Garden of Fallen Leaders

On a recent trip to Moscow, we visited the Garden of the Fallen Leaders, in Muzeon Park near the New Tretyakov Gallery. The Park displays a number of statues of leaders of the former Soviet Union. Here’s an example.

For more pictures and details about the Park, see this travel post by my wife, Janet Eyler. Although most monuments to Soviet leaders have been removed, many destroyed, and others moved to Muzeon Park, there are still monuments to these leaders. There is a very large statue of Lenin in Uglich, one of the small towns we visited, and we saw several in St. Petersburg, and at least one of Stalin.

All around the US today, something similar is happening with monuments to those who fought for and who led the Confederacy. The recent removal of statues in New Orleans caused a lot of dissent and more discussion. Here’s an example from the New York Times. The Garden of the Fallen Leaders provides a model for what to do with all those unwanted memorials, unwanted, that is, by a substantial majority.

Each state should designate a historical park area, and as it removes its monuments, they can be re-mounted in the park, with whatever ceremony and explanation the state thinks proper. There should be only one rule. This is a recent work found in the Garden:

I think it’s meaning is clear. Something similar must be in each such park, a clear demonstration of the individual agonies suffered by slaves. It will serve to remind people that, as Lincoln put it in his Second Inaugural Address:

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.

Maybe we should require the posting of the entire Second Inaugural Address to remind us that we are all Americans and bound together by history and belief.

24 replies
  1. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Irony. Between Confederate Dr and Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. Not too far west of Union Blvd.

    Missouri was a deeply divided border state during the Civil War, pitting neighbors and kin against one another. As St. Louis was a Union stronghold [debatable, see underground railroad], it is not surprising that even 50 years after the war ended, the erection of the Confederate Memorial was controversial.

    A committee will discuss a bill Thursday evening proposing the removal of all Confederate memorials in St. Louis parks within 120 days of the potential law’s institution and ban the future erection of Confederate memorials in the city’s public parks.

    • Will Twiner says:

      most of these are marble, which is a poor source of gravel.  I hear public housing needs countertops, though…

  2. Evangelista says:

    The expressions of hates through destructions are recurrent in history.

    It is history that is being destroyed in all such events.  With time the importance of the history and historical context of monuments becomes greater.  The hatreds that generate the destructions become less, theoretically, growing less as their generating events recede in time.

    Though they can be replaced.  Or be repurposed.  Viz the expressions through the destructions of the monuments of Palmyra, and before them the statues of Buddha, ancient historical artifacts, destroyed for current, or even imagined, prejudices.

    Is there a difference between the destructions of, for example, the ‘Pagan’ relics of ‘Palmyra, and the ‘andebellum beliefs relics of the United States Confederacy?

    In both cases the wanton destructions for antagonistic prejudices generate hate toward the antagonistically prejudiced, and destroys history.

    If a person has an unsightly feature, is it intelligent to whack it off?  Leave a scar at least as unsightly?  If a nation has an “unsightly” element of history, is it intelligent to destroy record of it?  To “write it out” from what therefore becomes “history”?

    Of course, Da’esh style destruction of heritage in the U.S. does bring a sort of conciliation between the Da’esh destroyers and the U.S.  destroyers, both emulating the others…  Both showing they are both the same, both hate-fueled, both prejudices, both bigots, too.  All the same kind of human beings.

    • Another look says:

      Very well said, this take on removing the statues of people I don’t agree with has reshaped my thought on this issue, I now relize the importance of leaving these relics of our past so that the dialogue will still exist about the wrong done by the person the statue represents.

      • John Casper says:

        Wonderful to see you and Evangeslista advocating for the preservation of Native-American totems.  Where are you two from? How soon do you plan to petition your local and state governments?

        Will you include “Trail trees” in your efforts?

        What about rebuilding totems that were destroyed?

    • Bardi says:

      Well written and, though I do not agree, I can see your point.  However I think you ignore the idea that the entire effort to create and erect a statue has traditionally been for heroes and not rascals.

      Perhaps we could establish cultural junkyards, where such faces of evil can be observed in the setting to which they belong.

