суббота, 9 мая 2009 г.

POKLONNAYA GORA


By Olga Troshina


Poklonnaya Gora, or the Hill of Respectful Salutation occupies a special place in the history of Moscow. The 19th century Moscow historian Ivan Zabelin described Poklonnaya Hill as “the most memorable place in the Russian history”, a truly sacred area. If translated literally, the word “Poklonnaya” derives from “poklon” or “bow”, a Russian gesture to pay respect to a person or object of high reverence. Poklonnaya Hill served a good stopover place for travelers and played host to foreign guests.

Nikolai Yakuba, the Head of the Exposition Department of the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, said: “Nearly every big Russian city has a Poklonnaya Hill somewhere on its outskirts. Moscow has several such places, but the most famous of them is one that was once the western suburb. This was from where travelers entered the city, and, as they approached it, they went up a hill from where they admired a magnificent view of the entire city, stretching far beyond their scope of vision and studded with sparkling gold domes of churches. The travelers went down on their knees to pray to the city before stepping into it. Since then the hill was referred to as Poklonnaya Hill.”

“From time immemorial Russians bowed to Mother Moscow from this hill,” wrote historian Ivan Zabelin. “Foreigners who happened to arrive in Moscow from the western outskirt were stunned by the view, which, they said, was one of the most breathtaking they had ever seen.”

Many glorious and tragic chapters of Russian history are connected with Poklonnaya Hill.

“This part of Moscow has the closest relation to the country’s military history,” Nikolai Yakuba, the Head of the Exposition Department of the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 goes on to say. “Many decisions crucial for our country in the years of the Great Patriotic War were passed at Joseph Stalin’s dacha nearby. Troops leaving for the fronts went via Poklonnaya Hill. It was not for nothing then that the renowned military commander in the Great Patriotic War, Marshal Georgy Zhukov, proposed that a Victory Memorial be built here, on Poklonnaya Hill.”

The necessity to commemorate the deed of Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War became clear well before the end of the war, after the Red Army won its first major victory near Moscow.

“In the year 1942 the German forces were dislodged from the Russian capital,” says Nikolai Yakuba, “and in February 1942 it was suggested that a monument be erected to pay tribute to the Soviet soldiers, who routed the Nazis. Even though three long years laid ahead until the end of the war, the first designs of the monument were readily available.”

A monument to commemorate the Victory was deemed as a necessity in the course of preparations for Moscow’s 800th birthday in 1947. Several years later the authorities took a decision to build such a monument on Poklonnaya Hill. On February 23rd 1958 they installed a granite plaque with the inscription “A monument to commemorate the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War will be erected here” and laid out a park, which they called Victory Park. Next they called a tender for the best project of the monument.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter by a group of war and labor veterans published in a Moscow newspaper: “That the Nazis suffered their first major defeat near Moscow is highly symbolic. The myth about the invincibility of Nazi Germany was allayed for good. Moscow is the heart of our Motherland. And it’s here that a majestic memorial in memory of the Great Victory should stand!”

“The entire nation participated in the construction of the monument. The project took on a nationwide dimension. There wasn’t a single family unaffected by the war – each had at least one member killed or wounded. Reminiscences of the war are still fresh in the hearts of people. People worked Saturdays for free as a form of contribution to the construction of the monument. A sum, which equaled about 320 million dollars was raised. A fairly huge sum,” says Nikolai Yakuba.

The Moscow daily newspaper “Moskovskaya Pravda” wrote: “The monument is being built by the people. Donations are coming in from all corners of the country, from thousands of people, enterprises, schools and institutes of higher education. The funds are raised through voluntary unpaid work on Saturdays, arrive from personal savings of former and present-day soldiers, war veterans and young people. For each citizen it’s a matter of moral obligation to join the campaign.”

The memorial complex on Poklonnaya Hill was completed in the mid-1990s. The inauguration ceremony took place on the 50th anniversary of Victory-in-Europe-Day, on May 9th 1995.

In the years of its existence the Victory Monument has earned widespread recognition of both Russians and foreign visitors. Here are some of the comments from the Visitors’ Book.

“I was very impressed by this visit to the Moscow Second World War Memorial. The entire complex is a tangible testament of the Russian patriotism and the Russian people’s valor. It is also a visible proof of the inhuman suffering throughout the war and a well-deserved monument to the glory of Mother Russia. It’s a memento for future generations to help them in building lasting peace and prosperity. Admiral Guido Venturoni, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.”

And the following opinion comes from a delegation of the Control Ministry of China.

“In the years of worldwide struggle against the Nazis the Soviet people suffered tremendous losses and exerted a colossal effort to approach the victory. We pay respect to the heroism of the Soviet people. The memory of those who fell in the war will live in the hearts of people forever.”

