Bulgarian Youth - Rolling with Time
This past Saturday, an unknown street artist painted the bronze figures of Soviet soldiers in downtown Sofia, turning them into various US superhero and other pop culture characters.
The Soviet flag, waved by the soldiers, became the American one while a big inscription added by the artist below the statues read: "Rolling with Time."
The colorful and ingenious graffiti artwork not only drew scores of Sofia residents and visitors wishing to take a look or a picture, but stirred a storm of controversy between those condemning it as vandalism and those admiring the talent of the artist and his brave civil position.
The debate transferred to the role of the Soviet Army, seen by the two sides as liberator from fascism or as communist invader. Some interpreted the artwork as glorification of the US - the new Big Brother severing traditional ties with Russia.
Bulgarian Culture Minister, Vezhdi Rashidov, also chimed in, calling the act vandalism and a crime, pointing out the monument is part of Bulgarian history while the graffiti art merits were a different matter.
True, the Red Army coming to Bulgaria is history, a very important one, having a huge impact on several generations of Bulgarians. And the issue with "we had to" and "we should not have done it" with the demolished downtown Sofia mausoleum of Communist leader, Georgi Dimitrov, still stands.
History, however, belongs to the museum. It is high time to take these totalitarian vestiges and put them on display in a designated place with the appropriate explanations for the future generations. Twenty years after the fall of the Communist regime, there is nothing in Sofia, not even a sign near those monuments, describing them and what they stand for; not even a walking tour for visitors that could be entitled "The Footprints of Communism," for example.
Similar hysteria happened in our country when Czech artist, David Cerny, created his Entropa installation, depicting Bulgaria as a squat toilet. The same David Cerny, who first gained notoriety in 1991 by painting a Soviet tank that served as a war memorial in central Prague pink. He was briefly arrested and the tank cleaned, only to be repainted 10 days later by the Members of the newly elected Czech Parliament. The authorities finally ended the controversy by moving the pink tank into a museum near Prague.
Ironically, just as the forum "Bulgaria-Russia" secretly cleaned the Soviet army soldiers overnight, triggering a wave of angry comments on the Internet by the 2 000 members of the Facebook group, supporting the graffiti, the Czech temporarily installed Cerny's painted tank on a floating pontoon by the Vltava river to mark the Week of Freedom festival, commemorating the departure of Soviet troops from the country.
Left in the gray shadow of the cleaned Soviet soldiers, deeply engaged in our political passions and phobias, we almost failed to notice the best - that a new generation has arrived in Bulgaria – not scarred by Communism, free to choose, seeing the world in color and able to poke fun both at the Soviets and America's mass culture.
Meanwhile, Bulgaria's unknown artist quickly received acclaim across global media, with Daily Mail and The Herald Sun naming him or her the "Bulgarian Banksy." And there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Future will tell if the Soviet Army monument in Sofia will follow the destiny of the pink tank - to be painted and cleaned times and times again until it gets moved to the museum.
The good news is that Bulgaria's youth is already rolling with time.
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