Yerevan Government Plans Statue to Soviet Leader

Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin (center), Anastas Mikoyan (left) and Sergo Orjonikidze pose for a photograph in Tbilisi in 1925


YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The municipal authorities in Yerevan have announced controversial plans to erect a monument to Anastas Mikoyan, an ethnic Armenian leader of the Soviet Union and close associate of Joseph Stalin.

Earlier this week the city’s municipal council allowed Mayor Taron Markarian’s office to place Mikoyan’s statue in a park in downtown Yerevan.

The municipality gave no clear explanation for the decision which is prompting growing criticism from Armenian civil society members. They point to Mikoyan’s role in the Stalin-era mass executions and imprisonments of people across the ex-USSR.

Born in a village in northern Armenia in 1895, Mikoyan joined Stalin’s Politburo in 1935 and held other senior positions in Moscow during the Soviet dictator’s long rule. He inevitably played a part in Stalin’s “great purge” resulting in the deaths of millions of people. Some historians say, though, that he advocated leniency towards some prominent members of the Communist Party.

Mikoyan was infamously dispatched to Soviet Armenia in 1937 to oversee purges among local Communists and intellectuals. In a September 1937 letter publicized after the Soviet collapse, the then chief of the NKVD, the notorious Soviet secret police, informed Stalin that Mikoyan is asking him for permission to execute an additional 700 “anti-Soviet elements.”

Hayk Demoyan, a pro-government member of Yerevan’s Council of Elders, cited this and other “controversial facts” related to Mikoyan before voting against the proposed statue. Three other members, who are affiliated with the opposition Barev Yerevan bloc, also came out against it.

But the other councilors representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) voted for the statue.

The decision was recommended beforehand by the council’s committee on culture and education on the basis of an explanatory note submitted by the municipal government. Tamara Poghosian, the committee chairwoman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the document made no reference to Mikoyan’s involvement in the Stalin-era purges.

Asked whether she herself is aware of that involvement, Poghosian said, “I’m not a historian and don’t have such information.”

“Why are we now putting a statue of a man who supported summary executions of Armenians?” asked Anahit Bakhshian, one of the Barev Yerevan councilors who voted against the monument. She said the Armenian authorities are thereby sending a wrong message to the nation.

Amatuni Virabian, the director of Armenia’s state archives, also spoke out against the statue, saying that there is ample documentary evidence of Mikoyan’s involvement in the atrocities. “I believe that those who went through 1937 must not have statues erected or streets named after them,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We must simply leave those people alone. They had no choice.”

Despite signing death lists in the 1930s and 1940s, Mikoyan supported Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s historic 1956 speech that denounced Stalin’s personality cult and atrocities. Mikoyan remained a Politburo member even after Khrushchev was deposed in 1964. He was the Soviet Union’s nominal head of state in 1964-1965.

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15 Comments

  1. Vindicated Man said:

    First and foremost, he is Armenian. Everything else is secondary to me.

  2. Hratch said:

    We’ll make anyone a hero as long as he/she is Armenian, including the Kardashians…pathetic!

  3. Hratch said:

    Did this Mikoyan character ever talk about the Genocide in his capacity. Did he even care? He played a part in the killing of millions in the Soviet Union, I don’t think the killing of 1.5 million Armenians ever bothered him. Yeah, they should have a statue of him…..inside a public toilet!

  4. Armen said:

    Why? Because he is arguably the most powerful Armenian to have ever lived. If there were more Armenians like him and his brother we as a people would be much better off.

  5. Murad said:

    forget Mikoyan now ..WE need more statues of H Shiraz …Paruyr Sevak T. Varoujan .S Tehlirian..why not Artem mikoyan , Gen Dro , Or Murad Sebastaci ….long live Armenian heroes & intellectuals…

  6. Hrant K. said:

    A positive step taken by Mikoyan was the organization of the return of hundreds of thousand Armenians back
    to the Motherland, which avoided the Armenian Republic to be annexed to another neighboring Soviet Republic,
    as was the case of the Karelo-Finnish Republic. As such, when a population count was held after the “Nerkakht”,
    the count had surpassed the 1 million minimum quota, which allowed the perseverence of the Arm Republic.
    Those who are opposing the erection of the monument, should ask themselves, they wouldn’t be an Armenian
    Republic existing nowadays, had Mikoyan not taken those measures then! And who could have dared opposing
    a tyrant-dictator then?

  7. Armen Kazaryan said:

    This is a very one sided biased article. The reason why the statue was approved (of which none is mentioned in the article) is that Anastas Mikoyan was who gave the world the MIG fighter jets, prevented the Cuban missile crisis from happening in which preventing human extinction. To name a few. So to the author maybe you should do a little research before posting a biased one sided uneducated article like the one you have written and butchered the English language in the process.

    • Hay said:

      While the rest of your points are correct, I believe you are confusing Anastas Mikoyan the statesman with his engineer brother Artem Mikoyan – the designer of the world-famous MIG jets.

  8. Tomas said:

    Regardless of his political affiliations, Anastas was a great man who climbed the pinnacle of the soviet nomenclature. His statue is well worth it in recognition of an Armenian political giant, even though we may not have agreed with his philosophy and political views.

  9. Ana Lovesbooks said:

    Ok now let us call all survivors “participants” or the purge? He was talented engineer who managed to empower Soviet Army and he survived horrible historical time. He deserves to be remembered as a talented famous Armenian.

  10. Sokimag said:

    The soviet mentality in Armenia has to disappear. I can’t understand how the corrupt municipal authorities of Yerevan can think about erecting a statue of a criminal. There has to be protests. We can’t let them put the statue of a criminal in Yerevan.

  11. Hagop D said:

    Question for all you “Bolshevism was great” Armenians. After the “talented engineers who empowered the Soviet Army” like Anastas, and his brother, and countless other Armenians who served Russia’s interests in the fields of science, electronics, physics… what did Armenia get in return, DURING SOVIET TIMES while Turkey got western Armenia and Azerbaijan got Nakhichevan and Artsakh, and who both of these combined contributed not even 1% of what Armenia did for the Soviet Union?

  12. art said:

    Who knows Hemut I, Ruben I,Levon V, Israel Onri, Kachanzuni.
    It seems not many people in Armenia. They did so much more to create and defend Armenia.
    Let’s put a statue of them instead a Soviet style murderer.

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