New East Digital Archive

Wall of grief: Russia gets first national memorial to victims of Soviet repression

18 August 2017

Russia’s first national memorial commemorating victims of Soviet repression is currently being erected beside Moscow’s central ring road. The Wall of Grief, created by artist Georgy Frangulyan, is a huge, curved bronze sculpture made up of faceless human figures, largely representing the millions deported, imprisoned and executed under Joseph Stalin.

Stalin’s rule from 1929—53 saw millions die as the result of deportation, famine, forced collectivisation, execution and poor conditions in prison camps.

“It was a catastrophe on a universal scale, one of the greatest human atrocities. It was impossible for me not to be affected by that,” notes artist Georgy Frangulyan, quoted by BBC News, also noting that the curved shape of the sculpture evokes the form of a scythe to stand as al symbol of a brutal machine that mowed down innocent victims. Spaces in the memorial allow viewers to step into the mass of figures, and sense the weight of the atrocity.

“It’s not normal, representative art. It’s an expression of feelings, of fear and alarm. It depicts all the lives that were scratched out ruthlessly,” Frangulyan explains.

In recent years the Russian government has increasingly portrayed Stalin as a hero, under whom the Soviet Union won victory over the Nazis — in June, for example, President Vladimir Putin himself claimed that Russia’s enemies were excessively “demonising” Stalin. Nevertheless, The Wall of Grief is part-funded by the Moscow city government and forms part of a wider programme approved by the prime minister in 2015, which contends that Russia must “immortalise the memory of the many millions of its citizens who were victims of political repression” if it is to take on a key role in the international community. Despite partial government funding and additional finance through donations, Frangulyan notes that the project has still faced a funding shortfall.

Source: BBC News