Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Ryazan Officials have Money for Monuments to Oppressors but None for Memorials to Their Victims

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 3 – Despite clearly expressed opposition by the people of Ryazan, the powers that be in that central Russian city have had no difficulty in approving and finding money for monuments to those who have oppressed the people; and despite public support for a memorial to the victims of such oppressors, the city claims it has no money available.

            There are many situations which demonstrate that the authorities at all levels of government are responsive to those above them but not to the people they supposedly represent, but few are clearer than the situation involving decisions about monuments in Ryazan, MBK’sYekaterina Vulikh says (mbk-news.appspot.com/region/stydno-i-bolno-za-ryazan/).

            For 20 years, Ryazan residents have been pushing to establish a monument to the victims of political repression, but they have always been told that there is no money in the city’s budget to do so. But last year, the city financed a statue to Cheka founder Feliks Dzherinsky and began construction of a monument to the Russian Guard.

            Last month, facing an angry population, the mayor staged an online poll about the latter and claimed a majority of those taking part had approved the idea (admrzn.ru/informatsionnye-razdely/novosti/2019/:33908). But an activist did a recount and found that 185 people opposed the monument and only 140 backed it (vk.com/wall-168045239_12089).

            One of the organizers of the “no” vote was Irina Kusova, a historian at the Ryazan Kremlin museum.  She said that if the monument to the Russian Guard should appear, this would be a source of shame for the city, especially coming on the heels of the statue of the founder of the Soviet secret police. 

And so in this small way, Vulikh shows, the efforts of Putin era officials to use the trappings of democracy to legitimize what they do have again backfired, forcing them to scramble and dissemble in order to claim support from below when in fact they only have orders from above.

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