detail Statue in front of the Kremlin

Kremlin under Siege

UNESCO considers removing World Heritage Status from the Kremlin due to the erection of a massive statue of Vladimir the Great

Kremlin from the air
Kremlin from the air. X denotes building currently being torn down. O the approximate location of the Statue (exact location is slightly outside the old photo).

Persistent rumours has it that UNESCO is currently considering to strip the Kremlin in Moscow of its World Heritage Status. The reason is that Russian authorities are planning to erect a massive statue of the Grand Duke Vladimir on the Borovitskaya Square. The statue was initially set to be 24 metres high and placed on Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills’), visible from much of Moscow. After tens of thousands of Muscovites signed a petition against this location, the Moscow authorities voted to erect the statue on Borovitskaya Ploshchad, just outside the Kremlin wall.

The new location was according to The Moscow Times chosen after the result of several internet surveys, in which more than 300.000 Muscowites took part.

The monument is scheduled to be unveiled on the 4th of November 2016 and is expected to cost RUB 94 million or $1.2 mill.

However, according to The Calvert Journal, UNESCO has grave reservations concerning the project, as “the installation of the monument on the Borovitskaya Square could have a negative impact on the outstanding universal value of the object”. Accordingly it is suggested that in order “to eliminate the possibility of such effects it is recommended that another location be chosen for the monument”.

Another demand from UNESCO is claimed to be a reduction of the size of the monument to the height of 8 metres. Judging from photos the planned statue is designed in a tacky neo-nationalistic style reminiscent of the late 19th century. Photos of the construction of the statue does not point to any planned reduction of size.

The statue is created by the so-called “People’s Artist of Russia”, sculptor Salavat Shcherbakov, who was also responsible for the statue of Alexander the I, which was unveiled in 2014. This statue has also been erected in front of the walls of the Kremlin. However, it does not measure more than app. 14 metres.

Contested Saint

Zlatnik made of Gold Vladimie the great 958 - 1015
Golden Zlatnik from the reign of Vladimir the Great 958 – 1015. Source: Wikipedia.

Vladimir the Great (c. 958 – 1015) belonged to the Rurik dynasty and was of Scandinavian origin (his real name was Valdemar Sveinaldsson). After the death of his father in 972, Vladimir was forced to flee to Scandinavia where he succeeded in assembling a Varengian army with the help of a relative, Håkon Sigursson, who was ruler of Norway. With this army he regained control of Novgorod. Later Vladimir was able to consolidate a realm covering modern-day Ukraine and further down towards the Baltic see. Orginally a pagan, he converted to Christianity in 988 and was allegedly baptised in the Chrimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

Vladimir is thus regarded as the Christianizer of the Kievan Rus. Some claim that he converted in order to be able to marry a true purple princess, a Porphyrogenita, a legitimate daughter of the Byzantine Emperor.

The challenge is of course that Vladimir is primarily regarded as the national saint of Ukraine. However, since the Soviet era, the history of the Kievan Rus’ has been appropriated by the Russians as part of their national history. There is no doubt that by raising the gargantuan statue right in front of the Kremlin, Putin and his cronies wish in yet another way to pamper the Russian electorate (hence the official “story” of the alleged 300.000 Russians taking part in the vote). The statue is thus part of the constant spin, spewed out by the official Russian PR-machine and supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, which last year (2015) resulted in widespread commemorative events celebrating this national “Russian” saint. Whether UNESCO has the gall to contest this plan will be seen. The decision will be taken at the meeting in June 2016.

Archaeology in Kremlin

The intriguing fact is that when Vladimir converted to Christianity he was a Norwegian Viking, married to a Byzantine princess and residing in Kiev in present-day Ukraine, Moscow was if anything just a couple of huts.

Next year will probably see a totally unreliable revision of this fact. Currently a demolition of a building from the 1934 is taking place inside the walls of the Kremlin. In itself the building has no architectural value and the plan is to have the area laid out as a park. The interesting bit is, however, that Stalin, when he made room for the building, had the two oldest monasteries inside the Kremlin torn down. The wish to rebuild these has naturally being voiced by Orthodox church as well as Putin. Although it is believed that this wish will not be granted at present – due to the dire economic situation in Russia – the demolition will allow for a thorough archaeological excavation of this most holy ground in Mother Russia.

At Medieval Histories we are eagerly looking forward to the publication of the archaeological finds, which we bet will entail a revision of the oldest history of Moscow, bringing its date back to the time of Vladimir the Great.

We shall see…

Karen Schousboe


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