On This Day: Bolsheviks Order Destruction of Tsarist Monuments

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Bolsheviks dismantle the monument to Alexander II in the Kremlin. Moscow, 1918

This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

Shortly after the October 1917 Revolution, the Bolsheviks wasted no time in their efforts to erase the memory of the monarchy and Tsarist Russia. April 12th marks the 100th anniversary of the issuance of the decree on the destruction of monuments to “tsars and their servants”. The decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR “On the monuments of the Republic, was signed by Vladimir Lenin, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin and SNK Secretary Nikolai Gorbunov.

An excerpt from the decree reads: “Monuments erected in honour of tsars and their servants, and not of interest from either historical or artistic value are subject to removal from squares and streets and transferred to warehouses, partly for the use of a utilitarian character”

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Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (1857-1905). The memorial cross by Viktor Vasnetsov was erected on the site of the grand duke’s assassination in the Moscow Kremlin in 1908.

In 1918, the monuments of the era of the “accursed tsarism” were destroyed and quickly replaced by revolutionary ones. The first monument demolished was a memorial cross at the site of the 1905 assassination of the Moscow Governor-General, Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich. Members of the Bolshevik government, which included Lenin, participated in its destruction on May 1st. [Note: the 1908 memorial cross was restored to its original spot in 2017]

This was followed by the destruction of the memorial complex to Emperor Alexander II, which was located on a slope inside the Moscow Kremlin. A majestic arched gallery stretched around the statue of the emperor – on its arches were 33 mosaics with images of Russian sovereigns. Workers removed the monument of the emperor in 1918, and the remaining elements were demolished ten years later.

The demolition of the monuments to the “tsars and their servants” gradually spread to other parts of the country. In Kostroma, a monument to Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich and the peasant Ivan Susanin, established in 1851, was deemed “objectionable” and ordered demolished. The Bolsheviks used the empty pedestal as a tribune for another decade, however, the complete destruction was completed in the 1930s.

The decree “On the monuments of the Republic” outlined not only to destroy “monuments to the tsars and their servants”, but also to establish ones honouring revolutionary “heroes” in their place as soon as possible.

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The Alexander Garden Obelisk marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty

The first monument to be “replaced” was a commemorative obelisk in the Alexander Garden near the wall of the Moscow Kremlin. It was originally opened in 1913 in honour of the 300th anniversary of the accession to the Russian throne of the Romanov dynasty. The obelisk included a list of all the rulers of the Imperial House of Russia.

In September 1918, the obelisk was radically altered: the two-headed eagle was removed from the top, the inscriptions and the bas-relief of Saint George were removed from the stele, and replaced by a list of 19 Bolshevik revolutionaries. [Note: the 1913 obelisk was restored to its original spot in 2013]

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New monuments to Russia’s emperors and empresses have been established in post-Soviet Russia

Today, few monuments have survived from the “monumental propaganda campaign” of the first years of Bolshevik power. Among those are monuments to Alexander Herzen  (writer and thinker known as the “father of Russian socialism”) and Nikolai Ogarev (poet, historian and political activist) in the courtyard of one of the facilities of the Moscow State University on Okhotny Road, and a monument to Karl Marx in Ulyanovsk.

A century later, history has come full circle. Monuments to Lenin, Stalin, and other Bolshevik and Soviet leaders have been removed and/or destroyed in post-Soviet Russia. Monuments to the Romanov emperors and empresses, on the other hand, have made an astonishing comeback across Russia.

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Karma?

PHOTO: On 1st April 2009, Russian vandals perpetrated the ultimate act of sacrilege when they blew a 3-foot hole in the backside of one of the former Soviet Union’s most famous statues of Vladimir Lenin in St Petersburg.

In an apparent April Fools’ Day stunt, the blast left sunlight pouring through the hindquarters of the 33-foot statue, erected in the 1920s outside the city’s Finland Railway Station.

It was here, after a famous trip from Germany aboard a sealed train, that Lenin disembarked in 1917 to lead the revolution against Tsar Nicholas II.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 13 April 2018