Russia to Bulgarians: Stop Repainting Soviet-Era Monuments to Look Like Ronald McDonald

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Aug. 21 2014 4:31 PM

Russia to Bulgarians: Stop Repainting Soviet-Era Monuments to Look Like Ronald McDonald

superheros
The monument after some minor retouching in 2011.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to be a Soviet monument these days. The Moscow Times reports that the Russian embassy in Sofia has asked the Bulgarian government to take better care of Soviet-era war monuments, particularly the monument to the Red Army seen above, which has, at various points in recent years, been defaced to make the figures look like American superheroes (and Ronald McDonald), doused in pink, and painted the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Meanwhile, back in Russia, a group of people apparently climbed to the roof of a Stalin-era skyscraper Wednesday morning to paint a Soviet star the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag.

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In Russia, many of the statues and monuments of the Soviet period are still in place. Formerly communist countries in Eastern Europe have been more diligent about removing the Lenins and Stalins from their streets. Soviet-era World War II memorials, though, have been left in place in many cities.

The godfather of Soviet war memorial defacement is onetime enfant (but still terrible) David Cerny. The Czech artist first made a name for himself in the early 1990s by painting the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews—an actual tank on a pedestal in a Prague square—bright pink. The pink tank became a symbol of the country casting off the vestiges of communism following the Velvet Revolution, though Cerny says he did it mainly to impress a girl.

These statues can sometimes become major political flash points. When the Estonian government decided to remove a controversial Soviet war memorial from Tallinn in 2007, it provoked riots as well the largest coordinated cyber-attack in history, which crippled the infrastructure of one of Europe’s most wired countries for days. The attacks emanated from Russia, and there have been various claims of responsibility, but the Kremlin has always denied involvement.

A warning, then, to the Bulgarians: The Red Army may be gone, but tamper with their monuments at your own risk.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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