It’s been almost three decades since the break-up of the Soviet Union, yet our fascination with it shows no sign of going into that same terminal decline. And one way that manifests itself is by visiting the parks that are now home to those statues that once graced the squares and streets of its former republics.
In Moscow, the Open Air Park of Fallen Monuments has been renamed the Muzeon Park of Arts, or often simply Muzeon Park. You’ll find it on the bank of the Moskva River, across the street from Gorky Park. There, you’ll find a collection of monuments to the likes of Lenin, Stalin and Gorky as well as examples of contemporary art.
But this now popular Moscow green space had a bumpy start to life. Originally Gorky Park was supposed to extend across the road, but the project never came to fruition. Over the years, the city’s planners had new proposals; war stopped construction of the Academy of Sciences on the site and a post-war residential development never materialised. Somehow this little piece of Moscow real estate remained largely a waste ground, with the Tretyakov Gallery marooned at its heart. Fortunately, this was the place where dismantled Soviet-era statues were gathered up, and a new park was born.
Muzeon Park displays over 700 sculptures and works of art. Themed areas, such as the Oriental Garden, Pushkin Square and Portrait Row, helped to make sense of the diverse collection. Highlights include a giant steel sculpture representing the Soviet world and several Lenins missing their pedestals. Big names including Stalin (minus his nose in one instance), Brezhnev, Marx, Gorky and even the KGB leader Dzerzhinsky are all represented. The park also offers a great vantage point to see the old Red October Chocolate Factory on Bolotny Island and the famous statue of Peter the Great, erected at the confluence of the Moskva River and the Vodootvodny Canal.
But that’s not all. Contemporary sculptors have attended symposiums, after which they were invited to display their work, limestone often being the material of choice, alongside the fallen monuments. As its young trees matured, the leafy setting has only become more attractive. Views over the Moskva River make this a lovely place to come and sit in the sunshine or take a leisurely stroll.
Muzeon Park has seen many changes over the last decade. Architect Yevgeny Asse was invited to redesign the park landscape, replacing some of the more tired infrastructure with new paths, improved lighting and eateries. There’s even provision for an open air cinema. Such development extended to the adjacent Krymskaya Embankment, which was upgraded with flower beds, modern seating and pavilions. Muzeon Park also features a regular Vernissage so that artists can exhibit their works on a regular basis. Masterclasses help wannabe artists take another step closer to achieving their dreams.
Muzeon Park might have one foot rooted firmly in the past, but it has an eye on the future too.