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25 July 2014

Smorgon to unveil WWI memorial on 1 August

GRODNO, 25 July (BelTA) – A commemorative meeting on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War will be held in Smorgon on 1 August, BelTA learned from Alexander Versotsky, first deputy head for the ideology, culture and youth affairs department of the Grodno Oblast Executive Committee.

Smorgon is preparing to open a big memorial to the heroes and victims of the First World War. To date most of the work on the memorial has been completed, informed the Smorgon District Executive Committee. The composition of three bronze sculptures is ready. These are the statues "Winged Genius of Soldier's Glory", "Soldiers of the First World War" and "Refugees". The works have also been completed on a chapel, a memory stone with the words addressed to the descendants.

It is expected that the commemorative meeting will be attended by chairman of the State Duma of Russia Sergei Naryshkin, Chairwoman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Valentina Matviyenko, representatives of the Permanent Committee of the Union State. Attending the meeting will be also Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Anatoly Tozik and Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Kravtsov. The meeting will be followed by a reenactment of the battle for Smorgon. It will engage about 120 people - members of the military history clubs from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. The reenactment will also feature cavalry and artillery.

On the same day the Smorgon History Museum will host an exhibition from the collections of the National History Museum of Belarus dedicated to the First World War.

The work on the memorial on the WWI frontline began in 2006 when Smorgon summed up the results of the nationwide contest for the best memorial designs. The winner was a team of sculptors directed by sculptor A. Artimovich. The project was approved in 2009. A total of Br30 billion was initially requested for the project. However, this year a decision was taken to cut the costs to Br10 billion. The project was funded from the Belarus-Russia Union State budget (Br1.8 billion), Smorgon District (more Br4 billion), and the regional budget (Br2 billion). Enterprises and organizations have also donated to the project.

The Russian-German battle line went through Smorgon in September 1915 - February 1918. The town held the field for 810 days; tens of thousands of soldiers and officers were killed. The town was practically wiped off the map. Before the war Smorgon had 16,000 inhabitants, and after the war only 150 people returned to the town.