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Protests Promised As Uzbeks Remove Soviet War Memorial, Demolish Church

The Monument to the Soviet Soldier (seen here in file photo) was dismantled in Tashkent on November 22.
The Monument to the Soviet Soldier (seen here in file photo) was dismantled in Tashkent on November 22.
PRAGUE -- The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi says it will demonstrate against the removal of a Soviet war memorial from Uzbek capital, Tashkent, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Nashi said in an official statement that it will demand that the Uzbek government formally apologize and return the Defender of the Motherland monument to the center of Tashkent, where it stood for more than 35 years.

On November 21-22, all monuments that formed part of the 1973 Park of Military Glory in Tashkent -- including the monument to Soviet soldiers and samples of Soviet planes, rockets, tanks and cannons -- were removed.

An Uzbek Defense Ministry official said the weapons in the park did not represent a modern reading of Uzbek history and contradicted the exhibition in the Uzbek Armed Forces Museum located nearby.

Nashi leader Nikita Borovikov told RFE/RL that this move represents an attempt by Uzbekistan to rewrite the history of the Soviet victory over fascism during World War II in order to please its "new political allies."

Borovikov said that Nashi does not intend to interfere with Uzbekistan's policy of evaluating the Soviet past but this decision was wrong and symbols of the Soviet victory in World War II should not be removed.

Borovikov refused to comment on his earlier comment about Nashi holding a rally in Tashkent.

He said Nashi has already started to "express disapproval" in Moscow.

On November 24, a Nashi member held a one-man protest outside the Uzbek Embassy in Moscow.

The removal of the Soviet war objects in central Tashkent came the same week that the Aleksandr Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church -- built in Tashkent by renowned St. Petersburg architect Aleksei Benua in 1898 -- was demolished by Uzbek officials.

Local officials said the area that was cleared, which included the cutting down of dozens of old trees in the park, will be used to build a new government administration building.

Andrei Tugushev, the head of Tashkent diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, said he regrets the demolition of the church.

Tugushev said he was limited in how much it could protest the action since the church had not been returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and was officially Uzbek state property.

The church had most recently been used as a public library and by a bank and was registered as a state historical monument.