The following timeline will guide you through events at Buzludzha, from the 1971 decision to build a grand Memorial House, through the monument's complicated construction process and subsequent inauguration, all the way up to its present-day status.
1971: STOILOV'S PROPOSAL
These revised designs featured a saucer-shaped body, with the star mounted in a conjoined tower. Due to the strong winds on the mountain peak, however, Stoilov eventually decided to build the tower outside the saucer in order to improve overall stability.
Georgi Stoilov's vision was to create a monument that offered a synthesis of art and architecture: a uniform architectural design that achieved harmony between its interior and exterior vision; between form and nature. The design combined vertical symbolism via the star tower, juxtaposed with function provided in the horizontal dimension by way of the domed body.
The monument was intended to embody themes of purity, majesty and severity, presented here in understated raw concrete form.
In 1961, to mark 70 years since Dimitar Blagoev's group met at Buzludzha Peak to found the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party, three monuments were unveiled on the mountain. The original plan had been to create a fourth, as well – an illuminated red star on the mountaintop.
The architect Georgi Stoilov submitted a proposal for that fourth monument, featuring a ring perched on six columns, and a tower at its centre bearing the star.
The project wasn't used in 1961 however, and it was a decade later when Stoilov got a call asking him to revise his plans for a Buzludzha monument: the new memorial house was to include an interior space, that would provide visitors with shelter from the harsh mountain elements.
In total, more than 6,000 people contributed their work to the creation of the Buzludzha monument. They worked in shifts to make the most of the mild climate between May and September, and lived in a village of workers' huts that would remain on Buzludzha Peak for the following seven years.
Raw materials were brought up the mountain in vast quantities; 70,000 tons of concrete, 3,000 tons of steel, and 40 tons of glass being used in the construction process.
Preparations for building the monument began on 23rd January 1974. Buzludzha Peak was levelled to create a stable platform for the monument, using TNT to bring the height down by nine metres – from 1441m to 1432m. In laying the foundations for the monument, more than 15,000 cubic metres of rock were removed.
A team was assembled: numbering more than 500 soldiers from the construction corps, along with artists, engineers, designers, technicians, officers, directors and volunteers.
A team of 14 artists created one panel each, to tell a story between them about the establishment of the socialist ideal in Bulgaria.
With greater exposure to the elements however, only around 50% of this outer mosaic still remains.
A third mosaic piece was created at the centre of the monument's interior dome – a hammer and sickle emblem covering an area of 50 square metres, positioned above the 'Solemn Hall,' and encircled by a quote from The Communist Manifesto:
"Proletarians of all countries, unite!"
The interior space of the monument featured walls covered in richly detailed mosaics, which illustrated a history of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Covering an area of 510 square metres, these mosaics were formed from 35 tons of cobalt glass – or smalt – imported from Ukraine. The fragments came in 42 different colours and were assembled by a team of 60 artists who worked on the project for 18 months.
Today around 20% of the mosaic is missing, while the rest remains in reasonable condition.The outer ring of the monument – the observation deck inside the rim of the 'saucer' – featured a different kind of mosaic on its walls. Here the designs were created using natural stones, collected from rivers around Bulgaria.
1977: The TOWER AND STarS
These stars were produced in Kiev, and weighed 3.5 tons apiece. They would be lit from inside the tower by a series of 32 spotlights, and powered by a generator large enough to power 500 homes.
Originally the plan had been to complete the tower and its stars in time for the grand opening ceremony, in 1981. However in 1977, a memo came down from the secretariat which ordered the workers to advance their plans in order to light the red stars for the 60th anniversary of Russiaʼs October Revolution.
The tower was built over a period of two years, a separate construction project supervised by brigade leader Genadi Milovanov.
It was considered a feat of engineering achievement at the time, measuring over 70m in height, 9m in width and with foundations that extended 16m down into the mountain.
Those glass stars that flank the north and south sides of the tower, meanwhile, were believed to be the largest in the world – at 12m across.
1979: FUNDING THE PROJECT
A number of related construction projects were also completed, in order to facilitate and support this new attraction at the mountain peak.
According to Delcho Delchev, commander of the construction corps:
"The additional construction challenges, such as provisions for water, electricity, the new road from Kran to Buzludzha, and so on, amounted to roughly 9 million levs and was funded independently by the relevant ministries. The completed 'Buzludzha House-Monument' complex reached a total cost of 25 million levs."
