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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tsereteli Sculptures: Not Just Tragedy of Peoples

The public had not even managed to recover from the unveiling of "Tragedy of Peoples," the monumental sculpture on Poklonnaya Gora by Zurab Tsereteli, before the most prolific sculptor of the era prepared to offer Muscovites a new gift: his project for the southern part of Manezh Square.

Near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are six pieces of sculpture wrapped in cellophane, including a bear, a fox, Yemelya, [the peasant boy who is a popular folktale character] and a duck with its ducklings -- in short, the entire fairy-tale pantheon.

It is rather embarrassing to raise doubts over Tsereteli's genius: He has chiseled more in Moscow in the past two to three years than [18th century architects Matvei] Kazakov and [Vasily] Bazhenov managed during their entire lifetimes combined. He is treated with affection by everyone: both by the Moscow city government, which has unconditionally given him all "strategic" commissions, and the federal ministries (Tsereteli lives in the former embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany) as well as foreigners. According to [the French daily] Le Figaro, he is literally here, there and everywhere. His home has been visited by U.S. President Bill Clinton, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Gali. His works have appeared (and remained) in London, Paris and New York. In general, the sheer quantity of his work makes one tremble.

It's a shame the same cannot be said of his talent.

Art critics have never hidden the fact that they consider Tsereteli's work to be very mediocre. It does not even live up to what he has done previously. The freshest example is the menagerie on Manezh Square mentioned above. He almost repeats in exact detail the work he did in 1973 on a children's playground for the All-Union Central Trade Union Council.

Why does the Moscow government so eagerly use his services, which provoke quiet moans from professionals and unconcealed indignation from simple Muscovites? The answer is simple. Since Tsereteli has never known creative suffering or had problems with inspiration, he is capable of doing everything on schedule. If there is money, Tsereteli comes through. If not, he always has another work in stock.

It seems Tsereteli simply unloads on Moscow what is left in his studio. And this is very characteristic of him. Sources close to the sculptor say that the sadly famous composition "Tragedy of Peoples" was first meant to be installed in Israel and was called "Tragedy of the Jewish People." But the main thing is he found the right place at the right time for the sculpture. In this sense, Tsereteli is a true master.

Moskovsky Komsomolets, Aug. 29.

Cold Burial

The first Soviet expedition to Antarctica took place in 1956. Ice was cracking beneath the tractors along the coast. The ice began to tilt. One of the tractor drivers, the young reckless Ivan Khmara, tried to save the equipment. He jumped into the cabin, slammed the door shut and began to move forward. The tractor then disappeared under the water. The others could only look on with horror at the bubbles rising to the top. The block of ice rose back in place and the young man was trapped beneath.

Thus Antarctica took its first victim from Russia.

In 1995 it claimed another in the dead of winter at the Novolazarevskaya station. The head of the radio station came across a bottle of ethyl alcohol and finished it off by evening. The next two days were hell for him. At first his liver failed, then his kidneys.

Both men will remain forever in Antarctica. One was the first in a lamentable series of victims. The other -- we hope -- is the last.

Many have given their lives to Antarctica. The largest number of deaths registered was in 1979 when a DC-10 aircraft on a tourist flight called "Journey to the Edge of the Earth" exploded. The flight left from Oakland, California with 237 passengers and 20 crew members. No one was saved.

[At the beginning of the century, the English explorer] Robert Scott was a month late in the Great Race to the South Pole and died from cold and hunger a few kilometers from the rationing station. Many people have perished at research stations in the Antarctic. But their corpses were always returned to their home countries.

Russian cemeteries in the extreme south are a unique phenomenon. There are no such burials anywhere else.

Graves here are bleak. There are fences and crosses on which dates of the life and death of the deceased are marked. But there is no grass or flowers or trees on a hill. There is only black and white.

The largest cemetery is in Mirny. Old polar explorers do not like the station there. It is badly situated, since for 10 months out of the year, icebergs accumulate along the shore. The station is squeezed between high mountainous barriers and cracking ice waiting to claim victims.

The Mirny cemetery is some three kilometers outside the station on the island of Buromsk. Literally 200 meters from the cemetery is a large colony of penguins. These curious birds come to the island. Their feathers can be found at the most inaccessible graves. The polar explorers come here far less often. The living here never think about death.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Aug. 27.

Did the Vote Matter?

A survey recently conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation revealed a curious fact: almost a third of all Russian citizens who voted for President Boris Yeltsin are not particularly glad about his victory at the election. The indifference can be fully explained by the fact that more than a third of Yeltsin's supporters voted for him out of fear that the communists would come to power.

Moreover, the election results had a similar effect on adherents of the communist idea. The defeat of [Communist Party leader] Gennady Zyuganov distressed only 73 percent of the communist supporters who were polled which, given the well-known discipline of the communists, is simply beyond comprehension. Twenty-five percent said they were absolutely indifferent to the crash of communist hopes.

Such is the situation at the end of the vacation period and the start of a new political life in Russia. The autumn promises not to be simple. Then, the number of indifferent people will likely decrease. But the question will be which way public opinion swings.

Commersant Daily, Aug. 29.