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Mother Russia, Christ the Redeemer and Mr Patel: the world's biggest statues...
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posted by Richard Green on 06/06/2018
 

England played Tunisia in the World Cup back in June, in the Russian city of Volgograd - in the shadow of the mother of all motherland statues. It was built to commemorate World War II's Battle of Stalingrad, as Volgograd was then known - is 16 times the height of Michaelangelo's David and weilds a sword as long as Rio's Christ the Reedemer is tall.

Below is a look at the where,when and why of this giant figure, with nine other of the world's other biggest statues.

The Motherland Calls

Vital statistics: this sweeping beauty - Socialist Realism on steriods - is 85m tall and weighs over 8,000 tonnes. Also in the memorial complex is an eternal flame, the Memory Museum, and a cyclorama depicting the battle as it might have been seen from the top of the mound.

Where/when? The statue is on the outskirts of Volgograd, known as Stalingrad between 1925 and 1961, and as Tsaritsyn before that. The huge Mother Russia was unveiled in 1967 and stands on the top of an infamous mound called Hill 102 during the batttle, where fighting raged four months in 1942.

Why oh why? Nobody did war memorials quite like the Soviet Union, which erected hundreds of often massive and musular statues to commemorate the country's victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Unsurprisingly then that the Battle Of Stalingrad, a turning point in the conflict that engulfed the city for six long months and cost the lives of perhaps two million people, would host the pinacle of Soviet statuary.

Criticism & controversy: any dissent about the suitability of the staue would have been swiftly snuffed out back in the Soviet day, but the esteem in which the 11 Hero Cities - of which Volgograd is one - are held in Russia, would have meant that the vast majority of the city's population were behind the statue and memorial complex. The sword did need a bit of a rethink though - as the stainless steel and its titanium cladding proved to be too wobbly in high winds. In 1972 the blade was replaced by something lighter, and with the addition of holes in the sword's upper part to reduce wind resistance. 

Visiting: take the tram to Mamaev Kurgan. Volgograd International Airport has flights to Moscow with Aeroflot, Nordwind Airlines, and S7. Other cities served include Rostov-on-Don with Azimuth, Kazan, Krasnodar and Sochi with Utair, and Chelyabinsk with Yamal Airlines.

Related My Bathroom Wall posts include Cycloramas, Moscow's controversial Peter the Great statue, and the Brest Fortress war memorials.

African Renaissance Monument

Vital statistics: undeniably powerful, this oddly Soviet styled ensemble stands 49 metres high. It is Africa's tallest statue and cost £16.6m.

Where/when? The stylised family group faces the Atlantic Ocean on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital Dakar, with the bronze tip of the toddler's left hand the highest point. It was finished in 2010 to mark 50 years of Senegal's independence from France.

Why oh why? Nineteen African heads of state attended the opening ceremony of this powerful work, which depicts an African man, woman and child emerging from a volcano and pointing westwards. The concept is home grown, floated by President Abdoulaye Wade and designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby. However, it was built by the Mansudae Overseas Projects company of North Korea, which has handiwork in Namibia, Benin, Botswana and others. 

Criticism & controversy: the £16.6m price tag proved so crippling that land was ceded to North Korea to pay for it, and controvery rages on. Is it venerating machismo and sexism as some think? And it's irked many that there is a strange lack of African-ness in the facial features, and (in this predominantly Muslim country) accusations of idolatry and immodesty. And guess what? President Wade claims the intellectual propertty rights and wants 35% of the revenue raised from visitors.

Visiting: there's an observation level inside the big man's head. Alas Senegal doesn't have a significant airline of its own, but there are flights to Dakar from across Africa and Europe, with Brussels Airlines flying to Brussels, Air France to Paris,  Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, Arik Air to Lagos, and Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca.

Guan Yu

Vital statistics: squaring up for righteous combat, this swiry-robed warrior stands 58 metres tall, weighs 1,320 tonnes and is clad with 4,000 glued-on stripos of copper.

Where/when? the statue stands in Jingzhou, on the banks of the Yangtse River in central China's Hubei Province, and was completed in 2016.

Why oh why? the middle reaches of the great Yangtse River have been strategically important for centuries, and the statue commemorates the great Chinese god-general Guan Yu, who was a heroic leader in the Three Kingdoms period. Guan Yu is revered, even worshipped, and is seen as the epitome of loyalty and righteusness. He has statues galore dedicated to him, not least the 61 metre tall statue in his home town of Chang Ping.

