110 years since the unfolding of the monument of Tsar Osvoboditel

30 August 2017

110 years ago, on August 30, the monument of the Russian Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881), known as Tsar Osvoboditel, was unfolded in the capital Sofia. Florentine sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi, the winner of the international competition, succeeded in creating a masterpiece in the given short time. The official unfolding was attended by representatives of the dynastic, political, cultural and patriotic elite of Bulgaria and a high-ranking Russian delegation headed by the son of Alexander II - Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich. Many participants in the Russo-Turkish war and prominent public and political figures met under the majestic statue. It was the most magnificent, formal and nation-wide celebration in the memory of the young Bulgarian state. The final sum amounted to more than 400 000 golden leva, paid for by the state and the Sofia municipality.

The idea of creating the monument arose in 1898. The main stone was placed on April 23, 1901, St. George's Day, thus marking the quarter-century jubilee of the April Uprising. Speeches were delivered by Prince Ferdinand I, the Minister of Public Buildings, Roads and Communications Ivan Balinov and Konstantin Velichkov, solemn telegrams were exchanges between the Bulgarian National Asembly Heads and Emperor Nicolas II (1894-1917). The "Tsar Osvoboditel Committee", under the patronage of the Prince, made a public subscription for raising money for monuments, the Museum of the Bulgarian Revival and Liberation, the "Invalid Home for Volunteers" (unfulfilled), etc., thus special jubilee post stamps were sold in all telegraph-post offices and municipal offices. With these actions in the field of ideology, Ferdinand hoped to improve the relations with the mighty Russian Empire and to secure its support for the proclamation of the Independence and in the obtaining of a royal crown.

Amphitheatrically located tribunes were built for the solemn unveiling. Only invited guests were present, including foreign diplomats in Sofia, government members, high society ladies, senior military and civilians in Sofia, representatives of schools and national organizations, delegations of all districts, and many volunteers. In the list of the official Russian guests were the names of General Stoletov (Chief of the Bulgarian Corps), General Tutolin (Cossack Brigade Commander during the War), General Parensov and Baron Kulbarbs (Bulgarian Military Ministers from 6.7.1879-22.3.1880 respectively 21.6.1882-7.9.1883). The author of the monument Arnoldo Zocchi was also present.

Three carriages with the princes Boris and Kiril and prince Andrei Vladimirovich (son of the Grand Duke), the princesses Evdokia and Nadezhda, the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, the Grand Duke and prince Ferdinand I, set out from the palace to the ruler's tribune.

In front of the Grand Duke, the volunteers defied the Samaritan flag. At the unveiling of the monument the anniversary cantata of the composer Dimitar Georgiev was played, the text of which was written by Ivan Vazov. The holiday program in the capital and in the country, where a number of memorial and museum sites were opened, lasted for a week.

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