The Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park is one of the three Soviet monuments in Berlin dedicated to the soldiers of the Red Army who fell over the course of the “Great Patriotic War,” particularly during the final battle for the city. The Soviet War Monument at Treptower Park was unveiled but a few months before the founding of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949 and is characteristic of the Socialist Realist style predominant in the Soviet Union at the time. It is, in fact, the largest Soviet War Memorial outside of the Soviet Union. Other such monuments can be found outside of the former Eastern Bloc in Vienna and (West) Berlin, all of which were erected shortly after the aforementioned cities were taken over by the Red Army. (The construction of the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten, for example, was completed within months after the fall of the city. The monument was in fact unveiled so prematurely that, after the city was divided in occupation zones, it found itself outside of the Soviet zone.) The Memorial at Treptower Park was the central Soviet War Memorial in Berlin, though the one in Tiergarten was the first to be unveiled. The other monument in (East) Berlin is in the Pankow district and was also unveiled in 1949. All three monuments display the characteristic bombastic heroization and Communist kitsch (as defined by Milan Kundera) of Stalinist memorials and buildings.

The light drizzle and overcast skies of a cold November morning added to the solemnity of the place. A stone arc greets the visitor. A long avenue lined with trees leads to two stylized Soviet flags made of red granite, each guarded by a kneeling soldier. The visitor then walks along sixteen sarcophagi with engraved reliefs and quotes by one of the worst tyrants of the 20th century, Joseph Stalin. Each sarcophagus represents a Soviet Republic (After 1956 one of them, the Karelo-Finnish SSR, was dissolved). A 12 meter sculpture of a Soviet soldier holding a large sword and carrying a German child on top of a broken swastika stands tall as the centerpiece of the memorial.

The monument is definitely worth a visit. To me, the most remarkable thing about visiting such monuments is always the lingering feeling of, for lack of a better word, temporariness: The monument commemorates the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany and is in the former German Democratic Republic. None of those states exist anymore.

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