A Park of Peace consisting of two parts, Russian and German, was opened in the Russian city of Rzhev at the end of September. A fascist memorial cemetery is currently situated close to the place where Soviet soldiers who perished in the WWII are buried.
The city of Rzhev is a sacred place for all Russians, because Soviet soldiers shed their blood there in a battle for the motherland. That is why some people consider it immoral and blasphemous to open a German memorial cemetery in such a place.
However, the opening of the German memorial caused no protests among the population of the city, the region, public figures and politicians, otherwise the action would have been frustrated. On the contrary, construction of the cemetery went rather quietly. It was also reported that governor of the Tver region, where the city of Rzhev is situated, Vladimir Platov, censured illegal actions of Rzhev Major Alexander Kharchenko. Forty eight representatives from different public organizations also voiced their protests against the mayor’s illegal doings. It was allegedly said that a criminal case was initiated in connection with opening of both cemeteries, Russian and German. It was also said that citizens of Rzhev and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church ignored the appeals of the mayor to visit the opening ceremony. Only people from Germany and representatives of the German People’s Union were present at the ceremony. Just imagine, could this have been possible twenty years ago? People would have treated this action rather apprehensively. On the contrary, it’s currently our turn to be afraid of everything. We have to think about the reaction of the "world community" to such actions, must consider whether or not George Bush II likes it or not, if we will receive more loans, an so on. Russia’s media reported that “only fifteen people with flags made of red fabric were shivering with cold at the gates of the German cemetery” on the day of the memorial’s unveiling. A brass band performed the national anthems of Russia and Germany, and a vocal trio sang Ave Maria.
Therefore, the Rzhev mayor received all necessary support. Alexander Kharchenko was even officially supported by Sergey Yushenkov, a co-chairman of the Liberal Russia party, who was also present at the opening ceremony. The Union of Right-Wing Forces also responded to the idea of a German martial memorial opening and circulated its leaflets in the area where the memorial was opened. The leaflets were saying: “Relatives of the perished are still alive, and they certainly have the sacred right to visit the graves of their soldiers. There is a saying that a war is considered not to be ended until its last soldier is buried. If we protest against the burial of perished soldiers, it means we continue to fight the most bloody war in Russian and world history. It will be for God to destine those who many years since the war still hate our bygone enemies. Politicians should be the first to change their minds. The idea of opening the German memorial isn’t popular with majority of the population, but we should also say that the regular disconnection of water supply in Russian cities is even much more unpopular.”
In addition, do we know on which side the grandfathers of Russian deputies Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada fought? Governor of the Tver region Platov said that opening ceremony should have been organized much later. A rather maximalist opinion.
A citizen of Rzhev, chairman of the Tver Regional Union of War Veterans Yury Tyulin, once addressed the Speaker of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov. He said: “There are about 30 large burials of German soldiers in the Rzhev district. It is possible to combine them into one big burial. Why build a German memorial in the center of the city?” The letter was published in Russia’s Parlamentskaya Gazeta (Parliamentary Newspaper) on May 7, 2002.
Within six years since a site was designed for the construction of a combined German memorial cemetery, Russian veterans tried to persuade the Russian government that any combined cemeteries of Russian and German soldiers would be immoral. He suggested that a memorial to German soldiers who perished in the WWII should be built at one of the burial places already existing near Rzhev. Sergey Mironov promised to persuade the local authorities to pay attention to the demands of veterans.
Sergey Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/10/01/47862.html