual charge (and not just because of some vague associations with what goes on elsewhere in the Great Park). If Haxhiu’s analysis of the work seems to avoid this aspect, I think the fact that he uses the words ‘love and intimacy’ to characterize the work indicates his awareness of the issues potentially broached by the work and an active attempt to undercut them. In much the same way, I think that Dule is trying to use the tropes of a certain sculptural tradition in the context of socialist realism in order partially to undermine them and partially to harness them.

To see the eroticism of Dule’s sculpture, we need only compare it to a work that I dare say it was actually intended to be in dialogue with: Clodion’s Nymph and Satyr Carousing (also known as The Intoxication of Wine), 18th century (ca. 1780–90), terracotta, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Clodion’s work, which straddles (as the sculptor himself did) the turn towards the Neoclassical in sculpture with the more playful sensuality of the Rococo, is a kind of decadent mirror of Dule’s work. In Clodion: a satyr, the preeminent mythical being of male lust, leans back, allowing himself to rest upon a stone as he lifts one animal leg off the ground and pulls a naked nymph to him, his fingers digging into the flesh of her back. She leans into him, straddling his left leg, wrapping her right arm around his neck, and holds a goblet of wine above his mouth, pouring. In Dule: an Albanian woman, barefoot and dressed in garb that suggests she must be a villager) stands before a male partisan. Her feet are slightly apart, and one of his booted feet steps forward, placed firmly between hers. Her left arm and shoulder are drawn back, her clothing flowing out a bit behind her, and her right hand reaches out to steady a full, rounded jug as the partisan holds it in his right hand, by its handle, above his head. His head is thrown back, the jug held a few inches from his open mouth to allow the water to flow down his throat. His left shoulder is likewise thrown back, exposing his chest, and he braces his weight on his left leg. His left hand steadies his rifle at waist height, as its barrel juts out phallically, but directed away from the woman. The only contact between the two bodies takes place between her sleeve and his chest as she steadies the jug, but she stares directly at his face as he drinks in a fixed gaze that connects the two emotionally, physically, and compositionally. Like Clodion’s pair, Në Udhët e Luftës rewards viewing in the round, shifting perspectives that give us different views of the two bodies and their intimate connections.

I do not think that Dule’s sculpture intends to posit for its viewer a narrative of sexual engagement between the village woman and the partisan he shows, although that is certainly possible.[4] Rather, I think that Dule takes the tradition of which Clodion is emblematic (a Neoclassical sensibility, but with one foot still in the aristocratic tastes of the Rococo,[5] celebrating not only the sobriety of antiquity but also its Bacchic excesses) and attempts to overcome it in the context of socialist realism. Socialist realism was, after all, as much a ‘logic of cultural supplementarity, a logic that established itself by qualifying previous aesthetic traditions that were already…known’ (as Devin Fore asserts), as it was a style in itself.[6] At the same time, however, he brings sensuality into socialist realism, offering a view of the National Liberation War—in its most ‘ordinary’ and ‘life-affirming’ moments—as a struggle that includes the sensual gratification of the body and its desires, of the partisan reinvigorated physically by his encounter with the village mother. There is no need to digress into Freud, and love, and the death drive (though indeed one could) to consider the equation of war, sexuality, and physical release that Në Udhët e Luftës presents. As much as Haxhiu seems careful to ensure that ‘love and intimacy’ have strictly Platonic meanings in the context of Dule’s sculptural pair, the suggestion of sexual fullness present in the jug, the rifle held stiffly at waist-level, the partisan’s head thrown back, and the assertive offering of the village woman trace the contours of a very different set of connotations.

One could certainly go further, and perhaps one should. All I mean to suggest here is the necessity of reasserting the body and its pleasures—sexual and sensual—at the heart of socialist realist sculpture (and art in general) in Albania (and elsewhere, of course). Works like Në Udhët e Luftës reveal the tension of inheriting the sculptural tradition of bodily desire made materially manifest, and the rich possibilities of bringing that ‘decadent’ tradition into the context of the National Liberation War narrative—of denying the pleasures of the flesh, but also of reaffirming them in the context of sacrifice and struggle. It should also remind us that the war years were not simply a clash of battalions and strategies, of ideas and ideologies, but also of bodies and their desires.

[1] I would welcome anyone with information about the precise year in which the bronze version of the statue was placed in the park—I confess I have no information regarding this placement.
[2] Fatmir Haxhiu, ‘Në Udhët e Luftës: Shënime rreth grupit skulptural të H. Dules,’ Drita, 28 September 1975.
[3] Ibid.
[4] And the narrative itself seems plausible, though I have read of no accounts that discuss the occurrence and/or frequency of sexual dalliances between partisans and the ‘ordinary people’ that gave them support and shelter during the war.
[5] Indeed, what style or period could more fully epitomize the ‘decadence’ of bourgeois culture—that perennial enemy of socialist society—than the Rococo?
[6] Devin Fore, Realism After Modernism: The Rehumanization of Art and Literature (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012), 244


In the centre of Tirana Park.




41° 18′ 49.4784” N
19° 49′ 5.3653” E


137.7 m