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Recreation of WWII memorial a “punch on the nose” for Georgian authorities, says Putin

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, December 30
Recreating the World War II memorial in Moscow will be a “punch on the nose” for the Georgian leadership, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Russian journalists, the Prime Minister suggested that the arts society should decide who will recreate the demolished memorial in the capital of Russia. “The creator of the original memorial [Merab Berdzenishvili] or a group of artists could re-erect the monument,” RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying. “Zurab Tsereteli [a Moscow-based Georgian sculptor], who is able to establish contacts with colleagues in his historical motherland (Georgia) and this country (Russia), could participate in this project in some way,” Putin told journalists.

The Russian PM once more slammed the Georgian authorities for demolishing the WWII memorial in Kutaisi, calling this a “crime”. “For them the recreation of the memorial in Moscow will be another punch on the nose. This is obvious to everyone. And of course, they will put pressure on the creator of the memorial to try and force him to refuse to participate in its recreation. However he has publicly welcomed the idea and is ready to help,” Putin noted.

The 80-year old sculptor of the original 46-metre tall WWII memorial, Merab Berdzenishvili, has denied that he allegedly agreed to Putin’s re-erection of the monument. In an open letter published in the Georgian daily newspaper Sakartvelos Repsublika, the sculptor said that Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeev had personally contacted him after the memorial had been demolished. “I thanked him for sending me the letter, but I told him that it was impossible to even discuss recreating the memorial as its actual architect is dead and all the models and specifications of the memorial have been lost,” Berdzenishvili wrote. He suggested that recreating the memorial in its initial form would be impossible. “The mystery of the arts is that only a creator can give inert material life. That’s why I am strongly against the recreation of the memorial by some other person, because even by consulting me it will be impossible to recreate the monument in its original form and it will look like an inanimate parody of the original. Unfortunately I do not have the strength to recreate the memorial,” Berdzenishvili wrote.

Officials in Tbilisi have called Putin’s latest statements “cynical”. National Movement MP Nugzar Tsiklauri suggested that anyone has the right to create any memorial in his own country. “However, the only memorial Russia has left of itself in Georgia is bombarded villages and towns, dead Georgian soldiers and burnt woods. Any other memorial created by Putin will be considered pharisaism in this situation,” Tsiklauri told The Messenger. Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili has offered a “barter deal” to The Kremlin. “I will give Stalin’s statue to Mr. Putin in return for Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region and will add the WWII memorial as change,” Iakobashvili said.

The demolition of the World War II memorial in Georgia’s second largest city of Kutaisi caused the death of a 42-year-old woman and her 11-year-old daughter. The authorities are planning to construct a new Parliament building on the site.