Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on the Red Square

Monument to Minin and Pozharsky

The Monument to Minin and Pozharsky is a unique sculptural group located in the very heart of Moscow – on Red Square, opposite the St. Basil’s Cathedral. And it is unique first of all from the historical point of view: this monument was the first in Moscow and the second in Russia (after the “Bronze Horseman” in St. Petersburg) sculptural composition. More than that, the monument to Minin and Pozharsky is the first in the country to be dedicated not to sovereigns, but to real heroes of the people.

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Video: Monument to Minin and Pozharsky

Highlights

The immortalization in bronze of such figures as Kuzma Zakharovich Minin (Sukhoruky) and Dmitry Mikhailovich Pozharsky – it was they who led the Second People’s Militia during the Time of Troubles – symbolized two most important events in the annals of our Fatherland. The first was the liberation of Russia from Polish-Lithuanian and Swedish invaders in 1612; the second was the victory in the Patriotic War of 1812, which also became the “people’s war” for freedom and independence. Prince Minin and Prince Pozharsky, perhaps more than anyone else, were perfect for the role of these symbols – very important in fostering a sense of patriotism and love for the country.

The monument to such prominent figures stands out among the sights of the Russian capital. Firstly, it is in the most recognizable place in Moscow and the names of its characters have long become paradigmatic. There are always a lot of tourists near it, who are happy to be photographed against its background. Secondly, the monument to Minin and Pozharsky has its own history – an interesting, fascinating and informative one about which it is impossible not to tell…

From the history of the monument to Minin and Pozharsky

The idea to build such a monument in 1803 was suggested by the intellectuals, namely the members of a famous literary and social organization – Free Society of Lovers of Literature, Sciences and Arts which existed in St. Petersburg in the first quarter of the 19th century. Emperor Alexander I Pavlovich was immediately informed about it and his attitude to the initiative from “below” was favorable. Immediately a contest for the best project was announced, and the winner was defined only in 1808: the famous sculptor-monumentalist Ivan Petrovich Martos became it. After that the emperor issued a decree, according to which the fundraising for the construction of the monument began all over the country. By 1811 there was enough money to start the construction. Moscow as a place for installation of the sculptural group wasn’t considered at first: it was supposed to be placed in Nizhny Novgorod. Why? Firstly, Minin was born in this city, and secondly, it was here that the militia against foreign invaders was formed.

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Portrait of Ivan Petrovich Martos

The sculptor, while working on the monument to Minin and Pozharsky posed… his own sons. Today it is difficult to say how strong they were in their physique, but the historical heroes turned out reminiscent of the ancient gods. Of course, this kind of sculptures also conditioned the fact that Martos was a staunch follower of the classical style. However, upon closer examination we are convinced that the master portrayed the Russians, and not Hellenes, as evidenced by some of the details of the figures. Minin’s attire, for instance, is reminiscent of the embroidered shirt which was a daily garment, and his hair is cut “in a parenthesis,” which was also traditional for 17th century Rus.

It is worth noting that the creation of the monument to Minin and Pozharsky was, speaking in modern terms, under public control. The people, especially after the victory over Napoleon in 1812, saw the future sculpture as a symbol of the steadfastness of the Russian spirit in the face of foreign invaders, and with great interest followed the realization of this, without exaggeration, project on a national scale. Why did they decide to erect the monument in Moscow? Weighing the pros and cons, they decided that although the militia was assembled in Nizhny Novgorod, the victory over the Polish invaders was very important for the whole of Russia, so it is more appropriate for this monument to be in the first capital.

The entire composition took about 1100 poods of copper, which took almost half a day to melt. The granite for the pedestal was brought from Finland and brought from St. Petersburg by water. The route was as follows: first we went to Rybinsk by the Mariinsky channel, then the way ran along the Volga as far as Nizhny Novgorod, then up the Oka to Kolomna, and at the final stage along the Moskva River. The pedestal, which was made by stonecutter Samson Sukhanov, consisted of three solid pieces.

