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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sprucing Up Victory Park

MTThe new monument features soldiers in front of a 20-meter pillar crowned with the UN symbol.
The mood at Victory Park was far from festive Saturday -- a cold, rainy afternoon that made the recent burst of spring seem like a distant memory. But while shivering wedding parties dashed up to a towering obelisk to take photographs and get out of the cold as quickly as possible, construction crews and teams of gardeners worked away to ready the park for what may be the biggest delegation of world leaders it has ever seen.

"The presidents are going to be right here for the opening ceremony on May 9," said the chief engineer for the Dormost construction company, who refused to give his name, as he supervised workers from the pedestal of the park's new Monument to the Member Nations of the Anti-Hitler Coalition.

Asked which presidents he meant, he said, "All of them."

May 9 will be the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Among world leaders who have accepted an invitation from President Vladimir Putin to attend Victory Day celebrations are U.S. President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The new Victory Park monument, designed by sculptor Salavat Shcherbakov and architect Igor Voskresensky and funded by the city administration, is the most prominent addition to its collection of World War II memorials. After disputed announcements that the monument would depict Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin at their famous 1945 Yalta summit, construction began in January with none of the three in sight. The monument instead consists of the figures of four soldiers -- one Soviet, one French, one British and one American -- with hands raised in greeting. Behind them stands a 20-meter granite pillar topped by the United Nations emblem.

Work is also underway on 15 new bronze columns that line the park's main pavilion. Vladimir Malmin, who has directed military and civilian construction projects for more than 30 years, said the columns represented the 10 Soviet fronts of the war, the three Soviet naval flotillas, the partisans and the logistical services. At the base of each column, marble plaques -- which were still smooth and unmarked last weekend -- will bear the names of commanders from each group.

Elsewhere in the park, gardeners planted rows of saplings, and hundreds of newly embedded tulip bulbs poked from planters.

One Dormost worker, who gave only his first name, Volodya, paused to take in the park after installing a drainage grate near the new monument.

He acknowledged being unsure what the VIPs would make of the park's recent improvements, but said, "If you ask me, it's not too bad."

Click here to see photo essay "Preparing for the Victory March"