Few thousands of workers (“reasonable number” according to the Istanbul Governor), trade union members, students and political party members could gather in the Taksim Square and celebrated the May Day yesterday. Turkish media said, a taboo has been broken since 1977. Workers also put flowers to the Taksim Republic Monument and waved red flags and banners around it.
Although the monument is a symbol of the Square but many people don’t know much things about it. Especially two secret figures of the statues: the Soviet generals. Because it was also a taboo to mention about them during the Cold War era.
Mikhail Frunze, an important leader of the October Revolution, and Kliment Voroshilov, a Marshal of the Soviet Union, are standing behind the Ataturk, Ismet Inonu and Marshal Fevzi Cakmak‘s statues. What is the reason of their presence? When the Ottoman Empire was occupied after the World War I, in 1918, the Soviet Union, ruled by Lenin, gave military aid to the Turkish National Movement against the same enemy, imperialist western countries during the Independence War. Both generals were sent by Lenin to Ankara in 1921 and they established good relations with Mustafa Kemal. They went to the battlefield, gave advises and tactics. They left the country with good wishes in 1922. General Firunze became a national hero and died in 1925 (or killed by Stalin). His comrade general Voroshilov visited Ankara in 1933 again. He defended Russia against Germany in World War II and was appointed to Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. He died in 1969. After establishing new Republic of Turkey in 1923 Ataturk started his western style reforms in many fields. He ordered to make many statues and monuments to break taboos that had existed from Ottaman times that restricted the depiction of human form, this was done in compliance with the Islamic Rules. Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica was commisioned for several monuments including the Taksim Republic Monument in Istanbul among the others in Ankara, Izmir and Samsun. Two Soviet general’s figures, who had played active role the relationship between two countries, were added into the monument by Ataturk’s order for showing appreciation to the Soviet Union in 1928.
After World War II the political winds shifted, the old friend Soviet Union, ruled by Stalin, turned to enemy. Therefore, Turkey joined to NATO during the Cold War. To talk about communism, Marxism were banned strictly. Many people were arrested, tortured, exiled or killed because of their thoughts. Of course text books didn’t mention about the Soviet aids in the Turkish Independence War. Researchers couldn’t write about the two generals in the monument. This was totally secret and forgotten until The Popular History (Populer Tarih) Magazine was brave enough to publish an article about it in 2002, 13 years later the Berlin Wall collapsed.
Today, talking about the two revolutionary Soviet generals’ statue is not a taboo anymore. But neither tourists, who take pictures of the monument, nor citizens, who wait for somebody in front of it, know them. Even the workers…
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