Kaliningrad: Rain destroys the bisons


For more than 100 years, two bisons have been struggling in Kaliningrad. But the struggle may come to an end, not because one has one, but because weather and neglect are taking their toll on the statue.

No restoration is planned for the two bulls. But many in Kaliningrad care deeply about them,.

“It’s a cult sculpture for Kaliningrad!” says architect Yuri Zabuga, the general manager of “Architectural Bureau NB,” LLC. “Several generations have grown up next to it. In the ‘70s, youth subcultures gathered here, hippies hung out here. And later people agreed to meet ‘at the bulls.’ And they called the square around the statue ‘Piazza San Babila’ after the acclaimed Italian drama film from those times. This location was very attractive…”

This work by the sculptor August Gaul was a gift from Berlin to Konigsberg and, in 1912, was installed in front of the Land and Administrative Court building of East Prussia. The fighting bison symbolized the struggle of the prosecution and the defense in court. Since the Second World Was the statue has been moved several times and apparently been damaged in the process. Rain and chemicals also have their part in the decay.

Anastasia Drozdova has investigated why this cultural heritage is not being preserved.


Uncultured Sabotage

[alert type=green ]by Anastasia Drozdova [/alert]


Isn’t it time to write an epitaph for the “Fighting Bison?” For the third year the editorial staff of New Caravan has been fighting to save the sculpture: the sides of the “bison,” which are celebrating their centennial, are full of holes. Back in the beginning of 2011 the journalists of this publication notified the regional branch of the State Service for the Protection of Cultural Heritage about this. But restoration work has still not been carried out. And we found out that in the coming year (and that’s just a minimum!) nothing will be done. Unless a miracle occurs…

And yet the “Fighting Bison,” called “the bulls” in the Kaliningrad vernacular, are not just a regionally significant object of cultural heritage.

“It’s a cult sculpture for Kaliningrad!” architect Yuri Zabuga, the general manager of “Architectural Bureau NB,” LLC, is convinced. “Several generations have grown up next to it. In the ‘70s, youth subcultures gathered here, hippies hung out here. And later people agreed to meet ‘at the bulls.’ And they called the square around the statue ‘Piazza San Babila’ after the acclaimed Italian drama film from those times. This location was very attractive…”


Rain Destroys the Bulls

The history of the monument is also interesting. This work by the sculptor August Gaul became a gift from Berlin to Konigsberg and, in 1912, was installed in front of the Land and Administrative Court building of East Prussia. The fighting bison symbolized the struggle of the prosecution and the defense in court.

After World War II, in which the “bulls” were not damaged, they had to “travel”: first, the Soviet authorities installed them in front of the present-day Regional Government building, then moved them to the zoo, and only at the beginning of the 1970s returned them to their first “place of registration.”

It seems likely the bison were damaged during these “voyages.” Besides a few deep holes, there are a lot of long-standing mended spots on them. Were these “wounds” inflicted by vandals? That’s the question. Each year before Easter, crazy young people paint the bison’s private parts…But today it’s not technicolor genitals that threaten the health of the sculptures.

“It was prepared using electroplating, the newest available technology at the time—the early 20th Century,” explains Yuri Zabuga. “Despite their imposing exterior, the bison are actually thin—the thickness of the bronze is four millimeters maximum. And there’s a powerful metal frame inside the sculpture that holds the thin-walled shell. The risk for the statute is its condition: bronze rusts quickly, and the metal may fail due to condensation. When it’s hot, the sculpture quickly heats up and, if it starts to rain, moisture can appear inside due to the drop in temperature. This undermines the metal. The foundation on which the bison stand is also deformed, and this process can progress. But as long as the ‘bulls’ don’t collapse, I think no one is worried for their ‘health.’”

The fountain next to the sculture also needs to be put in order: the water basin clearly needs updating. In Zabuga’s opinion, restoring the bison would not be that difficult—the usual type of work: not that long ago on St. Petersburg’s Anichkov Bridge they restored horse sculptures built on a similar principle. But, as they say, what’s good to the Russian, is death to the German. The restorers don’t see issues, but the bureaucrats for the third year running cannot set this process into motion. It seems they got lost in their own slyness.


Three Years Waiting on A Promise

After two publications about the “wounded bisons” (February-March 2011) in New Caravan newspaper, we received an official response from the State Service for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (henceforth, “the Service” – editor).

In April 2011, the Service’s director, Larisa Koptseva, promised journalists: “This issue of carrying out restoration and repair work on this object is being worked out…Sources of financing and the people to carry out the work have been determined, and the project estimate documentation is being worked out.” Larisa Nikolaevna named a specific period for the restoration to be carried out: May-June 2011. At the same time, in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda in Kaliningrad, Koptseva said that certain businessmen who were not indifferent to the project had provided the funds for restoration.

