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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow to Raise Monument to People's Sins



Just having gotten used to the mammoth statue of goggle-eyed Peter the Great that settled right in the city center four years ago, Muscovites will soon have to adjust to another monumental sculpture, this time depicting people's sins.

The city fathers plan to place a bronze ensemble created by emigre artist Mikhail Shemyakin at Bolotnaya Ploshchad, one of Moscow's major historical locations, right across the river from the Kremlin.

Called "Children, Victims of Adults," the monument depicts a boy and a girl, both blindfolded, standing in front of a semicircle of 13 statues that embody deadly sins like ignorance, poverty, indifference, theft and drunkenness.

Financed by oil major Rosneft, the monument, which was completed in the United States and awaits shipment to Russia, was presented to the city of Moscow. Deputy Mayor Valery Shantsev said Thursday it will be unveiled on City Day on Sept. 2.

But it already has become a sore point. Experts at the arts commission, which is supposed to rule on which monuments may be installed in Moscow, said the decision to put "Sins" at Bolotnaya Ploshchad was made over their heads.

In response to the criticism and protests directed at Peter the Great, the City Duma passed a law in 1999 requiring that any monument win the approval first of an arts commission composed of city planners, architects, artists and arts experts and then of the City Duma before it can be installed in Moscow.

But if a monument is a gift to the city, the city can bypass this procedure.

Art expert Nina Maleva, who sits on the commission, said the commission discussed Shemyakin's monument anyway at last Tuesday's meeting and recommended it should not be put on Bolotnaya Ploshchad. But City Duma Deputy Alexander Krutov, who made the decision public, said the experts approved it, according to Maleva. Krutov could not be reached for comment Thursday.

"The commission did not touch the issue of the artistic value of the monument, but we thought that it is deeply wrong to place that monument on a historic site like Bolotnaya Ploshchad," Maleva said.

"Bolotnaya Ploshchad is a place where every major victory of Russian arms since 1607 was celebrated for several centuries," she added.

The square, which already has a monument to artist Ilya Repin, is also where 18th-century rebel Yemelyan Pugachyov, who led the Peasant Wars in 1773-75, was publicly executed in 1775.

Shemyakin, who emigrated to France in 1971 and now lives in the States, was in Moscow on Thursday. He said Bolotnaya Ploshchad was selected from among eight locations in central Moscow and was approved by the chief city planner and various arts councils.

Shantsev, too, said the site was perfect and that the arts commission's role was to judge the artistic values of the monument only. "It is up to the city government to decide where to put it," Shantsev said in an interview. "You cannot expect us to put it in Orekhovo-Borisovo [a southern Moscow suburb]."

Maleva said the arts commission last week recommended the statue be exhibited in a museum or put in the sculpture park near the Central House of Artists. This park, which houses a number of dismantled monuments to Soviet-era leaders, is known as a "sculpture cemetery."

Shemyakin said the recommendation to install his new work there was "odd."

"This monument is symbolic and touches the alarming issues of how children are being treated by adults," said Shemyakin, who worked on the piece for three years.

"I think it will be understood. Working on it, I first of all thought of an ordinary viewer who, as I figured out, is wiser than any critic," he said.

Shemyakin's work is part of a monument boom in Moscow. The City Duma on Wednesday voted to install 21 other monuments. Almost every new monument in Moscow becomes the subject of heated debates and even public demonstrations. Among the most controversial have been the gigantic works by Zurab Tsereteli, a favorite of Mayor Yury Luzhkov's. Besides the 60-meter-tall Peter the Great monument, they include the World War II memorial at Poklonnaya Gora and sculptures at the entrance to the Moscow Zoo.

Maleva said that her commission often has to deal with monuments that artists have not found a place for abroad and then "impose" on Muscovites.