And now here’re a few lines from a letter sent by Lieutenant Grigory Tarasenko, who fought in the Battle of Stalingrad, to his son. They became prophetic…

“Years, decades will pass, the enemy graves will come out in weeds and thistle, and our free Motherland will build a huge monument to us, its defenders. Remember me as you look at it… I fought to the last of my breath to secure you the right to live a happy life.”

The War Memorial on Poklonnaya Hill has become a symbol of our victory in the fiercest of wars, a monument to the heroism of the Soviet people, which made this victory possible.

The Great Patriotic War of Soviet people against the Nazi aggressor began on June 22nd 1941 and ended on May 9th 1945. Since then May 9th has been celebrated here as Victory Day, or Great Victory Day, as people in Russia call it.

War veterans arrive on Poklonnaya Hill early in the morning to meet their former comrades-in-arms and pay their respects to the memory of those who perished in the war. On Victory Day the territory of the complex is filled with thousands of Moscow residents and visitors to the capital of all ages and walks of life.

“The impression is that the whole of Moscow rushes here at the slightest opportunity,” says Nikolai Yakuba. “On a normal workday the Complex is visited by some 2 or 3 thousand people and on days off up to 15 thousand may come. This year, on May 9th, some 700 thousand showed up to celebrate Victory Day. Traditionally, Poklonnaya Hill is a place to go for a good walk and learn more about the heroism of our forefathers.”

And now here’s an opinion from a 17-year-old Moscow student, Georgy: “I think this is the most remarkable place in Moscow. Here the taste of Victory and the core of our people are felt better than, say, on Red Square. And the Victory is something everyone should be aware of.”

The heroism of Soviet people in the war against Nazi Germany is reflected in the exposition of the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War on Poklonnaya Hill. The Museum, which opened in 1995, is the central part of the Victory Complex. It, in fact, comprises several expositions, including the War History Exposition dedicated both to pre-war years and the war itself. It also includes a set of dioramas on the major battles of the war – from the defense of Moscow in winter 1941 to the fall of Berlin in spring 1945.

The memorial section of the Museum is the Hall of Glory where there are marble slabs engraved with the names of participants of the war awarded the honorary title “Hero of the Soviet Union”. Originally there were more than 11 thousand of them, and the list is replenished all the time as archival work progresses.

“The most significant hall in our museum,” says Nikolai Yakuba, “is the Hall of Memory and Sorrow with Lev Kerbel’s “Dolorous Mother”, a remarkable work of sculptural art that will leave a deep impression on the visitor. Hanging from the ceiling are crystal-tipped bronze chains that symbolize tears for those who perished in the war. At first we wanted each chain to symbolize a human fate but that would require such a huge number of them that the Hall, though large enough, could not provide enough room. This country lost nearly 27 million people in the war, and it was impossible to portray them all in this Hall. The names of those who were killed or reported missing are in the Book of Memory. Many people come for information on relatives they never met but heard about. There is the “Electronic Book of Memory” too, which stores data on 19.5 million people killed in the war. Whenever you come, there’s always a queue here, because people at last are waking up to a greater self-consciousness with regard to their forefathers.”

“It’s wonderful that there is such a memorial, to pay tribute to the memories of heroes, both dead and living,” a woman from the Siberian city of Barnaul wrote in the Visitors’ Book. “I’ll remember my visit here to the last of my days, and I will share my admiration of it with my children and grandchildren. I’m from Siberia, and my father was killed defending Leningrad.”

The eighth grade students of one of Moscow schools wrote the following: “The Museum leaves an indelible impression in the heart of every person. We are proud for our country, our much beloved Motherland, where they honor the memories of war veterans and those who perished in the Great Patriotic War. The Museum on Poklonnaya Hill provides us with a detailed picture of the hardships of war years.”

Half a century had passed since the victorious 1945 before the exposition on Poklonnaya Hill was opened in May 1995. The museum workers put a colossal effort into collecting documentary evidence, memoirs, clothes and weapons of those days. “The collection of the museum came into existence at the beginning of the 80’s of the 20th century,” a museum guide, Alexandra Yakhontova recalls. “In spite of its relatively short existence, it includes a variety of material and documentary items. There’re about 100.000 of them. Among them are letters from the frontline, newspapers and posters of the war period, photos, examples of military uniform, weapons, personal belongings of high commanders and privates. The participants of the women’s squadrons donated their personal things to the museum.”

The exposition enriches in new items practically daily and produces a lasting impression on both our fellow countrymen and foreign visitors. A US Army General wrote in the Visitors’ Book: “My visit to your great museum has been very memorable. The sacrifice and suffering of the Russian people and the bravery of the Russian military are well preserved in this magnificent facility. I hope the spirit of the Elbe River will continue to unite our two countries.”

One of the visitors was the Ambassador of Malta to Russia, who wrote the following: “The freedoms we enjoy were only possible thanks to the heroism, bravery and courage of all those who fought against Nazism. The museum is an honor to all those who gave their lives so that we could live to build the world peace.”

