Remember all the pictures of the
where intimidating, super-sized and powerful stone and metal sculptures of Stalin and Lenin towered over the landscape below? For example, here's Lenin at Oktyabrskaya square. (I managed to take that picture from my car window while at a traffic light near the Graveyard). Sculptures like this were omnipresent during the years of the Soviet Union . Even though many of the sculptures had been removed immediately after the coup--before I arrived--I still remember feeling as if they were everywhere when I lived here in the fall of the 1991. There are probably as many sculptures today; I just don't notice them as much. Soviet Union has changed a great deal--that's sure an understatement--and I've become so accustomed to living here--that Soviet architecture/monuments don't have the same effect on me anymore. (That being said, it's hard to live here without feeling SMALL--the wide main streets, soaring Stalin skyscrapers and many monuments do inspire awe!). Moscow
Remember all the television footage in 1991 during and after the coup in the
Soviet Union? Tanks and crowds in front of the White House (parliament)? (I've written about the amazing children's park behind this building). Angry mobs victoriously knocking down the intimidating statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the police organization that became the KGB, and toppling giant statues of Lenin? Jubilant citizens chipping away at Stalin's face with crowbars and rocks? Here's an overview of the collapse of the Soviet Union, with footage at minute 7:59 of Dzerzhinsky being knocked down.
Here are photos of Dzerzhinsky's statue of Lubyanka square (in front of the KGB headquarters), before and after (Dyetsky Mir, the flagship children's store dating from the '50s where I recently bought the girls' Russian costumes, is to the left of the KGB building):
So what happened to all of those statues? I'd never really thought about it until I came upon this park behind the Central Artists' House (New Tretyakov Gallery, the modern art part of the museum), along the south bank of the Moscow River in the center of the city and across the street (Garden Ring) from Gorky Park. This garden of sculptures is referred to as the "Graveyard of Fallen Statues," a park where you can walk among both non-political artwork and many of the marble and bronze "fatalities" from the end of the
Soviet Union. These sculptures outside of the park gates give you an idea of what you'll find inside:
I brought the girls here on April 19th and am only now getting around to blogging about it. If you visit the park now, you'll find flowers everywhere and the trees will be full of pretty green leaves. That being said, there's something to be said for being there before the greenery has come alive; the park does feel like a graveyard in many ways... The barren trees are a fitting backdrop for the sculptures of Soviet leaders who were responsible for murdering millions of their own citizens.
I'll take you through our own day in the park now. The kids started off by running around these modern statues:
Hmm... A LOT of differing themes run through the artwork... Sexual liberation? (That woman looks an awful lot like the logo from a certain company--G**d Vibrations, known for selling certain types of adult gadgets...) Next... perhaps religious oppression? Yeah. Right next to each other! Katya was then excited to recognize Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting, wilderness, wild animals, childbirth, and the protector of unmarried girls. (They studied Greek mythology at school this winter). Both girls also liked this golden angel and the globe.
We then encountered our first political sculpture, that of Felix Dzerzhinsky, Iron Felix. It was relocated here after being removed from Lubyanka square.
We stopped for awhile so the girls could run around the tall the trees and playground areas. Yet again, they had fun being spies... (I don't think it'll ever stop "blowing my mind" that my American kids play "spy" in Moscow--especially at this place, playing hide and seek behind Lenin and Stalin...) Behind this first picture you can see the President Hotel, where many families who come to
In this larger view of part of the park you can see a huge ship looming in the background--it's the much-hated monument to Peter the Great by the sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. Here's a link to a great blog I just found about
that talks more about the monument. Moscow
Talia meanwhile found a "measure of courage" (staff/stick) and switched from being a spy to a fairy tale princess (as inspired by Barbie in the Magic of Pegasus).
Next we went to my favorite part of the park, a memorial to the citizens (between 28 and 50 million) who were imprisoned, many dying, in the Soviet concentration camps and during Stalin's Reign of Terror and Great Purge--when an estimated 2 million were murdered. I find this installation incredibly moving; the feeling you get from looking at this memorial stays with you for a long time afterwards.
Stalin and Dzerzhinsky watch over the prisoners from the right; it's really sinister. I'm always glad to see bird poop on these two statues (there was some that day).
Natalia wanted to know what these statues were about and I tried to explain to her in simple terms. She grew very, very quiet and sad and asked if she could just there for a while and think about the people who had been hurt. I reassured her that the "bad people" who had done this had been gone for a long time, that we're all safe and that these statues were here to help us remember times when we didn't have the freedoms we do now.
Here's a gallery of Karl Marx, a
sign, Lenin and Brezhnev: USSR
After the drama of the memorial to all those who died in the Siberian gulag, we were quite happy to move along to another section of the park that features Russians who made great contributions to the arts. Katya ran to hug Alexander Pushkin; isn't it cool that my seven-year-old has a favorite poet?!
A little more Soviet propaganda...
And then some whimsical modern art. This violin was a big hit. Katya wants her Grandma in
(a professional violinist) to see it and asked me to take these pictures. Colorado
About the modern art... The violin sculpture was well-received, but this collection of torsos was NOT. To quote both girls, "BUTTS? You've got to be kidding. GROSS. EE-UUWW."
This sculpture of the old man usually has him holding a fresh flower, examining it closely, once the garden is in bloom. What a neat idea!
There is another playground area in the back of the park. The girls had fun playing on the bridges/wooden paths. By now they will have filled the little moats with water and this area will be much more fun! I like the Pinocchio, too...
We highly recommend this park! A great day trip would be to combine a visit to the New Tretyakov Gallery and this park behind it, finishing off the outing by walking across the street and taking in