Russia: Tear of Grief; Intro to Orthodox Culture

Global Voices Online
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

In Moscow, Zurab Tsereteli's works seem ubiquitous - and disliked by many. In New Jersey, his first one was dedicated on Sept. 11 in Bayonne: a gift from the Russian government, the 100-foot, 175-ton bronze monument "To the Struggle Against World Terrorism" - aka the Tear of Grief. High-profile guests at the dedication ceremony included former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Chair of the Upper House of the Russian Parliament Sergei Mironov; a note from President George W. Bush was read by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

LJ user larinax (Ksenia Larina, Radio Echo of Moscow host) has no kind words (RUS) about the monument and its creator - and the fact that Tsereteli used an outdated list of names of the 9/11 victims doesn't help: 43 names of those who were not killed have been carved into the monument's base:

What horror has Tsereteli [squeezed] into New Jersey! It looks extremely indecent. And this is what poor Clinton has hinted at unambiguously: "It's impossible to ignore Tsereteli's sculptures in Moscow." Thirty meters tall, weighs 175 tons. All material, transportation, setting up and fixing has been funded from the Russian budget. He dreamed of [giving] this [monster] to New York, but the city turned around and ran from such a generous gift. He's messed all the last names on the mournful list on the [monument's] base (more than 40 have nothing to do with reality!) And he laughs loudly into the cameras. Shame for the whole world to see.

Bloggers commenting on larinax's post appear to be no less cynical and even more straightforward: some call the teardrop soplya, a snot, while others write that the monument reminds them of a female body part. LJ user ivan_agurov, however, thinks that the Tear of Grief will become part of the landscape eventually:

They'll get used to it. And in 200-300 years, tourists from faraway countries will be coming over to stare at "soplya." Just like they stare at the Statue of Liberty and the [Eiffel] Tower in Paris.


LJ user larinax is also highly critical (RUS) of the inclusion of the compulsory Orthodox Christianity courses into school curriculum in Russia's four regions: Bryansk, Kaluga, Smolensk and Belgorod (in 11 more regions, Introduction to Orthodox Culture will be taught as an elective subject):

[...] Once again, good intentions turn ugly, just like everything else touched by the dumb, illiterate herd of our bureaucrats [...]. Is there a need for a separate course on the history of religions and cultures? It's necessary to have one. In what form? As an elective, voluntary, without grading and exams, in the form of conversations and lectures. Who should be teaching it? Definitely not members of the clergy. Though... Do the current ones have the likes of [Aleksandr Men] in their ranks?

I've had a look at A. Borodina's OPK [Osnovy Pravoslavnoy Kultury, Introduction to Orthodox Culture] course. Openly xenophobic, semi-literate reading, stuffed with quotes from Dostoyevsky (torn out of context and thus acquiring horrendous meanings). [Joseph Goebbels] with his propaganda [cannot compare to this]. I feel embarrassed and [disgusted] when I read these simple thoughts addressed to Russia's schoolkids:

"People not familiar with the basics of Orthodox culture have many questions regarding the Russians' attitude toward other nations and to the material world. Why do patriotism of the Russian people and their dedication to the [Orthodox Church] go so well together with tolerance of other religions and a certain indifference toward material losses? Why is it that Orthodoxy doesn't force anyone into converting into Orthodox faith - and is at the same time so open? Why is it that Orthodox Russians don't shut themself off from people of other nations and ethnicities, but accept them heartily into their church, state and civil community, even though it is not "profitable" more often than not? Perhaps, the Orthodox Church and the Russian people carry inside the ideals that are incomparably higher and more significant than the instantaneous profit, material values and earthly life. But it is only possible to understand it after studying the history of Christianity and the basics of Orthodoxy. The notions of "Russian" and "Orthodox Christian" used to be inseparable in [Russia] until the 20th century, and they shared one meaning: those belonging to the Russian Orthodox culture." (A. Borodina)

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