In a published speech, Soviet poet Andrei Voznesensky called it "a kind of horror." A Soviet artist, in a letter to a newspaper, says it is a "sham," full of "clumsy pomposity" that sums up the shortcomings of the recent past.

In the past weeks, a torrent of abuse has been hurled at an enormous monument to the Soviet victory in World War II that has been slowly rising from the ground in what once were the rolling woodlands of western Moscow, known as Poklyonni Hills.

The Moscow memorial, resembling a small airport with vast vistas of concrete, is the longest delayed of the Soviet Union's awesome collection of huge war memorials. It will also be the biggest, stretching over 300 acres of buildings and park; the most expensive, at an estimated 120 million rubles ($166 million); and now, three years from completion, the most controversial.

The debate began with the opening last month of an exhibit of the project at a Moscow exhibition hall, which has now been visited by almost 10,000 Muscovites. Pictures of the plan appeared in the press many years ago, but then the public apparently did not quite grasp the full impact of its size, particularly of the central monument, which will rise 72 meters (236 feet) and will consist of a group of figures carrying an unfurling flag, perched atop a 119-foot concrete pedestal.

Even the monument's theme -- "arise, enormous country" -- exudes what one critic calls "gigantomania."

The size of the figures appears to have been reduced somewhat since 1984, and is now down to 39 feet, but this has only made the concrete base more overwhelming. One commentator noted that a family snapshot of a veteran standing next to the monument will be a picture of a man against a background of concrete.

For a city only now coming to terms with what Soviet modernity has done to its Russian past, the victory monument promises to be another setback. It has been compared in the press to the enormous and ugly Rossiya Hotel near Red Square, or the statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, who appears as a lifeless figurine also stuck on a towering column.

The debate over the monument is another example of a new public frustration with an official culture that had become increasingly stale and rigid in the past decade.

Here, too, the criticism has focused not only on the project itself, but on the lack of public discussion earlier in its planning -- a pitch for the glasnost, or openness, that has been a theme of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership.

The monument is being built with money collected in a "voluntary" fund over the years. In 1983, Muscovites gave the proceeds from a subbotnik, or working Saturday, to the project.

It was in 1983 that the Politburo gave final approval to the project in its latest guise, but in fact it has a much longer history. A 1958 version had been shelved, and Moscow, alone among major Soviet cities that suffered during the war, has been left without a monument of its own.

No one here would dispute the need for a monument; to do that would be almost sacrilegious in a society that has enshrined World War II.

But Voznesensky and others have complained that the public has allowed the project to get away from its purpose through indifference and lack of information.

"We gave it our subbotnik, but it is all the same to us what they build, as if Moscow was not our city," said Voznesensky.

Voznesensky's comments apparently struck a chord. In the past week, at least two newspapers have carried the campaign further, printing critical comments, including those written into the visitors' book at the exhibit hall.

"The central monument is depressing to me and many other veterans," wrote Alexander Fyedorov, who signed himself as a Communist Party member since 1930, a war veteran and holder of 12 awards and 17 medals.

Others have called it "cold," "soulless," "hopelessly outdated" and a "Byzantine-Vatican conception of the Great Patriotic War."

The monument at Poklyonni Hills -- itself sacred in Russian history as the place from which Napoleon first surveyed Moscow -- has brought to the surface a mass of frustrations with the wasteful grandiosity of Soviet architecture, the neglect of public opinion, the cavalier attitudes toward history and the environment.

Moskovskaya Pravda, the city party newspaper, also jumped into the fray this week with an article that tried to strike a balance. It noted that some critics have been carried away by nostalgia for a place that was always more mythical. The famous hills were never very high, and the woodlands had long been used as a nursery for Moscow builders.

But the defense has been mild compared to the attack, which suggests that Moscow authorities also have second thoughts about the monument. Last week, a deputy chairman of the architects union said the central monument was being reconsidered. And the Moscow branch of the artists union recommended an open competition for another design.

But for the rest of the complex, it is already too late. The shell of a giant semicircular building, which will house a museum, cinemas and meeting halls devoted to the war, is half built, and the trees that once stood around it have long since been cut down.

The fact is, as many Muscovites have noted, the current debate should have been held long ago. "It would have been more serious, responsible and authoritative if Muscovites and visitors could have written down their suggestions in the book when the project was being discussed, rather than after the project had been completed and was under construction," wrote one 30-year-old man, according to Moskovskaya Pravda.