Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, April 10, 2022

World War One Remembered at Moscow's Victory Park

Aerial View of Moscow's Victory Park

One of the main sights in the west of Moscow is Victory Park (Park Pobedy) which is located on what is known as Poklonnaya Gora (Submission Hill) as historically this was where guests coming to Moscow from the West were expected to bow down (poklonit'sya) and pay homage. It was also where Napoleon waited in vain to be handed control of the Kremlin by the Russians after capturing the city. Although the park is in honor of the Soviet victory in the Second World War, it was only officially founded in 1995. On the periphery of the park is the 19th-century victory arch celebrating the victory over Napoleon, which was relocated to its  current location between 1966 and 1968. Features within the park grounds include a WWII victory monument consisting of a 141.8-meter-tall obelisk (ten cm for each day of the war), a museum with an open-air exhibit of military equipment, and St. George's Church, completed in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. In 2005, a monument honoring the coalition of Allies that won the war was added. It includes a most impressive sculpture of a resolute American GI.

The Russian Soldier Honored

Initially, the park did not include any remembrance of the sacrifices of the nation in the First World War. The Communists who led Russia  for three-quarters of a century did all they could to bury any memories of the Great War. However, during Vladimir Putin's dominance of Russian politics, a more nationalistic interpretation of Russia's war experience has evolved, so—in 2013—the decision was reached to add a World War I memorial at Victory Park and open a national museum of the Great War outside of St. Petersburg at Pushkin (formerly Tsarskoe Selo [the Tsar's Village]).

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The Victory Park "Heroes of the First World War"  monument was unveiled on 1 August 2014, the 100th anniversary of Russia's entry into the war. President Putin shared in his dedication speech the new and somewhat revisionist nationalist interpretation of the war that surprised historians around the world. Similar to his recent discussion of Ukrainian history, it brought to mind Senator Moynihan's comment that a man may be entitled to his own opinion but is not entitled to his own facts. Excerpts from the speech and commentary on them can be found HERE.

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In any case, however, the park's Great War monument is grand and dramatic. It was designed and constructed under a year let by a design team that included sculptors A. Kovalchuk, P. Lyubimov, and V. Yusupov, and architects M. Korsi and S. Shlenkina. It includes  a column with a single Russian soldier alongside a massive two-sided group sculpture. On one side before a Russian flag, massed infantry is attacking; on the other side, it's Russian cavalry charging.

Sources:; the International Centre for Defence and Security


  1. Thank you for sharing this account. Russian memories of WWI tend to be overshadowed by the revolution.

  2. Once again, the Russians seem to emphasize the "glory" of war, and neglect the reality.

  3. Dear 'Anonymous'.
    I dare say it is not the emphasis of the glory of war but the glory of Russia. Those of us in the West are ignorant of Russian history and really don't understand Russia. The old sobriquet, "know thy enemy", is very appropriate, especially today. Also it can be said, Russia doesn't know the West-especially the US. This misunderstanding has led us where we are today.
    Мир через понимание