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 May 9, 2003 

Place of Honor: "Mother" watches over her people on Victory Day and all others

Mother Armenia has a history that includes replacing a tyrant..

On a hill overlooking Yerevan, "Mother Armenia" statue stands to symbolize peace through strength. Under her cautious gaze thousands passed today to commemorate Armenia's war dead.

During World War II some 600,000 Armenians fought with the allied forces. Half never came home. During what is here called the Great Patriotic War, 106 Armenian fighters earned the Union's highest rank, Soviet Hero. Three Armenians became Marshals and one, an Admiral.

Each May 9 the nation turns its attention to its heroes and honors them in "Victory Park".

In the huge territory of the monument (3,000 square meters) inside the 50-meter pedestal there is Mother Armenia Museum of the Ministry of Defense. The relics exhibited here tell about heroism of Armenians in WWII and Artsakhi Liberation War of 1980-90s.

"As the Armenian people already had their own war and victory, it was decided to devote one entire floor to Artsakhi Liberaion War," says deputy head of the Museum, Captain Askanaz Abrahamyan. "Our works were aimed at searching that kind of materials and today more than 5,000 valuable things are exhibited in the Museum."

There are personal belongings, weapons and documents of the heroes and walls are decorated with their portraits. There is a historical map, on which forces worked for the liberation of Shushi. The map and even Shushi's liberation had their name - Wedding in the Mountains. The map got this name after a certain event. While working on the strategy for Shushi's liberation Vazgen Sargsyan promised: "Boys, if we capture Shushi, I will marry, and perform my wedding in the church of Shushi."

Those drawn to go inside the museum find the small artifacts that personalize war. It is, though, the 23-meter "Mother" that draws them there. And she, too, has a history of triumph.

Mother Armenia stands where the stern faced Stalin once stood. More than half a century ago this hill of the monument was a large building site. Grigor Harutyunyan, the first secretary of the Armenian Communist Party's Central Committee, members of the government and the author of the project, architect Rafael Israelyan were carefully seeing to this very important construction for the Soviet country of that time.

On November 29, 1950 the statue of the "people's leader", Stalin, was unveiled and the name "monument" applied to the whole territory.

Regardless of the person it honored, the statue was a masterpiece sculpted by Sergey Merkurov.

Realizing that occupying a pedestal can be a short-term honor, Israelyan designed the pedestal to resemble an Armenian church - at least on the inside. In contrast to the cold, gloomy, right-angled shapes of the outside, inside is light and pleasing to the eye and resembles Echmiadzin's seventh-century Hripsime Church. In the years of soviet dictatorship and atheism, when churches were being destroyed everywhere, it was courageous to make a pedestal for Stalin's statue in the shape of a church.

The great architect's forecast came true years later. Stalin's statue was taken away.

"I remember it was night, they turned the lights in the city off and threw the murderer's statue down with a terrible crash," says Gennady Arakelyan, who was exiled to Siberia under Stalin.

Two soldiers died while taking down the statue, prompting a commonly heard expression: "Even turned to stone, Stalin takes people with him".

The Mother Armenia Monument by Ara Harutyunyan replaced the dictator's statue in 1967.


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Place of Honor: "Mother" watches over her people on Victory Day and all others

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Day of Remembrance

May 9 is Victory Day, when Armenia remembers its war veterans with ceremonies that include laying carnations and standing in formation near the Eternal Flame above Yerevan.



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