The ruined mausoleum which once housed the body of Bulgaria’s communist leader is set to be transformed into an underground art gallery.

Local officials approved plans to convert the space underneath the former monument into the latest branch of the Sofia City Art Gallery.

The white-stone mausoleum, built to house the body of Bulgaria’s first communist leader, Georgi Dimitrov, was razed by the Bulgarian government in 1999. Three basement levels however, built underneath the main building to care for the leader’s embalmed body, remain despite the government's repeated use of explosives when trying to destroy the overground complex. The first level will become the gallery itself, while the second and third storeys will become art repositories.

The city council will now hold a competition to design the new building and renovate the surrounding Battenberg Square.

Dimitrov, who led Bulgaria from 1946 — 1949, lay in the mausoleum for more than half a century before his corpse was removed in 1990. He was later cremated and his ashes placed in Sofia Central Cemetery.

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