Friday 24 January 2020

Russian city unveils statue of Ivan the Terrible

The statue of Ivan on horseback (AP)
The statue of Ivan on horseback (AP)
The statue of Ivan the Terrible (AP)

The Russian city of Orel has unveiled the country's first monument to Ivan the Terrible, the bloody 16th-century tsar who massacred his subjects by the thousands and even reportedly killed his own son.

At a ceremony on Friday, officials inaugurated the statue of Ivan on horseback, wielding both a sword and a cross, in the city 225 miles south of Moscow.

The region's governor likened the brutal tsar, favourably, to current Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"We have a great, powerful president who has forced the whole world to respect and defer to Russia, just like Ivan the Terrible did in his time," Vadim Potomsky said at the ceremony.

Ivan, who reigned from 1547 to 1584, was responsible for violence including the Novgorod Massacre, which killed thousands.

But he is also respected as both key to Russia establishing itself as an empire and as a patron of the arts, including commissioning the landmark St Basil's Cathedral, which dominates Red Square in Moscow.

The tsar's name reflects his mixed reputation - in Russian it can mean not only terrible but also formidable.

Among the crowd of 1,000 who witnessed the monument's unveiling was Alexander Zaldostanov, the burly leader of the pro-Putin biker group Night Wolves.

On the other side of the political spectrum, some activists in Orel had held protests against the statue and launched an unsuccessful court attempt to block it.

One of them, Natalia Golenkova, said she had been assaulted walking home one night and warned to stop her opposition to the statute.

"Who was a fan of Ivan the Terrible? Stalin," she said. "Tyrants love tyrants."


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