The Stalin Game

The Stalin Game

The idea of putting up a pantheon and memorial to the honour of the „Father of the Peoples“ in Kureyka can only have occurred to a person not quite right in the head

As the saying goes, fate is running its course. Last year, in July, I wrote about Kureyka: “I strolled through the area, which is overthrown by grass and tall weeds, with Stalin’s entirely destroyed, burned-down pantheon in the background, walked along the avenue of fir trees, which is still in a good condition, climbed up the pedestal, on which once, soldly and - as it seemed – everlastingly, stood the statue of the “Leader of all peoples”. And I recalled to my memory Comrade Yurchik … Why, one might think, did he try to erect Stalin’s statue in a town like Krasnoarsk, a town spoiledby civilization, instead of having it put up in the Turukhansk taiga? Oh, I see! There, in the place, where thousands of grave mounds testify the death of our innocently perished ancestors, “this would be, of course, somewhat out of place, somewhat improper. Apart from this, it would involve a considerable amount of physical efforts and require quite a large sum of money”.

As the saying goes, the idea inspired enthusiasm. Meanwhile, however, it is not merely the “chief party bigwig” of the region, Vladislav Yurchik, but an entirely official personality – namely the governor’s consellor Yevgeniy Pashchenko – who, without thinking of any possible impropriety, pleads for the putting up of Stalin’s memorial in the place, where he (Stalin) once lived in internal exile, and in this connection Pashchenko refers to the initiative of a few businessmen from Turukhansk, who feelworried about the development of tourism. For the purpose of putting up Stalin’s statue, they supposedly decided to scrape together one million rubles – by toadyism and euphemistic talking. It is said that sculptors have already been charged with the task to prepare the statue, which is planend to be finished in the summer.

But why, good heavens, do they trouble sculptors with this? If this burning idea has now fixed itself that firmly in your minds, why don’t you organize an expedition to raise the already finished statue of 10 meters in height from the bottom of the Yenisey? It was not swept away by the current, but is still lying somewhere near the banks of the river. This, however, would entail lots of trouble and inconveniences. Well, it seems to be much easier, after all, to broadcast news about some cheaper variant – a sculpture to be produced in hot haste, - and, apart from this, this means a great public relations’ campaign, too.

I can vividly imagine the following scene: ingenious lads put up a brandnew statue of the leader on the half-decayed psotament … Behind it, the statue – the ruines of the Pantheon, the rebuilding of which will swallow up not only one, but dozens, if not hundreds of millions of rubles. How many tourists, you think, will have to be carried to Kureyka to finally justify the costs?

And, with respect, how are they going to get there? The steamship “Anton Chekhov”, great pride of the Yenisey fleet for many years, almost gave up its ghost during its crossings on the Actic Ocean – the steamer is meanwhile ploughing through foreign waters. Tourist businesson the Yenisey is dying out, for nobody is getting prepared to buy a couple of comfortable passenger liners. The entirely antiquated “Matrosov”, as well as all the likes of it, have also past use since long – and merely barges will go up to Dudinka. Or do there exist any plans to transport the tourists to the north inside the cargo compartments of such freighters, just as they used to carry away prisoners in former times?

Of course, you can get to Igarka or Turukhansk by plane and then take a cutter to Kureyka. I wonder, if many people will be prepared to take such a hard and expensive trip upon them. At present, no such tourists can be seen on the horizon yet. The people’s trail to the Pantheon has been overgrown by the plants of the taiga since long – both in the literal and figurative sense of th word –, and hardly anybody, not even a person holding the position of a governor’s counsellor, will be able to reconstruct this trail.

Look at it from whatever angle you like – the erection of Stalin’s memorial does not smack of business at all. Remains one sole reason – politics. If only the Communists dreamed all this up by themselves, one would be willing to accept it. However, behind the scenarion are those, who are presently in power.

Our governor repeats again and again that Krasnoyarsk Territory is to be compared to a locomotive: it is in motion. I do not know, whether or not the people believes in this theory, but I am pretty sure of one thing: from what one officially heras, Russia does not have any pure economic plans at present, however, the country seems to be very enthusiastic about any projects immortalizing Josef Vissarionovich. As if someone, fully conscious of what he is doing, tries to make the Krasnoyarsk locomotive run on Stalin’s railroad line, where rails and bridges have been destroyed already a long time ago.

“Krasnoyarsk Worker”, 22.04.06


The Pantheon has been ingood condition for a long time.
The Pantheon in 2005.

Photos by Aleksander KUZNTSOV and the author