Bulgaria's FM: Don't Dramatize Memorial Desecrations
The painting of the Soviet Army Monument in Sofia should not happen, but should not be dramatized either, according to Bulgarian Foreign Minister, Kristian Vigenin.
Commenting Friday from the Danube city of Ruse on the official request from Russia to punish the perpetrators, he said he planned to meet with representatives of the Russian Embassy in Sofia to discuss ways to fulfill the request and prevent similar incidents in the future.
"I personally, do not see a concrete solution," said the Minister. He was adamant Bulgaria has made an international commitment to preserve such memorials and will continue to fulfill them.
"We are not speaking here of a political effect or political moment. The desecration of a monument, regardless of appearing original or not that original, is something that should not happen. I, however, believe it should not trigger any extreme reactions, particularly because Bulgarian institutions undertook immediate measures. Regarding apologies for our participation in the crushing of Prague's Spring in 1968, Bulgaria has already apologized officially, and should not do it every year. This apology is effective permanently," stated Vigenin.
On August 21st, in honor of the 45th anniversary of the Soviet/Warsaw Pact crackdown on Prague's Spring, unknown street artists painted the Red Army soldier figures on the Soviet Army Monument in downtown Sofia in pink and with inscriptions in Bulgarian and Czech "Bulgaria apologizes" ("Bulharsko se omlouv?").
The pink color was apparently used as a tribute to Czech artist David Cerny, who in 1991 painted pink the Soviet tank memorialized in Prague as a supposed symbol of Soviet liberation.
In the aftermath, the Sofia Regional Prosecutor's Office launched pre-trial proceedings against an unknown perpetrator for hooliganism.
On Thursday, the Russian government announced it intended to formally request from Bulgarian authorities that they punish people who sprayed the pink color on the Monument.
On Wednesday, the Sofia Regional Governor, Rosen Malinov, appointed by the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, said he was sending a request for a probe to the prosecution, and issued an order with a 3-day deadline to clean the monument.
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Communists and the Soviet Union after World War II. It began on January 5, 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubcek was elected the First Secretary of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and continued until August 21, when the Soviet Union and all members of the Warsaw Pact, with the exception of Romania, invaded the country to halt the reforms.
On that night an estimated 5 to 7 thousand Soviet tanks and 300 000 – 500 000 soldiers occupied part of Czechoslovakia for a month. Nearly 100 people died and 600 were injured.
Bulgaria was the first country to insist on the invasion and the last one to apologize for its participation – with a declaration of the Parliament in 1990 and in 1997 during the visit of right-wing President, Petar Stoyanov, to Prague.
The artistic apology for Bulgaria's support of Warsaw Pact was removed overnight Wednesday into Thursday.
Unknown volunteers rubbed the monument in downtown Sofia clean, reporters found out early on Thursday.
According to local media reports, the overnight cleaning operation was organized by the "Forum Bulgaria-Russia" - the same organization that removed the monument's prominent "superhero makeover" back in 2011.
Proceedings against the above "decoration" of the Monument in 2011 were halted as the authorities failed to identify the perpetrator(s).
The presence of the monument in downtown Sofia has caused huge debates among its proponents and opponents for many years now.
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