Tuesday, April 11, 2006

About time

A mere 15 years after the collapse of communism the Bolshoi theatre is at last going to be stripped of its Soviet trappings.

Visitors to Moscow are still surprised by the numbers of guady red stars adorning the Kremlin, the thuggish Soviet emblems pockmarking public buildings and the hordes of lumpen statues of Lenin which still besmirch every other corner in the city. While the newly liberated countries of eastern europe rushed to destroy the propaganda in stone imposed upon them, Russia has been conspicuously slow to free itself of remnants of the glorious Soviet epoch.

Sometimes ascribed to laziness, lack of money or a respect for the sacrifices of the past these displays were hardly likely to inspire confidence in freedom and democracy from visitors to the motherland. You'll have to look long and hard to find any new memorials to the victims of the gulag put up in their place.

At last things seem to be changing, and one of the most iconic symbols of Russian culture, the Bolshoi theatre, is being stripped of its hammer and sickle in a refurbishment plan. The velvet curtain, adorned with hundreds of cute little soviet symbols is to be disappeared to a small museum in the theatre and the big hammer and sickle ostentatiously reigning over what used to be the tsar's personal box is to go, replaced by Russia's double-headed eagle. The theatre dates not from 1917 but 1776.

Mikhail Shvydkoi, an official in the ministry of culture, said: "The decision to change the emblem strikes me as being historically fair and natural. It symbolises that we don't live in the Soviet Union but in Russia, a new, democratic and free country which respects its traditions."

About time too.

'Lenin is more alive than the living', that's what the Soviet state used to say.

"A lie told often enough becomes truth" - VI Lenin.
Tartu, Estonia. 101 uses for a dead Lenin anyone?

"It is true that liberty is precious - so precious that it must be rationed" - VI Lenin.
Pärnu, Estonia.

"Give us the child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever" - VI Lenin.
The last Lenin in Estonia, just 50m from the Russian border.

"One man with a gun can control one hundred without one" - VI Lenin.

"We need the real, nation-wide terror which reinvigorates the country and through which the Great French Revolution achieved glory" - VI Lenin.

It happened like this when only the dead
Were smiling, glad of their release,
That Leningrad hung around its prisons
Like a worthless emblem, flapping its piece.
Shrill and sharp, the steam-whistles sang
Short songs of farewell
To the ranks of convicted, demented by suffering,
As they, in regiments, walked along -
Stars of death stood over us
As innocent Russia squirmed
Under the blood-spattered boots and tyres
Of the black marias.

- Anna Akhmatova - Prelude to 'Requiem'


Blogger Tim Newman said...

I've not got too much of a problem with the red stars, despite what they once represented. Even the hammer and sickle logo has been adopted by Russian youth to represent something far different from its original meaning.

Agree about the statues of Lenin, though. They should be torn down without delay, except possibly the one in Yalta which overlooks the McDonalds.

I'm surprised you didn't the most blatant Lenin memorial of all, that of the mummified corpse of the old bastard lying in Red Square. I would dearly love to see him removed from his crypt and pitched into the Moskva.

5:09 pm  

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