The Bulgarian Communist Party may have been many things back in their political heyday, but subtle was not one of them. Audacious though that statement may be, it can be more than sufficiently backed up by the site of their former headquarters and our Exhibit A: The Buzludzha Monument.
Built over the course of seven years and opened in 1981, it’s an extraordinary thing to think that this extra-terrestrial looking edifice with its imposing 70m high tower (emblazoned with that all-important Soviet signifier, the red star) was only in use for a single decade. For something that cost around £7million, that’s not a fantastic return on investment, but in its prime it drew crowds that gave even the Kremlin a run for its money.
On approach, the Cyrillic script that adorns the entrance to the dome juts out of the concrete as if attempting to force the powerful and poetic political stanzas into the consciousness of the visitor. This rather heavy-handed theme continues on into the interior, though gets a tad more artistic in the form of richly coloured, but deeply damaged mosaics making up the faces of Lenin, Marx and other major players in the party’s history. Bearing down from above, a humongous hammer and sickle sits at the centre of the convex glass roof – still intact, but with a structural integrity seriously on the wane. If you haven’t got the idea by this point, you might as well call it a day.
The location is by no means less histrionic than the building itself. Elevated on an often icy peak in the Balkan Mountains, the gargantuan structure overlooks the resilient terrain that surrounds Shipka Pass, itself a part of the Bulgarka Nature Park. Though this was once the site of a huge battle, little evidence remains, save for a few scattered yet still intimidating monoliths that serve in tribute to the victors.
Both overwhelmingly ambitious and utterly unnerving, the monument is not one for those with a faint heart. Deep within its chambers, a time capsule is said to hide the secrets of a rumoured ‘second coming’, but only those with fortune on their side dare delve into the dark now. ‘Forget Your Past’ urges the disquieting phrase over the long since sealed doorway, but in the case of Buzludzha, this may be easier said than done.