While countries all have their differences, one thing that binds them all together is a propensity for odd statues. Therefore, without further ado, please enjoy this collection that includes armless knights, a Soviet superman, a particularly odd chain of beads, several mustaches, and a monkey with body image issues.
Estimated Construction: 1552
You've heard of the one in Pisa Italy. Maybe you've even seen it (but hopefully you didn't take one of those terrible pictures where you pretend to be holding it up). But I'm not here to talk about that. Since yesterday, I came across another leaning tower. This was entirely by accident, for I had no idea it even existed, but when I walked into Kremlin of the Russian city, Kazan, I was greeted by a giant, tilted spike made out of brick and with an archway at it's base. It was nothing like the other, colorful, ornate buildings within the walls. It was sparse, tall, and fairly intimidating, as if it was built from another time and for another purpose. I had to know more, so before crashing into a deep sleep from travel fatigue, I willed myself to do some research. Though the validity is debatable, here is what I found.
Once upon a time, in the year 1552, there was a 22-year-old Prince of Moscow named Ivan Vasilivich (later known by the title 'The Terrible') who was hoping to expand his empire past the Volga River and into Siberia. There was only one problem though. His enemy, the Tatars, controlled this region, and their capital, Kazan, sat on bank of this very river. Not known for his patience or diplomacy, Ivan went to war. Fueled by his adolescent angst, he marched an army of 150,000 soldiers to the gates of Kazan and sacked the city, thus absorbing it into his ever-growing territory.
For some men, the takeover of an ancient and powerful city would have been enough, but Ivan wanted more. Being a firm believer of the idea 'to the victor go the spoils,' he intended to take the daughter of the city's Khan to be his bride. Her name was Söyembikä, and when Ivan confronted her with this proposal, she had some terms of her own. She told him that she'd only agree if he built a tower, just for her, taller than anything else in the city. Ivan, known for his affinity and appreciation for large structures, accepted the challenge, and just six days later, the Söyembikä Tower was complete.
Confident, like a cat bringing a mouse it just caught to its owner's doorstep, Ivan prepared himself for his new bride to be, but Söyembikä had one more trick up her sleeve. She told Ivan that she wished to see her whole city from the tower, so she climb to the top. Then, in one final act of defiance, she jumped to her death. Ivan Vasilivich may have taken the city, but he made a terrible* mistake thinking he could take her. And from that point on, Russia, incorporating the Tatars, became the multi-ethnic and multi-religious state it is today.
*yes I did make that joke
Every once in a while, you come across something in a city that makes you do a double take. Sometimes this can be interesting, like a building with unique architecture, or it can be amazing like a national monument, but other times, the thing that grabs your attention can be downright weird. Obviously, as you can guess by the name of this section, I am about to discuss the latter. And yes, this one was quite odd.
It all happened one day in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Moscow, near a metro station on the Red Line. Normally, no one would go to this area unless you lived there, as it is entirely residential, but as it turned out, I had to go there for one of my students. At first, the whole area seemed just like any other region on the outer edges of the city. There were many gray Khrushchev-era high rise apartment buildings, and the atmosphere was significantly more calm than the busy city center. In fact, it reminded me of the area I lived during my first year there. But just as I was having these flashbacks, I saw something. And it was something that, to this day, is the most bizarre thing I've found in Moscow (which is saying a lot). This oddity was in the form of a monument to the Vietnamese Revolutionary Ho Chi Minh.
Now I know what you're probably thinking. Why is this strange? Russia was a communist country for over 70 years, and there are still statues all over the place of other communist luminaries like Lenin and Marx. Why is it strange that they would have Ho Chi Minh too? Well, here's why. Instead of being a full figure statue or even a face bust, this monument looks more like a giant, improperly formed, oval shaped medallion. And inside that medallion, there is a huge image of Mr. Minh with two lazy eyes and a creepy, stalker-like smile on his face. So basically, it isn't the most flattering depiction.
But it doesn't end there, because below the giant medallion face, there is a life size, stone statue of a large, muscular, shirtless Asian man, who happens to be crouching down while looking upward to the sky. And if this isn't weird enough, It seems as if the giant face is staring and smiling at this. I still cannot, for the life of me, figure out the message the sculptor was trying to convey, or why it was put here of all places. Anyway, though, I can go on and on about how strange it looks, but I think in this case, a picture does more than words.