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The Undersea Soviets

  • Amos Chapple

Off the coast of Crimea, a collection of Soviet leaders lies submerged beneath the waves.


A sculpture of Vladimir Lenin caked in algae. The Alley Of Leaders, as the underwater site is called, began on August 25, 1992, when diving instructor Vladimir Borumenskiy lowered the first bust under the water.
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A sculpture of Vladimir Lenin caked in algae. The Alley Of Leaders, as the underwater site is called, began on August 25, 1992, when diving instructor Vladimir Borumenskiy lowered the first bust under the water.

A diver drifts past a bust of Josef Stalin. Andrey Nekrasov, one of the first to photograph the monuments, told RFE/RL the project began after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., when Soviet statues were being discarded and destroyed. The reviled sculptures were placed underwater "away from vandals' hands."
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A diver drifts past a bust of Josef Stalin. Andrey Nekrasov, one of the first to photograph the monuments, told RFE/RL the project began after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., when Soviet statues were being discarded and destroyed. The reviled sculptures were placed underwater "away from vandals' hands."

The monuments sit in 12-15 meters of water, around 100 meters off the coast of Cape Tarkhankut.
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The monuments sit in 12-15 meters of water, around 100 meters off the coast of Cape Tarkhankut.

Cape Tarkhankut, on the western tip of Crimea, is well-known for its rugged landscape and clear, clean water.
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Cape Tarkhankut, on the western tip of Crimea, is well-known for its rugged landscape and clear, clean water.

Nekrasov, a professional underwater photographer, recalls discovering the statues for the first time in 2000 or 2001.
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Nekrasov, a professional underwater photographer, recalls discovering the statues for the first time in 2000 or 2001.

"My buddy and I were shooting photos, when suddenly I had a feeling there was someone watching us.... Framed by swaying algae was the face of the great revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin."
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"My buddy and I were shooting photos, when suddenly I had a feeling there was someone watching us.... Framed by swaying algae was the face of the great revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin."

Cosmonaut Yury Gagarin photographed as a school of fish glide past. 
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Cosmonaut Yury Gagarin photographed as a school of fish glide past. 

The site is around 7 kilometers from the nearest township, so only dedicated divers visit the unusual "museum."
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The site is around 7 kilometers from the nearest township, so only dedicated divers visit the unusual "museum."

Lenin staring up toward the surface. A Russian tourist who visited the cape in 2016 wrote: "[B]eautiful place, but the water is terribly cold.... We tried to swim but soon realized it's better just to drink beer on the cliffs and look out over the sea."
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Lenin staring up toward the surface. A Russian tourist who visited the cape in 2016 wrote: "[B]eautiful place, but the water is terribly cold.... We tried to swim but soon realized it's better just to drink beer on the cliffs and look out over the sea."

Lenin and Marx. Nekrasov says that after winter storms the statues can be found tumbled together. 
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Lenin and Marx. Nekrasov says that after winter storms the statues can be found tumbled together. 

Gagarin again. Nekrasov says, "It it is difficult to say now exactly if it was irony or nostalgia that motivated the founder of the underwater museum."
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Gagarin again. Nekrasov says, "It it is difficult to say now exactly if it was irony or nostalgia that motivated the founder of the underwater museum."

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