Mitch Brezounek
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Pillar of Sorrow,

always left behind,

in every battle women cry.

They leave with a heavy heart,

heavier than cast iron,

they suffer, bruised.

Their forces radiate

on a morrow of storms.

Mitch Brezounek


Monument of the Soviet Army in Sofia

The most imposing and discussed monument in Bulgaria is the Monument of the Soviet Army (MSA) in the center of the capital Sofia, also called Monument of the Occupying Red Army (MORA, MOCHA in Bulgarian, which in Russian means urine).

This debated monument in Bulgaria was built in the King’s garden, established in 1880 by Prince Battenberg. In the 1930s, in this place, adored by the citizens of Sofia, a royal kindergarten was built. It was destroyed in October 1949, when then Prime Minister Vasil Kolarov ordered the construction of the Monument of the Soviet Army. Commissioned for the work were the most prominent Bulgarian architects, painters and sculptors, many of whom studied abroad prior World War II. The head of the team of 12 artists was Ivan Funev, a well-promoted communist artist. The major composition was executed by Vaska Emanuilova and Mara Georgieva. Ljubomir Dalchev, the towering figure in Bulgarian sculpture, was also obliged to join the project.

The first tier of the giant memorial was made in 1952. Marshal Biryuzov, the former head of the Allied Commission in Bulgaria during the Soviet occupation of Bulgaria (1944-47) attended the ceremony. The rest of the memorial complex was opened on September 9, 1954. There was supposed to be a golden model of the monument as gift to Stalin.

The pedestal of the monument, a cut pyramid, is 37 meters high, which is exactly the line of construction of nearby residential buildings in the block in front of the Sofia University. Thus, the 8-meter figures at the top really stand out clearly and dominate the entire urban space. The entire monumental site is 200 square meters. In front of the monument, there is an alley, resembling propylaeum, starting with two sculptural compositions depicting the welcoming of the Red Army in Bulgaria.

The group of the three “heroes” of the monument itself - the authoritative and victorious Soviet soldier, the figure of the mother, the Bulgarian peasant woman with a child in her hands, and the Bulgarian urban worker/ guerrilla fighter. They are supposed to represent all-social strata of Bulgarian society, except for the intellectuals, of course…

The figure of the Soviet soldier with his gun up above his head is 3.5 meters taller than the other two figures of Bulgarian protagonists. The two remaining figures are two steps behind the soldier.

Three different scenes ornate the sides of the pedestal, each one of 6 meters length and 2.2 meters high. They depict scenes from the October Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, World War II, and the last one reading, “All for the Front, all for the Victory”. On the front the inscription reads, “To the Red Army Liberator from the grateful Bulgarian people”. None of the words here are historically true.

Lately MOCHA has become one of the most controversial historical urban sites, triggering a fierce public debate over various graffiti, inscriptions and masks, which were continuously placed on it since the fall of the communist regime in 1989.

In 1993, the Sofia Municipal Council voted for the monument to be removed. Nothing happened. There is no institution that can force the city authorities in Sofia to execute their own decisions!


The most eloquent testimony to what constitutes this monument and what should be its fate comes from one of the creators of the monument, the most famous Bulgarian sculptor Ljubomir Dalchev who defected to the USA in the 1980s.

In his letter to the then Sofia Mayor Professor Yanchulev (after the vote of the Sofia Municipal Council for the removal of the monument in 1993) he wrote:

“…Ever since coming to power, communist leaders have hurried to express their great gratitude and even more servility to the usurper of power, who gave them his support…. So the construction of monuments throughout the country began, with the idea to highlight and magnify the ‘favorite party “and the people who were in charge of it. Not only Bulgarians, but also Russians, who do not even have anything to do with our history. This was the most important and urgent thing for the regime. The monuments of the Soviet Army and the resistance became mandatory for each area [in Bulgaria] , while these same leaders zealously were destroying our past and culture…

With a mournful heart, replete with pain, people saw and endured this injustice, impudence, brutality, cruelty and depravity of the regime. Hence, it is normal for society to hate these monuments and idols of boastfulness and arrogance that intrude our national history. Then, with what moral right do the nomenclature and their supporters defend these monuments, which serve as physical reminders of all the injustices and humiliations that the Bulgarian people had to suffer and endure?

Now let’s not be surprised by the Communist arrogance, as we know that these comrades lack any sense of shame, pride and morality. So, where are creative values and achievements of this great monument? So tell me, is it right that these monuments are still on our Bulgarian land - milestones of slavery and cruelty, of the injustices and humiliations, of fear and suspicion?

