Thursday, September 25

Putin's Inconvenient Memorial

Remember Russia's fury over Estonia's decision that they no longer wanted to have a Soviet-placed statue as a reminder of Soviet oppression and occupation in the middle of their Capital and moved it without asking for Russian permission?

Well it seems that Official Russian outrage does not extend to the treatment of memorials at home.

Take the Russian monument commemorating the victims of the political oppression in the USSR located in Lubyanka Square in Moscow which is the location of the former KGB Headquarters. The memorial is also referred to as the Solovetsy Stone.

Memorial [Note: an NGO] had finally won permission to establish the monument it had first petitioned for in 1987: a large chunk of grey granite from the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, site of the first large-scale camps for political prisoners after the Bolshevik Revolution. The granite had been unloaded in the little park of spruces on one side of Dzerzhinsky Square, about equidistant from the statue of Iron Felix and the Lubyanka doors. The Politburo had approved the idea of a memorial to the "thousands" of victims of the repression "of the 1930's, 1940's and early 1950's." But the inscription on the granite, as thousands of people filed past and laid down their roses or carnations, quietly insisted on two facts: that the victims could not be counted in the thousands, and that the repression did not begin in the 1930's nor end in the 1950's. "To the Memory" the inscription read "of the millions of Victims of the Totalitarian Regime." - Dismantling Utopia by Scott Shane, Pages 143-144
Life expectancy in Russia is not as long as in western countries. That might help the Russian Government scrub away memories of abuse of Government power if nobody if left around to remind people of what living in Russia used to be like. This granite block seems to be the only sort of memorial in Moscow to the millions of victims of Soviet rule. Now, the Government is preparing to hide it away by putting it into storage.
Now, the authorities want to move the Stone, ostensibly to construct an underground power station for the metro. The Stone will be put in a place with restricted public access. Temporarily. Or so the authorities say. The very idea that the paranoid FSB would allow civilian underground construction so close to its headquarters already seems suspicious. And what is to keep this temporary construction project from becoming permanent, as so often happens in Russia? What if the authorities decide that they actually prefer the new inconvenient location of the Stone and don't return this eyesore and reminder of the excesses of the organs back to its rightful place in front of their headquarters? - (Read the story and Russian News of the controversy at Robert Amsterdam "Pardon Our Appearance: We're Building an Authoritarian State")
If the stone is taken away, it very well might be the last time it is ever seen, accidentally destroyed or lost while in storage. Now maybe if they actually get around to removing the statue, there will be a protest, but probably not to the extent as was seen in Estonia. First because many of the protesters in Estonia really just wanted to put down the Estonians and didn't actually care about the meaning of the statue itself, other than as a sign of Russia's once great power over others. And second, because they probably fear how Putin's Secret Police will respond against them.
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