Garden of Ruins / Nostalgic Seizure

With the breaking of the Communist rule, there emerged, among other architectural incongruent consequences, the gardens of ruins, stone gardens, in a way: specifically organized spaces where sculptures and monuments whose symbolic meaning expired, are collected. Inspirations that effigies had to provide before they were discarded, on a number of occasions were transformed into the didacticity of “look how terrible it was, how ugly, how megalomaniac, and how unstable and fleeting was their existence, as well as the existence of regimes which engendered them.” Such a park exists, for instance, in Moscow near the TsDKh, the Central House of Artist (Tsentralny Dom Khudozhnika; it retained its Soviet-time name), side by side with the agglomeration of the modern, quite amorphous and ugly, perhaps intentionally, contemporary sculpture. With their existence, they pose the question: To what extent and how ruins encode ideological meaning? They necessarily evoke the image of active construction, of practices that were at play at the time; of which they are mere husks. The splendor they once exuded is not lost, but transformed.

The charmed garden of the broken statues of Lenin, Dzerzhinsky, Stalin, sickles and hummers, machine gears and five-arrowed stars on the backyard of what seems to be civilization, restores in the mind of the visitor the USSR of a never arriving future. The utopia of a country, where only the best images of life proliferated and replicated, such as young pioneers applying their puffed lips to the horns, with the scarlet reflections of the red flag on their slightly downed, gilded cheeks, is floating here vaguely. Yet it is also impossible to look at the heavy bronze monuments without recollecting devindividualized, often nameless, dehumanized bare life in barren landscapes of forced labor camps. Another vision is a columbarium of the party cemetery, the niches of which, for instance, on Novodevichie cemetery, are full of ashes of devoted Communists. The sculpture garden is a columbarium of monuments.

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Ivan Petrovich Petukhov, the member of KPSS since 1904. The member of the former Society of Old Bolshevicks. (Novodevichie cemetery)

Once again, looking at the garden of ruins, one could not help but notes: a huge bronze sculpture of the USSR national emblem, stone embodiments of revolutioners and Bolshevicks’: Felix Dzerzhinsky by Vuchetich (the monument which was previously towering over Lubyanka square); Yakov Sverdlov by Ambarzumyan; Slalin by Merkurov; writer Maxim Gorky, and several incarnations of Vladimir Lenin; fallic symbols of nations’ friendship, along with compositions commemorating deeds of the military glory, some probably discarded for no good reason.[1] Ironically or not, but certainly intentionally, “istukans” (“idols”) were gathered in vicinity of the modern memorial commemorating the repressed.

 

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[1] In the spree of reconfiguring the space, unreasonable displacement of sculptures or acts of renaming happened on more than several occasions. Thus, when the names of the Moscow metro stations were changed massively, in the late 1980s and 1990s, exterminating the communist mapping of the city and replacing it with the map of the new times, the metro station Lermontovskaya, commemorating the name of the magnificent Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov, was wiped out from the plans. It was renamed to the supposedly historic Krasnie Vorota, The Red Gate, in honor of the triumphal arch above the ground, demolished in 1926 by Mossovet, the city administration of the Soviet government. Moscow palimpsest is the palimpsest of lacks, losses, glaring gaps and broken texture of a manuscript, rather than the palimpsest of careful obliteration of details and replacing them with new layers of meaning.

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