Time passed, and no one even touched the statue. In November 2011, and then in October 2012, we published three more articles about the condition of the statue. Summer 2013: holes in the sides of the “bulls” are gaping. Once again we asked the Service, “How long?” And we got an answer completely negating the previous one.


Who’s Disingenuous and Who’s Guilty?

In June 2013, the Service confirmed that it knows about the problem. And it was not ashamed to admit that ownership of the “bison” (which was basically a war trophy received by Kaliningrad in 1945!) had still not been established. The owner had not been determined, security responsibility had not been drawn up. (Clearly, there had not been enough time – editor). “Because the sources of funding for this work and the client and the executer of this project have not been determined, and the project estimate documentation has not been worked out, the restoration work has not been carried out,” the Service told New Caravan in June 2013. But it insisted that everything will be good provided the above procedures are carried out. But who will carry them out?

In an interview, Evgeny Maslov, the deputy director of the Service, basically admits helplessness: “Any actions that change the ownership rights are outside the competency of the Service. To our great misfortune…” According to him, the Service appealed to the Kalinigrad Administration with the initiative that the city would take over the cost of the “bison.” It said that the municipality where the cultural heritage object is located has the right and the obligation to resolve these kinds of problems. First, the property management authorities will declare the object ownerless, and then the city will declare its right to the object in court. These procedures will take up to a year and a half.

Correspondent: “Imagine a catastrophic situation—the monument is lost. Who will be guilty?”

Evgeny Maslov: “The burden of upkeep lies on the owner, and the owner has not been determined.”

Correspondent: “That means that no one is personally responsible? The sculpture is under the protection of the state.”

Evgeny Maslov: “If we’re talking about who is more guilty in this legal situation…well, that’s probably us. On the other hand, in order to solve this problem, we can operate only by clarification. Carry out a check and then punish someone? For what would we punish the city administration of Kaliningrad? We don’t control the execution of laws and property relations. But don’t think we aren’t going to solve the problem with these “bison”…I don’t want to exaggerate…there are many more objects even more problematic than this one…Here we are working. It’s still too early to disclose the decision that we will make.”


Neither a Dream, Nor a Spirit

But in the city administration of Kaliningrad it seems they haven’t heard any proposals from the Service! The chairperson of the Committee on Social Policy, Tatiana Orlova, informed New Caravan that her committee has not received any proposals or instructions from the Service. The Committee on Municipal Property and Land Resources also shrugs its shoulders: “The State Service for Protecting Monuments is dealing with the issues surrounding the upkeep of this sculpture. The question of ownership of the land under this object has not been settled. To resolve this issue, the State Service for Protecting Monuments needs to take the initiative and request that the city administration demarcate the land and properly formalize it.”

In the mayor’s office, they unofficially explained that the land under the “bison” is a particular case: all the land around it is municipal, but that little piece doesn’t belong to the city—one little “donut hole” of land preventing the city from taking ownership of the “bison.”


Vandal or Generous Patron?

It turns out that if the “bulls” disappear there will be no one to blame. It would be advantageous if they caught a vandal red-handed at the statue: damaging a cultural and historical monument is a crime under the law. And how could they not charge the hooligan with everything—all the holes and scratches?

There’s one other curious caveat: any individual interested in this issue can become the owner of the monument.

“In Kaliningrad Province there are no examples of this, but, theoretically, such a situation is possible,” Liana Radyuk, the head of the Russian Ministry of Culture’s Baltic branch, explains to New Caravan. “Objects of cultural heritage can be under different forms of ownership. According to federal law, an object can be transferred to private ownership as an exclusion from provincial or municipal property. Therefore, in any case, ownership must be established before private interests are considered.”

Thus, is the optimal outcome for the “bison” the appearance of a generous donor? Alas, this is not a panacea. Today in Kaliningrad there is one well-known case in which private philanthropists decided to restore a monument—Queen Louise’s semi-rotunda in the present-day Central Park. This site is known as the “Pergola dedicated to Queen Louise,” a cultural heritage site of local (municipal) significance, often called a “rotunda” by the local people. This saga began in the mid-2000s and still has not been successful. How many more years will the philanthropists need to finish this project? It’s unknown. But the Germans and dozens of Kaliningrad residents are fighting for the rotunda. Alas, the “Fighting bison” have no one.


Nothing Without Papers

Many will agree that the most important holiday in our country is Victory Day, and this is deservedly so. Indeed, we observe all dates connected with the Soviet Army’s victory in the Great Patriotic War without fail and with great reverence. We give gifts to veterans, we tidy graves and monuments, and parliamentary deputies and governors pronounce fiery patriotic speeches. In Kaliningrad, the memorial ensemble, known to all as “1200,” becomes the center of celebrations. And hardly anyone would suggest that our regional symbol of victory is nothing without official documents. Yet the monument is still ownerless. But it’s not alone. Many significant monuments and sculptures in Kaliningrad have been “suspended in the air” for many years.

