Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Monumental Oddities, Or Winning by a Nose

A recent letter in "Argumenty i Fakty" asked: "Do we have any unusual memorials in Russia?" In all this great expanse, the editors found three; of these, two are located in St. Petersburg.


The first, "Chizhik Pyzhik," is the avian hero of a children's rhyme: "Chizhik Pyzhik, where have you been? On the Fontanka, drinking vodka." Sensibly enough, the monument is located on the Fontanka: a baffled-looking little bird perched on the canal's northern end.


The second, "The Nose," is based on Gogol's short story, in which Major Platon Kovalyov's nose leaves his face and attempts to flee to Riga. The local memorial to this, the most traitorous appendage in world literature, is on Voznesensky Prospekt.


The city boasts more oddities than these, however, some of which were designed to be bizarre, and others which have simply turned out that way. In the latter category, a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky near Smolny Cathedral is described in one guidebook thus: "When slick with rain, the statue resembles a rubber fetishist's wet dream, clad in glistening jackboots, greatcoat and peaked cap." Hmm.


A controversial statue of Peter I depicts the tsar with impossibly long limbs, a rotund body, girlishly slender shoulders and a minuscule head. The head was supposedly modeled on Peter's death mask, but it is difficult to believe that such a large man with a softball-sized head could have existed, much less commanded respect. All hail Pea-head the Great.


Nicholas I suffered greater insult, however, when his face was rendered by a disgruntled sculptor in the genitalia of a horse statue on Anichkov Bridge. Check the horse closest to Gostinny Dvor; if you don't see it right away, see how long you can stare at the horse's groin before drawing attention yourself.


In a mundane nod to an enigmatic man, the house where Rasputin lived lacks any marker, although there is a convenience store on the first floor called Dom Rasputina, or House of Rasputin, -- which sells Snickers bars, gum and juice. But no poisoned cakes.


Finally, St. Petersburg is home to the Committee for Promoting the Construction of the John Lennon Rock 'n' Roll Temple, as noted by a plaque at 10 Pushkinskaya Ulitsa. Since Soviet times, the committee has been struggling to build a temple on the Gulf of Finland. "All You Need Is Love" is their motto, although it's clearly not lack of love that's holding up construction at this point.


There is one more monument that is perhaps the most notable in this, a city with arguably as much history per square inch as any other in the world. Somewhere here hangs a bronze plaque with the inscription, "On this spot, in the year XXXX, nothing happened." Perhaps fittingly, I can't remember where it is.