The UFO style Buzludzah monument is situated in the heart of Bulgaria. It’s a place of pilgrimage for lovers of bizarre, brutalist architecture, and those fanatical about Urbex. The Buzludzha monument first opened its doors in 1981 to serve the leadership of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. When the Communist regime collapsed in 1989, it was left to wrack and ruin and battered by the elements. Despite this, the monument continued to attract visitors from all over the world. On my latest visit to the monument in August this year, I was greeted by the best UFO news I’ve ever seen when I saw the monument is actively being restored back to its former glory!
In comparison to my many other visits to Buzludzah in recent years, what is usually an ominous UFO sitting atop a lonely mountain peak was instead buzzing with Kamaz trucks, workers removing asbestos, and what appeared to be building surveyors all working on the Buzludzah monument. The beginning of this great UFO news came in the summer of 2019 when the Bulgarian organization called “Buzludzha Project”, which has been campaigning since 2015 for the monument to be restored, received the boost of a lifetime when the monument was able to obtain a grant from the American Getty Foundation.
Whilst the Buzludzah monument is a vital piece of architectural history, it is also a sacred piece of Bulgarian history too. Long before Communism came along, the mountain the UFO sits on formed one of the major battlefields of the final Russian Turkish War of 1877 and 1888. The bulk of this conflict raged across Bulgarian territory and many Bulgarians sided with their Orthodox Russian allies to free themselves from the chains of Ottoman oppression. The nearby Shipka Pass played a vital part in the Russian Turkish War when it was defended by Bulgarian fighters determined to stop the Ottoman relief force on their way to life the Siege of Pleven. The Bulgarians were victorious and turned the tide of the war against the Ottomans.
“an indispensable part of Bulgarian history”.– The Buzludzah Project in reference to the monument
In the Cold War years, the area was almost a place of pilgrimage for communists both young and old, local and international. The close relationship between Soviet Russia and Communist Bulgaria was made evidently clear here as the surrounding region held a special place in the hearts of both nations who fought in the gruelling conflict of old.
The grant, which was said to be around $185,000, is being used to conserve the Budluzdah monument, which has been rightfully described as a “masterpiece of civil engineering”, and be able to use it in the future. Along with the sponsorship of Buzludzah, the Getty Foundation is supporting ten other historic buildings around Bulgaria through an initiative labeled ”Keeping it Modern” which aims to develop the knowledge about buildings constructed in the modernist style and ensure their preservation for future generations.
The first phase of the conservation plan of the Buzludzha monument is to complete a full assessment of the structural integrity of the building. This step, a vital one due to the Buzludzah monument being exposed to the elements for so long, appears to have been pretty much completed. The latest updates from the organization’s Facebook page shows careful restoration being carried out to the monument’s mosaics inside. This signals that the bulky work such as Asbestos removal, structural stabilization, and clearing of rubble has been completed.
Following this, there are plans to draw up a suitable business model for Buzludzha to begin functioning as Bulgaria’s latest historical site. To do so, a team of multidisciplinary experts from both Bulgaria and abroad will be involved. The University of Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Geodesy in Sofia, the Technical University of Munich, Bulgarian and German Committees of the International Council of Monuments (ICOMOS), and of course, the Buzludzah Project, are all said to be involved.
In my opinion, this UFO news about the restoration of the Buzludzah monument is simply phenomenal. The monument is a triumph of brutalist architecture and even as a crumbling concrete hulk it still manages to attract thousands of visitors every year. All of them seeking a chance to see this mountaintop monster before it collapses and seeing if they can join the elite ranks of those who have made it inside to see the wonderful communist-era mosaics which make up one of the largest examples of modernist mosaics in all of Europe.
To put the artwork inside the Buzludzah monument in perspective, in order to create the mosaics of the artists first painted the images on the plaster. These were called Sinopia and in the places where the external mosaic has been lost due to vandalism or the elements, these underlying drawings can be seen. Thankfully, the ongoing mosaic stabilization project has been able to stabilize this lower layer as well.
Economically, I feel it will be an enormous boost for Bulgaria. If the monument in its current dire state doesn’t fail to attract a plethora of international visitors, imagine the traffic it will see when it is restored and turned into a dedicated museum that boasts guaranteed entry. The growing Western fascination with the history, architecture, and aesthetic of the former Eastern Bloc is not to be underestimated. Better late than never, Bulgaria. Bravo on this UFO news and keep up the restoration!
In order to visit Buzludzah for yourself, I recommend contacting the team over at Young Pioneer Tours. They are a company specializing in everything from tours to North Korea and Chernobyl to budget adventures to the lesser-seen corners of the former Yugoslavia and the countries of the former Soviet Union.