The funds required to build the monument were raised in the form of donations. It was Georgi Stoilov's own initiative that the monument should not be paid for by the State, but rather as a joint investment by the Bulgarian people; thus investing all citizens in the cause of creating a monument of, and for, the People.
Much of this money was collected through the sale of commemorative stamps, and from a population of 8.8 million Bulgarians a total figure of 16.2 million levs was raised... more than the total cost of constructing the monument, which came to a total of around 14 million levs (by today's rates, roughly $35 million).
1981: The OPENING CEREMONY
Let generation after generation of socialist and communist Bulgaria come here, to bow down before the feats and the deeds of those who came before; those who lived on this land and gave everything they had to their nation.
Let them feel that spirit that ennobles us and as we empathise with the ideas and dreams of our forefathers, so let us experience that same excitement today!
Glory to Blagoev and his followers; those first disciples of Bulgarian socialism, who sowed the immortal seeds of today’s Bulgarian Communist Party in the public soul!"
Todor Zhivkov, Secretary General of the Bulgarian Communist Party, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Buzludzha Memorial House on 23rd August, 1981:
"I am honoured to be in the historical position to open the House-Monument [of the Bulgarian Communist Party], built in honour of the accomplishments of Dimitar Blagoev and his associates; who, 90 years ago, laid the foundations for the revolutionary Marxist Party in Bulgaria.
Let the pathways leading here – to the legendary Buzludzha Peak, here in the Stara Planina where the first Marxists came to continue the work of sacred and pure love that was started by Bulgaria’s socialist writers and philosophers – never fall into disrepair.
1981-1989: The Monument in USe
The visitor experience at the Buzludzha monument was carefully curated, and had the character of an educational pilgrimage.
In addition to being open to the public however, the monument would also be used for special Party events: hosting important delegation meetings, award-giving ceremonies, school outings and visits from the various workers' organisations across Bulgaria.
During the eight years that the Buzludzha monument remained in operation, from 1981 until 1989, the building was visited by more than two million people. The monument was open on Wednesdays through to Sundays, from 9-12 am and again from 1-4 pm. At peak times the building would log as many as 500 visitors per hour. Admission to the Buzludzha monument was free, though visits would need to be reserved and approved in advance.
THe 1990s: DECLINE OF THE BUZLUDZHA MONUMENT
The mausoleum's demolition was conducted even after an opinion poll reported that two-thirds of the population opposed the idea.
Around that same time, Kostov's government dismissed the guards who had been protecting the Buzludzha Monument, and left the building open to the public.
Before long, looters began the process of stripping out metal and other valuable materials. The most expensive items disappeared immediately – including the solid copper ceiling – and it is rumoured that members of the government took these for themselves. Some visitors, believing the red stars in the tower were made from rubies, shot them out with rifles – only to be showered in ruby-red glass.
Rain and snow began to enter through the broken roof and windows, and what hadn't been taken was left behind to decay.
The political changes that swept across Bulgaria during the early 1990s ushered in a new era of democracy but as the country opened its borders to western culture and capitalism, there was no place left for monuments to socialism.
The Buzludzha monument was closed, sitting in limbo for half a decade on its mountain peak. By the late 1990s Bulgaria was facing economic crises and an uncertain future. Many citizens blamed the former regime, and from 1997 onwards the conservative and passionately anti-communist government under Prime Minister Ivan Kostov began the dismantling of various notable communist-era monuments.
In August 1999, Kostov's government used bulldozers and explosives to destroy the Mausoleum of Georgi Dimitrov: a white marble tomb in the centre of Sofia, that had contained the remains of Bulgaria's first communist leader.
Today the Memorial House on Buzludzha Peak is a skeleton of its former self. The glass is gone from its windows, the red star has been smashed, and the intricate murals that decorate the interior are falling gradually to the elements.
In that ruined state though, Buzludzha began to attract new visitors. The breathtaking location, the melancholic atmosphere of decay, and all of that combined with the rich political significance of the monument, soon began to attract the attention of the world’s media.
Images of the Buzludzha Monument have travelled around the world, and people from all around the world have travelled to Buzludzha. The monument is now often described as one of the world’s most beautiful modern ruins, and is widely recognised for its remarkable achievements in architectural design and engineering.