    • Will Twiner says:

      yes, there is a profound difference.  Most of these monuments to the Lost Cause were erected either around the time of the formation of the NAACP, or during and/or immediately after the Civil Right era.  They do not represent veneration of abstract history, they represent a concrete warning and reminder to people of color:  “the White race is still in charge, and there is a noose for you, n!gg*r, if you forget it!”.  If that message is ok with you, then by all means oppose the removal of these expression of white supremacy.  I’ll just reserve the right to call you a racist to your face.

      DISCLAIMER:  I live in MS, and my first (white) ancestor came here in 1816.  He settled in what would become Yazoo County, and was a large landowner (and slaveowner).  Many of my ancestors served in the Confederacy in high offices of state and in the CSA army in high ranks.  They were immoral traitorous rebels who abrogated their oaths to the Constitution in support of their right to steal the labor of their fellow men.

  3. Peterr says:

    If the whole Second Inaugural is too much, I’d suggest you add another sentence from the Second Inaugural, from later in the speech, to what you proposed above:

    . . . Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

    But the locations of these Gardens of Fallen Leaders need to be carefully chosen. For instance, perhaps take the statue of Lee from New Orleans and put it at West Point. “Fallen” has two meanings, after all. One is that this is a leader who died, but the other — and more a propos to West Point — is that this is a leader who descended from his post of honor into a place of shame.

    Plebs at West Point would do well to ponder the graduate of their school who turned his back on the oath he swore there, who took up arms against the government he swore to protect and constitution he swore to uphold, and who led the armies that killed hundreds of thousands of those who fought to defend the United States of America, not break it apart.

    West Point, of all places, needs to put Lee in proper context, deserving not honor but shame.

    • Ed Walker says:

      I love that sentence. The sadness, the resignation, the hope are so poignant.There isn’t an ounce of hatred in the whole speech.


  4. sillybill says:

    Putting them in a museum is a much better idea than my reflexively smartass idea of converting them to gravel. I especially like the idea of Lee at West Point.

  5. seedeevee says:

    At least Lenin didn’t own slaves. When are we going to change the name of the Washingtons?

    • Evangelista says:

      Lenin, with the “Red” revolutionaries before him and contemporary with him, freed the slaves of Russia, the serf-peasant population, owned with the land they were property on.  Gogol’s “Dead Souls” is a good foreigners’ introduction to the situation that existed.  Lenin was also responsible for the “Kulaks”, who were independent farmers, who Stalin suppressed, after Lenin was assassinated.  The common knee-jerk hatred of Lenin is predominantly product of errent association of Lenin, and his efforts to bring Russia forward from a one-percent owners, ten percent owner-employed bureaucrats and balance owned (including enlisted military, who, in all circumstances are owned).

      In the west 98 percent don’t even know that Lenin was assassinated.  And none of those who attempted to differentiate the realities of Lenin and his efforts from the Western Ownership Class paid for anti-Lenin, anti-Russian-Revolution propaganda (much of the generation very similar to today’s propaganda generatings against Putin and Russia’s present day (cold?) revolution) ever gained traction.  For overview, see the first, introductory, part of Arthur Slesinger, jr.’s “The Crisis of the Old Order”.

      It is part of what makes the Human Comedy comedic that the knee-jerk constituency  hates Marx, Lenin and Stalin together as a lump, almost exclusively for what Stalin did, while, in fact, Marx is ‘The Capitalists’ Friend’, admired and adhered to by the top part-percent capitalist class, who put his philosophy into practice, Lenin made sincere attempt to improve distribution of capital with interest to transform an owned society into a self-improving and owning one, which Stalin sought to transform into a single national corporation (his “Tovarich”, “Comrade” can be translated today, in the U.S. “Associate”), and expand into a corporate empire by ‘acquiring’ “subsidiary” “National corporations”, all operated by ‘corporate managers’ (“aparatchikki”).

      Of course, complexities in histories, everything that can’t be reduced to kindergarten catechism and sound-bite slogans, is non-grata in knee-jerk narrative conjurations…

      • Bardi says:

        I am constantly amazed that the ignorance displayed by Americans over Russia after the revolution consists of slogans and little to no fact.  Thank you for pointing out that Stalin was all for a monopoly that rules all, a seeming goal of the modern American Republican Party, as opposed to the not-so modern American Republican Party pre-Reagan.

