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Moscow To Unveil Rare Post-Soviet Lenin, Stalin Memorials


The new Lenin and Stalin sculptures will be added to the recently opened Alley Of Rulers in Moscow. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Russia's capital is set to unveil a series of bronze busts of Soviet leaders, including rare post-Soviet Russian memorials to Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin.

The seven sculptures will be added to the recently opened Alley Of Rulers composition with its 33 pre-revolutionary leaders in a square near the Military Uniform Museum.

The memorials are due to be introduced at a ceremony on September 22 attended by Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and lawmakers, including flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Established in May under the aegis of the Russian Military History Society, the Alley of Rulers already houses busts of Russian rulers from the Rurik Dynasty through Aleksandr Kerensky, a leading figure between Tsar Nicholas II's abdication in February 1917 and the Bolshevik Revolution months later.

There are still many Soviet-era statues standing all over Russia, but new ones are pretty rare. (file photo)
There are still many Soviet-era statues standing all over Russia, but new ones are pretty rare. (file photo)

The new busts include all the Soviet Union's major leaders, including Lenin, who led the Bolshevik Revolution almost exactly 100 years ago and who remains embalmed in a mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square. The upcoming centenary has been largely ignored by President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin, although the organizers have cast the new Lenin memorial as a first for modern Russia.

"The memorial to Lenin will be the first one established in the post-Soviet period," Vladislav Kononov, executive director of the Russian Military History Society, told the TASS news agency on September 12.

But, in fact, while it appears rare, this won't be Russia's first post-Soviet memorial to Lenin. One was added in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan in 2011, for instance.

Stalin Statue

There will also be a likeness of Stalin, whose negative ratings among Russians are down under Putin amid what critics say is a concerted official effort to rehabilitate the Soviet tyrant who presided over a brutal system of political persecution, man-made famine, and ruthlessly enforced collectivization.

Nikita Khrushchev, who came to power after the infighting that followed Stalin's death and led a campaign of "de-Stalinization," will also be depicted, as will his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, whose 18-year tenure is primarily associated with political stagnation.

There will also be busts commemorating the brief tenures of Konstantin Chernenko and longtime KGB chief Yury Andropov, who followed Brezhnev.

Gorbachev Also Commemorated

The Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who remains president of his Gorbachev Foundation think tank, will also be commemorated.

Gorbachev is lionized in the West as a bold visionary who fought to end the Cold War. But his legacy is seen as more mixed in Russia, where his liberalizing reforms are seen as having contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union, an event that Putin has lamented as the "greatest geopolitical tragedy" of the 20th century.

Gorbachev recently published memoirs titled I Remain An Optimist, in which he writes how he fought to keep the Soviet Union together, but suggests that it was badly in need of reform.

The bronze busts have been made by controversial sculptor Zurab Tsereteli (file photo)
The bronze busts have been made by controversial sculptor Zurab Tsereteli (file photo)

The Russian Military History Society has delayed its plan to unveil an eighth bust, of the late Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first president, who handed over power to then-Prime Minister Putin at the end of 1999. The society's press service told RFE/RL that the postponement was a result of a request by Yeltsin's family to unveil that bust on his birthday, February 1.

The series of bronze busts are the work of Zurab Tsereteli, a Georgian-Russian sculptor whose statues and monuments proliferated on the streets of Moscow -- sometimes amid controversy -- particularly under the helm of former Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Tsereteli, who is also the longtime president of the Russian Academy of Arts, is also due to attend the opening ceremony.

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