How does the absence of an owner or user threaten the monument? In theory, it doesn’t: if a sculpture, monument, or memorial of architecture is added to the list of cultural heritage objects, it is a priori under the protection of the state. However, in practice, everything doesn’t work out so well: if such a monument needs restoration, the authorities cannot determine who should allocate the funds. The burden of maintenance, including routine care, lies with the owner or the user, according to the law. And if there isn’t an owner?…


First in the USSR

The “Memorial ensemble for the 1200 soldiers of the 11th Guard Army killed during the storm of the city and fortress of Konigsberg in April 1945” is an object of cultural heritage of federal significance. It was the very first memorial in the USSR dedicated to the defenders of the fatherland who died during the Great Patriotic War. The decision to build it was made before the war’s end. A special commission planned out the design for the monument and chose the location for the reburial of the fallen soldiers. A bed of honor is included in the memorial complex. The construction order for the monument structure was signed on May 8, 1945, the work began in June, and its grand opening was held on September 30, 1945.


Still No One’s

The memorial is made up of three parts. The first part (“Memorial to the guards”) was placed under state registration and protection in 1960, followed by the other two (the “Bed of honor of the 1200 soldiers of the 11 Guard Army” and the “Memorial ensemble for the 1200 soldiers”) in December 1974. But, judging by the documents, this federal monument still does not have a concrete owner.

The press services of the Kaliningrad Province Government informs us that, “as an object of unmovable property, by law this memorial complex is federal property.” The regional branch of the State Service for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (henceforth, the “State Protection Service” – editor) clarifies that “despite this, the Russian Federation’s ownership of this memorial has not been registered in the prescribed manner.”

The State Protection Service assures the journalists of New Caravan that it has appealed in to the Territorial Administration of the State Property Agency in Kaliningrad Province in connection with this issue multiple times. But the State Protection Services does not say how these discussions ended. The Kaliningrad Province Property Agency explains that a decision about a federal object can only be made by the Government of the Russian Federation. But the Agency does not clarify whether it has sent any such requests “upstream.”


A Little Bit About Big Money

Meanwhile, repair and restoration work was carried out on the memorial several times—in 1960, 1975, 2005, 2012, and 2013. Who allocates the funds for these projects and in what volume? It gives the impression that this is a mystery.

Large-scale works were carried out in 2005 as part of the preparations for the 60th anniversary of the province’s creation and the 750th anniversary of the foundation of Konigsberg-Kaliningrad: in the course of the work, white marble tombstones were replaced with slabs of red granite. These works were financed in the framework of the “Federal target development program for Kaliningrad Province for the period up to 2010.” But the Service doesn’t state the extent of the funding. As the Regional Government’s press service explains it, the problem is that the State Protection Service has no data because it was created in 2008.

And what about the work carried out in 2012 and 2014? The press service of the Provincial Government clarifies that “financing for the repair and restoration work on the memorial complex in 2012 and 2013 did not materialize.”

And the works were carried out no less seriously than in 2005: during preparations for the 65th anniversary celebrations of the Soviet nation’s victory in the Great Patriotic War, they carried out an urgent emergency response to partially replace worn-out marble slabs—at the base of tombstones, pedestals, and obelisks—and they also took a series of measures “for the purpose of ensuring the safety of people on the memorial complex,” according to the press service of the government.

Regardless of the concrete question in New Caravan’s inquiry, neither the State Protection Service nor the regional government has stated the amount of financing for repair and restoration work on this specific cultural heritage object. Why? There may be many different versions of the story…

However, the provincial bureaucrats shift the burden of caring for the memorial to the municipality. According to federal law, the agencies of self-governance on whose territory memorials are located should maintain and care for those military cemeteries, memorial buildings, and other objects perpetuating the memory of people killed defending the Fatherland. In relation to the memorial “1200 Guardsmen,” that burden was imposed upon the urban district “Kaliningrad City.”

However, in the city administration’s official answer, it is spelled out in black and white: “Monuments…(including the “1200 Guardsmen” – Editor) are not included in municipal property, and their upkeep is possible under the condition of their inclusion in the register of municipal property and transfer by the organization that services them.” As the acting deputy administration head—the chairperson of the Committee on Social Policy, Tatiana Orlova—clarifies, since 2010 funding for upkeep and popularization work on objects of cultural heritage has been carried out in the framework of the departmental target program, which includes object listed in the register of municipal property and objects transferred by the servicing organization. In 2010 the city budget included more than 13 million rubles for emergency maintenance of cultural heritage objects of local importance dedicated to the Great Patriotic War. In 2012, that number was around 6.5 million rubles. For the 2013-2015 period more than 14.5 million rubles have been allocated for these purposes.