Monument on a postcard from 1883

The monument to Minin and Pozharsky was erected in the very heart of Red Square, right in front of the Upper Trade Rows (now GUM) and facing the Kremlin. I. P. Martos himself spoke in favor of this place. Alexander I and members of the Imperial family took part in the ceremony of unveiling of the monument on February 20 (March 4, New Style), 1818. On this occasion gathered a lot of people, a parade of the Guards. By the way, the tsar wanted the monument to stand with its back to the Kremlin walls, as if shielding it from the interventionists. Martos believed that if Minin and Pozharsky would, on the contrary, look at the Kremlin, it would more accurately reflect the historical realities of the time: it was just then occupied by the enemies, and the leaders of the militia urged people to go and liberate it.

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In 1931, the authorities decided to move the monument to the St. Basil’s Cathedral, as in the old place it interfered with the parades and demonstrations, which during the Soviet period were held there very often. At the same time, the monument to Minin and Pozharsky continued to be one of the main attractions of Moscow. In our time every winter they started to fill an ice rink near the monument. They did it not so long ago, thereby reviving a good tradition that existed since the end of the XIX century.

Features of the monument

The sculptural group depicts Kuzma Minin handing a sword to Dmitry Pozharsky, which symbolizes the call to raise the people’s uprising to liberate Russia from foreigners. Pozharsky is sitting and accepts the sword with his right hand, leaning on the round shield with his left. On the pedestal is a carved inscription, indicating that the monument is dedicated to these two prominent historical figures. And added: “Grateful Russia, 1818”.

In addition, the pedestal is decorated with high reliefs. The front one depicts ordinary people – true patriots who sacrificed their property for the good of the Motherland. On the left depicts the sculptor Martos himself: a moment when the sculptor releases his sons to defend their native land. One of them was killed in 1813. On the back high relief one can recognize Prince Pozharsky, expelling the Polish invaders from Moscow.

Sword Figure of Dmitry Pozharsky Shield with the image of Spas Gorelief on the front side of the monument with dedication Gorelief on the back side of the monument depicting expulsion of Poles from Russia

Interesting facts

If there was a Guinness Book of Records at the time, the fact that the sculptural composition was cast in its entirety would certainly have been reflected in it, as no monument in Europe had ever been cast at one time before. Such a result was made possible thanks to the talent of Vasiliy Ekimov, the master of the Academy of Arts, who did the casting.

But the inscription on the monument to Minin and Pozharsky was criticized by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin. The poet straightforwardly expressed his dissatisfaction that the data on “citizen Minin” are not mentioned in full and “it wouldn’t be bad to know them, as well as the name and patronymic of Prince Pozharsky. That is, in his opinion, it should have been pointed out that he is “the petty bourgeois Kosma Minin, nicknamed Sukhorukoi” or “Kuzma Minin, an elected man of the entire Moscow State.

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An attentive reader might wonder: if the monument to the saviors of the Fatherland was erected in Moscow, how did the people of Nizhny Novgorod perceive it? Weren’t they outraged? After all, the monument, as we said, was originally planned to be erected in their city, and the decision was changed at the last minute. There is no historical evidence of the reaction of people, but we can assume that they took it with understanding, because at that time everything was done to emphasize the important role of Nizhny Novgorod in the liberation of Russia.

So, in May 1817, when the cast monument from St. Petersburg was sent by water to Moscow, a special visit to Nizhny Novgorod was planned. This was done as a sign of gratitude to the people of Nizhny Novgorod and recognition of their heroism during the Time of Troubles, as well as so that local residents could see the monument with their own eyes. After that, in the city, which was destined to become the home of the militia, a marble obelisk in honor of Minin and Pozharsky was installed.

Obelisk to Minin and Pozharsky in Nizhny Novgorod A copy of the monument to Minin and Pozharsky in Nizhny Novgorod

Nowadays in 2005 in Nizhny Novgorod a slightly smaller (only 5 cm) copy of the monument to Minin and Pozharsky in Moscow was erected near the walls of the local Kremlin. Nearby is the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, from the porch of which Minin called on his countrymen to assemble the militia, fully equip it and immediately move to defend the capital from invaders. A small model of the Moscow monument you can see in Taganrog, it is exhibited in the collection of the local art museum.

The monument to Minin and Pozharsky is also reproduced – in miniature, of course – in a mantelpiece clock in bronze and gilded, which was ordered in Paris by the major industrialist and philanthropist Nikolai Nikitich Demidov. They were made for him in 1820 by the French master Pierre-Philippe Tomir. This model was a reflection of an engraving depicting one of the sculptor Martos’ original designs. There are also several replicas of the monument, in general repeating the Moscow original, but differing in details. One such replica was presented to the Emperor and is now in the Hermitage, and another may be seen in the Peterhof Museum.

