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Peter I of Russia
TO YEREVAN WITH LOVE: RUSSIAN TSAR TO BE HONORED WITH DAVID OF SASUN-SIZED MONUMENT
By Suren Deheryan
By the time Russian Tsar Peter I built a city on the river Neva in 1703 and turned it into Russia's new capital naming it Petersburg, he had already been in close relations with Armenians, giving them privileges in Russia.
Three hundred years later, Yerevan is repaying his kindness.
September 13-14 were designated as days of commemoration for St. Petersburg, with a number of events, and an official delegation led by Governor of Leningrad region Valentina Matvienko.
The days of St. Petersburg were part of the program of the `Year of Russia' in Armenia. An exhibition was opened here, concerts were staged, official visits were paid and Russian-Armenian business meetings were held, which reaffirmed the three-century-old friendly ties between the Russian emperor and Armenians.
Among actions, Governor Matvienko and Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharyan agreed that a St. Petersburg center be opened in Yerevan and an Armenian center in St. Petersburg.
Most noted, however, was the confirmation of a proposal to erect a 5.5-meter (18-feet) statue of the Great Peter in front of the local government building of the Arabkir community of Yerevan.
Atop a two-to-three meter pedestal, the bronze Peter I will gaze with arms crossed toward Mt. Ararat. Top to bottom, the statue of the Russian tzar will equal that of Armenia's most famous hero, David of Sasun, which stands in front of the railway station.
`The monument will be about as high as a four-storied building,' the co-author of the project, architect Ashot Alexanyan says with excitement. `Peter, who building Petersburg created a `Window to Europe' for Russia, will be presented here on the subject of the `Gate to the South.
Besides Alexanyan, involved in the implementation of the project are also sculptor from Russia Vadim Tserkovnikov (designer of the statue) and Yerevan's chief architect Samvel Danielyan. According to the agreement, the bronze statue will be prepared and will be transferred from Russia and the Armenian side will provide the monument near the statue and see to the works on the improvement of the park area.
Alexanyan says it will take at least six months to complete the project.
Meanwhile, information about the `coming of Emperor Peter to Yerevan' recently appeared on the Internet. In particular, it aroused stormy discussions at one of the forums on the Hayastan portal (http://forum.hayastan.com/index.php?showtopic=17924&st=0) under the question:
`They want to set up a statue to Peter I in Yerevan. What the hell for?'
It seems a reasonable question, considering that Yerevan doesn't even host a comparable statue of Armenia's own Great, Tigran II.
Alexander Prokhorenko, who chairs St. Petersburg's external relations commission and arrived in Yerevan on St. Petersburg's official delegation, attempted an answer:
`A statue is a symbol and nothing more,' Prokhorenko told ArmeniaNow. `But there is certain logic here, since it was under Peter that for the first time an Armenian community was created and it actively participated in the construction of Petersburg. Thus, we can say that Peter I was one of the Russian tsars who `transplanted' Armenians in the Russian state.'
In 1701, in Moscow, Armenian national-liberation movement activist Israel Ori came to meet Peter I outlining to him his so-called `Moscow Project' of Armenia's liberation, which Peter agreed to implement after Russia's war against the Swedes. On the basis of this agreement the Russian government developed a project of establishing a buffer Armenian-Georgian united Christian state.
But in 1720, not being able to help the Armenian rebels in Artsakh and Syunik, Emperor Peter sent a delegate to encourage Armenians. A year before his death, in November 1724, the Russian emperor issued an edict about taking the Armenian people under his patronage.
According to architect Alexanyan, words of Peter that reflect his thoughts about Armenia will be placed on the monument which perhaps will explain the logic of the Russian tsar in the Armenian capital.
`There are such thoughts,' Alexanyan assures. `One simply has to gather them . . .'