THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Midday train to Georgia
Hammond Meets Moss

Vandalism, art or satire?

Painting the Soviet army monument is vandalism: Bulgarian Minister of Culture - Bulgaria - The Sofia Echo.

Soviet2 Of course, the Bulgarian Minister of Culture is right about the criminality of the act. Banksy's a criminal too. He's wrong about this though;

We (Bulgarians) are the only ones led by some kind of destructive force when it comes to monuments of socialism.

With due respect, Mr Minister, that's deplorable Bulgarian exceptionalism. Personally, I can never see one outside a museum without wanting to deface it - and neither can anyone with a proper sense of history. In case anyone's interested, this is what the whole thing looks like - the whimsical decorations above are to the bas reliefs on the base.

Soviet3I lived in Warsaw for 11 years. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Poles took down the Socialist monuments and changed the revolutionary names on the streets. They did so (as is the Polish wont) with a wicked sense of humour. Dzerzhinski Square (named for the Polish founder of the KGB) became "Bank Square". The former offices of the Communist Party became, for a while, the home of the Warsaw Stock Exchange and various other capitalist running dogs (including me).

I lived in Moscow for 6 years. The Russians (unable, like the Poles, unfairly to blame "the Russians" for everything bad in their recent history) retained the monuments and street names. They took the Bulgarian Culture Minister's view; i.e. that Socialism was a part of their history that should not be denied.

Personally, I think the Poles were right. Keeping the monuments of the vilest totalitarian empire in history in place makes no sense to me. What would it have told us if the Germans had retained their Hitler-era monuments on the basis that National Socialism had been (as it undoubtedly was) an important part of German history? Why is this any different?

Not that I am advocating a smash-the-Buddhas approach. The subject matter may have been evil, but some of these monuments were worthy pieces of art. That they were made in service of a false religion is no reason to destroy them. For myself, I still regret not managing to acquire one of the Socialist Realist reliefs that decorated the now-demolished Kino Moskwa* in Warsaw, for example. Even some of the artistically unworthy pieces were interesting historically. Perhaps the best approach is that represented this park in Budapest? Keep them by all means, but consign them to history where they belong.

*Partly because I have fond memories of a profoundly uncommercial cinema that had more than enough legroom for my two-metre-tall frame and partly because a bravely subversive Polish artist had humorously made the cow being led by noble, muscular Polish peasants just as noble and muscular itself. I wish I could find a picture to show you. It made me laugh every time we went to see a movie.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jorein Versteege

If Poland wants to ban communist symbols, let them ban their flag and eagle too. The flag of the People’s Republic of Poland was the same flag the old capitalist Polish republic used. The eagle was also kept as symbol of the People’s Republic of Poland, they only removed the crown.

I find it very anti-democratic to ban communist symbols like the red star and the hammer and sickle.
The Polish United Workers Party did not used those symbols, neither did the Polish stalinist state. All that anticommunism in Poland today, is part of a strategy to equalize Stalinism with Marxism. The right-wing nationalists in Poland ( and elsewhere ) are glorifying anticommunists, but all genuine Marxists who opposed the totalitarian Polish state are equaled with Stalin and totalitarianism. They want their children to grow up as anticommunists, perfect in line with capitalism and Polish nationalism.

Single acts of tyranny

I rather agree with you. I would not be happy walking down Herman Goering Strasse and frankly I find Les invalides a bit weird ~ The frogs can't seem to accept the fact that their national hero was an expansionist gangster who came to the fore following military success after a bloody revolution.

The comments to this entry are closed.