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How to get there

Get to the metro station Okhotny Ryad, get off and walk through Manezhnaya Ploshchad to the Red Square until you reach the Church of St. Basil the Blessed. At the entrance is a symbol of liberation – the monument to Minin and Pozharsky.

Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on the Red Square

Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square

Monument to Minin and Pozharsky is a symbol of national unity and a masterpiece of sculptural and foundry art.

Where is the monument to Minin and Pozharsky

The main monument to Minin and Pozharsky is located in Moscow, on Red Square, in front of the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the River (the Church of St. Basil the Blessed). On high reliefs on the pedestal are: Prince Pozharsky, driving the Poles out of Moscow; on the second (front) high relief – citizens, sacrificing property and themselves to the Motherland.

Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square

The first and most large-scale copy of the sculpture is located in Nizhny Novgorod, where the people’s heroes managed to gather the militia to fight the invaders. Nizhny Novgorod monument stands in the center of the city, on the People’s Unity Square, being its semantic dominant. It is 5 cm lower than the Moscow original, made by Zurab Tsereteli and officially unveiled in 2005.

A small model of the original monument is kept in the Art Museum of Taganrog.

Besides, the monument in miniature was reproduced in bronze with gilding in P.-F. Tomir’s fireplace clock. Replicas of such clocks are kept in the Hermitage and Peterhof museum.

History of the monument to Minin and Pozharsky in Moscow

The idea of creating a grandiose monument to Kuz’ma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky was put forward with the organization of fund raising in 1803. The initiative was supported by the Emperor Alexander I.

The author of the monument to Minin and Pozharsky and its creator is Ivan Petrovich Martos who also participated in the sculptural decoration of St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral, Pavlovsky Park and is a sculptor of monuments of tsars and other historical figures. Martos presented the public with an engraving of the future monument to the national liberators as early as 1807. His project was approved only after he won the general contest in November 1808.

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During the work it was decided to install the sculptural group not in Nizhny Novgorod, which is historically the place where the militia gathered, but in the center of Moscow, to emphasize the importance of this historical event and the monument dedicated to it.

Monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square

The small and large models of the monument were shown by the sculptor Martos in 1812 and 1813. The sculpture was cast in bronze by the master foundry worker V. P. Ekimov in 1816. By that time a colossal work had been done: the monument became the largest of all the simultaneously cast monuments in Europe.

The pedestal for the monument is made of three pieces of granite by master S. К. Sukhanov in St. Petersburg, delivered to Moscow by water transport.

The monument in Red Square was officially unveiled in 1818; at the time of its unveiling, it was placed in the most honorable place in the center of the square, opposite the present-day GUM building.

However, in 1931, the sculpture, depicting national heroes and standing in the middle of the square, turned out to be a hindrance: it didn’t fit in the concept of a spacious parade square, where solemn marches and demonstrations were regularly held. Because of this, the monument was moved to St. Basil’s Cathedral.

How to get to the monument to Minin and Pozharsky in Moscow

The monument rises in the southern part of Red Square, to reach it, you can be guided by the St. Basil’s Cathedral, noticeable from afar. You can see the monument, unlike the monuments on the territory of the Kremlin, for free – entrance to Red Square on normal days is free. Also the famous monument, as a rule, is included into the majority of routes of guided walking tours in the historical center of Moscow.

If you go by subway, go to the station “Okhotny Ryad” or stations “Teatralnaya” and “Ploshchad Revolutsii”, which are located in the same traffic junction with it. Then you have to walk about 600 meters through the Red Square past the red building of the State Historical Museum. Almost the same distance from “Kitay-gorod” metro station, in which case you need to go down to the southern part of Red Square along Ilyinka Street.

By ground public transport is convenient to get to the stop “Red Square” from the Vasilevsky Descent along Varvarka Street. Walk a short distance to St. Basil’s Cathedral and then go around it to the main entrance. Buses on the route – № 158, m5. From the stop at Vasilevsky Descent to the monument to walk closer than from the subway.

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