Yekaterinburg War Memorial - Sad Memories of Warfare

Located in Ekaterinburg is the Yekaterinburg War Memorial, better known as the Black Tulip War Memorial. In the center of the memorial sits a soldier. He has his rifle in one hand, and his other arm rests over a raised knee. The soldier has his head bowed and he is staring intently at the ground. Etched upon his face is the emotion of complete powerlessness, horror, defeat and devastation. This strong soldier tears at your heart and evokes emotions of terror and tragedy, for lives that were taken, maimed and lost in both Afghanistan and Chechnya. The soldier was erected in 1996 after the Afghanistan and First Chechen War, and the curved black pillars that flank him, are arranged in date order, and bare the names of the soldiers lost in Afghanistan and Chechnya. The Yekaterinburg War Memorial, or Black Tulip War Memorial, stands as reminder to all those that visit Ekaterinburg, of the unnecessary loss of life and environmental damage that is suffered at the hands of war.

The war in Afghanistan was a nine year battle for the Soviet troops that served and fought in the war. This war often referred to as the Afghan-Soviet War. The first Soviet Troops were deployed in Afghanistan on 25 December 1979 and the last troops to leave Afghanistan, did so between 15 May 1988 and 2 February 1989. Finally on 15 February 1989, the Soviet Union announced that all the Soviet Troops had been evacuated out the country. But the damage had already been suffered and the withdrawal of the Soviet Troops came too late. Only 80 000 – 104 000 soldiers served in Afghanistan at one time, even though a total of 620 000 Soviet soldiers served in various companies and platoons. The Armed Forces (internal and frontier security troops) suffered a loss of 14 453 men. Army formations and units lost 13 833 soldiers, the KGB sub units lost 572, and other units lost another 48. Besides for the Soviet soldiers that were killed in battle, another 417 were either missing in action or taken prisoner, and only 119 prisoners were ever freed. And the devastation does not stop there, 469 685 soldiers were sick or wounded and 10 751 men were left permanently disabled.

The first war that erupted between Russia and Chechnya took place from 1994 to 1996. Chechnya was fighting for its independence. Official Russian statistic placed the human loss at 5 500, although the Committee of Soldier’s Mothers of Russia estimated that 14 000 lives were lost. The country’s independent military weekly reported 52 000 wounded soldiers and 3 000 soldiers were still missing in action by 2005. Between 700 and 1 000 Russian officers and soldiers were being held prisoner by the Chechens at mid January 1997. More than 100 000 Chechen lives were lost, of which most were civilians.

Looking at the statistics of these wars, we can understand the emotions displayed by the soldier at the Yekaterinburg War Museum. His emotions reflect those of soldiers, families and civilians that were powerless to their involvement in the war.


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