The Fraternal Barrow Memorial Complex – sometimes referred to as the ‘Brotherly Mound,’ or ‘Hillock of Fraternity’ – is a monument located in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Opened in 1974, the monument commemorates Bulgaria’s 1944 ‘Socialist Revolution.’ Shaped to resemble a Thracian burial mound, it contains the bones of partisans who fought to liberate Bulgaria from WWII-era Nazi occupation. The structure measures 23m high, and 90m in circumference.
The monument was created by the architects Lubomir Chinkov and Vladimir Rangelov, while the figures that stand inside were the work of sculptor Lubomir Dalchev. This concrete barrow is located at the end of a long memorial path, in the ‘Park of Recreation and Culture’ (‘Park Otdih i Cultura’) that lies on the western edge of Plovdiv’s city centre.
The monument fell into disrepair following the collapse of Bulgarian communism, and nowadays it survives in a neglected state: badly decayed, with its exterior covered in graffiti. Occasionally the central memorial space is opened for special events – but most of the time, the monument is sealed shut.
Symbolism of the Plovdiv Monument
Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been continuously inhabited since 479 BC, though as a Thracian settlement its history extends much earlier – tour guides in Plovdiv will sometimes suggest an age of 4,000, or even 5,000 years. The vast plains that spread east and south from the city (known as the ‘Thracian Plain’) constitute the northern part of the former Kingdom of Thrace, and they are frequently punctuated with the burial mounds of ancient rulers (for example, the nearby barrow at Kazanluk.)
The Bratska Mogila monument (‘Fraternal Barrow,’ or ‘Brotherly Mound’) in Plovdiv was intended to mirror these ancient tumuli: a concrete, rather than earthen barrow, but every bit as regal as its ancient counterparts.
Seen from above, the shape of the monument could be said to resemble the outline of a memorial wreath. Inside meanwhile, a circular wall with a length of 90m is decorated with large, sculpted figures. These tell the story of the most transformative years in Bulgaria’s recent history: between the country’s liberation from Ottoman Rule (beginning in 1878) through to the Soviet-backed Socialist Revolution (1944).
Reference is also made to the Unification of Bulgaria (1885), in which the city of Plovdiv played a key role. After Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule at the end of the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War, the country split into two halves: northern Bulgaria became the independent Principality of Bulgaria while the south remained an autonomous province within the greater Ottoman Empire. The latter region was known as ‘Eastern Rumelia’ and its capital was Plovdiv. It wasn’t until 1885 that a dramatic coup finally pushed the Ottomans back to Turkey and the two halves of Bulgaria were reunited.
The Fraternal Barrow doesn’t just resemble a burial mound: it was built to hold the bones of anti-fascist partisans from the Plovdiv region. Like a barrow, the monument is dug down below the level of the surrounding park, and though only a portion of it appears above ground the total height of the structure is 23 metres. An eternal flame originally burned inside the centre of the monument, though it has long since been extinguished.
The Plovdiv monument was inaugurated on 9th September 1974, in a ceremony conducted by Bulgaria’s communist leader Todor Zhivkov. This date marked exactly 30 years since Bulgaria (with assistance from the newly-arrived Soviet Red Army) had declared its independence from Nazi occupation. It wasn’t until several years later that the Bulgarian Communist Party assumed totalitarian rule over the newly liberated country, and began referring to the event retrospectively as Bulgaria’s ‘Socialist Revolution.’
Fraternal Barrow, Brotherly Mound or Hillock of Fraternity?
The name of the Plovdiv monument, in Bulgarian, is ‘Bratska Mogila’ (‘Братска Mогила’). However, various English-language sources have offered different translations. Some refer to the structure as the ‘Brotherly Mound.’ Others, as the ‘Hillock of Fraternity.’ This page is suggesting a third translation: ’Fraternal Barrow.’
‘Bratska,’ in Bulgarian, means of or relating to ‘Brothers.’
‘Mogila’ is the word for a small, conspicuous hill (or hillock), but it is also the word typically used to denote a burial mound, or barrow (as in ‘pogrebalna mogila,’ literally meaning ‘funeral mound’).
Because the design of the monument clearly makes symbolic reference to a barrow – while the English word ‘hillock’ would usually denote a naturally occurring rise – the translation ‘Hillock of Fraternity’ is not entirely accurate.
Google Translate gives ‘Bratska Mogila’ as ‘Brotherly Mound.’ This version doesn’t quite seem to capture the nature of the monument however, whose name should imply a meaning closer to comrade than to sibling. In this context, ‘fraternal’ feels like a better fit.
None of these translations is technically incorrect, though both ‘Brotherly Mound’ and ‘Hillock of Fraternity’ fall short of expressing the depth of meaning contained in the Bulgarian title. For that reason, the title preferred here is ‘Fraternal Barrow.’