May 8, 2014

Monument Controversy: Decision to set up statue of Soviet leader raises eyebrows in Yerevan

Monument Controversy: Decision to set up statue of Soviet leader raises eyebrows in Yerevan -

 

A recent decision by Yerevan’s municipality to erect a monument to Soviet-Armenian politician Anastas Mikoyan in the city has elicited mixed reactions in Armenia given the legacy of Stalin’s close associate. 

Many regard the initiative as an attempt to please Putin’s Russia, with which Armenia is currently engaged in closer integration as part of the Eurasian Economic Union establishment process. Others take the move in its stride, considering that Mikoyan was a prominent political figure who deserves to have his image immortalized in stone.

On April 30, the Yerevan Council of Elders approved the initiative on Mikoyan’s monument, with the ruling Republican Party’s faction (except one member Hayk Demoyan, director of the Genocide Institute-Museum) and the Prosperous Armenia Party voting for it. The opposition Barev Yerevan faction opposed the decision.

Mikoyan (1895-1978) was a Soviet statesman who occupied high posts under Lenin, Stalin as well as later under Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev. Many historians see his role in Stalin’s “great purge”, including in the territory of Soviet Armenia. 

The decision by the Yerevan authorities to install the monument to Mikoyan (considering that Mayor Taron Margaryan’s father, late Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan was a Soviet-era dissident) caused a debate on online social networking sites where many appeared to oppose it. Critics mainly linked Mikoyan to the execution of thousands of Armenians held as “enemies of the people” during the Stalin rule. Even noting that Mikoyan was a “good diplomat”, they do not forget to stress that he put his qualities to the service of the Soviet empire and became a symbol of Soviet values.

Specialist in culture studies Vardan Jaloyan sees the decision by Yerevan’s municipality as something consistent with the current propaganda of the Soviet Empire across former Soviet countries. According to him, propaganda through such a well-known and influential Soviet political leader as Mikoyan will give Armenians the sense of being part of that Empire.

“In this regard, I believe that the decision reflects the interests of Russia, and this is perhaps what should have happened, considering the economic and political dependence of Armenia’s elite on Russia,” Jaloyan tells ArmeniaNow.

He says that the rebirth of Soviet values is taking place in Putin’s Russia, that is, the Soviet Union is being glorified as the most powerful Russian Empire that ever existed, and the logic of the initiative connected with a Mikoyan monument in Yerevan becomes clear in this light. 

“In 1937, Mikoyan was sent to Armenia where he signed the verdicts and sentences passed by the Troika. Mikoyan was, in fact, the “executioner” on the high-profile cases like those involving writer Axel Bakunts, Sahak Ter-Gabrielyan and a number of other Soviet Armenian politicians,” says Jaloyan.

Those favoring the decision to erect a monument to Mikoyan view him as a powerful figure of his times.

Information security expert and prolific blogger Tigran Kocharyan is not an ardent proponent of the idea of a Mikoyan monument, still he says he cannot understand those who oppose the decision. 

“One should not be afraid of a monument,” Kocharyan tells ArmeniaNow. “The best variant would be erecting a monument to both Mikoyan brothers (Anastas Mikoyan’s brother Artem was a prominent aircraft designer, who designed many of the famous MiG military aircraft).”

“Mikoyan is a controversial character, but he is a persona of global significance, he was Chairman of the USSR, the founder of light industry, he stopped the Third World War (during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962). And if we look at the monuments that are there [in Yerevan] already now, we can say something negative about everyone,” Kocharyan adds.

By Sara Khojoyan

Armenianow

         
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