Sunday, 27 December 2009
Plans to Rebuild War Memorial Gain Steam
Mayor Yury Luzhkov proposed placing a replica of a 46-meter-tall war monument razed in Georgia on Poklonnaya Gora in western Moscow on Wednesday as a suggestion by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to build the replica gathered steam.
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said United Russia was ready to raise funds for the World War II monument and part of it could be built by the Victory Day holiday on May 9.
Luzhkov, Putin and Gryzlov spoke after meeting with Zurab Nogaideli, a former Georgian prime minister-turned-opposition politician who promised to rebuild the monument in Georgia’s second-largest city, Kutaisi, if his party assumed power.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government ordered the monument commemorating the Soviet Army’s victory in World War II to be demolished to make room for the construction of a new national parliament building. The monument was leveled last Friday, and flying debris struck and killed a mother and her 8-year-old daughter in a nearby courtyard.
Putin, who first proposed a replica Tuesday, said Wednesday that the demolition of the monument showed that Saakashvili’s government was continuing “its policies directed against the people.”
Because of those policies, he said, official relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have reached “the lowest point in history.”
Gryzlov, who leads United Russia’s supreme council, said the monument was the last straw for his “patience with Saakashvili’s regime,” according to a statement on the party’s web site.
Putin, who heads United Russia, said rebuilding the monument in Moscow could actually improve ties below the government level. “The relationship between our people … has a solid, centuries-old foundation, and we are linked by thousands of invisible bonds of common interest and history,” he said.
Gryzlov said United Russia would collect money for the reconstruction.
Luzhkov, a founding member of United Russia, said the monument would be rebuilt with donors’ funds and the best location would be Poklonnaya Gora, Interfax reported. The area west of the city center contains a World War II museum and Victory Park.
Nogaideli, who heads the For a Fair Georgia party, vowed to do everything possible to re-erect the monument in his home country.
“Our main task is to re-erect the monument in Kutaisi. We will definitely do this when we get to power,” he said, RIA-Novosti reported.
The Georgian opposition has questioned the rationale behind the destruction. Dato Zurabishvili, a leader of the Republican party, said Saakashvili had disliked the concrete and bronze monument, built by Georgian artist Merab Berdzenishvili in the 1980s, and probably had ordered it destroyed on a whim. “He is like an Arab sheikh. If he dislikes something, he just gives it the thumbs down,” he told The Moscow Times.
But Giorgi Kandelaki, deputy head of the Georgian parliament’s International Affairs Committee and a close ally of Saakashvili, said Russia was “creating a hysteria aimed at the recreation of a dominant empire.”
He said the monument had blocked the construction of the new parliament building and grieved Georgians because it glorified the Soviet Army.
“The parliament will move in 2012, and the chosen area left no choice but to do away with the monument,” he said by telephone from Tbilisi.
Tbilisi has little tolerance for monuments that glorify the Soviet Union, Kandelaki said. “While we do respect Georgian veterans who fought in the war, we do not respect the Soviet Army,” he said.
He added that Tbilisi would not destroy random war monuments, many of which commemorate fallen soldiers and not the Soviet Army. “We are not monument vandals,” he said.