FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Socialist Sofia: Mound of Brotherhood

Posted in Bulgaria, Sofia by folkestonejack on May 21, 2016

The Mound of Brotherhood (Bratska mogila) in Borisova Gradina (formerly Freedom Park) is a memorial complex constructed as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice of the partisans to free Bulgaria during the Second World War. It was opened on 2nd June 1956 – the 80th anniversary of the death of Bulgarian revolutionary Hristo Botev whose words adorn the monument ‘He who dies in a fight for freedom never dies’.

The mound of brotherhood

The mound of brotherhood

The remains of 17 partisan fighters (members of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Workers’ Youth Union) who died in the fight against fascism were laid to rest within the site.

At the centre of the monument are two gigantic bronze sculptures of partisan fighters, weapons in hand, standing at the foot of a 41 metre high granite obelisk. On either side are reliefs that depict the struggle of the Bulgarian people, the welcome given to the Soviet Army and the joy of the people on the occasion of the 9th September 1944 coup d’état.

A Balkan Tour description from 1968 highlights the complexity of the story being woven here, bending history to its own ends by linking up the history of the failed uprising of 1923 to the formation of the communist state through the inclusion of the freedom flag in the right relief, now passed to the current generation to carry forward.

Two standalone sculptural compositions stand on plinths to either side of the central block, one showing us the sacrifice of the common people (a mother seeing off her son to fight with the partisans against fascism) and the other showing us the people building a new socialist future for Bulgaria (a worker, countrywoman and intellectual unified under the leadership of the Communist Party).

A mother sees her son off to fight with the partisans

A mother sees her son off to fight with the partisans

A plan to remove the monument was approved after the end of the communist era, but all they have demolished so far is the two lane processional way with a flower bed in the middle. It’s not quite the same walking up to the monument via a haphazard muddy dirt track! The difference can be seen in a striking before and after photograph on the socbg.com website, showing the difference in the approach between 1965 and 2012.

The monument is not in the greatest of shape, with many elements missing from the reliefs on either side of the obelisk. A good many limbs, banners and weapons were missing from the sculpture. In the most extreme case all that remained of one figure, presumably a child, were the feet. I’m guessing that must have disappeared fairly early on after the fall of communism as the missing figure does not appear in any photographs from the last few years.

The original bronze plaque was also missing from the front of the obelisk, though it looks as though this has been replaced by engraved text (in common with the Monument to the Soviet Army). At the time of my visit a red star had been sprayed onto the front of the monument.

Two partisan fighters stand at the centrepiece of the monument

Two partisan fighters stand at the centrepiece of the monument

Practical details. The Mound of Brotherhood is located in the south-eastern corner of Borisova Gradina. It’s an easy walk from either of the nearest metro stations (St. Kliment Ohridski and Stadium Vasil Levski) but I preferred the walk down from St. Kliment Ohridski, crossing the Eagles’ Bridge and then following the pathway through the park that runs parallel to Boulevard Tsarigradsko Shose. It gives you the best impression of the whole complex before you get up close.

I visited the monument on a few occasions during the trip, photographing the various elements in differing light conditions. It is perhaps better not visited in the evening as it is a popular spot for gangs of youths to hang out, though they didn’t cause me any trouble. At other times of the day it is a popular spot for walking dogs, exercising and even conducting martial arts classes with swords. It is also worth saying that there is very little shelter around, other than the trees, should you time your walk for a downpour!

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