New College of the Humanities

Peter the Great - A Hero of our Time?

Lindsey Hughes reviews the controversial career of perhaps the most significant figure in Russian history.

The past in the present

In 1996 Muscovites were dismayed to see a 300 foot monument to the tercentenary of the Russian fleet arising from an island in the Moskva river not far from the Kremlin. Designed by the controversial sculptor Zurah Tsereteli and surmounted by a vast statue of Tsar Peter I of Russia astride a ship, the monument has been denounced on the grounds of excessive cost, inappropriateness (Peter hated Moscow and subordinated it to St Petersburg), lack of consultation and sheer ugliness. There have even been attempts to blow it up, apparently by Communists protesting against the proliferation of 'Tsarist' monuments in post-Soviet Moscow. Some critics have suggested that the man who commissioned the sculpture, the ambitious mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov, is himself anxious to be a sort of latter-day Peter the Great.

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