Not the occupier, but Levski should be at the top

Spas Gurnevski, former mayor of Plovdiv

The question of removing or remodeling the Alyosha monument has been raised periodically since 1991. In fact, the Alyosha bomb exploded in full force in April 1996, after statement of the Russian President Boris Yeltsin that he will revive the USSR-2, in which he assigns a worthy place to Bulgaria. He had officially invited our country to join the emerging community between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Military Minister Gen. Pavel Grachov warned NATO that Russia could deploy military bases on our territory.

At a high-level meeting, President Yeltsin notified the then Speaker of the National Assembly Blagovest Sendov and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov of his intentions. However, both the parliament and our government did not respond at all to Moscow’s provocation.

In Plovdiv, however, we reacted quickly.

We called a city-wide protest rally in the Concert Hall, where we announced Yeltsin’s “kind invitation” and our intentions as a concrete response to Russian insolence, unanimously supported by the packed house.

At an extraordinary meeting of the Municipal Council in Plovdiv on April 10, 1996, we adopted:

1. Declaration of protest to the Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the media, condemning the suspicious silence of the highest state authorities in the face of the arrogant provocation of the Kremlin

2. A proposal, prepared and signed by me, to remove the “Alyosha” monument from the Hill of the Liberators as a symbol of the occupying Soviet army.

The documents were voted on by the municipal councilors from the SDF, BZNS and DPS. The decision of the Plovdiv Municipal Council was supported by thousands of people from all over the country, with a declaration supported by over 150 Plovdiv intellectuals.

The municipality had provided an absolutely safe way to remove the monument from the top. Despite its reinforcement of 70 mm U-shaped steel with special Western technology, it would be cut to pieces and removed. It could be exhibited in a future museum of totalitarian symbols.

There is hardly a nation in the world that respects its history and has erected and bows down to a monument to its occupiers on one of its peaks.

Young generations have no memory of the Bulgarian blood spilled after the Soviet occupation in 1944. However, it is enough to look at what is happening today in Ukraine to make sure that on April 10, 1996, the Plovdiv parliament made a far-sighted decision…

In Plovdiv, there is not a single reason why Alyosha “threatens” us every day with an assault rifle from Bunardjika, and the Deacon’s monument is down in the basement.

On the Bulgarian peak there is only a place for the symbol of our freedom and unity, this is for every Bulgarian an immortal pantheon of Vasil Levski!

Unfortunately, corrupt judges with guilty consciences overturned the worthy decisions of the Plovdiv Municipal Council.

Slavcho Atanasov, former mayor of Plovdiv:

Why did we erect a monument to US airmen?

killed 1300 Bulgarians?

For the people of Plovdiv, the Alyosha monument is not so much a symbol of the Russian soldier, but an indisputable symbol of the city, together with the Fair and the Old Town. This was shown by official polls in the 1990s.

Yes, Levski is at the foot of the hill, but the pedestal of the Apostle, the icon of Bulgaria, is unshakable – in the hearts of each of us

Unfortunately, a sensible approach to the past is being torpedoed by the war that Russia is waging in Ukraine. Voices for removing monuments are heard more often.

However, let’s not forget the facts – Alyosha is a monument to the Soviet, not the Russian, soldier.

Belarusians, Georgians, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Azeris participated in the Soviet army during the Second World War. And in September 1944, in fact, the Third Ukrainian Fleet entered Bulgaria, in which Ukrainians participated.

When, on May 9, 2009, I brought a 30-centimeter bronze copy of Alyosha to Plovdiv’s sister city – Ekaterininburg, the hosts were euphoric. Then I experienced one of the most moving moments of my life. In the huge city hall, the mayor Alexander Chernitsky showed the statuette, and more than 5,000 veterans, some in wheelchairs, sang through tears the song for Alyosha. “Welcome home at last,” said the mayor, breaking into tears. The prototype of the monument is from their region, the Ural region.

Some in our country consider the monument a symbol of a conquering army. But the truth is that after the Second World War we were betrayed by the Western Allies, with whose consent Bulgaria was assigned to be part of the satellites of the USSR.

In the deal between Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, it was Churchill who offered Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, to Stalin – it was written on the infamous blue slip that the Russians keep.

Churchill gave us the USSR’s sphere of influence and they are coming to take it.

And it is interesting whether those who want Alyosha to be demolished as a symbol of occupation admire the monument to the fallen American airmen erected in Sofia. People who bombed Sofia, Plovdiv, Karlovo, killed 1,300 people, injured as many, destroyed 5,300 buildings are immortalized there. At the same time, Bulgaria was the only one of the allies of Nazi Germany that did not send a single soldier to the Eastern Front against the British and Americans.

Apparently we are seeing a double standard here.

It is good to see how civilized European nations preserve their historical memory. No one touches the monuments to the Soviet soldier in Berlin and Vienna. And in the Vatican, next to the statues of the holy popes, there are also those of the popes who have gone down in history with their sins.


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