Published (Russian and English) – IWC of Saint Petersburg, Russia August 2020
Many soviet monuments such as statues, paintings, buildings, art, images, and other structures are widely loved, widely tolerated, and not commonly accepted in today’s Russian society. Most of these statues celebrate historical figures believed to have caused a change in the Russian political movements during the Russian Revolution or wars. The historical figures are commemorated through their monuments, placed across the country in different places such as parks, town halls, museums, governmental buildings, and other areas. Some examples of the widely loved statues, images, paintings of heroic people from World War II, and soviet realism movies include cosmonaut Gagarin. Widely tolerated monuments include the statues and images of leaders such as Stalin and other leaders, which depict people working as one nation. Not widely tolerated images, paintings, and sculptures include leaders such as Lenin, Marx, and other strong communists and propaganda images found in statues, movies, and video games. The main focus is on statues and how they reflect patriotism or freedom of speech, how shifts in cultural perspectives have caused the removal and defacing of statues, and the consistencies or differences brought by statues as observed globally.
Statues and their level of tolerance reflect patriotism or freedom of speech.
The Soviet rule is quite powerful due to Russian legends’ towering statues like Vladimir Lenin that keep watch over the Russian region. Due to the need for expansion, the monuments of Soviet Legacy are under attack from Ukrainian nationalists; for instance, crowds from Ukrainian nationalists tore down the statue of Lenin, which had been placed in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Ukraine has more than one hundred Lenin statues dismantled since the overthrow of the government. In Moscow, the Ukrainian colors were currently painted over the Soviet star on the skyscraper and Stalin’s tower (Kim, 2020). These stunts show that memories of the Soviets’ aggression were just as raw today as when the USSR fell, which brings on the question of whether the Soviet’s anger is misplaced. During the Soviet Era, successful leaders intended to leave their mark by building thousands of monuments to represent their power. With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the Russian government preserved monuments of the Red Army. Statues, such as the Soviet monuments in countries that have nurtured them, such as Moscow, claim them with pride in manicured parks and through their city centers. Some of the statues even survived and are now tourist attractions placed within special zones such as theme parks, for example, Szoborpak in Budapest and Gruto Parkas in Lithuania. Statues in Russia are a reminder of the sacrifices leaders and other soldiers made during the war.
Some of the statues, such as Lenin’s statue, depict their tolerance for freedom of speech. Lenin was a knowledgeable and skillful political entrepreneur who coined the simple peace, land, and bread slogan, which to the Russian signifies the leader’s determination. Lenin determined to separate peace with the Germans, recognizing the peasant’s spontaneous seizures on Russian land. The statues celebrate Lenin’s success in seizing power during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and marks the new Soviet government headed by Lenin forming in Russia, where he became the USSR leader when it was founded in 1922. Lenin’s statue also represents his patriotism towards his country through the lengths he went to fight in Germany (Pyzik, 2014). The statues of Stalin stand in town halls and museums. They represent the changes brought by Stalin to Russian and his patriotism to the country. Stalin launched policies on radical economic, which overhauled the entire agricultural and industrial face during the Soviet Union, causing a significant turn in the Soviet economy.
Defacing or removal of these statues says about shifting cultural perspectives.
Historical statues are intended to be timeless as a remembrance of sacrifice, a celebration of success, or hard times. Still, almost all the statues are proving to have an expiration date. As society and cultural values and perspectives shift, the legitimacy of some of the statues, paintings, and images can and often do erode. This is because statues and other memorial monuments reveal that their value was when they were created, and as time advances, new generations rise. The creators’ agenda is revisited, and if they do not seem valuable to the current generation, they prove ineffective. For instance, thousands of monuments, statues, and paintings honoring different Russian communists’ leaders and ideas became irrelevant politicly after the dissolution in 1991 of the Soviet Union (Carylsue, 2017). Due to shifts in cultural and societal perspectives, critics objected to the statues’ available placements, which brought ideas associating with brutal authoritarianism, feminine, and mass killings. The supports of the statues’ removal and defacing states that it is part of Russian history, which should not be celebrated as it led to killings, suffering, and dictatorship to the people during the time.
