Girl With Oar Too Sexy For Stalin…

“Girl with an Oar” being installed in Gorky Park (click on the arrow on the lower left to start the video).

Right now a wave of nostalgia for Soviet cultural icons goes through the Russian people, wrote Richard Boudreaux in The Wall Street Journal yesterday. One example is the statue “Girl with an Oar”, which was sculpted by one of Josef Stalin’s favourite artists, Ivan Shadr. In 1934, Shadr’s 23-foot nude statue was erected in Gorky Park, which was created in 1928, where it became the park’s centerpiece. However, the Soviet dictator had second thoughts about its nudity, so it was shipped off to Ukraine, where it vanished.

Shadr made a second nude statue which was more in line with the contemporary ‘Socialist realism’ – softer, less muscular, more feminine – and it was followed by many copies of girls holding oars all over the Soviet Union, with, as Boudreaux puts it in his article, they were “clad in swimwear or track suits” as “vacuous imitations made by minor sculptors playing it safe with censors.”

Ivan Shadr died in 1941, the same year German bombings of Moscow destroyed the “Girl with an Oar” in Gorky Park. Nevertheless, he had had a smaller-size plaster version made which his widow cast in bronze in the 1950s, which was kept in Moscow’s Tretyakov, a large storage place of Russian art. It was there the Russian Rowing Association, in a hunt led by Yulia Anikeyeva, a two-time Soviet rowing champion and executive director of the Association, tracked it down.

The Russian Rowing Association, which now has made the “Girl with an Oar” its symbol, has had a 6-foot-7-inch copy made of the sculpture. It will be unveiled today, Saturday, at an annual rowing regatta on the Moscow River, by Gorky Park. The Russian Rowing Association has not missed the opportunity to hype the event, and has, as the article in The Wall Street Journal said, “hired a veteran Playboy photographer to produce a photo exhibit of seven leggy Russian actresses and other celebrities holding oars in various poses. All the models are clothed, some just barely.”


Read Richard Boudreaux article here (where you will also find a slide-show with old photographs of the “Girl with an Oar” and Ivan Shadr, and the ‘leggy’ Russian celebrities).

One comment

  1. A fascinating story. A statue inspires a bunch of party bosses to commission a swarm of knock-offs…meanwhile the original disappears…after the collapse of tyranny, the original is recreated, but as a promo for a sports organisation. Irony upon irony!
    I have to admit this story presses several of my buttons – see

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