‘Ucube’ Decapitated in Kars: ‘Monument to Humanity’ Demolition Underway

The Monument to Humanity’s two-stone figures were effectively decapitated after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the structure a “freak” (ucube, in Turkish) during a January visit to Kars.

The Monument to Humanity’s two-stone figures were effectively decapitated.

According to its sculptor, Mehmet Aksoy, he created the monument to acknowledge the pain rooted in the division between Turkey and Armenia, and to promote peace, brotherhood, and rapprochement between the two countries.

The two figures—meant to be one—stood face-to-face, with one extending a hand to the other.

The demolition began on April 26—though it had been scheduled for the 25th, while Armenians worldwide commemorated the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

In the presence of riot police, the heads of the statues were dismounted and trucked away.

Thus, a conciliatory symbol has itself become a target of intolerance—a fate Aksoy has likened to the destruction of Buddhist relics by the Taliban.

Chasing ‘ucube’ out of town

Meanwhile, in Eskisehir’s Tepebasi municipality, dozens of artists contributed their art to an exhibition titled “Ucube-Ebucu,” which opened on April 9. (“ebucu” is ucube read backward.) At the opening were Aksoy, Kars Mayor Ahmet Atac from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and former Culture Minister Ercan Karakas. The exhibition featured works that caused a stir in conservative segments. Its organizers were forced to terminate the exhibit earlier than planned, after some of the works, like a painting by Menekse Samanci, were deemed offensive for “insulting religious values.”

In the painting, Samanci depicts a mosque, its minarets replaced by the figures comprising the Monument to Humanity. Between the two figures, and over the dome of the mosque, the artist has drawn three strings holding up lights that spell “UCUBE.” According to news reports, Samanci argued her work was a criticism of those who used religion to suit their agendas, rather than an attack on Islam. Two paintings, including Samanci’s, are now subject to an investigation by Eskisehir prosecutor Erdogan Yildirim.

The mosque in Samanci’s painting is the Suleymaniye Mosque, whose architect Mimar Sinan (1490-1588) is believed to be an Armenian (or Greek, by some accounts). The replacement of the minarets with the two figures may be interpreted as a powerful statement on the use of religious rhetoric as either a unifying force or a destructive weapon.

The last days of ‘Ucube’

In a Jan. 8 visit to Kars, Erdogan fueled a debate on the future of the monument when he declared it a “freak” and “abomination,” and called for its demolition and replacement with “a beautiful park.”

The painting by Menekse Samanci.

“They have placed an abomination next to the Mausoleum of Hasan Harakani. They erected a strange thing,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

Authorities also claimed the statue lacked a zoning permit, and that it stood on a historic 16th-century military site.

In late January, the Kars Municipal Assembly decided to demolish the monument.

A week before the demolition was to begin, Bedri Baykam, a Turkish artist, and his assistant, Tugba Kurtulmus, were stabbed in the abdomen following a meeting where Baykam called for a march and protest on April 23.

Kars’s former mayor, Naif Alibeyoglu, a man who actively sought to improve ties with neighboring Armenia, commissioned the work in 2006, and almost immediately faced a backlash.

Observers have noted that the large percentage of ethnic Azeris in the city opposed the construction of the statue, which may have played a part in sealing its fate.

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).
Nanore Barsoumian

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  1. Recep Tayip Erdogan should place the original cross on top of the dome on Hagia Sofia !! The Turkish state and Erdogan have nothing else to do, their monuments are as ugly as their culture and civilization. They love to play Ottoman’s politics with Armenians!!he can send those monuments to AzerBYjan and install them in the backyard of Alioff’s presidential Palace!!

  2. There is lots of information online that one intent of that statue was “to show Armenia how peace is made” – as opposed to the genocide monument in Armenia.  

    As for Bedri Baykam, he was among those who threw eggs at Orhan Pamuk during his trials.

    So, whatever Mr. Erdogan’s owm reasons, the statue was not really one for peace anyways. It was one to teach and preach to Armenians about peace.

