Uzbekistan paid a heavy price for its role defending the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War. From 1941 to 1945, 1.4 million Uzbeks fought in the Red Army against Nazi Germany. Official figures put the toll at 263,005 dead and 132,670 missing in action on the Eastern Front fighting against the Nazis.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Uzbekistan, far removed from the conflict, hosted several major relocated industries vital to the war effort. Along with the factories came thousands of Russian nationals necessary to get the newly relocated industry up and running. Tashkent became a major industrial centre thanks to the war, and the demographic shift due to the influx of new workers turned Tashkent into a more cosmopolitan city.
Along with the war effort came increased suspicion by the central government of different ethnic groups across the Soviet Union. Thousands of ethnic Koreans, Tatars, and Chechens were brought to Uzbekistan via forced deportations adding further to the country’s diversity.
After the war, in cities across Uzbekistan, monuments were built honoring the Red Army soldiers who defended the USSR against the Fascist aggressors. Even in our local mahallah a simple stone monument was erected which honors by name the sons and fathers who never returned from the Eastern Front.
It wasn’t until after Uzbek independence, however, that a much more personal and emotionally moving symbol of the sacrifice was unveiled in Tashkent. The Crying Mother Monument, which was dedicated in 1999, features an eternal flame along with a statue of a crying woman. The woman, her head covered, looking toward the flame and crouched with her hands on one knee, is a strikingly powerful symbol of sacrifice. She vividly symbolizes the grief of a mother waiting for a son who will never return, as the Nation of Uzbekistan mourns the loss of so many of its sons and fathers.
In addition to the eternal flame and crying mother, the monument features two porticos with traditional carved wooden columns and brass plaques bearing inscriptions with the names of all who lost their lives or went missing in the conflict. Each subdivision of the Tashkent region has its own alcove.
The Crying Mother Monument is replicated in regional capitals across Uzbekistan. From Tashkent to Navoi, the eternal flame burns honoring the sacrifice of the thousands who died or never came home. Parallels to similar World War II monuments in nations worldwide can be drawn, nations which would take very different paths, but were once united in the same struggle.