Anti-Communist Activists Unaware of Jakarta’s Soviet-Inspired Monuments, Historian Says

The recent rally staged in Jakarta by hard-line Islamic groups to protest a perceived growth in communist influence was extremely ironic given that many of the city’s prided iconic sites are themselves influenced by communist architecture, The New York Times has highlighted.

At the end of September, Islamic groups gathered in front of the House of Representatives building in Senayan to urge the government and parliament to take action against a perceived revival of communist ideology, following civilian raids on a few activities with alleged communist affiliation.

Ironically, the rally took place in a city inundated with communist-influenced monuments and buildings, including the Soviet-funded Gelora Bung Karno Stadium located next to where the rally was held.

“Ah, they don’t know much,” said Eko Harmanto, an Indonesian businessman and local historian quoted by the New York Times. “A lot of monuments, buildings and infrastructure were financed by the Russians, and everyone knows this, or should know it.”

Among the city landmarks with communist affiliations are the National Monument and the Welcome Monument, both inspired by Soviet architecture. Then there is also Merdeka Square in Central Jakarta, which was modeled on Red Square in Moscow and the Heroes Statue, which was designed and built in the Soviet Union.

It is believed that the Soviet influence in Jakarta was largely due to the interest of Indonesia’s first President Soekarno in Soviet-style monuments. The president, a former architect known for his inclinations to Soviet policies, wanted to use the monuments to reflect the greatness of Indonesia. “He wanted to lift the spirit of the nation,” said architect Bambang Eryudhawan.

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