  3. Just another of the Turkish PLOYs… Still, now the world to see the barbaric mentality of the Turkish state… Genocides, destruction of Armenian cathedrals/churches to become Turkish museums… the Turkish Genocide of the Christian Armenian’s ancient and advanced peoples for the Turks to steal and claim all that was stolen from  the Armenians to be considered, now, as the culture of a Turkey.  Turkey reveals – repeatedly, by its own inept and foolish actions – more and more – in so many ways via all their acts of desparation, these many years, their true barbaric tendencies, their leaders still of  the  hordes from the Asian mountains – leaders still not able to join the civilized nations of the world… leaders still seeking alliances which are on again and off again… none of any consequence… none lasting and true.  Turkeys’ leaderships shall wallow in millions and millions of gallons of oils to become anywhere near to becoming honest, becoming refined, before joining with civilized nationsl.
    Victims slaughtered, some surviving.  All the world can remember, but a Turkey’s leaderships cannot remember all the crimes of the Turks for the lands upon which they today claim as their own.  Too, where the bones of the slaughtered await burials… and until they are buried a Turkey shall never be considered as a civilized nation… too, unable to be proud of their 
    any heritage – a heritage which is built upon the deaths of millions – from 19th century to today. 
    Thus the Turkish leaderships’ history, before all the world continues – and remains, for eternity!

  4. The symbolic meaning of the decapitation of the monument speaks volumes to the Turkish projection of their hatred of the other.

  5. I started my first comment with a question about where Ms. Barsoumian had gotten her information. I don’t know why that portion was removed. Did my message contain any profanity or personal insult? Was it inappropriate to ask where a professional journalist got her information? 

    Just FYI, the reason I asked that was because of a suspicion that this whole statue business is more complicated than it looks. That there are those who want to seem humanitarian who actually are not, but who want to take advantage of the situation because they don’t like the current government – for good or bad reasons.

    I do hope you will publish this comment in its entirety – including this sentence- or not at all.

  6. Armenians shouldn’t waste a second more on this statue of questionable aesthetics and intent.  It is an internal Turkish problem and Armenians have many more important things to attend to.  What we need from Turkey is much more than this symbolic gesture.  Let it come down, let a real admission of guilt take its place, and then let Armenians and Turks shake each others hands in friendship.

  7. This was in Arab news paper “famous Egyptian Al-Ahram also many Arab newspapers… translated from BBC…Search you will find 
    The sculptor said, he will do new one…

    هدم “تمثال الإنسانية” رمز الصداقة بين أرمينيا وتركيا!!!

    اليوم السابع | هدم “تمثال الإنسانية” رمز الصداقة بين أرمينيا وتركيا


    بدأت السلطات التركية فى هدم تمثال تم تشييده للتعبير عن الصداقة بين تركيا وأرمينيا، فى مدينة حدودية، بعد أن وصفه رئيس الوزراء التركى رجب طيب أردوغان بالشىء “الغريب”، فى تلميح إلى ضرورة هدمه وفقا لما ذكرته هيئة الإذاعة البريطانية. وذكرت بى بى سى أنه تم نحت التمثال فوق جبل بمدينة كارس التركية


  8. Turkey-Armenia friendship symbol being demolished…From BBC April 26,2011
    The hand was never added to the sculpture
    Continue reading the main story
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    The demolition of a huge Turkish statue devoted to reconciliation with Armenia has begun, months after the prime minister described it as a “freak”.
    The 30m-high statue – depicting two human figures facing each other – was erected on a mountain in the Turkish city of Kars, near the Armenian border.
    Local authorities commissioned it several years ago to symbolise an end to decades of enmity and suspicion.
    Artists had tried to save the statue, which could take 10 days to dismantle.
    The company carrying out the demolition has already cut down one of the figures using a crane, witnesses said.
    Rapprochement stalled
    The work, called the Statue of Humanity, was the creation of well-known Turkish artist Mehmet Aksoy.
    When finished, it would have had one figure extending a hand to the other.
    “I am really sorry, sorry on behalf of Turkey,” Anatolia news agency quoted the sculptor as saying. “They can demolish it, we will re-make it.”
    It was commissioned as a gesture of reconciliation, as Turkey and Armenia began attempts to repair relations after a century of hostility.
    But that process stalled last year and there were a number of objections to the monument.
    On a visit to Kars in January Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly described the monument as a “freak”, and an affront to a nearby 11th Century shrine.
    Critics say Mr Erdogan may have aimed his remarks at nationalists, who are strong in this part of Turkey, ahead of June’s parliamentary elections.
    Kars once had a large Armenian community, which was annihilated in 1915 as part of mass killings which Armenians and many historians call a genocide.
    Turkey rejects the term and says atrocities were committed on both sides in World War I.
    In 2009 the two countries agreed to normalise relations and, in that spirit, the former mayor of Kars commissioned the sculpture.

    Related Stories

    Refusing the hand of friendship 28 NOVEMBER 2008, EUROPE
    Armenia halts deal on Turkey ties 22 APRIL 2010, EUROPE
    How Turks and Armenians see new ties 10 OCTOBER 2009, EUROPE
    Armenian church brought back to life 19 SEPTEMBER 2010, EUROPE

    Related Internet links

    Mehmet Aksoy


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