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Ivan Ivanov – the mayor who made Sofia a modern city

Photo: Архив
The premiere of the documentary “The Mayor” took place on March 29th and 30th at the House of Cinema in Sofia. The film tells the story of eng. Ivan Ivanov, who governed the Bulgarian capital city from 1934 to 1944, thus becoming the person that ruled Sofia for the longest period.
The dramatic destiny of eng. Ivanov reflected the great events that marked the 20th century. Ivan Ivanov was born in the family of the military officer Nikola Ivanov, who was a hero from the 1912-1913 Balkan wars. Ivan Ivanov himself interrupted his student years in Munich in order to participate in the wars. He graduated as a hydro engineer in 1915 then married the love of his life – Matilda, who later gave birth to three daughters. Before becoming a mayor, eng. Ivanov faced the great challenge to bring water from the Rila Mountain to the growing capital city.

“He traveled around the entire mountain with a group of associates to determine whether the water there was enough for the entire city – Mrs Adela Peeva, writer and co-director of the movie says.
Then he started the construction of the Rila water pipeline, which was a tremendous effort and achievement. As general Vladimir Vazov, the previous mayor said, if anyone abroad had done anything like that there would have been a great noise in the press. However, the modest Bulgarians kept silence. Eng. Ivanov was a strong character with his own vision about his work, which cost him a lot after September 9th 1944, when the communist regime came into power. He had to face the People’s Court with the threat of a death sentence. The prosecution withdrew its demand then and eng. Ivanov was sentenced to life in prison. However, since there was no one to finish the construction of the “Stalin” /”Iskar”/ dam, the new authorities had to pardon the talented engineer. He continued his work as an expert under the new circumstances.”

Mr. Ivanov was accused at the trial of being a Nazi agent, since he had been a mayor during the WW2. However, there was a report to the People’s Court that pointed how the secret police of the previous regime had had no trust in him, he had been followed and even accused of hiring communists to work in the municipality.

“All kinds of ideologies saw him as a threat – Mrs Peeva says further. – Nobody could accept him as a person that simply wanted to do his job. Sofia was called “the Balkan Vienna” and “the little Brussels” while Mr Ivanov governed the city. However, for long years now the memory of him have remained locked in the secret files.”

Eng. Ivanov made the way that the municipality funds were used a transparent one. The expenses of the mayoralty were published every month in the “Serdika” magazine. The villages around the city joined Sofia at that time too, thus creating the Sofia Big Municipality. The streets downtown were paved and major buildings, such as the ones of the Central Bank, the Telephone Palace and the Ministry of Defense were constructed. The tramway network got larger, a few bus lines were opened and also the first trolley line – to the Gorna Banya neighborhood. A great number of trees were planted along the main roads. The foreigners that visited Sofia at that time said that it was one of the cleanest and greenest cities in Europe.

English: Zhivko Stanchev
All photographs are provided by the authors of the film

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