text and photography by Stamen Manolov

Angry citizens continue to fill up Facebook time demanding the immediate demolition of the Red Army monument in central Sofia, which they disparagingly refer to as the MOCHA

red army monument sofia.jpg

Other angry citizens have taken to the park, where the MOCHA is situated. They have set up tents threatening they will defend with their bodies the pile of stones which they see as epitomising the victorious Red Army's fight against Nazism, for which the Bulgarian nation should be "eternally grateful." In the agencies of the state pen-pushers of all shapes and sizes scurry to manifest why the Red Army moment cannot be dismantled, at least not in the foreseeable future. Activists write "open letters" against the monument, other activists give interviews to whatever media are willing to listen to explain the virtues of not getting rid of the MOCHA once and for all.

To understand why the Communist past, including its monuments, continues to divide Bulgarians left, right and centre here is a brief overview. The Sofia City Council decided to ditch the MOCHA as early as 1993, but has since been sitting on its hands as various officials have propounded it cannot be removed for many reasons, ranging from the anger in the Russian Embassy such a move could prompt to general safety issues. The thrust to get it removed gained a new momentum when Putin invaded Ukraine, in 2022. For reasons that are complicated and difficult to explain in a brief article, many Bulgarians – especially outside Sofia – are sympathetic to Russia, which Communist-era propaganda and current Kremlin trolls liken to a saviour of the Bulgarian people. A vocal minority led by the DB, or Democratic Bulgaria, and the DSB, or Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, political parties have spearheaded the opponents of the MOCHA. Its defenders are led by the BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party, and Vazrazhdane, or Revival, of Kostadin "Kostya Kopeykin" Kostadinov. Verbal wars in Bulgaria, now a member of both the EU and NATO, are being fought over events that took place 70 years ago...

Incumbent Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov has stated his coalition government, which he prefers to call a "fixture," has done what was expected of them. Translated in plain language, this means "We have washed our hands."

Expectedly, the fate of the Red Army monument has entered the upcoming local elections campaign, scheduled for October. Though the campaign has not even started yet officially, two of the frontrunners so far have pinned the MOCHA on top of their agendas.

One is Vili Lilkov, an old-time supporter of the DSB but now leaning towards Boyko Borisov's GERB. In recent years Lilkov has gained notoriety for being neither a journalist, nor a historian – yet successfully writing books on the Communist past, which is highly polemic history. Lilkov wants the MOCHA ditched "straight away."

The other is Vasil Terziev, the candidate of the DB. Most of the scorn he has to cope with is not due to anything he has done himself but to the fact that his parents worked for the Communist-era State Security. Terziev favours the dismantlement of the MOCHA in keeping with state legal and safety procedures, which will – you've guessed it! – take time.


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