FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Relics of the cold war

Posted in Bulgaria, Sofia by folkestonejack on May 23, 2016

The National Military History Museum in Sofia offers a comprehensive account of the complex history of the region over four floors, covering uprisings and wars from ancient Thrace to the present day. It was particularly fascinating to learn about those periods of Bulgarian history that I’ve never really been aware of, such as the Russo-Turkish war of liberation (1877-78), the war with Serbia (1885-86) and the Balkan wars (1912-13).

The Code Neon Beacon KNS-4P was intended to emit light signals to help orient pilots during night landings or in bad weather

The Code Neon Beacon KNS-4P was intended to emit light signals to help orient pilots during night landings or in bad weather

However, the main draw of this museum is the impressive display of military hardware in front of the entrance and spread across the extensive grounds inside (40,000 square metres of outdoor display space in total). The collection includes some terrific examples of ex Bulgarian Air Force MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets, plus plenty of German and Soviet tanks. The grounds are beautifully maintained and the exhibits clearly kept in good condition.

Most chilling of all was the display of a cluster of missiles that once pointed westwards from silos just outside Sofia, including decomissioned OTR-23 Oka ballistic missiles (better known to the west by the NATO name of SS23 Spider). It really is quite disconcerting to see these weapons of mass destruction laid out in a pretty green park with benches as if they were no more harmless than the cats wandering amongst them.

Some of the exhibits were in use with the Bulgarian army until relatively recently, such as the Anti-aircraft missile complex 2K11M SA-4 “KRUG”-M1 which was only retired in 2002. This mobile armoured guiding station for SMR 1S32 missiles could trace targets, including supersonic aircraft, in any weather conditions.

Missiles galore

Missiles galore

Practical information. A walk to the museum from St. Kliment Ohridski metro station took me about 20-30 minutes with the unexpected sight of an interesting memorial on Bulevard Tsarigradsko Shose along the way. On the way back I took the route via ul. Tsar Ivan Asen II which was a more pleasant option. Public transport options are listed on the museum website.

There are two entrances to the museum – one in Cherkovna Str and the other in Han Omurtag Str. The official address for the museum is 92 Cherkovna Str.

Overall, I would say that the museum was much better than I had expected. As you take your walk through history there are some fantastic paintings and it would be worth the price of entry to see these alone. On the top floor there is aslo a superb display of decorations. I only had an hour and a half to stay in the museum but I could have spent so much longer!


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