But who paid for the works carried out on the “1200”? And why, seven years after serious restoration was carried out in 2005, was immediate emergency work needed on this object.


They’ll Punish All the Same

In this regard, the interview of Evgeny Maslov, deputy director of the State Service for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, is very curious. He noted that there is a major problem with placing objects on the register of property of the Russian Federation. He says that they do not issue ownership rights for ownerless monuments to the culture of the Russian Federation. “Such objects are 84% of all objects of federal significance. In the whole country, ownership rights have been granted for only 16% of federal cultural and historical monuments,” said Maslov.

“As for federal monuments—for example, the monument to Friedrich Schiller and other monuments…they have not been issued the status of property of the Russian Federation, but we here have already repeatedly appealed, and there seems to be progress. They promise to begin issuing ownership rights with the ‘1200 Guardsmen.’ Only then will we be able to legally spend money,” Maslov continued.

Correspondent: “And did you spend money illegally before this?”

Maslov: “Before this we just made strong-willed decisions—we need to repair it, and that’s all. But, you know what’s more important—repair the memorial in time for the holiday or talk about how we aren’t allowed to do this? Well…they’ll punish you for something all the same.”


Declined to Talk

We won’t argue. A monument of that level and that moral significance should be kept in good condition. And the fact that the authorities are fulfilling their obligations to it is wonderful. But what to do about those ownerless sculptures that don’t hold a “patriotic weight,” but need repair?

New Caravan decided to find out what significant Kaliningrad monuments are at risk. We chose several monuments—“Mother Russia,” the monument to Mikhail Kalinin (who gives the city its name), the Friedrich Schiller Monument, and the grave of Immanuel Kant. These are the calling cards of the city. We sent ownership determination requests for these cultural heritage objects to the State Protection Service.

The Service reacted unexpectedly. If it had previously provided this information for a number of objects, it now declined, referring to the letter of the law, and directed us to the Federal Registration Service. Okay, we decided, no problem. But there was an issue…


My Address is Not a House and Not a Street

In order to find out who is the “owner” of the monument, you must submit a request for a discharge from the Unified State Register of Immovable Property Rights and its Transactions. For this, you must know the conditional or cadastral number of the object and/or its definite address. An “uninitiated” journalist cannot find these numbers anywhere. And it won’t work out with the addresses of many monuments either.

We open the Order of the Government of Kaliningrad Province from March 23, 2007. It approves the list of cultural heritage objects of regional and local (municipal) significance. Architectural monuments have definite addresses like any other building in our country. But the problem is with sculptures. The “Mother Russia” monument’s address is “Kaliningrad, Lenin Prospect, Theater Street.” The Honey Bridge is “Kaliningrad, October Street.” The Soviet-Polish Friendship Sign’s address is “Kaliningrad, Kalinin Prospect.” The Pavlik Morozov Bust is located at “Kaliningrad, Pavlik Morozov Street.” The relief image of Hercules at the sluice of the Hammertayh pond is at “Kaliningrad, Peace Prospect.” And so on. Not every native Kaliningrader will be able to find Hercules on Peace Prospect, which is 5 kilometers long. Which doesn’t say much about the attractiveness of the region to tourists…

But we don’t lose heart, and we ask the girl taking information requests in the Kaliningrad branch of the State Register: how can we ask you about a sculpture, when it has no definite address? The girl’s eyes widen and she recommends that we speak to her boss. We send an official request to the State Register asking how such immovable objects are registered, how many of them there are in the region, and how to look for them. The response of the Kaliningrad Region’s State Register office only raised more questions…

“According to the data contained in the AIS software package ‘Justice,’ in which the maintenance of the Unified State Register of Immovable State Property and its Transactions is carried out in electronic form, rights to the following immovable objects belonging to the category of sculptures, monuments, and memorials are registered in Kaliningrad Province.” And then there is a list of 14 (!) objects.

The list deserves attention. It is five monuments to fallen soldiers (all are located in the province), the monument to the “Ruins of the Lutheran Church” of 1349 AD in Znamensk, the Lenin Monument in Sovetsk, the Hagen Monument in Baltiisk, Fort Number 2, the Oberteich Bastion, and the complex of the bronze sculpture “Moose, ” which is “registered” in Sovetsk…

We will clarify that, as of January 1, 2013, there are 1600 cultural heritage objects in Kaliningrad Province that are subject to state protection. Of these, monumental art accounts 105 plus 17 more in the list of identified objects.

How many monuments are we at risk of losing as long as they remain “nothing without papers”—without properly formalized property rights? Who will legally allocate money for their restoration? All that’s left is to count on what deputy director of the State Service for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Evgeny Maslov, called somebody’s “strong-willed decision.”


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1 Comment

  1. Then want destroy/cancel the germanic soul of Königsberg. Vae victis!

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