A statue was recently erected in the Armenian capital of Yerevan in honor of Garegin Ter-Harutyunyan, also known as Garegin Nzhdeh. The statue is drawing controversy due to Nzhdeh’s links to Nazism.
Nzhdeh made the Armenian Legion, approximately 30,000 men, available to the Nazi command during World War II. The Armenian Legion fought the Soviets in the Crimean peninsula and in the Caucasus region. A detachment fought against the Allies in southern France as well.
Deputy Speaker of Armenian Parliament Eduard Sharmazanov called Nzhdeh “a national hero” and a “patriot” who fought for Armenian independence.
Russian Foreign Ministry official Maria Zakharova said that “everyone knows about Russia’s negative attitude toward manifestations of neo-Nazism and glorification of criminals, and this attitude is unchangeable. It is not clear to us why that monument was erected.”
It is unclear whether the Armenian Legion participated in any war atrocities, but Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter and scholar, feels that Nzhdeh and his military unit should be condemned for their role in the war alongside the Nazis.
“The fact that they built the statue is quite outrageous,” said Zuroff. “We must object to any glorification of individuals who fought with the Nazis or extended any assistance to the forces of the Third Reich.”
Zuroff claims that there is a worrying trend in Eastern Europe which rewrites history to minimalize local collaboration with the Nazis. He has also noticed a similar trend to equate the evils of the Nazis with the Soviets in order to justify alliances with the Nazis to prevent Soviet control in Europe.
“This is an unfortunate mistake and is an insult to the victims of the Nazis and all those who fought against the Nazis,” Zuroff said.