Monuments, busts and statues in Russia and the former soviet states are closely tied to the political regimes that erect them or pull them down.
In 2014, the toppling of Lenin statues in Ukraine became a symbol of the country’s pro-Europe revolution. In recent years, Russia has seen statues erected to Stalin as the bloody Soviet leader’s reputation is rehabilitated and his qualities as a strong leader and military victor are increasingly valued.
In November, President Vladimir Putin unveiled an enormous statue just outside the Kremlin to Prince Vladimir, the tenth century prince of Kiev who converted to Orthodox Christianity. Many consider the monument an effort to elbow aside Ukraine – with which Russia has seen a collapse in relations in recent years – from the narrative of Russian history.
Yet one of the most controversial newcomers to Russia’s pantheon of heroes represented in stone is the notorious Russian leader Ivan the Terrible, known to many as a bloody tyrant.
On a grey day in October, about 1,000 people gathered in the city of Oryol for the official opening of Russia’s first monument to the sixteenth century ruler.
Members of nationalist groups wearing black and carrying the white, gold and black flags of Imperial Russia, stood near the statue. Local Cossacks, some in camouflage, lined the nearby paths. Orthodox believers, several carrying an icon of Tsar Nicholas II, mingled with the nationalists. Many said they had traveled from Moscow for the event.
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