Russia‘s ardent patriotism and rich cultural history, coupled with a strong appreciation for the arts has resulted in a culture that values the construction of monuments of respect. From Soviet icons to founding figures and national heroes, here are 10 of the most awe-inspiring statues Russia has to offer.
Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, Moscow
There are so many reasons Worker and Kolkhoz Woman is one of the most recognisable monuments in Russia. At 24.5 metres (80 feet) high and using a VDNkh pavilion roof as its base to increase its total height to 60 metres (197 feet), its hulking stature is emblematic of the Soviet Union’s grandiose aspirations. Designed in 1937 by Vera Mukhina, one of Russia’s most prominent sculptors at the time, it depicts a worker and a collective farm girl brandishing the hammer and sickle. In 1941 it earned Mukhina a Stalin Prize – the union’s state award – and in 1947 it became the logo for Mosfilm Studios, one of the most prolific Soviet-era film studios. Currently it is housed in VDNkh, the All-Russian Exhibition Centre, along with many other objects, artefacts and exhibitions dedicated to Soviet achievements.
Installed out the front of the Space Museum in Samara is an authentic Vostock rocket – the first rocket to send humans into space. It pays homage to Samara’s role in Russia’s space exploration; the city was where these rockets were assembled during Soviet times. It was installed in 2001 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first manned space flight, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in a Vostok on 12 April 1961 and cementing the Soviets as space pioneers.
Peter the Great, Moscow
Many Moscovites question why a statue commemorating the man who took capital away from Moscow and gave it to St. Petersburg was erected on the Moscow River, right in the centre of the city. Some also consider this to be a 98 metre (322 feet)-high eyesore and the statue, on occasion, has made several ugliest statues lists. Regardless, it was designed by Georgian born Zurba Tsereteli and erected in 1997 to celebrate 300 years of Russian navy and the Tsar who established it, Peter the Great.
The Motherland Calls, Volgograd
Soaring victoriously above Volgograd, on what was the bloody battleground of the Battle of Stalingrad, The Motherland Calls is a hulking monument to one of the Soviet Union’s greatest World War II triumphs. She marks the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazis, in a conflict that saw over a million officers killed, captured or wounded – over half of the soldiers employed to fight. To symbolise the 200 day-long battle, 200 steps lead to the statue’s base. At the time of construction, in 1967, she was the tallest free-standing statue in the world, however now, stretching across 85 metres (279 feet), she is only the tallest statue of a female.
The Bronze Horseman, St. Petersburg
Of less arguable taste than the statue erected in his honour in Moscow, The Bronze Horseman commemorates the same Tsar who moved the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1713, and became the city’s namesake. It sits on the Thunder Stone, an enormous slab of granite that is the biggest piece of stone ever moved by humans. Initially weighing in at around 1,500 tonnes, 400 men dragged it from Lakhta, just north of the city centre, to its current position. Stonecutters sculpted the block, whittling it down to around 250 tonnes, during transportation. The entire construction – including initial castings of the horse and rider, as well as the transportation and shaping of the Thunder Stone, which took none months in its self – took twelve years, from 1770 to 1782.
Monument to Minin and Pozharsky, Moscow
Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and merchant Kuzma Minin rallied together an army to ward off the Polish-Lithuanian forces and put an end to the Times of Troubles – the 15 years or so that were marked with widespread famine and civil unrest, when Russia was occupied by the Polish-Lithuanian coalition – in 1612. Erected to celebrate the bicentenary of the events, the base is made from slabs of granite hauled from Finland and carries a plaque depicting the sacrifice of personal property for the greater good of the nation. The statue sits in the Red Square, near St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Statue of Alexander III, St. Petersburg
Another unpopular statue among locals at the time, the Statue of Alexander III is a monument to the Trans-Siberian railway, which was initiated under his reign. While in power, Alexander III abstained from engaging in war and Russia experienced 13 years of peace. Despite this, the Tsar was widely disliked as he negated many of his father’s reforms for more conservative policies. Censorship rose, land-owners grew more influential at local governance level and education access for the lower classes was reduced. The monument depicts Alexander III as stout, sitting on a stocky horse, and upon unveiling in 1909, it sparked debate about its caricature qualities.
The Victorious Soldier, Omsk
Seven monuments fill Victory Park’s symbolic Road of War, a 230-metre (755-feet) cobblestone pavement that weaves its way through the war memorial gardens. At the foot of the eternal fire, The Victorious Solider triumphantly stands wielding his sword high above him, an imposing figure of strength at 14 metres (46 feet) tall and symbolic of the success the Red Army had in World War II. In contrast to his success and victory, a nine-metre (30-foot) statue of a slackened mother and son stand along the way. They portray the hardship endured by the Siberian people during the war and their commitment to rebuilding their country afterwards.
Monument to Yuri Gagarin, Moscow
Launching itself away from Moscow’s concrete tangle, the monument catapults Yuri Gararin once more into space, celebrating his achievement as the first human to journey into space. On the 12 April 1961 he orbited the earth in a Vostock spacecraft, a trip which took 89 minutes. In a brief but accoladed career as a pilot and cosmonaut, he won many awards, earning himself a Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest title given by the State. In 1968, at the age of 34, his career was cut short when his plane crashed while on routine training.
Monument to Musa Jalil, Kazan
Musa Jalil was a poet and fighter in the Red Army who was awarded a Hero of the Soviet Union for his efforts in his resistance fighting. He also earned a Lenin Prize for his book The Moabit Notebooks, a collection of prose written while incarcerated in a German prison of the same name after being caught by the Gestapo in 1942. Both accolades were awarded posthumously. Jalil, along with his cellmates, was executed in Berlin, in 1944. While his body was never recovered, his notebooks were smuggled out and were passed on to the Tatar Union of Writers.
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