With the fall of the USSR, thousands of Soviet statues were destroyed or dispersed. Some ended up in Moscow’s Fallen Heroes Park. It displays more than 700 sculptures saved and preserved from the Soviet era. Walking through the park is like visiting a cemetery, bronze and stone sculptures loom from every corner. The park has mutilated busts of Stalin, as well as those of Lenin and a statue of Dzerzhinsky, the founder of what became the KGB. There’s a massive Soviet emblem, and clusters of modern art contrasting with the very non-conceptual Communist monuments.
Further to my blog of 09.09.2017 – Centenary of a Revolution, my son Trevor informs me that Melbourne’s Heidelberg Gallery (The Heidi) has a Constructivist Display of artworks mainly from the Russian Revolution. No doubt many of the items on display would have come from Moscow’s Fallen Heroes Park.
I have never felt a great emotional attachment to statues. My first was probably the dog sitting on the tucker box five miles from Gundagai.
For me, it always the highlight of our road trips to Melbourne.
The other statue that has triggered my emotion was seeing Winston Churchill’s statue on a Paris footpath as our tour bus flashed past. It was so unexpected, considering the historic rivalry between the English and the French, but a touching acknowledgement of France’s gratitude for Churchill’s help during WWII.
When I was living in London during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was intrigued by the huge bust of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery not far from where I lived. This was at the height of the Cold War between the West and Russia and just half a century after the Russian revolution. Feelings of angst were still running high then, and Karl Marx statue endured several bombing attempts.
Marx had hoped to incite the British workers to revolt, but this didn’t seem to be in their nature. It was left to the Russian peasants in 1917. Perhaps they were the more desperate and downtrodden.
This week I attended a lecture by visiting Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick to mark the centenary of the October 1917 Russian revolution. I was surprised to learn that the event is not being celebrated with any great enthusiasm, not even in Russia. An exhibition in London of Russian revolutionary inspired artworks seems to be the world’s major contribution to its memory.
The passion for revolution seems to have burned out and I don’t think even Karl Marx statue will raise the prospect of another explosion.
It’s been 62 years since I visited the quiet backwater of Hobart, but its memories from the mind of an 11 year-old are still vivid: our gabled attic room with its sloping ceiling, the curved floating bridge, the resinous aroma of a linen bandaged Egyptian mummy in the museum, the ruins of Port Arthur (there had been no massacre then), snow in the crevices of Mount Wellington (even though it was Christmas), an old English-style cafe in New Norfolk, the beautiful Huon Valley…
When I visit Hobart again in three weeks, I hope its air of history will still greet me. However I am prepared for change, too. Everyone says I must visit MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art – for it has almost singlehandedly propelled Hobart from a quiet backwater onto the world’s tourist stage. Who said museums are old hat?