This statue sees him standing proud on the would-be prow of a stylised ancient warship - which actually houses a museum. It was designed by Han Meilin - who designed the cutesy Beijing Olympic mascot. The double-ended spear-like weapon is the Green Dragon Crescent Blade and weighs 136 tonnes. 

Criticism & controversy: the statue seems to have gone down fairly well with locals and visitors, unlike the 30m Guan Yu statue in East Java, Indonesia, which was re-veiled with a vast white sheet soon after it was unveiled, thanks to a social media storm. In this predominantly Muslim country local authorities were accused of idolatry, and of pandering to China.

Visiting: there are trains to Jingzhou from Wuhan and Shanghai, and from Yichang airport (110 kilometres away), flights across China with China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines and others.  

Motherland Monument

Vital statistics: this stainless steel statue is 62m tall, weighs 560 tons, sports a held-aloft sword 16 metres long and a hammer and cycle emblem of the Soviet Union on the 13m shield.

Where/when? the statue dominates the skyline of central Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and was completed in 1981, a decade before the country's independence from the Soviet Union. More livid than Liberty, it glowers in the centre of Kiev and is part of the Great Patriotic War Museum, which includes memorials and tanks.

 

Why oh why? This monolithic Motherland statue was unveiled by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and commemorates the Soviet victory of Nazi Germany. As a local guidebook has it - ‘the huge statue has impudently intruded onto Kiev’s historic panorama, but there is nothing to be done now’. Inside the base of the statue is the museum, which is well worth a visit for the astonishing wall of sepia photographs inside one of its many galleries. 

Criticism & controversy: it's bad enough that the Soviet union built a gigantic statue to 'the Motherland', but  my 1985 Intourist guide referred to the statue as 'Mother Russia', which is contentious. The orthodox church didn't want another point in the city being closer to God than its tallest spire, on the Kiev Pechersk Lavra in the upper part of the city. So to placate the primate the sword's tip was clipped by three metres. Incidentally, a 2015 law passed by the Ukrainian parliament bans Soviet and Communist symbols - and since independence around 5,000 Lenins have been toppled. World War II monuments are excepted though. The most recent cerfuffle flared up when the statue was illumiated in Visa branding for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest held in Kiev.

Visiting: the museum in the plinth is surprisingly good. Most people are content with seeing the statue from afar, but there are two viewing platforms insude the statue - one at 36.6 meters at the top of the plinth reached by a lift set at a rakish 75 degree angle, and another cage-like area between the left hand and the shield reached by demanding staircases and ladders at the top of the shield - which is closed during cold and rainy weather. See the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

See Visit Kiev. There are flights to Kiev's Boryspil Airport from across Europe and beyond - airlines include Ukraine International Airlines, Windrose Airlines, British Airways, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways

Spring Temple Buddha

Vital statistics: the world's largest statue is 128 metres tall and weighs over 1,000 tonnes - it's clad with 108kg of gold, 3,300 tonnes copper, 15,000 tonnes steel and cost USD $55 million.

Where/when? the statue is in a remote remote part of China's Henan Province, at the Fondushan Scenic Area, and was built in 2008.

Why oh why? work on the colossus began not long after the Afghan Taliban destroyed the stone-carved Bamiyan Buddhas. This location is auspicious, being by the Tianrui hot spring and the Foquan Temple, with its 116 ton Bell of Good Luck - the heaviest functionaing bell on the planet. The statue is joins a spate of large statues erected across China, largely to boost local tourism, but with more than a nod to China's growing cultural assertiveness and confidence.

Criticism & controversy: to say that the area around the statue is ciommercialised is an understatement, with mountain of tourist tat on offer. A movement by local monks to establish control over the site so as to admist visitors for free has thus far not come to anything.

Visiting: as there is no viewing gallery in the head , you'll have to content youself with 365 stpes and for a selfie with the world's biggest big toe, - as the viewing level is at the top of the pedistal. the Buddha's big toe is the highest viewpoint, which is 365 steps (or a lift) to the top of the 7-story pedestal. Get to Lushan by train, from where it's a two-hour bus ride to the statue. 

Christ the Redeemer

Vital statistics: Latin America's most famous statue by far, this 38 metres tall Jesus is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and weighs 635 tons, made from concrete clad in a mosiac of small soapstone triangles.

Where/when? pedistals don't get any more impressive than the 700 metre high Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, on which the staue is located and can be seen from most places in the city. It was completed 1931. 

Why oh why? the open-armed savoir statue was paid for by donations by a catholic community that in the 1920s was fearful of a moral decay, and beat off concepts of Jesus holding a globe or Jesus on the cross.

