Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Moscow is absolutely loaded with outdoor art.  It seemed that on every major intersection, there was a massive monument to something or (more often than not) someone.  A few in particular caught my attention.

#1: A monument to the Russian poet, singer/songwriter Bulat Okudzhava (1924-1997) on Arbat Street:

I love the interactive nature of this sculpture. An admirer can join the poet under his arch and be part of the artwork.

#2: Statue of Peter the Great 1672-1725), Czar of Russia
It is hard to miss this monument situated in the Moskva River.  At 315 feet tall, it is the eighth tallest statue in the world. By comparison, the Statue of Liberty stands 151 feet tall and is the twenty-ninth tallest statue in the world.  Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli was commissioned in 1998 to create a work to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy, and it was installed in 2010 to almost instant outcry of disgust. (See, for example, this BBC article.)

Note that Peter is standing atop a small village.

The base really is pretty ugly.
Muscovites aren't too fond of Peter to begin with as he himself hated Moscow so much that he moved the capital to St. Petersburg.  It is no suprise that they are so negative about what they consider to be a twenty million dollar monstrosity. (To be totally honest, I quite liked it.)

#3: Heroes of Russian Fairy Tales
In the center of Moscow is a park that joins the Red Square/Kremlin area with the business district.  In that park, in addition to a line-up of disturbingly American fast food places, is a series of small canals filled with scenes from fairy tales created in the 1990s by Zurab Tsereteli.  These have been much more favorably received than the same artist's sculpture of Peter the Great pictured above!

Most of the figures are from the works of Ivan Krylov (1769-1844), a Russian writer who was a contemporary and friend of Alexander Pushkin.  Krylov sometimes borrowed from Aesop and others, but added his own touches to give the stories a Russian flavor.  How many can you identify?

My favorite is the story of the poor fisherman who catches a fish. In return for being freed, the fish grants the fisherman his heart's desire.  After consulting with his wife, he asks for a new washtub.  When it appears, the couple grows dissatisfied and the fisherman returns and requests a new cottage. Then he returns again and asks for a mansion and for his wife to be a fine lady.  On his fourth trip, he asks that his home become a palace and that his wife be the tsaritsa. All of these wishes are granted until the wife, full of her own importance, asks to be made queen of the seas and for the fish to be her slave.  When the fisherman asks this of the fish, the fish swims angrily away and the old man returns to find his old wife sitting in their dirty hovel with her broken washtub.
 It is an excellent reminder to be grateful for even small blessings!

Later on in our trip we purchased our own "magic" fish in St. Petersburg.  He won't grant over-the-top wishes . . .

. . . but a sweet treat magically appears in his mouth whenever there are children around!


  1. Loved seeing all of this. The canal by itself, is intriguing and like many of the others there, I could see myself buying a lunch and sitting there canal-side, eating and enjoying the day.

    That's quite the fish! Beautiful, with a fun surprise.

  2. I hadn't notice the similarity between our fish and the one in the statue. Do you think our fish is representative of the one in the fairy tale?

  3. I too like the statue of Peter The Great, I'm sure it must have been very impressive when seeing it in person. I appreciate the comparison to the Statue of Liberty ... that really helped me put the scale of it in perspective.