Karl Marx in Moscow

Despite all the changes, some things remain the same in Russia. A few years ago the term “democracy” was amended to “managed democracy,” the government’s way of sugar-coating the scrapping of direct elections for regional leaders. Today, the term “democracy” is considered to be a four-letter word.

While capitalism, still very much the wild West style, rumbles on for those at the top, the country continues to find itself with one foot in the old ideology of Marxism-Leninism, and the other foot in the race to make more and more money for those with the right political connections.

Despite all the talk of change, the grand statue of Karl Marx remains standing across from the Bolshoi Theatre, near the Teatralnaya Plaza and Metro station, and opposite the Plaza of the Revolution.

Karl Marx monument, Moscow.

While the monument to Marx has stood at this location since 29 October 1961, the first monument to the discredited theorist was unveiled by Vladimir Lenin on 7 November 1918, commemorating the first anniversary of October Revolution. Lenin’s “Program of monumental propaganda” was touted to replace statues from the Tsarist era.

The original statue was nearby, on Revolution Square, which had just been renamed from its former title of Resurrection Square. The first monument featured Marx and Engels together, and due to the design quickly led locals to dub it “Two in a Bathtub.”  That statue, made of plaster of Paris, collapsed a year later, and so a new marble stone was set at the present location to show where a new monument would be constructed.

Communism wasn’t exactly the economic engine that Marx had prophesied, and so construction languished–for decades. The single marble stone at the new site read: “First stone of the monument to the great chieftain and teacher of the world proletariat.” It would be in 1957, long after Lenin’s death, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced a competition to complete the monument, and the job was awarded to Lev Kerbel, a favoured Soviet realism sculptor.

In 2009, officials with Moscow’s Committee for Monumental Arts proposed that the monument be removed from such a prominent spot in the centre of the city. The committee argued that the founder of communism had no place in Moscow since he had never visited during his lifetime.

Others have suggested that a life size statue of Vladimir Putin would be more appropriate at that site, but at least for now that idea has been tabled. Engineers say that the monument is one of the heaviest in Moscow, and therefore very difficult to move.

On the statue is an inscription reading: “Proletariat of all countries, solidarity!” At least some of the proletariat, in the form of local birds, visit the spot daily and are clearly united by showing their respect in the form of droppings on his head. It is as if the only human workers who remain united with Marx are the city maintenance crews who are dispatched to clean the statue daily.

Given the substance of his ideas, perhaps it would be just as well to allow the bird poop to accumulate.

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