Russia Complains About Mocking Soviet Monuments!
On August 19 The Moscow Times reported about Russia’s demand that Bulgaria try harder to prevent vandalism of Soviet-era monuments, after yet another monument to Soviet troops in Sofia was spray-painted.
The Russian Embassy in Bulgaria has issued a note demanding that its former Soviet-era ally clean up the monument in Sofia’s Lozenets district, identify and punish those responsible, and take “exhaustive measures” to prevent similar attacks in the future… The vandalism was the latest in a series of similar recent incidents in Bulgaria - each drawing angry criticism from Moscow.
The Moscow Times page features the “Superheroes” illustration above – even though that particular repainting of the monument happened three years ago, on the night of June 17, 2011, when unknown artists “dressed” the Soviet Army soldiers as Superman, the Joker, Robin, Captain America, Ronald McDonald, Santa Claus, Wolverine, The Mask, and Wonder Woman.
The monument was cleaned up three days later, but that subversive action was only the beginning of a wondrous transformation of the stodgy piece of socialist realism into a prop for pop-art manifestations and political performances.
About a year later, in August 17, 2012, someone dressed up the Soviet soldiers in colored ski masks as members of the Russian women’s punk rock band “Pussy Riot,” in protest of the Kremlin’s prosecution and imprisonment of the musicians.
In the following year the monument was repainted twice. On Bulgaria’s national day for the commemoration of the victims of communism, February 1, 2013, the Soviets were painted in the colors of the Bulgarian flag: white, red, and green.
And on August 21, 2013 - a year ago - they were painted pink to express an apology for Bulgaria’s support of Soviet suppression of Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring. The writing in Czech, “bulharsko se omlouva,” means “Bulgaria apologizes.” The pink color was a nod to the Czech sculptor David Černý, who once famously covered a monument to a Soviet tank in Prague with pink paint.
Earlier this year, in February 23, 2014 – when Russia officially celebrated its national Day of the Soviet Armed Forces – someone painted the monument in the color of the Ukrainian flag, expressing their support of the Ukrainian revolution. The accompanying writing was in Ukrainian: “Слава Україні” meaning “Glory to Ukraine,” with an added obscene reference to Vladimir Putin.
On March 2, 2014, the monument also appeared covered with graffiti demanding “Hands off Ukraine” in protest of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.
And on April 12, 2014, the figures on the opposite side of the monument were painted in the colors of both Ukrainian and Polish flags, with the words “Putin go home” and “Katyn 3/5/40,” commemorating the Katyn massacre of 22,000 unarmed Polish officers by the Soviet Army in 1940.
It appears that the area around the monument is a favorite hangout and meeting point among local youths and a staging area for urban pop-art events. The surreal effect is compounded by the recurrent political rallies held by anti-communist groups who demand the removal or demolition of the Soviet monument, and pro-Russian groups who wish it to stay.
So why, after all these years, has Russia become suddenly concerned?
Is it because the Kremlin is returning to the old days of the Soviet imperial rule, seeing its closest neighbors as vassals, stirring nationalism among Russia’s citizens, reviving the war-time propaganda and mindset, while comparing its current war on Ukraine to WWII?
Or is it because the most recent repainting of the monument in the colors of Ukraine is to the Kremlin what a cross is to a vampire?
We think that both are true. We also think that while Russia’s anger was triggered by the recent pro-Ukrainian acts on the monument, The Moscow Times’ editors deliberately chose to illustrate their story with a more innocuous three-year-old “Superheroes” photo instead. Their Kremlin masters wouldn’t have approved if they were to popularize a rebellious pro-Ukrainian message; that would be similar to scoring for the opposite team.
None of this wouldn’t be happening, of course, if Russia had repented and admitted the harm it had brought on its neighbors, as well as on itself, with its chauvinistic, supremacist attitudes. Instead, it is doubling down on war propaganda and aggression, calling anyone who stands in its way a Nazi, and getting drunk on the utopian Eurasianism, which looks very much like the same old Nazism only on steroids.
Russia’s growing isolation caused by the recent international sanctions, followed by its own self-imposed sanctions on imports, is pulling this once promising nation the way of Juche – the North Korean model of austere self-sufficiency fueled by the illusion that greatness can be achieved by closing itself from the rest of the world and whipping a half-starved army of angry people into a paranoid frenzy.
The messages that the Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Czechs, Poles, and the rest of Russia’s neighbors are sending to their self-appointed Big Brother are clear: “You’re not the boss of us now. Why don’t you just become a normal nation like the rest of us? The outside world has better things to do than to devise evil conspiracies against you. So quit your paranoia and stop grabbing land from your neighbors. You’re already the biggest freaking country in the world, give it a rest.”
The only one who isn’t hearing this message is the actual Big Brother. To continue with the family analogy, Russia is like a relative who once in a while gets drunk, becomes loud and unruly, and takes every word or a glance as a challenge to a fight.
What will it take for Russia to come to its senses and will it happen in our lifetime? It is hard to predict; we can only hope that when the moment of truth arrives, the scene after the flash will not be the smoldering ruins of the Eurasian continent.
Oleg Atbashian, a writer and graphic artist from the former USSR, is the author of Shakedown Socialism, of which David Horowitz said, “I hope everyone reads this book.” In 1994 he moved to the U.S. with the hope of living in a country ruled by reason and common sense, appreciative of its freedoms and prosperity. To his dismay, he discovered a nation deeply infected by the leftist disease of “progressivism” that was arresting true societal progress. Oleg is the creator of a satirical website ThePeoplesCube.com, which Rush Limbaugh described on his show as “a Stalinist version of The Onion.”