After two years in Armenia, I finally got up to the Genocide Memorial.
Oh, I'd been up there before. The Memorial sits on a hill overlooking central Yerevan. The whole hill is a park, with winding paths going up and down. And since there's not a lot of park space in Yerevan, anyone who likes running or walking will get up there now and then.
But this was the first time I'd actually walked around the Memorial. And, you know, it was something.
That sounds kind of stupid, but let me explain. The Memorial was built in 1967, basically because the Armenians made a big fuss about the 50 anniversary of the genocide in 1965. In retrospect, the 1965 commemorations -- which included massive street demonstrations asking for a memorial -- were a turning point in the history of the USSR: it was the first time the Soviet center responded to nationalist demands with concession instead of suppression. There's probably a post to be written on how that was the first step on a long, slippery slope... but anyway: I've seen a lot of 1960s-era Soviet public architecture in the last few years. So my expectations were not high.
But the monument works. It's simple and it's moving. There's a big spike, which didn't do much for me, and a garden of scraggly trees planted by celebrities and politicians, which did even less. But there's also a long wall with the names of the provinces that were lost, which works in sort of the way the Vietnam memorial does in DC. And the centerpiece is a stone well with an eternal flame at the center, surrounded by tilted stone slabs. It's dark and tomblike and sad, which is the point.
If you're in Yerevan, it's well worth a visit.
There's also a museum, which was less good. But that deserves a post of its own.