'It is a monument not only to the dead, but also to the living'

What is the long-suffering memorial to the “Afghans” in Kazan like?

One of the central events of the celebration of Day of Russia in Kazan was be the grand opening of a new monument to the soldiers-internationalists in the Victory Park. It was opened by Rustam Minnikhanov, by veterans-“afghans” from various regions of Russia and from abroad also attended the event. Realnoe Vremya found out that some of the heroes of the monument had prototypes, and the monument itself was cast in the shortest possible time near Smolensk. The costs of the monument have also become known. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

The monument cost almost 22 million rubles

The opening ceremony of the monument to the soldiers-internationalists started on June 12 at 11 a.m. in the Kazan Victory Park. The head of the press service of the President of Tatarstan, Lilia Galimova, at her traditional briefing announced this event as one of the landmark events of the celebration of Day of Russia in Kazan.

She reminded that a few years ago, the veterans of military operations appealed to the president of Tatarstan with the request for the reconstruction of the monument to the soldiers-internationalists, which was previously located on Dekabristov Street near the Tatmedia building. The sketch was developed in close contact with veterans of the war in Afghanistan. The Coordinating Council of War Veterans held a public competition for the best model of the monument.

“After analysing the situation, it was decided that the monument should be adequately represented in the whole ensemble of monuments in the Victory Park, that it should be given more space both in terms of the structure itself and space. It was decided that the monument would be installed in the Victory Park," Galimova recalled.

As reported to Realnoe Vremya in the press service of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan, the monument represents the figures of three fighters at the stone wall. The height of the composition is 4,6 metres, width — 6,2 metres. The monument is made of bronze and granite stone, the bronze part was cast in Smolensk. The total cost of the monument is 21 million 849 thousand rubles. The work was financed from the budget of the Republic of Tatarstan. The author of the monument is sculptor, member of the Union of Artists of Russia and Tatarstan Alexander Kislov. This is not the first work of Kislov in Kazan. It is his hand that created the metal tree on the facade of the Palace of Farmers. And also, for example, the bas-relief in the Victory Park memorial complex and the monument to the Soviet aircraft designer Andrey Tupolev.

“We consider it right to open such a monument on Day of Russia”

The memorial is a sculptural group consisting of three soldiers who returned from a combat mission. It includes the reconstructed monument 'The Wind of War' from Dekabristov Street and a memorial gallery of 22 granite slabs with the names of fallen soldiers-internationalists, our countrymen.

“We have been waiting for this event for a very long time," Yevgeny Kabysh, the chairman of the board of the Tatar Republican Public Organization for War Invalids in Afghanistan, told Realnoe Vremya.

“The first monument, which was made under Kamil Shamilevich (Iskhakov, ex-mayor of Kazan — editor's note) on Dekabristov Street, was well conceived, but was not fully completed. Its author Asiya Minnullina and we had always understood that something is unfinished and needs to be improved. In this regard, we sent a collective letter to the president of Tatarstan and asked that a new competition be announced, and a monument be erected in Victory Park. He supported the initiative and offered a choice of three locations.

According to Kabysh, nine projects took part in the public competition for the best model of the monument. The project of sculptor Alexander Kislov won.

“We initially decided: how long can we grieve? Let's make it a monument not only to the dead, but also to the living, who fulfilled their duty with honour. As a result, it turned out that all three heroes, cast in bronze, stand with their heads held high — the commander, the radio operator and the machine gunner. At first there were two of them, but we decided to add a third," he said. By the way, the heroes of the commander and the machine gunner have living prototypes, but their names remain secret.

As Kabysh reported, the granite slabs are engraved with the names of 282 Tatarstan citizens who died in Afghanistan.

“There are different data on the dead. We decided to include only those called up from the republic in the list. Otherwise, all these calculations can continue indefinitely," he explained.

It would seem more logical to open the monument on the anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan — February 15. But Kabysh explained: it's too cold at this time. And on May 9, the event would simply be lost among the many events dedicated to Victory Day.

“And we chose June 12, Day of Russia — an All-Russian holiday, day off. We consider it right to open such a monument on Day of Russia. This is an all-Russian event," the veteran says.

Moreover, according to the source of the publication, guests from other regions of the country and Kazakhstan also attended the opening. Lieutenant General Ruslan Aushev, a combatant in Afghanistan and Hero of the Soviet Union, was also present.

Kabysh stressed that in the implementation of the project, everyone acted in one bundle — the office of the President of Tatarstan, Government of the Republic, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan, and the designers.

“Many thanks to the president, who by his strong-willed decision said: “Let's do it.” In this case, the Afghan community was very strongly consulted, listened to all comments — for example, in the original project, the radio operator held a machine gun incorrectly. As a result, we were very satisfied with the final result. And when they built a platform around the monument, there was a sense of accomplishment — there is a lot of space here, and this is a passable, popular place," Kabysh says.

“It was just a titanic work that has been done”

As sculptor Alexander Kislov told Realnoe Vremya, the monument was brought from Smolensk in February. It was there that the bronze monument was cast in the foundries — in just two and a half months! Such a short time was due to that the monument was originally planned to open on February 15, but the coordinating council still moved the ceremony.

“So it turned out that it was necessary to cast the monument urgently. I had to go to Smolensk. But in two and a half months, we managed to do just a titanic job. If not for the tight deadlines, the work could have been carried out here, we have a foundry," the sculptor said. According to our interlocutor, the monument is installed securely, on stilts driven to a depth of 30 metres.

Kislov claims that everything conceived in the project was put into practice:

“Many times we discussed the concept and the main idea. There were projects that made us want to cry, like in a cemetery. Here it was necessary to capture the moment of the tragedy of the Afghan war and, at the same time, avoid despondency. We don't seem to be the winners, but no one has beaten us either. We defended the distant borders of our Homeland. So we managed to implement everything. Most of all, we wanted to reflect — and it more or less worked — the unbroken spirit of our soldier.”

A whole new park has been organised around the monument, as the sculptor says. And the dominant point of this place is the monument. So it turned out to be “very successful” to organise it on the ground.

Long-suffering monument

Until 2018, the monument to the internationalist soldiers was located at the intersection of Dekabristov and Sibgat Khakim Streets. The composition was created by sculptor Asiya Minnullina in 1998. Twenty years later, the monument was dismantled and a square was built in its place for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. After that, the monument was transferred to the responsible storage of the organisation that carried out the dismantling.

Moreover, the “football” square was not to blame for the dismantling — this was due to that the veterans asked Minnikhanov to supplement the monument and allow it to be moved to Victory Park. “The monument to the internationalist-soldiers located in Kazan on Dekabristov Street today no longer takes into account the aspirations of veterans who took part in military operations in other countries and on the territory of the Russian Federation, and requires additions," the appeal said.

Shortly before that, on 20 February, 2018, Tatarstan Military Commissar Sergey Pogodin said at a press conference that the new monument in Victory Park would be erected to mark the 30th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan — February 15, 2019. He described the new monument as “a monument to Afghan soldiers, internationalist soldiers, soldiers who performed their military duty in the North Caucasus”. But by this time, the monument in Victory Park did not appear. Then the Ministry of Culture of Tatarstan reported that the sketch was not approved by representatives of public organisations of war veterans “due to the divergence of opinions about the image of the composition that exists between members of organisations”.

By Kristina Ivanova

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