Source: President of Russia – The Kremlin – English
Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko AlexanderPresident of Belarus laid flowers on the pedestal of the statue and honoured with a minute of silence the memory of soldiers who died in the battles near Rzhev in 1942–1943.
The initiative to build the memorial came from Great Patriotic War veterans. In 2017, they wrote to the Committee of the Union State of Russia and Belarus and to scouts of the Russian Military Historical Society (RMHS) asking them to perpetuate the memory of their wartime comrades on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory.
Sculptor Andrei Korobtsov and architect Konstantin Fomin won the contract following an open international competition for best architectural and artistic design for the project. It involved a 25-metere bronze statue of a Soviet soldier to be installed in the centre of the memorial complex standing on a ten-metre high mound. A wide road leads to the mound, with broken walls on both sides carrying documentary images of Red Army soldiers and commanders and thousands of names of the servicemen who perished near Rzhev.
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Remarks at the unveiling of the Rzhev Memorial to the Soviet Soldier
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Dear veterans, Mr Lukashenko, friends.
Today we are paying tribute to everybody who fought here, on the battlefields near Rzhev, who selflessly defended our Fatherland and gave their lives for the Great Victory.
Not so long ago, the battles near Rzhev were hardly ever mentioned in official history sources. Direct participants only offered few scarce words about those events. It was too hard to remember that terrible Rzhev Meat Grinder, as it is sometimes called. Fierce, exhausting and agonised fighting continued in this area for months. Soldiers fought for every single grove, elevation, for every square metre of land.
It is impossible to think about the Red Army’s losses in those battles without pain. More than 1.3 million people were killed, injured or went missing. It is a horrifying, unthinkable number.
The significance of that long and bloody battle for the Victory of the Soviet people over Nazism is huge. The Soviet Army finally made it clear that the enemy will not be able to turn around and advance the attack on Moscow again; nor will it be able to break and subjugate the people who stood up for their Motherland’s defence. Every time a soldier fell, another one rose up behind him. The unbelievable intensity of that battle exhausted the enemy, crushed and slowly destroyed the giant military machine of the Third Reich.
Step by step, day after day, the battles near Rzhev brought closer the triumphant outcome of the Battle of Stalingrad and the long-awaited breaking of the Leningrad Siege, the liberation of Byelorussia, Ukraine and Baltic countries – and the final and critical change in the course of the entire Second World War.
We will always remember the high price the Soviet people paid for the Victory, the brunt borne and repelled by the Red Army where representatives of all Soviet republics and ethnicities fought side by side. More than 8.5 million Red Army soldiers never returned home; they perished in battle, in captivity or died in hospitals – and this statistic is not yet final.
To be continued.