These are all World Wars I and II monuments and they’re all either French or Soviet. I absolutely believe that they’re the best in the world in relation to the Great War and World War II but they really may be the best anywhere in terms of style and/or scale. These are some of finest examples of human achievement of any time and anywhere.
1. The Victory Monument at Verdun, France
Between a half a million and one million soldiers died over 9 months at the battle of Verdun in France between the Germany army and the British and French armies in WWI. This was just one battle. The Victory Monument has a sculpture of Charlemagne standing atop it which is some incredible symbolism considering the Frankish Empire is often credited the most for beginning Europe’s climb out of the Dark Ages. A survivor of the battle actually carved the statue.
2. Mort-Homme ‘Skeleton Memorial’ at Verdun, France
On the bottom of the statue are the words “ils n’ont pas passe” (they did not pass). The memorial is one of the most gruesome I’ve ever seen depicting a virtual skeleton holding the flag of France in one hand and a lit torch in the other. 10,000 members of the French 36th division died in the area where the statue now stands. It’s as willful a facing of death in war as exists anywhere and a stark contrast to the Victory Monument at Verdun which memorializes the same WWI battle.
3. Mrakovica Monument Kozara National Park, Boznia and Herzegovina
Constructed in the former Yugoslavia, the Mrakovica memorial is in honor of their World War II dead. Yugoslavia, which no longer exists, was under Soviet rule at the time of its construction. It’s a marvel to me. Rising above the surrounding forest it’s like some ancient tower from an alien civilization. It truly is timeless.
4. The War Memorial at Brest, Belarus
The sculpture in the background is enormous but apparently it’s extremely important for everyone to copyright their vacation photos on Flickr. Sorry, you’ll have to Google if you want the full effect. I think it’s worth it. Just kidding, here’s a link.
This WW II memorial remembers the Belarusians who died defeating the Nazis. What strikes me most is the nudity, oddly. Both statues are shirtless and muscled celebrating the human form as archetype over the more literal depictions you might find in the West.
5. ‘The Motherland Calls’ Volgograd, Russia
It is really difficult to get your head around just how big this statue is. It stands at 305 feet tall, far bigger than the statue of Liberty. It memorializes the Russian dead at the Battle of Stalingrad during WWII where 1,150,000 Russians were killed or wounded. This is some old world feeling here and the second shot is just gorgeous. She looks like a spirit rising out of the ground. Just amazing.