Antonivanovtsi Memorial Complex

Vacha Dam, west side

By In 70s, Memorial complex

Antonivanovtsi Memorial Complex
Vacha Dam, west side

Antonivanovtsi Memorial Complex is one of the largest monumental projects in Bulgaria. Apart from the spectacular structure and volume of the monument itself, the great engineering achievement imposed by the terrain is also important here. The difficult access to the site and the fact that the complex stands on a steep mountain slope and on the edge of the dam make this monumental composition an impressive sight from miles away. The road along the eastern side of the Vacha dam, which curves panoramically in the direction of Krichim – Devin, opens a view of the monument across the water and gives the impression that the object has “landed” on the other side of the reservoir. Adding the exterior lighting of the monument at night (not working at the moment), we can imagine the impressive achievement.

Work on the project continued for several years during the 1970s and involved a large creative team, as well as the work of builders and engineers. The main designer is architect Zhelyazko (Bubi) Stoykov, and the sculptors are Ivan Topalov, Viktor Todorov and Dimitar Pavlov – Tochkata.

Antonivanovtsi memorial complex is dedicated to the death of 154 partisans from the Rhodope brigade “Anton Ivanov ” in 1944. This partisan brigade and its fate are the occasion for many interpretations, but during the time of the totalitarian regime in the entire surrounding region – the town of Krichim, the village of Ravnogor, the Vacha dam (with the old name Antonivanovtsi) – different monuments were created that still show a connection and pay tribute to these partisans. Antonivanovtsi monument represents the ultimate, complete and dedicated exaltation of the squad in question, hyperbolized to the point of worshiping a deity. This purely party doctrine was carried out in the style of the time and without economy of means, labor and teamwork.

The monument contains three main components – an approach to the complex, a crypt and a tall memorial structure.

The approach to the complex is through developed stepped forms, the necessary and mandatory climb to a given feat, but also having a purely functional purpose – as observation terraces to the remarkable panorama of the exterior. On the right is a sculptural composition by Viktor Todorov titled “The Last Battle”. It is built from two different materials and is skilfully inscribed in the terrain and relief of the area. The development of the sculpture systematically starts from the ground slope, passes into pronounced geometric volumes of living concrete, and in the foreground ends with a multi-figure composition of Vratsa limestone. In “The Last Battle” Viktor Todorov used a radial plastic solution for the geometric volumes, which emphasizes the significance of the event. The limestone figures, placed in descending order towards the center, express supreme effort and drama. They seem to emerge from the slope of the “Dry Gully”, from the interior of the earth, and dynamically develop in the direction of their sacrifice for the ideal.

At the center of the memorial is the crypt (or ossuary). It is geometrically shaped with sharp edges, protruding towards the dam and as if in flight above the water. In the crypt we observe a seated female figure with a headscarf, symbolizing both grief, humility and adoration for the victims. The author of this sculpture is Ivan Topalov, and the material is black marble. A text of a partisan oath is carved into the stone plastically. The author of the inscription is Dimitar Pavlov – Tochkata. The entire space is lit by a skylight, the light coming from a slit in the ceiling cut in the shape of a circle. The visitor’s feeling may correspond largely to the famous cult of the afterlife in ancient Egypt. Another inscription is carved on the outside of the crypt, borrowed and paraphrased from Nikola Vaptsarov’s “Letter”: “To die when the earth shakes off its poisonous mold is a song, yes, it is a song.” The author of this inscription is Ivan Topalov.

At the bottom of the memorial is the tall memorial structure – a plastic composition made of voluminous geometric shapes. The great height and sharp peaks above merge the feat with the sky. The symbol sought here is the personification of those who perished with eternity. The material of the monument is the so-called “white concrete” – it is obtained from the use of white cement in the mixture, and to achieve a good result, the inert material, sand, must be as fine as possible. The white in the monument continues to be persistent to this day. It contrasts with the natural colors around, regardless of the season, as well as with the water of the dam.

The current condition of the memorial complex is surprisingly good – for the years of neglect. This only speaks to the quality of execution. Of course, some elements were stolen and missing. With very little effort, the whole site can acquire a new life, aimed at current realities and to become quite an impressive tourist site.

Access to the Antonivanovtsi memorial complex is impossible. In principle, the only way to it is along the dam wall. But this road has long been closed and guarded because the site is of national strategic importance. It is not like in the past when the dam wall could be walked freely. To photograph the monument, we received special approval from institutions and the Ministry of Energy.

Tourism related to this monument can only be done with a good organization of water transport, the only possible approach to the site at the moment. Or if the road along the dam wall has a special status – if not for everyone, then at least for organized tourist visits. Otherwise, the place can become an attractive area for visits – excursions, cultural tourism, photos and observation of the natural beauty of the mountain, the dam and the monumental complex.

All photos of the monument with the possibility of detailed enlargement see here: