How Russia Handled Its Own Monument Problem

POLITICS

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia had its own version of the “Confederate monument problem.” The solution: a sculpture park in Moscow. (Los Angeles Times)

What was the Confederacy?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit, and be sure to vote in today’s poll.

Dozens of statues of Stalin (including the battered one in the foreground of this photo) were relocated to Muzeon Park in Moscow following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Photograph by Steve Raymer, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

 

  • What was Russia’s version of the “Confederate monument problem”?
    • Thousands of statues, monuments, and plaques honoring Communist leaders and ideas became politically irrelevant following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
      • Critics objected to public placement of monuments to people and ideas associated with mass killings, famine, and brutal authoritarianism.
      • Supporters maintained that the monuments represented a crucial part of Russian history—the brief history of the Soviet Union itself.

 

  • How did Russia deal with its “Confederate monument problem”?
    • In many ways, it is still dealing with the problem.
    • In Moscow, hundreds of statues have been relocated to the largest open-air sculpture garden in Russia, the Muzeon. The Muzeon is a popular public park, with space for art exhibitions, concert venues, playground equipment, bike trails, skateboard pavilions, benches and picnic areas, lakes, ping-pong and chess tables, and paved paths between museums and other parks.
      • The Muzeon is often called “Fallen Monument Park.” This title is both figurative and literal. Many statues sustained damage during the 1991 move to the Muzeon, and have not been repaired.

 

  • How do statues in the Muzeon address their controversial Communist legacy?
    • They don’t, really. The author of this thought-provoking essay says, “Each statue or set of statues is accompanied by a panel that informs the viewer about the work, its composition and the history of its display. Notably, there is little about the leader being portrayed in the text. Each description ends with, ‘By the decree of the Moscow City Council of People Representatives of Oct. 24, 1991, the monument was dismantled and placed in the MUSEON Arts Park exposition. The work is historically and culturally significant, being the memorial construction of the Soviet era, on the themes of politics and ideology.’ The point, of course, is that the Moscow city council is careful to state that the display is not intended to glorify the past, but to document it.”
      • The park is very popular with both locals and tourists. The same essay asks, “Why do these scenes, these dead Soviet statues, work so well? I would assert that by locating them together, they can be put into “historical and cultural” context, as the markers suggest. Moreover, through strategic curation, these statues have been put into dialogue with each other and with the contemporary sculptures around them and been given new meaning.”

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Los Angeles Times: Russia had its own version of the Confederate monument problem. The solution: a sculpture park in Moscow

Houston Chronicle: What Russia can teach us about Confederate statues

Nat Geo: Where Would You Put Confederate Monuments?

Nat Geo: Boundary Between the Union and the Confederacy

Wikipedia: List of monuments and memorials of the Confederate States of America

Muzeon Park

 

 

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