April 23, 2019

Russian History in 13 Unusual Memorials


Russian History in 13 Unusual Memorials
In Russia, even a nose knows how to be a bureaucrat. Unico Unicornio / liveinternet.ru

Russia loves remembering. No matter what city you find yourself in, you can guarantee there will be a healthy assortment of war memorials (especially those of the Great Patriotic variety), those Pushkin-set-foot-here-once memorials (stay tuned for a special feature on this in our May issue), Lenins, Lenin’s favorite type of person (the proletariat), cats, and shockingly common memorials to sewer repairmen

memorial to sewer repairman
Photo: Dasha Krotova / Lookmytrips.com

Writing a Russian political, military, or literary history through monuments would be a monumental task. However, there is an alternative history of Russia that you would likely only know about because someone decided to make overlooked textbook sidebars concrete (often quite literally). 

While many of Russia’s most iconic monuments are from the imperial and Soviet eras, history did not end in 1991, and neither did Russians’ passion for memorializing it. In fact, since 2000 the number of unusual memorials has exploded. 

  • Check out some of the best ones all over Russia on our interactive map (also at the bottom of this post).

Residents of Khanty-Mansiysk decided that their history doesn’t have to start with humans. For their city’s 425th birthday they put up a life-sized (extinct-sized?) memorial to its prehistoric residents, woolly mammoths. 

memorial to mammoths
Photo: miss.lozko / yandex.ru

Fast-forwarding a mere 10,000 years, Yaroslavl was home to the minting of some of Russia’s first coins. In 2013 the city put up a memorial to a 1612 kopeck. 

memorial to kopeck
Photo: Irina_1957 / rutraveller.ru

Peter the Great had a great idea: how about building a city on a marsh? The only problem: marsh means water, and water means floods. According to legend, a rabbit once jumped onto Peter the Great’s foot to save itself from a flood. For the city’s 300th anniversary, Petersburgians put up a memorial to the bold bunny in the water outside Peter and Paul Fortress. 

memorial to rabbit
Photo: Peterburg Tsentr

Empress Elizabeth heard rumors that the cats of Kazan were especially good rat catchers and brought thirty of them into the Winter Palace (where their great-great-great-you-get-the-idea grandkittens are still hard at work, in between naps of course; and yes, of course they have their own insta). In 2009 Kazan dedicated a memorial to what was probably the biggest feline promotion in history, from street cats to aristocats. 

Kazan cat
Photo: Shagau.ru

It takes a dedicated literature lover – specifically a student of literature – to sniff out the second most popular memorial to Gogol’s satirical story “The Nose” in the courtyard of the Philological Faculty of St. Petersburg State University. Unlike the more well-known one, which is just a plaque, this sculpture gives a true sense of early nineteenth century St. Petersburg culture, in which even a detached nose can become a bureaucrat, as long as it has a top hat. 

Gogol nose memorial
Photo: Unico Unicornio / liveinternet.ru

Hottest news in Samara: the discovery of still functional 90-year-old radiators. The radiator was invented in Russia in 1855, and Samara decided to memorialize this in 2005. The sight of the sleeping kitty on a windowsill above the radiator will make anyone feel warm and fuzzy.  

memorial to radiator
Photo: Vipgeo.ru

Mirror, mirror, in the square, who’s the fairest anywhere? In Nizhny Novgorod, you can answer that question “I am!” while taking a mirror selfie with a nineteenth century fashionista, one of many sculptures dedicated to average people living in the city in the late 1800s. 

Fashionista memorial
Photo: Tatiana_N / rutraveller.ru 

The first traffic light in Novosibirsk appeared in 1940, and, as a 70th birthday present to traffic police, the city gave the green light to building a memorial on the site in 2006. 

Traffic light memorial
Photo: Russites.ru

Throughout the Great Patriotic War, Yuri Levitan’s voice informed and consoled the Soviet nation over public loudspeakers. May 9, 1945, broke all kinds of rules about newstelling: good news first and all the news is good news. Loudspeakers blasted Levitan’s announcement that World War II was over. A memorial to the Voice of Victory was erected in Levitan’s hometown of Vladimir in honor of the 70th anniversary of Victory Day. 

Voice of Victory Memorial
Photo: Ekatya / platform.ru

When you have between zero and one options for any given consumer product, your brand loyalty is off the charts. In 2005, Moscow residents unveiled a 40-year-anniversary memorial to the Soviet Union’s beloved cheese spread druzhba, which means friendship. In the memorial a fox and raven from a fable who normally don’t normally get along embrace a druzhba, of both cheese and comrade varieties. 

Cheese memorial
Photo: mos-holidays.ru

In 1976 Noyabrsk was founded on an oil extraction site. As it turned out, the city was rich not only in natural resources, but also in mosquitoes, which many believe are even worse than the Siberian winters. In an attempt to scratch their collective itch for recognition of their suffering, the city put up a giant memorial “Mosquito-Oilsucker.”

Mosquito memorial
Photo: myrussia / Golos.io (and check out her blog for other interesting memorials)

A cat would walk 500 miles, and a cat would walk 500 more, just to be the cat who walked 1000 miles to fall down at his owner’s door. In 1987, a family from Murmansk brought their cat Simon with them on a trip to Moscow. Simon got lost and the family had to return home without him. Six years, over 1200 miles, and one collapse of the Soviet Union later, Simon showed up on their Arctic doorstep, and earned himself a memorial. (Flashback to famous Russian scholar Lomonosov, who walked the opposite way, from a village in the Far North to Moscow, in 1730.)

Simon the cat
Photo: GodesD / Pikabu.ru

Yekaterinburg is the king – or shall we say the queen – of memorials to modern history. In addition to memorials dedicated to significant events, such as the 2009 meteorite and the computer keyboard, they even put up a memorial to a temperature. It was particularly hot in the summer of 2012. Yekaterinburg wanted to never forget that, so they erected a memorial to fans. If you aren’t a fan of heat either, we wish you better luck this summer.

Fan memorial
Photo: Nashural.ru

 

You Might Also Like

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
The Little Humpbacked Horse

The Little Humpbacked Horse

A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567

802-223-4955