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New Great Patriotic War memorial unveiled in Moscow

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, December 22
The new Monument of Glory for the Great Patriotic War, the analogous of the structure blown up in Kutaisi in December 2009, was unveiled on “Poklonnaya Gora memorial park” on Tuesday. The monument was opened by Russian PM Vladimir Putin, the Head of the Georgian Diaspora in the Russian Federation Mikheil Khubutia and the leaders of Georgian oppositional parties Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Noghaideli. Initially, the monument was supposed to be opened on Monday, however, according to Russian sources it was intentionally postponed for Tuesday in order to coincide with President Saakashvili’s birthday.

The monument represents two Soviet solders – Georgian sergeant Meliton Kantaria and Russian scout Mikhail Yegorov who raised the Soviet Flag over the Reichstag during the Battle of Berlin on May 9, 1945. Both soldiers stand in front of the wall, which - the 46-meter Soviet-era Glory Memorial - was demolished in Kutaisi last year. Fifteen bas-reliefs representing the main monuments to World War II heroes in the capitals of the former Soviet republics are presented behind the pedestal. Its height is 14.5 meters and weight is 22 tons, and the complex of the monument covers an area of 1000 square meters.

“I am convinced that no one can part the Russian and Georgian people, tear the traditionally linked humanitarian and spiritual ties, it means that our future will be based on good-neighbourly, equal and sincere partnership relations. This monument is our tribute to a heroic deed of our ancestors, but it is also for our common will to save the truth about heroes and protect them from cynicism, vandalism and lies, and withstand nationalism, xenophobia and extremism regardless of their “attractive” slogans”, stated Vladimir Putin at the unveiling ceremony.

“The memorial replicated on Poklonnaya Gora will be a symbol of people’s unity and tribune,” stated the Chairperson of the Russian Federation’s council Sergey Mironov. “It’s possible to explode a monument, but human memory is stronger than granite. For those who think that dynamite is stronger than memory, it’s time for them to realize that this is not so,” he added. It is noteworthy that Mironov’s statements regarding people’s unity, against the background of recent nationalist street riots were very poignant.

Georgian officials, as expected, condemned Burjanadze-Noghaideli’s visit. “The attendance of Burjanadze and Noghaideli on the memorial opening is nothing but impudence and cynicism”, stated the Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Nikoloz Rurua, before the government session. He stated that the arrival in the occupant country and opening of the Soviet monument is justification of the occupation, it is disrespectful towards those who experienced the Russian occupation. He also added that the monument in Kutaisi was “blown up” by Georgian people.

However, Georgian Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze criticized Nikoloz Rurua for the statements on behalf of Georgian people. “The monument in Kutaisi was not only for glory of Soviets but Georgian soldiers as well, and therefore, the destruction of that memorial could not be the order of Georgian people since they are the descendants of those soldiers”, told Sakvarelidze to The Messenger. In his opinion the antagonistic approach to everything Soviet has brought us to disrespect of our people and history.

A similar memorial was destroyed in Kutaisi a year ago, during the demolition of which, the eight-year old Nino Jincharadze and her mother were killed and two more people were injured. These actions were harshly condemned by both Georgian and Russian society and the political elite, who defined the act as vandalism and disrespect of history. In response to these actions Russian Premier Vladimir Putin ordered to replicate the analogous monument on Poklonnaya Gora.