Part of the War Memorial on Poklonnaya Hill is an open-air Weaponry and Fortification Exposition. It begins with specimens of German armaments advancing on the Soviet line of defense. The defense line was built by military engineers on authentic drawings, and serving a model was a strip of land where the Battle of Kursk, one of the fiercest battles of the Second World War, took place in July-August 1943.

On display in the Victory Park are an Exposition of the Navy and the Railway Forces, specimens of artillery guns and aircraft. Apart from that, the Park boasts a complete collection of armored vehicles – from light tanks of the early war years to heavy models, which fought in Berlin in 1945.

A Voice of Russia employee, Gilbert Vanigasooriya, visited the Memorial Complex on Poklonnaya Hill with a delegation of tourists from Sri Lanka. “The huge museum exposition and, especially, the War Weaponry and Fortification Exposition – I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he says. “All that reminds one of the role the Soviet Union played in defeating Nazism, of the millions lives lost in your Great Patriotic War. It’s wonderful that their memory lives on.”

A few more words about the Victory Park. Alexandra Yakhontova, the museum guide, says: “The Victory Park was laid out on Poklonnaya Hill in 1961. The complex begins with the main alley, which is called “The Years of the War”. It is reflected architecturally in the image of a long war road, which consists of five terraces, the symbols of the five years of the war – 1941-1945. Along the alley on each terrace there is a fountain, which jets strong sprays of water in the summer. At night the sprays are colored with red. The Alley is decorated with flowers and rare species of trees.”

The War Years Alley leads to the center of the complex – Square of Victors. And radiating from the square are ten alleys of the Victory Park, each of them has a name of its own, among them the Alley of Defenders of Moscow, the Alley of Memory, the alleys of soldiers, partisans, and sailors. Veterans of the Great Patriotic War traditionally meet on the Alley of Veterans.

The nearest metro station, Park Pobedy, or Victory Park, was launched into operation in May 2003 to become the 165th metro station in Moscow and the deepest one in both Moscow and Russia. The interior of the station, dedicated to the glory of Russian weaponry, abounds in panoramic panels with scenes of the 1812 Patriotic War against Napoleon and the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

The Memorial Complex on Poklonnaya Hill reflects the Great Patriotic War as the tragedy of many peoples, which is particularly relevant for Russia with its numerous nationalities and confessions. That’s why part of the Victory Park are the Orthodox Church of Great Martyr and Victory Bearer St.George, the patron of Moscow, the memorial Mosque and the Memorial Synagogue to memorize people of different religious beliefs who perished in the war against the Nazis.

A tradition that sprang up in the post-war years is that the newlyweds should lay flowers to the monuments to fallen heroes, including on Poklonnaya Hill. The question many of our listeners repeatedly ask is why there is such a tradition in this country. This explanation was provided by one of the visitors to the Victory Memorial: “People come to pay tribute to the memories of those who lost their lives on the battlefield. They know they owe it to the fallen heroes that they live, get married and come here,” said a 17-year-old Moscow student.

One of the alleys in the Victory Park is the Alley of Newlyweds. The newly married couples arrive here right after the marriage ceremony to lay floral tributes in the Hall of Memory and Sorrow and in the Hall of Glory in deep reverence to those whom they owe the peace they’re living in.

Poklonnaya Hill is one of the most favorite destinations for a good walk and a good rest and is equally admired by both Moscow residents and guests of the Russian capital. Here’re some of the opinions of Poklonnaya Hill visitors:

“This is my third visit here. The landscape is so beautiful, the flowers everywhere, the church, the architectural structures – all are just marvelous beyond description,” said Yelena, who came to Moscow from Ukraine.

Here’s an opinion from our fellow worker, Anastasia Mironova:

“I was on Poklonnaya Hill with my husband and friends. It was on the 12th of June, Russia’s Independence Day, so there were many people who came to see fireworks. It’s beautiful, with its magnificent landscapes, nice parks, and wonderful views. One day I’d like to bring my daughter there, when she grows up. I’d like to take a walk with her along the Peace Alley and to show her the fountains, which are illuminated at night. Fantastic!”

Another local wonder that greets visitors right at the entrance to Poklonnaya Hill is the world’s biggest flower clock, which has been included in the Guinness Book of Records. The clock-face is laid out from some 8000 flowers.

However, despite its present flowery image, Poklonnaya Hill is, first of all, a reminder of the fiercest and bloodiest of wars in the history of mankind, a war of annihilation, which cost the Soviet people astounding losses. “Young people who visit the Museum of the Great Patriotic War have inherited from their ancestors the resentment of war, the distaste for the inhuman suffering our country endured 60 years ago,” the Central Museum employee Nikolai Yakuba says. “The interest in this war will never dwindle in the hearts of our people. We will remember, as we remember now, the events of the Patriotic War of 1812, when Russia defeated Napoleon, and the Great Patriotic War. And we will continue to remember, centuries after, of the battles our forefathers fought and will recount them over and over.”

Source:The Voice of Russia

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