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The gigantic Slavín war memorial is visible from much of the city. On a hill overlooking the castle, it commemorates the city’s liberation by the Red Army in April 1945.

It is also a cemetery for 6,845 Soviet soldiers who died during the battles for the city and the surrounding region that took place in the final weeks of World War II.The scale of the memorial is impressive: the central obelisk is more than 39 metres high, and is topped by an 11-metre tall statue (by Alexander Trizuljak) of a victorious Soviet soldier carrying a flag. Around the base are inscriptions recording the Slovak cities liberated by the Red Army during its westward advance in 1944 and 1945. It was built between 1957 and 1960. For anyone unfamiliar with the monumental style of Soviet war memorials (and of much Soviet architecture) this is a good introduction.

The memorial – and Soviet liberation – carries mixed memories for Slovaks. There is genuine gratitude for the sacrifice of the Russians and other Soviet peoples who defeated the Nazis in 1945. But the Soviet-backed Communist Party takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which unseated the popular Slovak leader Alexander Dubček, undermined its popular legacy.

For visitors, the memorial’s main attribute is the panorama: its position is spectacular, with great views across the city. The area around Slavín is also a pleasant place for a walk. It is set in a wealthy district of the city, in which established villas from the Austro-Hungarian and interwar periods mix with the newer edifices of the Slovak nouveau riche; nearby are the woods of Horský Park.

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