View from Buzludzha Peak, looking out towards the Shipka Pass

Photographed by Darmon Richter, 2016.


The Buzludzha Memorial House commemorates a location with great significance in Bulgarian history. It has been said:

“There is no other peak, no alternative piece of the native land so intensely linked to the breakthrough times for the Bulgarian nation. Mount-sustainer of the Bulgarian spirit, preserving heroic grandeur and glory of the revolutionary traditions of the Bulgarian societies and the Bulgarian Communist Party. Here are found the three revolutionary eras, three generations of fighters for national and social liberation” (Noev, 1989).

The monument thus stands as a “symbol of three epochs,” symbolising the Bulgarian “struggle against Turkish oppression, the foundation of Bulgarian social democracy and the anti-fascist fight” (Stoilov, 2018: 28). It is, as Communist leader Todor Zhivkov once put it, the “eagle’s nest from where our party has begun its flight” (cited in Minkovska, 2015). These themes were tied to three events that occurred here on Buzludzha Peak, in 1868, 1891 and 1944 respectively, and which will be discussed in the following sections.

Second Battle of Hadzhi Dimitâr and Stefan Karadja’s Troops in the Karapanov Forest on 8 July 1868

Painted by Henryk Dębicki, uns. date.


Since 1396 Bulgaria had been incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, but during the second half of the 19th century a strong revolutionary movement was growing in the country. Two of Bulgaria’s most famous revolutionaries, Hadzhi Dimitur and Stefan Karadzha, formed a rebel detachment in Romania in 1868, before crossing the Danube and launching a series of attacks on Ottoman strongholds in Bulgaria (Hristov, 1991).

Their campaign enjoyed some early victories, until 9 July when Karadzha was injured in battle and taken prisoner by the Ottomans. Hadzhi Dimitur led the remaining rebels in one last battle, fought at Buzludzha Peak on 18 July 1868. By this point the detachment numbered just 58 men, and they were soon defeated by the much larger Ottoman force. Some were captured, others killed in battle, and Hadzhi Dimitur himself was fatally wounded. He was carried from the mountain on a stretcher, and later died from his injuries. Although Stefan Karadzha and Hadzhi Dimitur never lived to see it themselves, just a decade later the nation would gain its freedom: beginning with the 1876 April Uprising, leading into the arrival of the Russians and the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War that would see Bulgarian independence restored. ‘Buzludzha’ Peak, derived from a word meaning Icy in Turkish, was in 1942 renamed ‘Hadzhi Dimitur’ Peak, and the location became synonymous with themes of liberty and self- sacrifice (Hristov, 1991).

A monument to Hadzhi Dimitâr and Stefan Karadzha (1968), near the village of Basarbovo, marks the place where their detachment crossed the Danube in 1868.

Photographed by Darmon Richter, 2018.


One of the most decisive campaigns of Bulgaria’s 19th century war for independence was fought just 10 kilometres from Buzludzha, in the Shipka Pass.

The Russian army was unable to advance into southern Bulgaria until it had defeated the Ottoman garrisons that guarded the mountain passes – and the most significant of these passes lay in the middle of the mountain range, at Shipka. On 17 July 1877, the Russian General Gourko led four divisions against the 4,000-5,000 Turks who made up the Shipka garrison under Suleiman Pasha. After two days of tactical assaults, Gourko’s forces seized Shipka Pass and the Ottomans retreated. Suleiman Pasha would lead two subsequent attempts that year to retake Shipka from the new garrison composed of Russian soldiers and Bulgarian volunteers.

The Defence of ‘The Eagle’s Nest’ on the Shipka Pass in 1877

Painted by Andrei Nikolaievich Popov, 1893.

On 21 August, an army of 38,000 Ottomans were sent against the 7,500-man garrison, but were repulsed. According to stories, when the defenders ran out of ammunition, they hurled stones and the bodies of fallen comrades down on the advancing Ottomans. The next month, Suleiman Pasha returned – launching artillery shells at the Shipka garrison from 13-17 September, before attempting a frontal assault. Again, the Ottomans were repulsed by a strong Bulgarian and Russian defence. A fourth battle was fought in the Shipka Pass from 5-9 January 1878. After defeating the last pockets of resistance in northern Bulgaria, General Gourko was able to move west to Sofia and around to the south side of the mountains. The Ottoman army at Shipka were pinned between the garrison in the north, and Gourko’s approaching army to the south, cutting off all chance for retreat. The Ottoman force surrendered, and by 3 March 1878 the Russian coalition had won the war (Chary, 2011).

In 1934 the Shipka Independence Monument was established to commemorate these events. Although the 1981 Buzludzha Memorial House was never explicitly dedicated to the battles in the Shipka Pass, it nevertheless built on a strong sense of Bulgarian nationalism already tied to this mountain location – both monuments were subsequently co-managed by the National Park-Museum Shipka-Buzludzha, and during the communist period would typically be visited together by tourists in the form of a day trip.

Monument to Dimitâr Blagoev (1981) marking the start of the road to Buzludzha Peak.

Photographed by Darmon Richter, 2015.


The political philosopher Dimitur Blagoev was instrumental in shaping Bulgaria’s socialist movement. He published the first Bulgarian-language translations of books such as Karl Marx’s Capital and The Communist Manifesto, in addition to his own influential work, What is Socialism and Does it Have Roots in Our Country? Socialist groups had begun meeting in Bulgaria by 1886 – but they were frowned upon by the tsarist, post-Ottoman state and so they typically met in secret.

