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Another Alexander Pushkin? Oh yeah. We can do that. We can keep doing this for a long time. And we probably will.
Today we’re looking at a small monument that stands in the small Spasopeskovskaya Square in front of the great, big residence of the Ambassador of the United States to Russia. The square, like two streets in this immediate neighborhood, takes its name from the church standing at the south end of the square – Spas na Peskakh, or, Savior in the Sands.
What can I say about this particular monument? I guess most of all that it’s underwhelming. The face strikes me as rather rough and crude, perhaps by choice, or because the sculptor didn’t want it to look like everybody else’s Pushkin. Or, perhaps, because he was in a hurry, or he didn’t have any better ideas. The pose is, like, uh, “been-there-done-that.” I mean, gosh, how many statues of Pushkin have we seen in a long jacket with an overcoat tossed over his shoulder? Let me count them… On second thought, let me not. That’s really something we needed one more of, I’ll tell you.
One thing we do know about the sculptor Yury Dines is that he wanted credit for his work. He “signs” it as Yu. Dines on the back of the pedestal, as is customary, but on the left-hand side he reminds us again what a generous guy he is by writing, “A gift of Yury Dines to the city of Moscow. Erected on donations from Gerhard Jagschitz, city of Vienna, and Kaprito Co.”
As can be seen in the photo immediately below, even though this monument was erected in 1993 – not long ago at all in monument age – it already needs touching up. One of the accompanying elements on a low platform to the left of the statue has been broken off, presumably stolen. Boy would I love to get a look at that thief. Of all the things to steal – “Hey, guys! I got some hot product! Wanna buy a fleur-de-lis that I ripped off a Pushkin ensemble? I’ll give it to you cheap!”
Maybe I’m just in a sour mood again today, but even the Pushkin quote that Dines chose to lay in a bronze scroll at the poet’s feet is – well, pretty damned forgettable. I mean we’re talking about the greatest writer in Russian history. The most beloved cultural figure there is. The guy who anybody will tell you begat Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and all the rest, all with a few strokes of his quill. A guy that makes an entire nation melt just to hear his name – and with good reason. I do, too. But this writer, this author of Eugene Onegin, Boris Godunov, of some of the most blistering poems about freedom and independence written in Russia, is represented here by:
Should life ever deceive you,
Weep not, be not angry!
Make your peace with sorrow,
For happiness, believe it, shall come!
Oh, give me a break!
The stolen element of this statue brings to mind an email I received today from the Moscow City Cultural Heritage department. In it they explained future restorative work they plan to carry out on one of the most famous of all Pushkin statues, the one standing on Pushkin Square in Moscow. (I’ve written about it previously on this site.) Here is a quote from department consultant Yulia Loginova on the topic:
“Thanks to a visual inspection with a genie boom it became evident that the monument is affected by much corroded metal, open cracks, traces of previous restorations, and visible patches. All of this must be brought to a unified state with an eye to returning the monument to exhibit quality during the course of complex restorations. Also in need of restoration is the granite pedestal. Scientific research will be carried out in 2015 and a project for restoration shall be implemented.”
We are informed that the actual restoration will be carried out in 2016.
Now, what does this have to do with Dines’s little statue? Not much. It’s just that you do get a sense of hierarchy of importance when you imagine big, fancy genie booms flying around Pushkin on Pushkin Square, revealing little imperfections whose repair is a matter of state consequence, and then you think about the little Pushkin ensemble on Spasopeskovskaya Square where – perhaps – I am the only person to even notice that a whole chunk of the artist’s work has been ripped off and is missing. You don’t see too many people in the photo immediately below worrying about the ensemble’s defect. In fact, you don’t see anybody paying Pushkin the damndest mind. That doesn’t happen on Pushkin Square, I’ll tell you. People walk around there, their heads in the clouds as they peruse the great man from every angle. These people here only kinda glanced at me askance for an instant as I walked around photographing. As if they were thinking, “What the hell is he up to? But what do we care?”
As for me, I collect these things like baseball cards. I’m almost as thrilled to get a 1963 Al Ferrara, if I don’t have him already, as I am to get a Sandy Koufax. Well, almost, anyway. Enough so, that, despite my curmudgeonly ways today, I’m happy to add this to the till. I mean, how cool is it to walk around town and get to exchange glances with Alexander Pushkin, no matter what shape he’s in?