Defacing and removing statues say a lot about the shift in cultural perspectives; for instance, statues of controversial historical figures in Russia were either swept aside by protesters removed by the government, with the society seeking a clean break from the past (Higgins, 2020). Most of the celebrated historical figures might have caused major changes in a country’s political movements. However, some participated in massive killings and other things that do not sit right with generations today; therefore, they do not deserve to be celebrated today. As much as people appreciate it, they fought during the revolutionary war. Some of these leaders led movements that caused many deaths, and it might have relevant to celebrate them then, but today due to cultural and societal change in perspectives, there is a lot that has changed. Some of these statues connect to historical moments of crisis, depriving people of their symbolic power. The shift of cultural perspectives does not mean removing these statues will change the future or erase history. It means that society does not believe in celebrating a history that caused destruction, and destroying them might not change that it will stop the celebration of historical figures who caused killings, dictatorship, and suffering.
Consistencies and differences caused by Statues that can be observed globally
There are consistencies and differences observed globally on monuments, statues, and paintings of historical figures. Over the last few years, there have been many statues wars from across almost all the countries, with global protests on the statue war movement where protesters tear down urban monuments, memorials, and paints that reinforce racism, dictatorship, mass killings, and extensive authoritarianism (McEvoy, 2020). Statues and monuments’ reality is more complicated than just celebrating people that impacted the country’s political history. For one thing, what statues do is that they normalize the past, whether wrong or right, and make injustices easy to defend and weirdly more perniciously harder to see. People are likely to protect the injustices by offering their support to retain some of these controversial statues since they might not have studied their history well and can only see the good that the historic figure brought.
The differences that can now be observed globally are because people can spot the ultimate historical events as they are and, if they are threatening, bringing major indifferences to the celebration tied towards the leaders. The differences and inconsistencies brought by the statues get what should be done to troublesome monuments. Based on the media coverage on most protests worldwide about controversial monuments falling all the time through removal or defacing. These controversies and differences in the celebration of controversial leaders are due to societal and culture-shifting perspectives.
In conclusion, soviet monuments such as statues are widely spread in Russian, celebrating most historical figures who changed Russia’s political history. Most statues depict Russian political movements either during the Russian Revolution or during wars. However, some leaders displayed tolerance about patriotism and, through their actions, brought a change in freedom of speech. For example, Lenin was a knowledgeable and skillful political entrepreneur who coined the simple slogan of peace, land, bread. Defacing and removal of statues say a lot about the shift in cultural perspectives. For instance, statues of controversial historical figures in Russia have been destroyed by protesters showing that the leaders’ relevance was during that time. Due to changes in perspectives, people have chosen to stop celebrating leaders who caused mass killings and extensive authoritarianism. Some consistencies and differences are observed globally on monuments, statues, and paintings of historical figures.
Carylsue. (, 2017). How Russia Handled Its Monument Problem. National Geographic Education Blog. Retrieved 15 October 2020, from https://blog.education.nationalgeographic.org/2017/08/30/how-russia-handled-its-own-monument-problem/.
Higgins, A. (2020). In Russia, They Tore Down Lots of Statues, but Little Changed. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 15 October 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/world/europe/russia-statues-lenin-stalin-dzerzhinsky.html.
Kim, L. (2020). NPR Choice page. Npr.org. Retrieved 15 October 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/07/21/892914684/what-to-do-with-toppled-statues-russia-has-a-fallen-monument-park.
McEvoy, J. (2020). Here’s How Statues Across the World Look After A Week of Reckoning (Photos). Forbes. Retrieved 15 October 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jemimamcevoy/2020/06/15/heres-how-statues-across-the-world-look-after-a-week-of-reckoning-photos/#1d852e646658.
Pyzik, A. (2014). Why Soviet monuments should be protected. The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/29/soviet-ussr-monuments-should-be-protected.