The Monument to the Heroes of the Russian Expeditionary Force (Le Monument du Corps expéditionnaire russe) is located in the historic center of Paris on the Place de la Canada near the Alexander III bridge and the Grand Palais.
The Russian Expeditionary Force was formed in 1916 at the request of the French Senate and government. In the spring of this year, a military contingent of 4 brigades, consisting of 40 thousand soldiers and 750 officers, was sent to Marseille and Brest. Soon, two brigades were transferred to Macedonia to the Solonik front.
Russian troops showed themselves heroically in the battles in Champagne, especially in the battles at Reims and on the Marne River. After the revolution in Russia, the expeditionary corps was disbanded, but many of its soldiers and officers continued to fight in France until victory as part of the newly created Legion of Honor (Russian Legion).
The decision to build the memorial was made in November 2009 during a visit to France by Russian Prime Minister V. Putin. As a result of the agreements reached, an international competition was announced for the best design of a monument to Russian soldiers of the First World War, the winner of which was the sculptor Vladimir Surovtsev. Under the agreement, the French side undertook to finance the installation of the monument and the improvement of the adjacent territory.
The opening ceremony of the "Memorial to the memory of the soldiers and officers of the Russian Expeditionary Force who fought as part of the allied armies in 1915-1918" took place on June 21, 2011. In the presence of the prime ministers of the two states V. Putin and F. Fillon, the march of the expeditionary corps "Kol is glorious" was performed by the choir of the Sretensky monastery.
The descendants of Russian emigrants of the early 20th century gathered for the celebration. Many of them came to the opening of the monument with photographs of soldiers and officers who participated in the battles on the Western Front of the First World War. The banners of the Russian military units were also delivered to the ceremony: the Versailles Cadet Corps and the Russian Legion of Honor. Her last chord was the performance of the march "Farewell of the Slav".
In September 2013, the memorial was desecrated by vandals. The sculptures were painted with blue and purple automobile enamels. The officer's statue was wearing a pink dress, and the horse was wearing a green blanket. The motive for the defiant act was the demand for the release of the members of the scandalous group Pussy Riot.
Memory in metal
The bronze sculptural composition created by Vladimir and Danila Surovtsev consists of statues of a young Cossack officer and a horse. The Russian warrior is depicted dressed in a summer military uniform, standing in a calm pose with a gaze directed into the distance. In his right hand is a military French headdress, but with a Russian two-headed eagle. The figure of the Don stallion is located to the left of the officer. The horse bowed its head to the spring, as if about to drink some water.
On the bronze base of the monument there is an inscription in Russian "In memory of the soldiers of the Russian expeditionary corps who fought in the fields of France in 1916-1918". The same text is repeated in French on a plate fixed to the front side of the pedestal.
The pedestal of the monument was erected according to the project of Vladimir and Oleg Syagin. The names of architects and sculptors are indicated on it on the right side. The pedestal is a low rectangular block lined with black marble slabs. Three steps of a granite staircase lead to it. On a small platform in front of the monument, a memorial tile is immured with an indication of the date of opening of the monument and the officials present at the same time.
On the back of the base of the monument, on the sides of a round wreath on marble slabs, an inscription in French and Russian is carved. Its text informs about the dispatch to France in 1916 at the request of the allies of two brigades of the Russian Expeditionary Force of 40 thousand people and about the death of more than 5 thousand soldiers on the battlefields in Champagne.
Address: Place du Canada, Paris 75008
Metro: Champs-Élysées - Clemenceau
Bus: Palais de la Decouverte