The monument to poet Alexander Pushkin is fully on show after restoration work. All the barriers and scaffolding that sealed off the monument in the past few months have been dismantled. Welded chains have been put back round the statue: some of the bronze garlands were wielded anew and some restored. The lights next to Pushkin have been cleaned and painted black.
“The monument to Pushkin is one of the symbols of our city, a Pushkinskaya Square decoration and a meeting point for people,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, the head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage. “This is why its restoration has become a significant event in the life of Moscow. For over a year, experts have been working to restore its historical look, reinforce its pedestal, and renovate the sculpture itself and now finally, we can proudly demonstrate the results of this intensive work and display Pushkin looking at his very best. It is particularly rewarding to do this on the eve of our city’s 870th anniversary: people in Moscow will soon have the opportunity to arrange to meet ‘near Pushkin’once again.”
The renovation started in summer 2016. First, the chains around the monument were taken down for restoration at special workshops. In April 2017, the work began on the pedestal and its steps (stylobate) at the site. The reinforced concrete of the monument was consolidated, the steps were re-laid and the granite slabs were cleaned up, and the cracks were filled in. The flowerbed along the monument’s perimeter was dug up and has been replaced with cobblestones. The idea of the flowerbed had to be abandoned as it was not originally what the sculptor wanted, it only appeared later in Soviet times. Besides this, the dampness from the flowerbed penetrated into the monument’s foundations. This was the first stage of the renovation. The second stage focused on the poet’s bronze figure itself. It was thoroughly cleaned from the usual city dirt. The latest mastic sealant that was applied to areas of metal fatigue once removed revealed a renewed bronze surface.
During the final restoration stage patinas were applied in order to create the same tones as the natural patina.
The decision to keep the patina on the bronze surface and carry out local patination was made in early August at a joint science and methods board of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department. Experts carefully studied the monument’s patina samples and decided to keep it together with the green tones of the sculpture. Now the sculpture is in a similar state to that of the original when it was first unveiled 137 years ago.
The monument to Russian literary classic Alexander Pushkin modelled by sculptor Alexander Opekushin came into being in Moscow in 1880 and was placed at the start of Tverskoi Boulevard in Strastnaya Square (now Pushkinskaya Square). In 1950, the monument was moved to the opposite side of the square. It has undergone renovation twice – in 1993 and 2003, but the works were fragmentary and superficial. Pushkinskaya Square was included in the My Street programme last year. However, most of the work was scheduled for 2017. The idea to create such a monument belonged to Foreign Ministry officials. The poet used to work for the ministry too. In 1855, volunteers launched a campaign to raise money for the project. In 1873, a contest was announced for the best monument, with 15 various samples submitted. Following three contests, the first prize was awarded to Alexander Opekushin in 1875. The sculptor depicted Pushkin clad in a long frockcoat with a wide cape over it. Keeping in mind the Russian and world classical traditions, the author achieved utmost sculptural expressiveness of the poet’s artistic image.
In 1879, the contract was signed with the St. Petersburg Konstantin Nicholls and William Plincke foundry to cast the bronze sculpture. It took five years to cast and assemble. The monument was unveiled on the poet’s birthday, 6 June, 1880.
The pedestal bore an inscription, a shortened quote from Pushkin’s Monument poem. In 1936, during the preparations for the poet’s 100th death anniversary, the authorities decided to replace the text with the full original. The old relief inscription was taken away but the font was preserved, the pre-revolution spelling was swapped for a more modern kind of language. Hence, two lines turned into four. The text on the opposite side of the pedestal remains untouched as it was in high relief in the old style spelling: “Built in 1880.”