Some of the key early factions existed in places such as Stara Zagora, Gabrovo, Sliven and Kazanluk, central Bulgarian towns that lay scattered north and south of the mountain range. In 1891, when Blagoev decided to unite these different factions into one Bulgarian socialist organisation, Buzludzha made a logical meeting place – a discrete and central location, already steeped in national significance. The annual celebration commemorating the sacrifice of Hadzhi Dimitur was used as cover for bringing together some of the nation’s most prominent socialist groups. Bulgaria’s first socialist congress – the ‘Buzludzha Congress,’ as the gathering would retrospectively be known – was held on 2 August 1891 at Buzludzha Peak, and it led to the official formation of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (a precursor to the Bulgarian Communist Party), which accepted Marxism as its guiding ideology and thus marked the start of organised socialist action in Bulgaria (Blagoev, 1971; Van der Linden and Rojahn, 1990).

The 1891 Buzludzha Congress

Painted by Kiril Buyukliyski and Peter Petrov, uns.


By the late 19th century many Bulgarians were already making the pilgrimage to Buzludzha Peak. In 1898, Bishop Kusevich of Stara Zagora proposed the creation of a monument at the site – an obelisk with a cross, a chapel, and memorial gardens commemorating the sacrifice of Hadzhi Dimitur’s brigade. An 8-metre statue of Hadzhi Dimitur was planned too, overlooking the mountain. The reign of Tsar Ferdinand was beset by economic crises however, and the project was never completed.


The first memorial project on Buzludzha Peak to reach completion was a guest house, the ‘Buzludzha Lodge,’ that was opened in 1936. The building was created to accommodate the many visitors who by then were already travelling to Buzludzha Peak in order to pay their respects to Hadzhi Dimitur and his detachment. The completion of the Buzludzha Lodge was intended to facilitate educational tourism in the region.

The Buzludzha Lodge was the first building to open at Buzludzha Peak, on 2 August 1936.

*photograph credits unknown*


During World War II, Bulgaria joined the side of Nazi Germany, much to the protest of many of her citizens. A nationwide partisan resistance movement was organised, in which the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers’ Party – by then known as the Bulgarian Communist Party – took a significant leading role.

On 25 January 1944, partisan detachments from the towns of Gabrovo and Sevlievo ambushed fascist forces engaged in training exercises on Buzludzha Peak. A fierce firefight ensued, during which three partisans lost their lives.

Bulgarian partisans celebrating their victory and the greeting of the Red Army.

Photographed by Yevgeny Anan’evich Khaldei, 1944.


Following World War II, the new regime erected many monuments to celebrate the victory of Bulgarian socialism. In particular, Buzludzha Peak was considered a highly significant location, as the birthplace of the socialist movement in Bulgaria. On 29 January 1959, a competition was announced that would welcome design proposals for four new monuments celebrating the history of this mountain. On 2 July 1961 – 70 years after the foundation of Bulgaria’s first socialist organisation – three of the four monuments were unveiled: a statue of Hadzhi Dimitur, an engraved relief of Dimitur Blagoev’s 1981 Buzludzha Congress, and a monument dedicated to the Gabrovo and Sevlievo partisan forces who had battled fascists here during World War II.

The fourth monument was intended to be larger and more impressive than the others – the specification was for a red star, placed at the top of the mountain peak. The competition bid was won by the young Bulgarian architect Georgi Stoilov; however, due to its scale and complexity his grand Buzludzha monument was delayed, and would not be presented in the 1961 opening ceremony.

The history of the Buzludzha Memorial House continues on the next page: The Monument

This page was updated and expanded on 16 January 2022, and is an excerpt from:

Fawcus, Richard (2022) The Buzludzha Memorial House and the Precarious Fate of Communist Monuments in Post-Communist Space (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), University of Central Lancashire, Preston. 191-199.

Left: Monument to Hadzhi Dimitâr (1961)

Middle: Monumental Stone Bas-Relief of the Buzludzha Congress of 1891 (1961)

Right: Monument to the Fallen Partisans (1961)

All photographed by Artin Azinyan, 1984.

Top: Monument to Hadzhi Dimitâr (1961)

Middle: Monumental Stone Bas-Relief of the Buzludzha Congress of 1891 (1961)

Bottom: Monument to the Fallen Partisans (1961)

All photographed by Artin Azinyan, 1984.


  • Blagoev, D. (1971) Articles. Sofia: Bulgarian Writer. pp. 79-85.
  • Chary, F. B. (2011) The History of Bulgaria. Westport: Greenwood.
  • Hristov, I. (1991) The Detachment of Hadzhi Dimitar and Stefan Karadzha. Sofia: Specter. pp. 27-31.
  • Minkovska, S. (2015) (Never) Forget Your Past, MA Architecture Dissertation, Royal College of Art, London.
  • Noev, S (1989) Memorial House on Mount Buzludzha. Sofia: September.
  • Stoilov, G. (2018) Georgi Stoilov: With a Vision for the Future. Sofia: Zachary Stoyanov Publishing House.
  • Van der Linden, M. & Rojahn, J. (1990) The Formation of Labour Movements, 1870-1914: An International Perspective, Brill.