“A matter for our conscience, not just for remembrance” - The Wall of Sorrow monument in Moscow

posted 13 Nov 2017, 04:36 by Website Service   [ updated 13 Nov 2017, 04:44 ]
27 October 2017

Source: HRO.org [original source: Novaya gazeta]
Pictured: Sculptor Georgy Frangulyan

A monument to the “Victims of Mass Repression” was opened on Sakharov Avenue, on 30 October 2017 at a ceremony in Moscow. The ‘Wall of Sorrow’, designed by sculptor Georgy Frangulyan, is a huge double-sided bronze relief with stylized outlines of human figures.

The monument to the “Victims of Mass Repression” was created eighteen months ago, after it won a competition for the best design.

At a press conference held a few days before the opening, reported Elena Racheva in Novaya gazeta, the deputy mayor of Moscow, Leonid Pechatnikov, stated that the cost of creating and installing the monument was 300 million roubles. This cost had been shouldered by the city’s administration. He added:

“There were those who were against the monument … and we are often asked – how do today’s authorities view what the country experienced from 1934 until the death of Stalin? This monument is the answer.”

Mikhail Fedotov chairs both the Presidential Council for Human Rights and the board of trustees of the “Foundation for the Preservation of the Memory of the Victims of Repression”. He reminded the audience that the idea of a national monument to the victims of Stalin-era repression was voiced back in Khrushchev’s time, during the “Thaw”. Now it would be opened as part of the State’s policy on commemorating those acts of political repression.

The monument has been partly financed through donations (a total of 45, 282,239 roubles), added Roman Romanov, a leading member of the Foundation and director of the State Museum of the History of the Gulag. Many, different types of people contributed. “One man said he could not give a donation, but brought a piece of bronze instead,” said Fedotov: “a woman brought a sack of copper coins.”

Elena Zhemkova, executive director of the International Memorial society, told the press conference: “We have been working for thirty years to see such a monument. Now it will be opened by the Head of State and in the name of the State. The State thereby proclaims that terror is a crime, mass murder is a crime.”

Members of the Foundation focused most of their attention on why it is important to open the monument today, so many years after the Great Terror.

Vladimir Lukin, a member of the upper house of the Federal Assembly, heads the Foundation for the Preservation of the Memory of the Victims of Repression. He called for the gaps in the nation’s memory to be filled. “There are those who think we should not stir up the bloody past,” he said. “Yet it is important that the younger generation knows what happened. As Spinoza said ‘Ignorance – is no defence.’ Ignorance gives rise to an impulse to act just as people have acted before.”

At the end of the press conference Vladimir Lukin again took the microphone. Very tense, literally weighing every word, he said that Yury Dmitriev had played a particularly important part in preserving the memory of the victims of terror. This was the Dmitriev, a person “with a very good reputation” who was now in preventative custody

“facing charges which the public finds very hard to believe. Our Foundation has authorized me to ask the media to convey our concern about this case. Of course, we do not intervene in cases now being heard in court. We consider, however, that the charges brought against Dmitriev must be re-examined. This page should be turned and it will be even better if it happens before 30 October.”

Despite the presence of journalists from most of Russia’s State-run TV stations and news agencies, not a single article or news item carried a mention of Yury Dmitriev.

Translated by Mary McAuley