The Monuments Policy

Council of People’s Commissars, Decree on the Removal of Monuments Erected in Honor of the Tsars and their Officials and the Setting Up of Designs for Monuments of the Russian Socialist Revolution. April 12, 1918


Lenin originally proposed his monumental plan in 1918, and the idea was enthusiastically taken up by Lunacharskii. The project gave him a simple medium to communicate the otherwise complex ideas of socialism to an illiterate population; and by the way, to offer employment to Russia’s many talented but destitute artists. Success was mixed, with notable failures occurring when gypsum-cast statues melted away in the October rain. Other memorials, including several to Marx and Engels, were both artistic and political successes.

Original Source: Izvestiia vserossiiskogo tsentral’nogo ispolnitel’nogo komiteta, 14 April 1918.

In memory of the great revolution which has transformed Russia, the Council of People’s Commissars has decided that:

(1) Monuments erected in honor of the Tsars; and their officials which we of no historical or artistic interest are to be removed from the squares and streets and either be warehoused or turned to some useful public purpose.

(2) A special Commission consisting of the People’s Commissars for Education and for property of the Republic, and of the superintendent of the Department of Arts attached to the Commissariat of Education, shall decide, in collaboration with the Art Colleges of Moscow and Petrograd, as to how the monuments shall be removed.

(3) This same Commission is instructed to summon artists and to arrange a competition on a wide basis for proposing designs for monuments to celebrate the great days of the Russian socialist revolution.

(4) The Council of People’s Commissars expresses the wish that the most ugly of the idols may be removed by the 1st of May and that the first models of the new monuments may be exhibited for the judgment of the mass of the people.

(5) This same Commission is instructed to arrange the decorations of the town for May 1st and to replace the signs, emblems, street names, coats of arms, etc., by new ones reflecting the outlook and feelings of the worker revolutionaries of Russia.

(6) The District and Provincial Soviets are to take the same work in hand in collaboration with the above Commission.

(7) The necessary funds will be forthcoming in accordance with the detailed estimates and the decision as to their practical necessity.

Source: Valentin Astrov, ed. An Illustrated History of the Russian Revolution (New York: International Publishers, 1928), Vol. II, p. 485.

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