Fraternal Barrow Memorial Complex

Name: Fraternal Barrow Memorial Complex
Also Known As: Brotherly Mound, Hillock of Fraternity
Location: Park of Recreation and Culture, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Date of Completion: 1974
Architects: Lubomir Chinkov, Vladimir Rangelov
Sculptor: Lubomir Dalchev
Dimensions: 23m high, 90m circumference
Condition: Poor

 

History

Opened in 1974, the monument commemorates Bulgaria’s 1944 ‘Socialist Revolution.’ Shaped to resemble a Thracian burial mound, it contains the bones of partisans who fought to liberate Bulgaria from WWII-era Nazi occupation.

The monument was created by the architects Lubomir Chinkov and Vladimir Rangelov, while the figures that stand inside were the work of sculptor Lubomir Dalchev. This concrete barrow is located at the end of a long memorial path, in the ‘Park of Recreation and Culture’ (‘Park Otdih i Cultura’) that lies on the western edge of Plovdiv’s city centre.

The monument fell into disrepair following the collapse of Bulgarian communism, and nowadays it survives in a neglected state: badly decayed, with its exterior covered in graffiti. Occasionally the central memorial space is opened for special events – but most of the time, the monument is sealed shut.

 

Symbolism of the Plovdiv Monument

Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been continuously inhabited since 479 BC, though as a Thracian settlement its history extends much earlier – tour guides in Plovdiv will sometimes suggest an age of 4,000, or even 5,000 years. The vast plains that spread east and south from the city (known as the ‘Thracian Plain’) constitute the northern part of the former Kingdom of Thrace, and they are frequently punctuated with the burial mounds of ancient rulers (for example, the nearby barrow at Kazanluk.)

The Bratska Mogila monument (‘Fraternal Barrow,’ or ‘Brotherly Mound’) in Plovdiv was intended to mirror these ancient tumuli: a concrete, rather than earthen barrow, but every bit as regal as its ancient counterparts.

Seen from above, the shape of the monument could be said to resemble the outline of a memorial wreath. Inside meanwhile, a circular wall with a length of 90m is decorated with large, sculpted figures. These tell the story of the most transformative years in Bulgaria’s recent history: between the country’s liberation from Ottoman Rule (beginning in 1878) through to the Soviet-backed Socialist Revolution (1944).

Reference is also made to the Unification of Bulgaria (1885), in which the city of Plovdiv played a key role. After Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule at the end of the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War, the country split into two halves: northern Bulgaria became the independent Principality of Bulgaria while the south remained an autonomous province within the greater Ottoman Empire. The latter region was known as ‘Eastern Rumelia’ and its capital was Plovdiv. It wasn’t until 1885 that a dramatic coup finally pushed the Ottomans back to Turkey and the two halves of Bulgaria were reunited.

The Fraternal Barrow doesn’t just resemble a burial mound: it was built to hold the bones of anti-fascist partisans from the Plovdiv region. Like a barrow, the monument is dug down below the level of the surrounding park, and though only a portion of it appears above ground the total height of the structure is 23 metres. An eternal flame originally burned inside the centre of the monument, though its flame has long since been extinguished.

The Plovdiv monument was inaugurated on 9th September 1974, in a ceremony conducted by Bulgaria’s communist leader Todor Zhivkov. This date marked exactly 30 years since Bulgaria (with assistance from the newly-arrived Soviet Red Army) had declared its independence from Nazi occupation. It wasn’t until several years later that the Bulgarian Communist Party assumed totalitarian rule over the newly liberated country, and began referring to the event retrospectively as Bulgaria’s ‘Socialist Revolution.’

 

Fraternal Barrow, Brotherly Mound or Hillock of Fraternity?

The name of the Plovdiv monument, in Bulgarian, is ‘Bratska Mogila’ (‘Братска Mогила’). However, different English-language sources have offered alternative translations. Some refer to the structure as the ‘Brotherly Mound.’ Others, as the ‘Hillock of Fraternity.’ This page is suggesting a third translation: ’Fraternal Barrow.’

‘Bratska,’ in Bulgarian, means of or relating to ‘Brothers.’

‘Mogila’ is the word for a small, conspicuous hill (or hillock), but it is also the word typically used to denote a burial mound, or barrow (as in ‘pogrebalna mogila,’ literally meaning ‘funeral mound’).

Because the design of the monument clearly makes symbolic reference to a barrow – while the English word ‘hillock’ would usually denote a naturally occurring rise – the title ‘Hillock of Fraternity’ seems like a mistranslation. (Besides, it hardly sounds noble in English… a word somewhere between ‘haddock’ and ‘pillock.’)

Google offers a translation of ‘Bratska Mogila’ as ‘Brotherly Mound.’ But this version of the name doesn’t quite seem to capture the nature of the monument, whose name should imply a meaning closer to comrade than to sibling. In this context, ‘fraternal’ feels like a better fit.

None of these translations is technically incorrect, though both ‘Brotherly Mound’ and ‘Hillock of Fraternity’ fall short of expressing the depth of meaning contained in the Bulgarian title. For that reason the title preferred here is ‘Fraternal Barrow’: the burial mound for a diverse and unrelated group of men who came together as brothers in service of a greater cause.

 

Gallery

The Fraternal Barrow monument in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
The Fraternal Barrow Memorial Complex in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Looking down into the memorial space at the heart of the Plovdiv monument.
Looking down into the memorial space at the heart of the Plovdiv monument.
The large space inside the Fraternal Barrow (also known as the Brotherly Mound, or Hillock of Fraternity) is now sealed shut with a chain around the gates.
The large space inside the Fraternal Barrow is now sealed shut with a chain around the gates.

 

The monument rises from a grassy plaza in the Park of Recreation and Culture. Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
The monument rises from a grassy plaza in the Park of Recreation and Culture. Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Brotherly Mound. Plovdiv, Bulgaria.Hillock of Fraternity. Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

 

Concrete 'arms' fold over the monument at 45-degree angles. Getting inside would not be difficult... but climbing back out is harder.
Concrete ‘arms’ fold over the monument at 45-degree angles. Getting inside would not be difficult… but climbing back out is harder.

The text above the door is a quote from Bulgarian poet Hristo Botev: He who falls in the battle for freedom, never truly dies.
The text above the door is a quote from Bulgarian poet Hristo Botev: “He who falls in the battle for freedom, never truly dies.”
The occasional withered bouquet hints at recent memorial events inside the Plovdiv monument.
The occasional withered bouquet hints at recent memorial events inside the Plovdiv monument.

Fraternal Barrow Memorial Complex, Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

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