Radoslava Ilcheva

The bronze idols of Russia



Since primordial times there have been foreordained in the human being to transgress the second God’s order, which warns: “Do not make yourselves idols”. The examples are numerous. The object of research is one particular case: monuments as object of idolatry.

The processes of transforming the statue into a pagan idol are revealed on the basis of several distinguished monuments in Russia. The major attention is devoted to the Copper Horseman – the famous horse statue of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg (1782). It is not only the first monument in Russia, on the whole, but also the first bronze idol of the New Time. Here are considered the circumstances that facilitated this metamorphosis: mythologization on the represented personality, multilevel content of the aesthetic message, universality of representation, adequate emplacement, availability of historical distance, etc.

The Copper Horseman has been present in mass consciousness predominantly as a guardian spirit (genius loci): it protects the town which was founded by the visualized in it personality from natural (the floods) and social (the war threatening in 1812) cataclysms. At the time of the besiege of Leningrad (1941-1944) its protective functions are shared with the also in Petersburg erected statues of the war-commanders Suvorov (1801), Kutuzov and Barklai de Tolli (1837).

The transformation of the statues into idols is clearly traced during the Soviet Period: from the rituals before the monuments of Lenin and heroes with national and local importance to the destruction of the images of the found into guilt idols (the monuments of Stalin).

Today, though, there have not disappeared the presuppositions for appearance of new bronze idols. The monument of the Peter the Great in the courtyard of the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Petersburg and the monument of marshal Zhukov at the front entrance of the Red Square in Moscow pretend to be such idols in the 90-ies of the XX-ieth century. It is another question whether the implanted in them messages could withstand the ordeals of time.


Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.