Statue Controversy: RPA spokesman describes Mikoyan as world-historical figure

Ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov described Anastas Mikoyan, a controversial Soviet leader of Armenian descent, as a “world-historical figure”, when asked to comment on the intention of Yerevan authorities to erect a monument to one of the closest associates of Joseph Stalin.

The decision taken by Yerevan’s Council of Elders on April 30 to pay tribute to the memory of Mikoyan (1895-1978), a long-serving Soviet statesman who, according to many historians, played a role in Stalin’s Great Purge, sparked a controversy in Armenia as a number of leading civil society members expressed their view that a person who personally oversaw mass arrests and executions of thousands of people in Soviet Armenia could not have a statue in the Armenian capital.

The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) added its voice of condemnation earlier this week, describing the decision of the Council of Elders as “blasphemy” and demanding that it should be reconsidered.

Answering a media question following the RPA executive body’s meeting late on Thursday, Sharmazanov, a historian by training, quoted prominent French political and military leader Charles de Gaulle as calling Mikoyan a “historical figure of global scale”.

“You can count on fingers historical figures whose biographies would not be controversial,” the RPA spokesman said. “I myself am the biggest advocate of independence and independent Armenia, but I do not accept nihilism. One should not reject everything and say that everything [in the Soviet period] was bad,” said Sharmazanov.

Sharmazanov, who hails from Alaverdi, the birthplace of Mikoyan, stressed that Mikoyan played a decisive role in saving the world from the Third World War during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. He said that in his native town he often goes to the monument to Anastas Mikoyan and his younger brother, prominent Soviet aircraft designer, who designed many of the famous MiG military aircraft, to lay flowers there.