Photo Santuario Cristo Redentor

Criticism & controversy; not especially controversial, but since 2006 the statue has been consecrated, allowing local catholics to hold baptisms and weddings here. Batterings by strong winds and lightning trikes are common, and several times fingers and parts of the head have been damaged - in 2008 strikes caused damage to the head, eyebrows and fingers.

Visiting: See Christ the Redeemer.

Gengis Khan Equestrian Statue

Vital statistics: sat atop a rather twee pavillion is a giant 40 metre tall, 250 tons stainless steel statue of Gengis Khan on his horse. It costs USD $4.1m, paid for by the Genco Tour Bureau

Where/when? the statue is located in a remote site on the Mongolian Steppe by the Tuul River is a place called Tsonjin Boldog, 54 kilometres east of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. It is here that Gengis Khan was said to have found a goden whip when he was fifteen, which was taken as an omen of coming greatness. It was unveiled in 2008 to mark the 800th anniversary of the Mongolian Empire.  

Why oh why? Gengis Khan may be a byword for wanton brutality in much of the world, but not so in his native Mongolia, It is hard to underestimate the local reverence for Khan, who laid the foundations to what was to become the largest contiguous empire in history. Since Mongolian shed Communism in 1989, it has forged a new identity, and many mouments to the founder of the Khan dynasty have been built - this one in 2008. Ghengis Khan is also on bank notes, vodka bottles, cigarrette packets, and the capital city's airport was renamed Chinggis Khaan International Airport. The 36 columns around the base represent the 36 Khans - from Gengis, through Kubla to Ligdan the last Khan.

Criticism & controversy; the Genghis mania in Mongolia these days means that criticism of the statue is hard to find.

Visiting: there's a lift and three flights of steps leading to a viewing gallery on top of the horses head, and inside the base is an archelogical museum, restaurant (horse meat and potatoes predominate), souvenir shop, post office and a yurt camp. The best way to visit the world's largest statue of a man on a horse. The statue is about an hour's drive on a decent paved road from Ulaan Baatar.

Laykyun Setkyar Buddha

Vital statistics: the 116 metre statue took 12 years to build. There is also an 89 metre reclining Buddha in front of it - the world's largest - and a third Buddha lying on his back is in the pipeline. Around the statues are a reputed 9,000 tress and 10,000 Buddha images.

Where/when? the giant statue is at Khatakan Taung, near Monywa, in Myanmar, and was unveiled in 2008. 

Photo Patrick M. Loeff/Flickr

Why oh why? This is a place of worship and was built by the local monk, The Most Venerable Mahabodi Tahtaung Sayadaw Bhaddanta Narada. It's painted yellow, which signifies wisdom in Buddhism and was funded from local donations, hence the slow construction.

Visiting: the statue is a three-hour drive from Mandalay and is only for the intrepid, thanks to the remote location and lack of local infrastructure. inside are steps up its 31 floors - referencing the 31 planes of existance in the Theravada? theology - or a lift reaches the 27th floor. Inside are many gruesome art works - morality tales really, depicting impalements, boiling in oil, and being crushed by a giant spiked metal roller.

Statue of Liberty

Vital statistics: the World's largest Neoclassical monument is clad in copper, stands 38 metres tall and weighs 635 tons. The sculpter was Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and Gustave Eiffel designed the clever 'curtain wall' framework that ensures the skin of the statue isn't load bearing.

Where/when? Liberty stands on Bedloe Island - renamed Liberty Island - in New York Harbor, and was unveiled in 1886. The statue was famously constructed in France, while the Americans were responsible for the pedestal.

Why oh why? First muted in the 1865, what became known as The Statue of Liberty, was the dream of Edouard de Laboulaye, who floated that any momument to US independence should involve France, which was allied with the US during its revolution of 1765.  

Criticism & controversy: sculpter Bartholdi pitched his lady with the lamp idea to Egypt as a lighthouse at the entrance of the suez Canal, but when turned down moved on to America. After flirting with Philidelphia and Boston as host cities, Bartholdi plumped for New York. Fundraising for the statue on the American side was slow going and took some 15 years, and the Suffragettes weighed in at the unveiling ceremony by hiring a boat and protesting a statue of a woman called 'liberty' at a time when women couldn't vote. More recently, Trump's 

Visiting:  You'll neeed an advanced booking to visit the viewing gallery inside the crown, and booking ahead is recommended for the grounds and pedestal too. See Statue of Liberty

Statue Of Unity

Vital statistics: the bald head of an old man who is unknown outside of India is set to crown the tallest statue in the world. This un-muscular, unthreatening and unheroic figure will be 240 metres tall, weigh 1,600 tonnes and cost around £227m.

