Russia II: The Red Square Part 1

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The Red Square in Moscow holds so much for the Russian History lover (aka ME!) that I cannot complete my raving within a post. Please excuse my inability to practise an economy of words and hence allow me to indulge in this recount, with no intention to spread political/ideological/whatsoever agenda.

Soviet architecture has gone through various phases and war – some treasures demolished with the passing of the tsarist era, then the communist era, and some preserved fortunately. On the far North of the Red Square stands the State Historical Museum (I’m not entirely sure but was this originally built in the Naryshkin Baroque style and later neo-Russian?), which quite literally explained, holds vastly the history of Russia. The museum has gone through a vast restoration beyond the original gaudy murals and today, looks like this:

My focus here is a Soviet statue of Marshal Zhukov outside the State Historical Museum. Zhukov rose to prominence some time around the Soviet-Japanese Border Wars of 1939 and was later the leader to defend Moscow against Germany in 1941. Zhukov stands as one of the most respectable generals of Russia’s war period, and a magnificent statue stands outside the state museum, as such:

I couldn’t quite explain how I might be moved by the mere sight of this, but it might be a result of my favouritism for Russian history. Zhukov’s involvement in building his nation included most definitely the Patriotic War, Battle of Kiev, Battle of Smolensk, breaking the siege of Leningrad, seeing to the surrender in Berlin and further in his contributions in the post-Stalin era of politics. One might also recall Dwight Eisenhower’s praises of Zhukov and how his decisiveness and strategic thinking was a lead in breaking WWII’s misery. One might also be aware that Zhukov gained much awards and decorations, one of which as a four-time award as the Hero of Soviet Union. With great stature, the statue of Zhukov that reminds of his role in bringing to closure WWII:

One final view, the State Historical Museum:

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questionable past or present?

This is purely a page-long rant derived from an observation that has occurred in history and now applicable to daily life. Allow me to indulge in a purely social-historical analysis beyond politics, nation and preferences.

Oct 23 1941 marked the day of Zhukov assuming command of the Red Army to stop German advance into the heart of Russia. Zhukov’s capabilities were proven with multiple engagements throughout war era. Having empowered Zhukov during the war, Stalin later saw him as a threat and decided to place him in less prominent roles – a sign of Stalin’s insecurity of public comparisons that may undermine his status.

Oct 31 1961, Stalin’s body was removed from Lenin’s mausoleum, five years after Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s cult of personality, having disregarded the wise choice of Zhukov’s appointment & the hard-won victory in WWII.

I do not pretend to comprehend all the brutalities of the era, but I did notice two stark issues in the above.

– Zhukov’s dismissal in importance was due largely to his capability – deemed as a threat to personal power, Zhukov’s value was undermined. Do we get punished for being capable? A recent debate on the rise of Khrushchev appeared to derive the same conclusion: the strongest link and the weakest link are often noticed and removed – as a threat or a burden. An unfortunate practice that prevails in life…

– Stalin was removed from the mausoleum following the period of destalinszation. Look at the power of words, how impressionable and forgetful the world might be. I recalled a news-cast I’d seen in 2008 fromRussiaon how Stalin remains a hero for the new generation. Interesting how people forget in 1956 the works of Stalin, and in recent years forget the brutality they had once denounced.

 

I have a strong stance and argument for Stalin’s case justifying or countering his moves, of which needs no discussion here, but I am nonetheless amused by how things have turned out.

Zhukov’s contributions are way beyond the imaginable – a soldier aligned with national goals. Stalin’s decisions are similarly in consideration of national success against external threat. Yet both have been sidelined after they have proven their worth.

As negativity is more prevalent than the positive, I question if this is truly a universal norm that has yet to be amended.