Whether from an artistic or historical point of view, a series of sculptures built by the Soviet Union at home and abroad for propaganda and commemorative purposes have achieved unprecedented and unprecedented in terms of scale, artistic attainment, and quantity. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fate of these statues varied, reflecting many of the current conditions of their location, which is also quite interesting.
Statue of Stalin in Budapest, Hungary.
Russia is one of the countries with the largest number of sculptures in the world, and sculpture as an important carrier of commemorative significance and cultural value has been valued by successive Russian regimes.
Since the Tsarist period, sculpture has been an important part of Russian art. In 1782, St. Petersburg erected the sculpture “Bronze Horseman” depicting Peter the Great on horseback (Pushkin’s narrative poem “The Bronze Horseman” tells the story of the statue resurrected and led the army and people against French aggression), which was the first monumental sculpture in Russia and represented the beginning of the awakening of nationalist consciousness in Russia.
After the establishment of the Soviet Union, the leaders of the nascent regime quickly recognized the great value of commemorative statues on the propaganda front. In April 1918, Lenin signed the Decree on the Propagation of Monuments, which demanded the demolition of the old monuments symbolizing the exploitative power of the Tsar and his servants in the squares and streets, and the erection of new monuments. The decree requires that the newly erected monuments include proletarian revolutionaries and social activists, politicians, writers and poets, scientists and philosophers, artists and composers, actors, etc. The decree also requires that the appearance of monumental sculptures be democratically decided, and that each monumental sculpture be submitted by several artists and selected by local citizens.
The Decree on the Propagation of Monuments was the beginning of a new era in which Soviet and Soviet artists began to explore a series of new art forms by requiring the large-scale construction of sculptures in cities, memorials, etc. The famous of these is the Monument to the Third International (although it was not and could not have been erected in the center of Petrograd), which represents an attempt at avant-garde art in the Soviet Union. “Workers and Collective Farm Ladies”, a sculpture erected on the roof of the Soviet State Pavilion at the 1937 World Expo, is the world’s first stainless steel sculpture and the first giant sculpture built using architectural engineering, representing the pinnacle of Soviet sculpture art before the war.
After World War II, in order to commemorate the victory in the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union officially began the construction of a series of new “heroic” sculptures, reflecting the themes of war, victory, liberation and other themes, forming a new art form: the memorial art complex. These commemorative art complexes are grand in scale, highly artistically appealing, and have a sense of epic. The beginning of the commemorative art complex is the “Monument to the Liberation of Berlin by Soviet Troops”, which presents the epic poem of the Great Patriotic War in a chronological narrative. In addition to the statues of Stalin, Lenin and other early Soviet leaders that are almost in every town in the Soviet Union, there are also some sculptures depicting historical figures in their own countries, such as the “Gorky Memorial Statue” in Moscow in 1951, the “Pushkin Memorial Statue” in Leningrad in 1957, etc., which are highly accomplished in art.
With the increasing national strength of the Soviet Union, in the 60s and 80s of the 20th century, a number of monumental art complexes including but not limited to reflecting the history of the nation and the country emerged in the territory of the Soviet Union and its satellite countries and allies. For example, the “Monument to the Conquest of the Universe”, which is 102 meters high. “Mother Motherland is Calling” on the Maev post in Stalingrad, up to 85 meters, represents one of the highest levels of the monumental art complex.
The sculpture art of the Soviet Union not only inherits the cultural and artistic traditions of the Russian nation, but also has official attention, so there are many huge and huge Soviet statues scattered in the countries of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Well, after the state of the USSR ceased to exist, what happened to the statues of the USSR now?
Most of the Soviet sculptures listed above have considerable aesthetic value and historical monumental significance, so they are basically well preserved. Due to the rich appeal of this monumental art complex, in the post-Soviet era, sculpture groups modeled on the Soviet monumental art complex appeared in countries all over the world.
After independence, Russia continued to build such sculptures, awakening the identity of the Russian national consciousness in a way that recreates history. For example, the “Monument to the Goddess of Victory” in Moscow, completed in 1995, adopts the method of national narrative and represents the revival of national consciousness and social transformation in contemporary Russia.
As a country that inherits the traditions of the Soviet Union, North Korea not only built many statues of leaders in its own country, but also exported many sculptures abroad to earn foreign exchange. The giant monumental art complex sculpture of the North Korean “Mansudae Studio” can also be regarded as the successor of a kind of Soviet sculpture.
The Soviet sculptures that can awaken the national consciousness have also been well preserved by the former Soviet and Eastern countries, and even today have become one of the national symbols of the country. Particularly impressive are several “Motherland” sculptures, namely “Mother Georgia” in Tbilisi, Georgia, Kiev, Ukraine, and “Armenian Motherland” in Yerevan in Armenia.
Mother Georgia was built in 1958 to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of the founding of Georgia. It is not as huge as other sculptures commemorating the Great Patriotic War, only 20 meters high, simple in appearance, with a modernist style, but its left hand holding a wine bowl and right hand holding a sharp sword highlights the Georgian national spirit of hospitality and independence.
The sculpture “Mother Armenia”, built in 1950, also carries the national consciousness of Armenia, with a sharp sword, angry and terrifying look, like a concentrated outbreak of resentment of the Armenian nation after thousands of years of suffering.
Located in the center of Kiev, on the right bank of the Dnieper River, Ukraine’s mother river, “Motherland” was built in 1981 to commemorate the Battle of Kiev in the Great Patriotic War, and is also one of the most famous sculptures of Motherland. She held a shield engraved with the Soviet coat of arms in her left hand and a sword in her right, with a resolute expression. Below the statue is the Ukrainian Patriotic War Memorial, with more than 300,000 exhibits and the clothes of 11,600 soldiers and migrant workers.
It is worth mentioning that the sculpture was expensive and caused great controversy at the time of its construction, and is called “Brezhnev’s daughter”, 62 meters tall and made of titanium alloy and stainless steel. Its domestic opponents argue that the huge sums should be spent where it is more valuable. In 2015, Ukraine’s parliament passed a resolution to remove all Soviet symbols from the country, but was spared because Mother Motherland is a war memorial, although the Soviet coat of arms on its shield is considered by many to be removed. Experts said that if the Soviet emblem were removed, the statue would be overturned as a whole, so the controversy has been put on hold.
The “Monument to the Revolution in the former Yugoslav state of Croatia”, built by Tito’s order, commemorates the deeds of the Yugoslav partisans against the Nazis. The sculpture has a postmodernist style, with bold and bold imagery.
In addition to Soviet sculptures with aesthetic value and national consciousness, the Soviet Union also covered the land of Lenin with statues of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. These statues of Lenin do not have much artistic value, but are symbols of the Soviet Union, so the attitude of various countries towards Lenin statues also reflects their attitude towards the history of the Soviet Union.
Statues of Lenin are mostly preserved as witnesses to Soviet history. In the deserted city of Ulan-Ude in Russia’s Siberian region, there is the world’s largest Lenin head, 7 meters tall and weighing 42 tons, which looks strange and abrupt. It is now a tourist mecca and a local landmark. The statue was quickly erected by the Ulan-Ude locality in order to curry favor with Khrushchev after his secret report on de-Stalinization.
Soviet expedition members were the first to arrive at Antarctica to set up a research station, and they also erected a statue of Lenin above the research station, facing the direction of Moscow, making it the loneliest statue in the world. The world is impermanent, but the stone statue lives on. Perhaps until the destruction of mankind, the image of Lenin in Antarctica will still exist, tenaciously telling the universe, the history of the 20th century.
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