The fight against Nazism ended 75 years ago, and there have been commemorations around the world in celebration. It was a worldwide conflictof course, and we’re certainly not going to get drawn into the distasteful debate on which nation did the most, but it’s fair to say the former Soviet Union took an inordinately brutal level of casualties in the fighting. Russia is also a nation that loves its public memorials, and there are some quite exceptional examples located around the country.
New this year in the city of Rzhev, some 200km west of Moscow, is what looks to be a quite stunning memorial to those that lost them lives in the brutal fighting in the region. How brutal? To put it in perspective, the USA lost 419,400 people in all theatres of combat, including fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. The British (including Crown Colonies) lost 450,900 in all their myriad battles globally. Soviet casualties just around this town of 56,000 people are at least 400,000, and perhaps many, many more, and in just a 15 month period. It was known to the soldiers as the Rzhev Meat Grinder due to a death rate of over 25%. Of the 56,000 that lived in Rzhev before the fighting, just 150 remained when it was liberated on 3 March 1943, only 297 houses still standing from the original 5,443. After the war, two mass graves were found containing an estimated 70,000 bodies.
The new monument is part of a complex and you can read more about it further down. The coin by artist A.A. Brynza, has taken a depiction of the design for its main focus, with a doubling down on the birds in the background. We like that additional touch as the monument on its own is an awkward fit for a round coin and this helps the aesthetics a lot. The obverse face is filled with the usual, although terrific looking, bicephalous Russian eagle.
Like all Russian coins, this one is quite simple and unambitious in design, but equally well described as elegant and understated. If the coin does its job of bringing attention to this monument, it will have done its job perfectly. That it does so attractively is a bonus. It’s a 1oz sterling silver coin with a mintage of 3,000 pieces, and is available now.