No nation will allow and tolerate such mockery – to praise the monuments of their occupiers”.

Dalchev’s letter was published in 2011, eight years after it had been sent. It had no effect.


The MSA became the center of various rituals: Laying flowers and wreaths on Victory Day on May 9; honorable processions of pioneers; concerts of Soviet songs; series of rallies and speeches in front of the monument during the celebration of national holidays. They were not only Communist Era rituals, since they continue today. Most recently, May 9, Victory Day in the USSR and Russia today is celebrated with a ceremony in memory of the “Immortal Regiment”, a movement to remember all the victims of World War II in Russia. The limited group of veterans and Soviet sympathizers were ornated with so-called St. George ribbons. Politicians from the Bulgarian Socialist Party and some far left and pro-Russian parties like Ataka and Vazrazhdane participate in rituals around the monument on these occasions.

Immediately after the fall of communism in 1989 occurred, an abundance of spontaneous graffiti, repainting the bodies and faces of the figures from the sides of the monument. The reaction was instant and drastic. Various Communist and Russophile formations organized the cleaning of the monument. Furthermore, the Sofia Municipality put the monument under 24-hour video surveillance.

The fierce debate about the meaning and the fate of the monument started, through its inclusion in current political debates.

Transformation and attempts for removal

For the last 22 years, the MOCHA became a catalyst for the strong opposition of young people not only against the distortion of history, but also against current political events. It was impossible for the three monumental figures on top of the monument to disappear; however, the sculptural groups at the base were transformed periodically. The faces and the bodies of Soviet soldiers were subject tо artistic interventions by street artists; they have been arrested on several occasions.

In 2010, a citizens’ Group for the Deconstruction of the Monument was created. During the years 2010-2014, and beyond, MOCHA was repeatedly transformed with unambiguous political messages, of which the most innovative and prominent were:

In June 2011,“In Pace with the Time” was panted in which the figures of the pedestal were transformed to look like Superman, Batman, and Santa Claus. T-shirts with the graffiti were immediately gaining vast popularity. On August 17, 2012, the monument was painted in support of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk group, whose 2 members were arrested in Moscow. On February 3, 2013, in memory of the victims of communism three faces of the figures of the pedestal were painted in the colors of the Bulgarian flag.

On August 21, 2013, one of the figures was colored in pink and underneath there was the sign “Bulgaria apologizes” written in Bulgarian and Czech. This was intended to show solidarity with the people of the Czech Republic and Slovakia for the Bulgarian participation in the Warsaw pact invasion of their countries in 1968.

In February 2014, one of the figures was painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and new inscriptions had appered: GLORY TO UKRAINE and KAPUTIN

2014 – several more times the monument was painted with the slogan: HANDS DOWN FROM CRIMEA!

On September 7, 2014, members of a group of street artists were arrested for putting the sign “OCCUPIERS” on the monument.

In 2017, the members of the Group for the Deconstruction of the Monument asked the Minister of Justice in Bulgaria to legitimize the laying of flowers at the MOCHA in the name of her Ministry.

On March 26, 2020, 12 members of the Sofia City Council from “Democratic Bulgaria” Party requested to implement the decision to remove the monument from 1993, since it is not a “non-removable monument of unique cultural value”, according to a decision by the Ministry of Culture in 2012; nor it is a “soldier monument” according to a decision by the Ministry of Defense in 2015. They insisted that MOCHA was not protected as a “soldier monument” also by the article 14 of the Treaty for Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and Bulgaria signed in 1992. On September 29, 2021, Martin Zaimov, financist and politician, was arrested while painting over the inscription on the monument.

On February 25, 2022, one day after the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the Mayor of the Sofia Sredetz district Traycho Traykov restarted the procedure for the removal of the monument. Only the Sofia City Councilors from the Bulgarian Socialist Party voted against the initiative. The Russian Embassy in Sofia constantly intervenes against all these artistic and political activists’ actions and calls them “vandalism”. The Embassy insists that the city authorities must take measures against the “sacrilege of the war monuments”, which MOCHA is not.

In July 2017, Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the “vandalism” against the Monument in front of the Bulgarian authorities.

On May 9, 2022, a clash between different citizens’ groups occurred in front of the Monument of the Soviet Army. One of the groups had a slogan, “Do not betray Macedonia!”

The Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova in Bulgaria was present there. She gave a speech, saying that in Bulgaria the place of the victims and the perpetrators are interchanged.

This monument is in every sense of the word a heterotopic place, according to the theory of Michel Foucault. It is today a real tribune to express political statements, especially against the Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine.

Author of the historical text: Evelina Kelbecheva