Where/when? The gigantic figure stands on a remodelled islet three kilometres from the Narmada Dam in the Indian state of Gujarat. Work began in 2013 and it should be unveiled on October 31st - Patel's birth date.

Why oh why? Sardar Patel (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950) was the first Deputy Prime Minister of India and is venerated for his role in the independence movement. He was born in Gujarat and went on to become a lawyer, activist and leader of the Congress Party. His stamp on India's independance was to organise peasant protests against British rule and to integrate the 500 or so British controlled princely states into a united India.

Photo Turner Construction

Criticism & controversy: several mega statues are sprouting in India, all closely associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in tune with its nationalist tendencies. Local opposition to the gigantic Patel galvanises around the fact that the cost and grandeur is at odds with Patel's personality and that some of the steel and expertise may be coming from - heaven forbod - China. It adds insult to injury after the huge Sardar Sarovar Dam's rocky 60-year journey to realisiation.

The dam was conceived by Patel, signed off by Nehru and opened by Modhi. ALong the way the dam suffered schlerotic deliberations on downstream water sharing, the loss of World Bank funding over concerns for displaced peasants and farmers, and increases in the dam's height from 80 metres to 163 metres.

Visiting: the nearest airport is at Vododara, 97 kilometres away, with flights from Delhi with Air India and with IndiGo to Delhi and Mumbai. Jet Airways is starting services to Begalaru, Indore and Udaipur later this year. Keep up to date on the satue's progress at Statue of Unity

  

The supersized statues that commemorate the heroic defence of Brest Fortress, Belarus...
   6601 views   
posted by Richard Green on 21/06/2015
 

The Belarussian border town of Brest is a 'Hero Fortress' - as designated by the Soviet Union for the exceptional fighting spirit shown by its defenders at the outbreak of the German-Soviet war of 1941-1945. There are 12 'Hero Cities', including Murmansk, Smolensk and Stalingrad, but just one fortress has the title. 

First impressions of the city would leave anyone feeling pretty flat - just a wide main street with precious few places to eat and drink on it, and housing estates fanning from it on both sides.

But walking through the huge Soviet star of the fortress entrance heralds an exercise in remembrance on an industrial scale. The day I visited it was quiet and cold; an atmosphere only accentuated by the monolithic statuary and pock-marked fortress buildings inside.

I've always found these hyper real and masculine faces and bodies arresting, and the ensemble at Brest is one of the best there is anywhere.

The fortress was built by Russia in the mid 19th Century, and the 1918 treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed here - which ended Russia's participation in the First World War, though on humiliating terms for the country. The German army marched into the town in 1938 in order to hand it back to the Soviets, and then again in 1941 as part of their surprise attack on the Soviet Union.

The exact numbers and dates seem to be controversial, but it is undoubtedly the case that the defenders of the fortress held out for several days against overwhelming odds. The Soviet Union lost approximately 27m dead in the Second World War and it's little wonder that the twelve Hero Cities and one Hero Fortress were heavily used for propaganda purposes during and after the war.

But a visit to the site is a very moving and profound experience, and one heightened by the sculpture park and semi destroyed old buildings.

It was slightly surreal to find a small cafe and bar inside the fortress complex, but I gratefully bustled into its warmth and sat down to eat a bowl of chickpeas and drink a larger. The complex is certainly not the sort of place I'd want to be in the night, and sadly the brutality of the fortress, the cruelty of the occupation, and the killing of the city's Jewish population by the Nazi's, to the casual visitor sort of swathes the city somewhat. At least on a winter's weekend, pavements nearly deserted, hotel dull and overheated, and locals making their way dourly back to their homes, it seems that way to me... 

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Reasons to be cheerful: Brest

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You can't always get what you want

puzzle

Fitting Brest into a holiday: Fez

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Getting there: the small airport at Brest has seasonal flights to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, operated by the national carrier, Belavia. Alternatively there are around 20 trains per day to Minsk, from where Belavia operates flights to many European capitals.

weather

When to visit: best is Spring (April and May) and Autumn (September and October), when temperatures are in the mid 20’s and the skies are clear. Remember that winter nights can be cold and summer days are regularly over 40 degrees.

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More info: UK-based tour operators offering trips to Belarus include Regent Holidays and Undiscovered Destinations. Or there's locally based Paradise Travel. For information on the fortress see Brest Fortress, and for general country information visit the Website of the Republic of Belarus

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Visa and safety: Always check your government's travel advice before booking, and check that your travel insurance is valid in this country. See here for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.

 

 

 

  

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