Nzhdeh monument and Mother Armenia monument in same city

The monument in honor of victory in the Great Patriotic War 'Mother Armenia' in Yerevan
The monument in honor of victory in the Great Patriotic War 'Mother Armenia' in Yerevan

The debates around the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant had hardly calmed down, when another bomb was planted under the South Caucasus — a monument to the Wehrmacht General Garegin Nzhdeh. He appeared in Yerevan 60 years after the monument 'Mother Armenia', dedicated to the Soviet people's victory in the Great Patriotic War. Now these two monuments "live" in the same city, symbolizing the changes and sentiments in Armenian society.

According to Russian expert Alexander Karavaev, the Armenian policy of memory is heading towards the direction of fascism reconstruction on new foundations. "Eventually, if the gap between it and the Russian version of the Eurasian history of the 20th century becomes wider, of course it will lead to a crisis in political relations between Armenia and Russia," the expert said, commenting on the unveiling of the monument to the Nazi criminal in Yerevan.

According to the analyst, the Russian expert community in general reacted negatively to the installation of the monument to Garegin Nzhdeh: one group expressed sharp condemnation, others remained silent. "But traces remained, as they say," Karavaev noted.

As for Moscow's official reaction to the installation of the monument to the war criminal — according to the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal, this category includes all those collaborated with the Nazi regime — it was not followed by any reaction for a number of reasons, the expert explained. "Moscow is building only the canonical version of a common heritage, which would ideologically combine its allies and partners. This is a complex and contradictory matter. For example, there is still no clear evaluation of the collaborator General Vlasov's work, due to the fact that some Russian intellectuals believe that he should be fully rehabilitated as a fighter against Stalinism. At the time, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court refused to rehabilitate Vlasov and others, cancelling the verdict as part of the 'anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda'. But the rest of the sentence was upheld. That is, there is a certain ambiguity, which does not allow a fully-fledged version of the foreign common history to be built," Karavaev said.

Another version of why Russian society didn't sharply condemn the monument to the war criminal who led the Armenische Legion during the Second World War, is the absence of a Russian diaspora in Armenia. "If today a large Russian diaspora existed in Armenia, there would be more humanitarian, linguistic and human relations, therefore, this would provoke a conflict. But there are almost no Russians left in Armenia (only about ten thousand people), and a certain distance has formed, allowing these events not to be perceived acutely and for eyes to be closed to it," the expert noted.

Note that the Resolution of the UN General Assembly on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was adopted at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on Social and Humanitarian Affairs on November 21, 2014 and at the plenary session of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly on December 18.

The draft resolution was submitted to the UN by the Russian Federation. Also, more than 40 countries were co-authors of the document. 133 UN member countries, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, supported it.

The resolution expresses concern over "the spread in many parts of the world of various extremist political parties, movements and groups, as well as similar extremist ideological movements".

The text also expressed concern about "the worship" of the Nazi movement and former members of the Waffen-SS "in any form", including through the construction of monuments and memorials. It is known that in August 1942, in the midst of the Battle of Stalingrad, the German command decided to form a special military unit number 808, which was a part of the Armenische Legion. Its appearance was preceded by quite active and purposeful activity of Armenian emigrants residing in Berlin – the generals Dro, Nzhdeh and others.

The Russian delegation noted the Special Rapporteur's recommendation that all the states should prohibit both formal and informal "glorification of the Nazi regime, its allies or related organizations."

It is evident that Moscow's official policy is aimed at the harsh suppression of different ways to revise the results of Second World War. And rehabilitation of such figures as Nzhdeh just refers to such facts. "This line has been formed for more than a decade as the main historical and humanitarian stem in the integration work within the CIS and EEU. In particular, Azerbaijan actively holds and participates in all the events dedicated to the memory of the Great Patriotic War — both in the country and together with Russia. There is no glorification of the Caucasian-Muslim Legion, where some Azerbaijanis served, in modern Azerbaijan. This page is considered shameful even for fans of history of the Musavat movement. The prominent Azerbaijani politician and public leader Mammad Amin Rasulzade even left Germany in 1942, realizing that the Nazi leadership would blindly use the enemies of the Soviet authorities and military collaborators and wouldn't comply with their false promises. This is a very complicated page for all the CIS countries. Nevertheless, there are sufficiently clear characteristics which can determine with whom we are dealing — the fighters against Stalinism and Bolshevism or outspoken supporters of national-fascism," the Russian expert stressed.

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