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Bulgaria: Authorities Intend To Tear Down Red Army Monuments

Sofia, 1 December 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria's Vice President Todor Kavaldzhiev says "monuments of the Soviet army in the center of Sofia must be replaced by monuments commemorating the victims of Communism." Our Sofia correspondent reports this was a first-of-its-kind statement from a top Bulgarian official.

Kavaldzhiev, a former political prisoner, made the comment today at the opening of a Sofia conference dedicated to preparing for the future by objectively evaluating the past. The conference is sponsored by Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and included member of the German commission formed to deal with disclosing information on the activities of the former East German Secret Police.

Kavaldzhiev's comments come as Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhailova is visiting Moscow today, to prepare this month's Moscow visit of President Petar Stoyanov.

Monuments lionizing the Red Army's "liberation" of Bulgaria are the source of hot debates in Sofia, Plovdiv and other locations. Critics say that what the monuments bring to mind is the Soviet "occupation," rather than the "liberation" of Bulgaria.

Sofia authorities intended to tear down the capital's main monument to the Red Army in 1993, but pressure from the Bulgarian Socialist Party - the former Communists - prevented it. Instead, the monument was ordered to be refurbished.

The issue is expected to continue to fuel debate, as Bulgaria and Russia have signed a protocol on the protection of Soviet monuments in Bulgaria.