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The Rzhev Memorial to Soviet Soldiers

Rzhev Memorial to Soviet Soldiers

A towering new statue honoring Soviet soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World War is to be unveiled tomorrow, June 30, in the city of Rzhev in Tver Oblast by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Funded partially through public donations, the 25-meter tall bronze sculpture stands on top of a 10-meter mound and can be seen from miles away. The dramatic sculpture depicting a soldier of the Red Army standing solemnly with a gun in his hand was completed in April, but due to the current pandemic had not been officially unveiled.

“The dedication ceremony for the Rzhev Memorial is slated for 30 June,” Vladimir Medinsky, an aide to the Russian president and the chairman of the Russian Military History Society told the press. “The memorial was ready in April, but in view of the epidemiological situation we decided to avoid attracting crowds to the monument and have not unveiled the monument so far,” he added.

According to Vladimir Medinsky, although the memorial was put in a special casing and its territory was fenced off, hundreds of cars stopped by the monument on 9 May. “People brought flowers and laid them along the fence so that security guards would take them to the monument later,” he noted. “This was very touching. The memorial will be unveiled on 30 June, so feel free to come and pay respect from 1 July. This is a place of extraordinary energy,” he added.

The memorial complex commemorating soldiers of the Great Patriotic War was installed at the site of a series of fierce battles that took place near the city of Rzhev, 210 kilometers away from Moscow. These were some of the most bloodiest battles the Red Army fought, with casualties and losses as high as 2.3 million. Historians call the battles the “Rzhev Meat Grinder”.

Rzhev Memorial to Soviet Soldiers

Rendering of the memorial complex.

Rzhev Memorial to Soviet Soldiers

Actual photograph of the completed statue.

The Allies also suffered heavy loses (750,000 dead or wounded), and because of these high casualties the German forces gave up and retreated. But that can hardly be counted as a Soviet victory, because none of the sides were able to achieve their operational objectives. Rzhev’s civilian population was totally decimated. Before the war, Rzhev had more than 56,000 people. When it was liberated on 3 March 1943, there were only 150 people left, , plus 200 who fled to the surrounding rural area.

In 2007, Rzhev was bestowed the honorary status of “City of Military Glory” for the “courage, endurance and mass heroism, exhibited by defenders of the city in the struggle for the freedom and independence of the Motherland”.

Rzhev Memorial to Soviet Soldiers 

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