Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial Complex – Stara Zagora, Bulgaria - Atlas Obscura

Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial Complex

Stara Zagora, Bulgaria

This massive stone and steel monument remembers a century-old battle that cost thousands of lives and nearly destroyed the city. 


Staring out over the Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora, the monolithic giants embedded in the Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial Complex make sure that none of the citizens forget the sacrifice of over 14,000 soldiers who lost their lives in an abortive 1800’s military campaign for the city. 

On July 31st, 1877 during the opening salvos of the Russian-Turkish Liberation War, a force consisting of Russian soldiers and Bulgarian volunteers from the surrounding towns took on a far superior Turkish force. Despite a pitched six-hour engagement, the Russian-Bulgarian front surrendered to the Turkish fighters. Over the three days following the surrender, the city of Stara Zagora was put to the torch, and in the end of the whole incident, an estimated 14,500 local citizens had been killed.

Despite this tragedy, the city survived and on the hundred year anniversary of the battle, in 1977, the Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial Complex was unveiled. The brutalist monument stands over 50 feet tall and sees a giant Russian officer embedded in stone pillars alongside six Bulgarian volunteer fighters which represent the six units that joined the Russians that day. Next to these colossal figures is an abstract banner blowing? in the wind. An intricately patterned square spreads out at the foot of the monument where that century-old battle still holds weight.       

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