Soviet army monument banned from returning to Warsaw square

AP News
Posted: Feb 27, 2015 10:34 AM
Soviet army monument banned from returning to Warsaw square

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Warsaw city councilors have banned a 1945 monument of Polish-Soviet World War II brotherhood in arms from being returned to its place in a city square.

The move, a reversal of their own previous decision, comes as ties between Warsaw and Moscow are strained over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The councilors voted 51-2 late Thursday to keep the massive bronze-and-stone monument, generally referred to as the "four sleeping men," in a city storeroom. It was temporarily taken there in 2011 to allow for the construction of a subway line in the area.

The councilors decided in 2011 that it would return to the Vilnius Square in the city's Praga district. But local residents protested, saying it was an unwanted remnant of the gone-by communist system and of its forced friendship with Moscow. Some councilors asked for a vote repeat, which was held Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Embassy, Valeria Perzhinskaya, told The Associated Press that the embassy is waiting to hear back from Poland's authorities in charge of wartime memorials, who they asked in December what plans they had for the monument.

Designed by Red Army artists, the monument was put up by Warsaw authorities in late 1945 to commemorate the joint struggle of Soviet and Polish troops against Nazi Germany. It also honored some 600,000 Soviet troops who fell in the struggle in Poland. A red stone pedestal was crowned with larger-than-life bronze figures of a Polish and a Soviet soldier in battle. At the base, two Polish and two Red Army soldiers stood guard, their heads hung, making the impression of being asleep and earning the monument its informal name.

After the 1989 fall of communism, many monuments to Red Army soldiers were taken down across Poland in a sign that that hated era was closed.