By Edward Lozansky
For many open-minded Americans and Russians it has become a tradition to congratulate each other on their independence days, which are June 12 for Russia and July 4 for America.
This year we decided to note some Russian artistic works, which in the current political atmosphere might speak better than words when sending best wishes to America.
We are talking about sculptures of famous Americans located in Moscow and produced by well known Russian artist Alexander Burganov. As a side note, his sculpture of Russia’s most famous poet Alexander Pushkin is located on the campus of George Washington University, at the corner of 22nd and H streets, NW.
On the front lawn of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, one can see Burganov’s statue of American president John Quincy Adams, who also had served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Russia following the opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1807.
Another spectacular Burganov statue features President Abraham Lincoln and Russian Tsar Alexander II. Although the two men never met, and came from vastly different backgrounds, there are powerful similarities. In 1861 Alexander signed a manifesto that abolished serfdom in Russia, while Lincoln issued in 1862 and signed in 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation liberating slaves in America.
During the American Civil War, Russia was the only European power that supported the cause of the Union. In 1863 two Russian Navy squadrons sailed to America, which in many ways turned the tide of the war in Lincoln’s favor while sending a strong warning to the other European empires, especially France and Great Britain, who were entertaining the idea of open support for the Southern rebels. When the Russian fleet arrived in New York and several months later in San Francisco, Lincoln and all the officials in Washington said, “Thank God for the Russians.”
Burganov is also the author of the Ronald Reagan/Mikhail Gorbachev statue. These two leaders made history by ending the Cold War that threatened nuclear annihilation of both nations and the world.
There is also one of the great American poet Walt Whitman prominently displayed on the campus of Moscow State University. In addition, the “Meeting on the Elbe” sculptural composition is dedicated to the April 25, 1945 linkage of U.S. and Soviet military, which became a symbol of the allied victory in WWII.
Some of these sculptures are installed in the beautiful downtown Arbat square, which became the place for ceremonies attended by the locals, tourists, and officials from many countries who have frequented the spot to lay the flowers and make speeches. There is also a birch tree with the plaque dedicating it to the friendship between the Russian and American peoples. Some living in the neighborhood have already started calling it, albeit unofficially, the “American Square.”
Actually, there is an unofficial “Russian Square” in Washington, DC on the territory of Guy Mason recreation center in the city’s Glover Park. It is lined with many trees, each of which is marked with a small plaque dedicated to a famous Russian poet or composer.
According to Alexander Burganov his sculptures symbolize how many good things our countries can do together instead of starting a new Cold War or, as Senator Sam Nunn has said, to “sleepwalk into nuclear catastrophe.”
• Edward Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow