What is the Soviet War Memorial?
The Soviet War Memorial in Tiergarten is the oldest of three memorials in Berlin erected by the Soviet Union to commemorate its soldiers who died during the Second World War.
Soviet War Memorial History
At the end of the Second World War, Germany, as the defeated nation, was physically occupied by troops from the four victorious Allied nations, America, Britain, France and Russia. The Russians were the first to enter Berlin where they clashed with ill-equipped, poorly trained Germans, many of them very young, who fought hard to defend their city. The Battle of Berlin, which took place between the 16th of April and the 2nd of May 1945, was the last gasp of German resistance prior to capitulation to the Allies. Though the Russians finally prevailed, more than 80,000 of their troops were left dead.
The Soviet War Memorial in the Tiergarten is one of three monuments built by the Russians in the city to commemorate their fallen (the other two are located in Treptower Park and Pankow). Unveiled on the 11th of November 1945, the Tiergarten memorial on Strasse des 17 Juni was the vision of architect Nikolai Sergiyevski and sculptors Lev Kerbel and Vladimir Tsigal. Like many other monuments constructed by the Russians throughout the Eastern Bloc, it has a semi-circular stoa (or covered walkway) topped by a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier flanked by two T-34 tanks and two long-range cannons used in the Battle of Berlin. Either side of the soldier are granite columns inscribed with the names of some of the fallen Soviet troops, and around 2,500 Russian soldiers are buried in the ground behind the memorial. At its centre is a long inscription, which translates as ‘Eternal glory to heroes who fell in battle with the German fascist invaders for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union. 1941–1945’.
Unlike the other Soviet war memorials in the city, this one is located in West Berlin, in what was once the British sector. At the end of the Second World War, each Ally had its own zone of occupation on German soil. Berlin sat squarely within the Russian zone, but was considered too strategically important to be assigned to just one country and was thus divided into four sectors. Relations between the Russians and the other Allies broke down irretrievably after the Russians made a play to take over the whole city by limiting the access of the other three Allies to their respective sectors of the capital. The Berlin Blockade, as it became known, took place for nearly a year between June 1948 and May 1949. The Western Allies responded by organising the so-called Berlin Airlift, in which they flew in supplies for people living in West Berlin. This tense stand-off ultimately paved the way for Germany to be permanently separated into two countries in October 1949. Throughout the ensuing Cold War, which pitched Eastern ‘communist’ principles against the Western ‘capitalist’ values, Soviet honour guards continued to watch over the memorial here in the Tiergarten.