Monday, July 06, 2015

Russia's Virtual Universe

Salavat Shcherbakov’s massive monument to Vladimir the Great will soon be finished. But Muscovites can’t agree where to put it. Credit Vasily Maximov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JULY 5, 2015

MOSCOW — When you come back to Moscow after a long absence the city overwhelms you, swallowing you up in its around-the-clock bustle. It is as hectic and surreal as ever. Parks, cafes and clubs are all full of well-dressed people. And those with clout, the powers that be in the political, economic and media worlds, continue to add new diversions.

Prominent among them is the $27 million Garage Center, a sophisticated museum of contemporary art that has just opened in Gorky Park. It was created by the socialite Dasha Zhukova, funded by her husband, the billionaire tycoon Roman Abramovich, and designed by one of the world’s most influential architects, Rem Koolhaas.

Though Ms. Zhukova’s collection of Rothkos may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Muscovites will soon have another marvel to admire: a 24-meter statue of Vladimir the Great, the prince who Christianized the state of Kievan Rus in the late 10th century. This storied leader is depicted, sword at his side, bearing a large cross, standing in a dignified, traditional manner. What’s more surreal is the controversy over where to put it.

Originally, Prince Vladimir was to be placed on an observation deck in the Sparrow Hills overlooking Moscow. Now city officials want to erect it in Lubyanka Square, in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., where a statue of the widely feared Felix Dzerzhinsky once stood. The monument to the founder of the Cheka, the precursor of the K.G.B., was toppled in 1991, but Communist Party officials want it back in its former site and have proposed a referendum to resolve the issue.

(More here.)


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