FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Alyosha at 60

Posted in Bulgaria, Plovdiv by folkestonejack on September 23, 2017

One of the most distinctive sights in Plovdiv is the 36-foot tall concrete Soviet soldier Alyosha that towers over the city from a position atop Bunarzhik Hill, looking out to the east with a Shpagin machine pistol in his hand. At the first opportunity I got I took the 15 minute walk to the top of the hill to take a closer look…

The Alyosha statue at sunrise. The base of the monument is decorated with a five-pointed star and an inscription that reads ‘Glory to the invincible Soviet Liberator Army.’

The statue, officially unveiled on 7th November 1957, was modeled on Aleksey Ivanovich Skurlatov (1922-2013), a veteran of the Great Patriotic War who fought on the Bulgarian front in 1944.

Accounts vary, but one version says that it was during his work as a signalman here (re-connecting the lines between Plovdiv and Sofia) that a picture was taken which sculptor Vasil Radoslavov later used as the basis for his monument. Aleksey returned to his home in Siberia in 1946 and only became aware of his granite doppelgänger in the 1980s, returning to a heroes welcome in 1982. He helped celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2007.

A small museum remembering the life of Aleksey Ivanovich Skurlatov can be found in Altai. Astonishingly, his mother received notification of his death twice during his military career!

The view of Alyosha from Sahat Tepe

The monument was commissioned in 1948 and the photograph of Aleksey was passed to Vasil Radoslavov by former Bulgarian resistance fighter Metodi Vitanov of Plovdiv. Construction started in 1954.

There are some historians who doubt the story, suggesting that Alyosha was actually modeled on factory worker Georgi Milenkov, whilst the daughter of the sculptor was told that a Russian actor posed for her father. It almost doesn’t matter because the sculpture has taken on a legend of its own and has somehow achieved an affection from the local population unlike any other communist era monument in Bulgaria.

One of the panels at the base of the monument

All of the photographs in this post were taken on two walks up Bunarzhik Hill (one at sunrise and the other just before sunset) and a walk up Sahat Tepe (at sunrise) for the view from the opposite hill.

Practicalities

I started my walk from the intersection of Ruski Blvd and Ulitsa Volga, roughly fifteen minutes on foot from the centre of Plovdiv.

Alyosha in the run up to sunset

From this point it is easy to get to the top of the hill and you probably won’t be alone – it is a popular place to walk dogs or take in the sunset. The easiest route up is along the gently curving road, which you can shortcut at points by taking the steeper staircases, but there are also a multitude of small paths and steps you can take around the hill which are not marked on any map that I have seen. All offer terrific views of the city along the way.

Gallery

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