Georgia: Impending Demolition of World War II Memorial Sparks Anger in Georgia and Russia
Georgian opposition politicians and the Russian government have condemned plans to scrap a World War II monument in Kutaisi, Georgia's second largest city.
Authorities in Tbilisi say that the damaged monument stands in the way of plans to move part of the country's parliament to Kutaisi, an effort meant to revitalize the city's political and economic life. Opposition members and cultural figures, however, argue that the demolition of the monument is disrespectful to the roughly 350,000 Georgians who died in World War II, Maestro television reported on December 16.
The opposition-friendly Rezonansi (Resonance) daily reported on December 15 that the monument would be blown up on December 21 -- a date, the newspaper added in a pointed aside, that corresponds with President Mikheil Saakashvili's birthday.
Negative reactions were similarly strong in Russia, where memories of the USSR's defeat of Nazi Germany are jealously guarded. MPs and the Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement condemning the planned demolition.
Georgia's Western-leaning government has displayed little past regard for the Soviet legacy. Tbilisi urged critics not to overreact to what it calls an urban redevelopment project.