Dimitrov a hero no more

HE WAS celebrated around the world when he triumphed over Hitler and the Nazi party at the Reichstag fire trial in 1933, but now Georgi Dimitrov's marble memorial is about to fall victim to the wrecker's ball.

The mausoleum in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, which once housed the embalmed body of the country's first Communist leader, acquitted on charges of burning down the Reichstag, will soon be demolished. The body of Dimitrov was removed from the mausoleum and cremated in 1990.

The reasons are ostensibly a question of taste, as the rectangular, white- marble building in Sofia's centre, is deemed not to match the architectural criteria of the city planners. Bulgaria's Construction Minister, Evgeni Bakardzhiev, has set a deadline of 8 September for the demolition.

A more likely explanation is that as Bulgaria slowly and hopefully prepares for eventual accession to the European Union, the huge block, now covered with graffiti, is an embarrassment to this Balkan nation, trying to shake off its Communist past.

Dimitrov led the country after the Second World War until his death in 1949. He crushed opposition and imposed a brutal dictatorship on the populace. But he will also be remembered for strength under cross-examination at the Reichstag fire trial.

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