Statue Controversy: Polish envoy says Mikoyan was no different from Stalin

Polish Ambassador to Armenia Zdzislaw Raczynski believes that Anastas Mikoyan, to whom authorities in Yerevan plan to erect a monument in the city, was one of the functionaries of Joseph Stalin and was no different from him.

Still, Raczynski believes it is up to the residents of Yerevan to decide whether an historical figure like him deserves to be immortalized in bronze.

Last week Yerevan’s City Council refused to reconsider its decision to set up a monument to Mikoyan (1895-1978), a long-serving Soviet statesman who, according to many historians, played a significant role in Stalin’s Great Purge, despite a motion by the opposition Barev Yerevan faction and an outcry from civil society representatives.

Along with other Soviet leaders Mikoyan is also known to have put his signature to the order based on which mass executions of Polish officers were conducted by NKVD at Katyn in 1940. The total number of victims of what is known as the Katyn massacres is estimated at about 22,000. The Soviets denied the crime for decades and the issue still continues to overshadow the relations between Poland and Russia despite Moscow’s 2010 acknowledgement that Stalin and other Soviet officials, including Mikoyan, personally ordered the massacre.

Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on Monday, Ambassador Raczynski said that in Poland they did not consider Mikoyan to be any different from Stalin, Beria or other Soviet-time repressionists. He went on to observe that Mikoyan is negatively perceived both in Armenian and Polish histories.

Asked whether he discussed the matter concerning plans for a Mikoyan status in Yerevan with Armenian government officials, Raczynski said: “We never talk of that with Armenian politicians, because that’s something which has to do with Armenians and residents of Yerevan. I have said on one occasion that it is up to the residents of the Armenian capital to decide whose statue to erect in the city. As for the documents, they are known to us all.”

Last month ruling Republican Party of Armenia spokesman and deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov described Mikoyan as a “historical figure of global scale”, praising his role in averting a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

“You can count on fingers historical figures whose biographies would not be controversial,” said Sharmazanov, who is a historian by training. “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.”