Stalin, Khrushchev and Gorbachev stand aside on Moscow’s Boulevard of Rulers
The total number of busts on the Boulevard of Rulers is now 40, all made by Zurab Tsereteli – the sculptor who also made the towering monument to Peter the Great near the Moskva River. Other works by Tsereteli include monuments to Christopher Columbus in Puerto Rico and Spain and the gigantic “Tear of Grief” monument in New Jersey dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The seven new busts depict Soviet leaders from Vladimir Lenin who headed the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, to the first and only President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev.
Deputy Culture Minister Aleksandr Zhuravskiy, who took part in the opening ceremony on Friday, said that in his opinion it was right to put all heads of the Russian state together. He noted that there could be various appraisals of the lives and legacy of such figures as Lenin and Stalin, but all of them were parts of history that should not be forgotten.
“The Boulevard of Rulers is a symbol of the continuity and succession of our history, the history without erased names or forgotten events and historical periods. The continuity of this boulevard is spreading to eternity and I want to believe that it would get new additions for many centuries, until our history is alive,” the official said.
“Struggle against monuments is absolutely useless, people should know history in all its diversity,” he added.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who is the only living person with a personal monument on the Boulevard of Rulers, has said that he did not oppose the initiative, as it is up to the public to decide.
“Such installations are totally within the rights of the public. If I had anything against it I would say so. It is possible that we are not ready for such steps, but in any case this decision should be taken by society as a whole,” Gorbachev said in comments to RBC news agency earlier this month.
However, at least one new bust on the boulevard still caused some protests. After the bust of Joseph Stalin was unveiled, one of the women from the audience approached it and unveiled a poster with a poem by 20th century poet Anna Akhmatova in which all advocates of Stalin were called “sweet lovers of torture,” and “experts in orphan-making.”
While monument controversies do not happen very often in Russia, there have been several that were notable. Recently a group of activists who had sought to install a monument to Stalin in the Russian city of Novosibirsk complained to the authorities that a monument to Tsar Nicolas II in the city violates rules on protecting historical sites. Also, earlier this month the government rejected a bill ordering the burial of Vladimir Lenin’s remains, launched by the nationalist-populist party LDPR. However, the government experts gave a technical reason for their rejection – they said that the authors of the draft did not mention the sources of funding for the reinternment.
Editorial note: the article has been edited in order to avoid any misinterpretation of Gorbachev's stand (quote) on the issue