Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Sha'ban 13, 1445 H
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Second-hand monuments


Recently, a wave of demolitions of “wrong” monuments swept across the Western world, although such posthumous punishments of historical figures are characteristic of revolutionary regimes of the 18th-20th centuries.

It turns out no, the figures obsessed with the idea of historical revenge have not disappeared. Everyone remembers the massacre of Saddam monuments, but in this case the matter is explained by foreign occupation. We see more recent examples in Eastern Europe, where a real war broke out with memorials to Soviet soldiers who died in the fight against Nazism.

Here, too, it is clear: we are talking about the historical inferiority complex of small nations that have been silent for decades, and now, under the protection of their “big brother,” they are showing their courage and determination.

A special case is Ukraine, where after 2014 the real “Lenin fall” began; paradoxically, numerous monuments to the father of Ukrainian independence, who in 1918, together with the German occupiers, created a state that had never existed before, were demolished. Only in one town did they decide to appropriately adapt Lenin to the needs of the new Ukrainian ideology: they stuck a peasant’s cap on the leader’s head, and put the tools of rural labor in his hands.

In fact, such a pragmatic attitude towards the works of sculptors is far from uncommon. This is what I would like to remind you of today. Perhaps the most famous monument, refaced due to the insolvency of the customer, was the Statue of Liberty, welcoming ships entering New York Harbor. This is a modified project by the French sculptor Frederic Bartholdi, intended for installation at the entrance to the Suez Canal. It was supposed to be the figure of a woman with a torch in her hand, the name that was supposed to be given to her was: “Light of Asia.” The Khedive of Egypt ran out of money to celebrate the opening of the great sea route; there was only enough money to build an opera house and pay Giuseppe Verdi's fee for the opera Aida.

Only the frame remained from the old project; the clothing of the new statue was more in line with European tastes. An even more cynical example of using an old blank was provided by the Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.

Having built a huge statue of Columbus, he hoped to install it on the coast of Florida for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. But this work did not interest the descendants of Columbus. And lo and behold: a few years later, a clone of the navigator rose above the center of Moscow. Since Columbus could not be tied to the center of the Russian capital in any way, a simple trick helped: instead of a hat, the sculpture was crowned with a triangular hat, some details were replaced, and Tsereteli’s new brainchild began to be called Peter the Great, the father of the Russian Empire.

Another quarter of a century passed and the relative of Peter the Great again appeared to the world in his original guise. In 2016, the island state of Puerto Rico agreed to accept the creation of a talented Georgian - the huge Columbus (he has grown considerably over the years) meets the sunrises over the Caribbean Sea.

Communist regimes turned out to be the most dynamic in overthrowing some idols and replacing them with others. In any of the communist or post-communist countries, tricks have been performed many times with the replacement of leaders. When Nikita Khrushchev came to power in the Soviet Union, he began to overthrow the authority of his predecessor Joseph Stalin. This resulted in the toppling of numerous statues of the dictator. At the entrance to the Volgodonsk canal there was a huge bronze statue of the leader, but one fine day it disappeared and on another fine day an equally huge statue of Lenin appeared in its place, and the canal itself ceased to be named after Stalin, became named after Lenin. In this regard, I recall an anecdote from those Soviet times.

The Moscow authorities demanded that the Georgians close a museum called Stalin's house in the city of Gori, where the dictator spent his childhood. The Georgians said: but why destroy a good house? Let it remain, but if the comrades from the Central Committee do not like the protrusion of Stalin’s name, let’s call it Stalin’s house after Lenin.

In North Korea they showed an example of true pragmatism in handling monuments. When a huge statue was erected after the death of their leader Kim Il Sung, the bronze leader looked menacingly into the distance. When his son Kim Jong Il died, it was decided to place the same colossal statue nearby. Now the two of them stood together to inspire the people, but for some reason the expression on their father’s face did not correspond to some new guidelines of the North Korean leadership. And then it was decided to attach a new head to the senior leader. It was covered with scaffolding for some time. And then he appeared to the world already smiling. Thus, it was signaled that the difficult period had passed, everything would be fine in the future. Take your time with the monuments so that the next generations don’t have to tear them down or change them!

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