Did you know that before the National Palace of Culture, the place where the palace is located was not central at all? Soon after the Liberation and many years before the construction of the National Palace of Culture began in 1879, this location was on the very outskirts of the city and only the Vitosha infantry barracks were located there.
In October 1934, the Soldiers’ Memorial was opened at the northern end of the space in memory of the officers and soldiers of the First Infantry Regiment of Sofia and the Sixth Infantry Regiment of Turnovo of the Sofia Iron Division who died during the wars. The monument is composed of 3 walls, arranged in the shape of the letter “P”, on which the names of 3000 Bulgarian heroes are inscribed on enameled plaques. The three walls were built on the roofs of the existing barracks buildings. The highest part of the western wall was saying “Died heroically for the freedom and reunification of the Bulgarian people”, the eastern wall – “Self-sacrificed bravely in the faithful service of the King and the Fatherland”, and the southern wall – “Blessed be the motherland – Eternal memory to you”. In the space between the plaques there was a rosarium, on which was placed a bronze figure of a lion holding under its paw a shield with the map of San Stefano Bulgaria. The memorial plaques were created by arch. Alexander Obretenov, and the lion statue was made by the sculptor Mikhail Mikhailov.
After the memorial was erected there, the place began to acquire much more importance, because wreaths were laid there in tribute to the fallen, military ceremonies were held and the most prominent guests of the capital were welcomed. But unfortunately, the eastern plaque was badly damaged in the bombing of the Second World War, and was subsequently completely destroyed. After September 9, 1944, the Communist government also removed the lion statue.
Over the following decades, the memorial ceased to perform its official function and the site of the National Palace of Culture slowly began to come under the spotlight of the city’s secular life. In 1967, the building of the fashion house “Lada” was built there, which made women’s and men’s formal wear, bags and shoes. “Lada” was one of the few companies privileged to serve the Bulgarian and foreign diplomatic corps. Their series were limited, and their tailors also dressed a number of distinguished ladies and gentlemen to order. The fashion house also published its own fashion magazine and quickly began to impose fashion trends in the country. Towards the end of the 1960s or the beginning of the 1970s, there was also an urban space with an open-air stage, which came to be called “Monte Carlo” or “Monteto” because of the card, backgammon and dice games that took place there.
The remaining barracks buildings and memorial plaques were removed during the construction of the National Palace of Culture, which began in 1979. At the place of the memorial, in 1981, the monument “1300 years of Bulgaria” was built by the sculptor prof. Valentin Strachev who won the competition with the topic “Past”, “Present” and “Future”. The monument was 35 meters tall and the composition presented three figure groups symbolizing literacy, gratitude and creation. The head of state, Todor Zhivkov, disliked the monument and distanced himself from it, but after the political changes it entered internationally recognized routes of monuments to totalitarianism. The monument crumbled and the authorities stopped maintaining it after 1989 and in 2017 the decision was taken to dismantle it, despite protests and controversy in society over the issue.
A new soldiers’ memorial was planned in the park between boulevards “Arsenalski” and “Cherni Vrah”. A project by architects Stanislav Konstantinov and Atanas Agura was approved and received a building permit. The first groundbreaking was made in 2000, but its construction never took place. Today, only a stone block can be seen on the spot, which reads that “The monument with the names of the fallen soldiers of the 1st and VI Infantry Regiments of the First Sofia Iron Division will be rebuilt on this spot”, but the people of Sofia remember how quickly the landscape and history of this place changed in just a few generations.
The articles for the project “NDK is #soSofia” were developed by Viktor Topalov, author at “Bohemian Sofia” in collaboration with the #soSofia team.
The project uses visual archives from the National Film Centre, the State Agency “Archives”, the Bulgarian Visual Archive and information from the following sources:
Miloshev, Yordan, NDK – memories of builders | Sp. 1 – 1982, 6 – 1984, 3-4 – 1986 | Mircheva, Simona, Palace in the Life of the City | Tromkov, Ilia.
National Palace of Culture “Lyudmila Zhivkova” | Milev, Ivo. “The Life and Death of Lyudmila Zhivkova | BNT. Aleksandrova, Albena. Kovachev, Oleg. Study of beauty from within | omda.bg. Interview – Gyurov, Vasil. Gyurov, Konstantin. Places of everyday life. Cravaai. | Langova, Sonya. Shofelinov, Ivan. Cohen, Emil. Film – We from Kravay. | Trifonova, Teodora. BTV News. 18.07.2017 Ready project for the soldiers’ memorial has been there for years. | Veselinov, Veselin. Liternet. Memorial to the fallen of the 1st and 6th infantry regiments. | NDK Press Center | ndk.bg | newtheatre.bg | Thank you for talking to the NDK teams. | All Day NDK. | DJ GIORGIO. | Sofia Graffiti Tour.
The NDK is #soSofia project is realized with the support of the Cultural Heritage Entrepreneurship Programme of the National Culture Fund and the help of our loyal friends from Storytel, Fashion Days, Beefeater and DEVIN.