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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Statue Draws Mayor's Critical Eye

Hard-nosed politician on the outside, soulful artist on the inside, Yury Luzhkov is not without his little moments of whimsy. But this time, the Moscow city government may not be equipped to indulge a bit of mayoral artistic caprice.


After months of work and an unknown quantity of money spent to erect a monumental statue at the World War II memorial at Poklonnaya Gora, the Moscow mayor has decided that the project planners got it all wrong.


"It's a talented composition, but it wasn't worth placing on the central square of Poklonnaya Gora," Luzhkov told a plenary session of the Moscow city government just two days before the statue's May 9 Victory Day unveiling, the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said.


The hulking bronze statue, a memorial to the war dead, ruins Poklonnaya Gora's patriotic, festive spirit, said the mayor. Responding to complaints from Muscovites, Luzhkov decreed that it be moved more out of sight into the park that surrounds the complex.


A task presumably within the abilities of Luzhkov's scores of retainers, if not for one minor detail: The statue is very big.


"Would you want to have to start moving this thing?" asked one man, giving the statue a few experimental kicks Sunday with a group of "officials" who identified themselves only as being involved with plans to move the statue.


The monument, called a "nightmare encased in bronze" by the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, is anything but an easy move. The row of naked, gaunt titans that make up one side of "The Peoples' Tragedy" memorial, designed by sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, can easily be seen from a distance on nearby Kutuzovsky Prospekt. The metallic men, women and children are featured falling back into each other, eventually turning into little more than metal blocks with heads.


Between the figures and a massive metal wall stand several more blocks dedicated to those who died during the war with inscriptions in several languages spoken in the former Soviet Union. Behind the wall and the figures, metal reproductions of shoes, toys, books and suitcases are strewn on the monument's marble platform.


The Russian press has bombarded the statue with criticism for the past few weeks, with the weekly Argumenty i Fakty quoting one visitor as describing it as a horror that shouldn't have been placed near areas where children play.


But while Luzhkov blames the Moscow city architecture committee for the monument malaise, committee officials said the statue was the mayor's idea from the start.


In a March decree, Luzhkov ordered that the statue be added to Poklonnaya Gora to strengthen the "artistic expression of the complex " and add a finishing touch to the memorial's architectural conception, they said.


City officials said Sunday they have no idea where to move the statue, nor how much it would cost to transfer the monument, which was built at an unknown expense for city taxpayers.


"The mayor has made his decision and we'll fulfill it when the possibility exists," said architectural committee central engineer Leonid Vatakin.


Despite the uproar, not all visitors to the monument share Luzhkov's artistic concerns. "It should all be together -- the victory and the suffering," said pensioner Viktor Postypansky. "Muscovites should know their history."


But one pensioner said the grim statue would only confuse people: "Families come here to celebrate, to see something grandiose," said Lidiya Firsova. "But when they see this weird thing, they'll just go around it. They won't understand."