YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has added its voice to condemnations of government plans to erect a monument in Yerevan to Anastas Mikoyan, an Armenian-born Soviet leader who played a part in Joseph Stalin’s massive purges.
In a statement released late on Tuesday, the leadership of the opposition party’s Yerevan chapter described as “blasphemy” the municipal administration’s recent decision to authorize the placement of Mikoyan’s statue in the city center.
The decision sparked an uproar from civil society members and social media users. They argue that Mikoyan personally oversaw mass arrests and executions of thousands of people in Soviet Armenia that began in 1937. They say his statue would be an affront to the memory of Armenians killed in Stalin’s Great Purge.
Many of those victims were branded “Dashnaks” by Stalin’s regime. Bolshevik Russia had banned Dashnaktsutyun and forced its leadership into exile after invading and annexing in 1920 an independent Armenian republic governed by Dashnaktsutyun.
The Dashnaktsutyun statement cited Mikoyan’s “major role” in the summary executions and “the destruction of the First Armenian Republic.” It complained that the municipal authorities did not consult with the public before announcing plans to put a statue which the party believes would seriously harm Armenia’s international reputation.
Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian insisted on May 9 that the authorities have not yet made a final decision on the statue. He said it is up to the central government to five the final green light to the controversial project. A spokesman for the Mayor’s Office likewise said on Wednesday that “the issue is now beyond our jurisdiction.”
However, Gagik Stepanian, a sculptor working for the government, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that a Yerevan foundry has already prepared a mold for the bronze statue and will cast it very soon. He said he is personally overseeing the casting process.