  6. rg says:

    Since slavery was (is) an extension of free market thinking, it would be appropriate to auction off the former socialized property to the highest bidder, who still reveres the privatization of human lives. Be interesting to see who would make such a public declaration.

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    Where is the clamor for monuments to those who died defending the British side during the Revolutionary War? In Europe, are there monuments to Vichy France? We know the answers to both these questions.

    The primary basis for the cult of the Confederacy is to sustain and nurture white supremacy and other forms of social reaction that go with it. The idea of placing a statue of Lee at West Point is chilling to my mind, given the racist history of U.S. imperialist wars. The Confederacy should be discussed in history books and classrooms, not sustained as a subject for public adulation or memorialization, nor segregated in some sanitized park somewhere, dusty statues awaiting the mythical day “the South shall rise again!”

    • Evangelista says:

      There are many mementos and monuments to the British occupation, and ownership, of the American Colonies.  There is no clamor, that I know of, raised for, against or about any of those, or references to American pre-revolution events.  There is no ‘lobby’ for Tories displaced or dispossessed of property then, that I know of.  Nor are there any “Gimme Stuff ’cause my ancestors was wronged.” ‘lobbyists’ among descendants of American Colony Tories, again, that I know of.

      Meanwhile, in Belgium there are still monuments commemorating the First World War German invasion of Belgium, and there are evidences remaining to be visited and seen of the Vichy era in France, easiest found by querying locals.

      And the reason statues of Lee, anywhere, may be “chilling” to you, Jeff Kaye, is because you don’t know any real history of the United States’ Civil War, only, instead, some religious propaganda that you have been fed, and believe, in all its simplicity, to be the Whole Story.

      Should you, and the True Believers like you, be defining the whole of “History” for the U.S. A.?  For all the different populations who make up the whole of the variegate U.S. Population? Defining history caricula for all the United States’ colleges and universities?

      • John Casper says:

        Evangelista, stopped clocks are right twice a day. Although I’m no expert,  I think you’re correct about Lee.

        Can you explain why?

        As far as the Confederacy is concerned, you’re as per usual wrong.

        What “religious propaganda” would be “chilling” Jeff? The Bible contains no scriptures that oppose slavery.

      • John Casper says:

        Evangelista, you wrote: “There is no clamor, that I know of, raised for, against or about any of those, or references to American pre-revolution events. There is no ‘lobby’ for Tories displaced or dispossessed of property then, that I know of.”

        Sorry you missed Canada. That’s where all the tories who couldn’t make it back to England went, because they knew they weren’t getting their stuff bak.

        Hitler began bombing London in September 1940. Why did the U.S. wait until December ’41 to enter the war?

        Do you think two World War’s, where U.S. troops fought on the same side with British troops and the cold war against the Soviet Union had anything to with the thawing of the relationship?

    • Will Twiner says:

      the only appropriate forum for such a statue of Lee the traitor would be lying on it’s back, one hand over it’s eyes in surrender, while a statue of Ulysses S. Grant towers over it with sword pointed at it’s throat.  Let the plaque read “Thus always to those that betray their oath to the Constitution!”

  8. lefty665 says:

    Thank you Evangelista, Well said.

    In Richmond there is a revered street with statues of Confederate generals. The locals named it “Monument Avenue” some of us come here’s call it “Loser’s Row”.  Add context with informative displays? Absolutely. Tear the statues down, the history still happened, but we have lost the opportunity to be reminded frequently and to learn from it. The Holocaust Museum could be a model.


  9. Mary M McCurnin says:

    I grew up in New Orleans. Thousands of times I traveled around Lee Circle and never gave it a thought. But I think about it a lot lately. Those monuments were put up in the early part of the 20th Century to remind the black community of their place in the culture of the south. That place was one of poverty and abuse. Growing up slathered in white privilege created huge blind spots in my emotional and cultural vision. This is why as a young person I didn’t really see the Confederate monuments. I now believe that all “heroes” who owned other humans beings should be tagged with that information on their likenesses. Or better yet, take down those statues, too. (I am looking at you, Andrew Jackson)

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