In the middle of October 2010, Hugo Chávez visited Moscow. As part of his visit, he drove a Lada Priora across the city to a location in the south-west of the city, near the university. There, he opened a foundation stone for the Simón Bolívar monument, which was supposed to be a replica of the ones in Lima, Caracas and San Francisco, by the Italian master Adamo Tadolini.

Here’s AP’s footage of the event. Now, six years later, the stone is still there (sorry for the poor quality) and there is no indication it’s going to be replaced by Tadolini’s mighty horseman any time soon. Not that Moscow has stopped erecting monuments. It’s probably a question of priorities and money: Venezuela is broke and Russia isn’t interested in the Liberator.

It’s a pity in more ways than one. First, Bolívar would find himself a member of an eclectic company. Less than 300 yards down the street from his designated location, there is a 1972 Soviet monument to early Komsomol members. About 900 yards behind his assumed back, a recently installed bust of Alexander Prokhorov, one of the three 1964 Nobel winners in physics. And if Bolivar could look to the left and a little ahead, he should be able to see, at least in the late fall and early spring when neither leaves nor snow obstruct the view, Walt Whitman standing in front of MGU’s First Humanities building, only 600 yards away.

Whitman’s statue was unveiled one year before Chávez’s visit, in October 2009, by Secretary Clinton and the Russian foreign minister Lavrov. A statue of Pushkin, produced by the same sculptor, Alexander Burganov, in a similar style, was placed at about the same time on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Another cause for disappointment is the dearth of equestrian statues of this sort in Moscow. There are plenty of horsemen but rarely is the horse standing on its hind legs. This category includes a few recent, uninteresting St. Georges and the new monument to general Skobelev near the Academy of the General Staff building. However, it is so far from the city center that few people suspect anything worth seeing can be found in these remote parts.

St. Petersburg has at least two first-rate statues with the horse rearing up: the Bronze Horseman by Étienne-Maurice Falconet, a very fine Rococo sculptor, and Nicholas I by Peter Clodt, the creator of the wonderful Anichkov Bridge horses and tamers. (Both emperors are facing the same direction but are separated by St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which is in front of Nicholas and behind Peter – hence the old St. Petersburg saying: “The idiot is chasing the smart man but Isaac stands in the way.”) Moscow would definitely benefit from a statue by Tadolini, who studied with Canova and inherited his studio.


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