They will not overgrow: why do people erect giant statues

Humanity has long believed that the more important a person or idea, the larger the object depicting him should be

The Egyptians created huge statues pharaohs and deities, the inhabitants of Easter Island – moai figures, the Soviet government – gigantic statues depicting the Motherland, and Emperor Nero ordered a 30-meter statue of himself.

Interestingly, this tradition has not gone away: there are more than 140 statues in the world, the height of which exceeds 30 meters. “Around the World” tells how and why some of the tallest among them appeared.

They won't overgrow: why do people build giant statues

Memory of political and statesmen

Whether it's the aforementioned Nero statue, the 98-meter high Moscow monument to Peter the Great, or the 37-meter sitting orange Mao Zedong, built in 2016 in a field in the Chinese province of Henan and demolished a few days after the completion of the work – because “it was built without permission” , – a giant statue has traditionally been considered the best way to perpetuate the memory of a major political figure.

Surprisingly, this idea has not become obsolete in the 21st century: in 2018, in India, on the island of Sadhu on the Narmada River in the state of Gujarat, the world's highest 182-meter (240 meters with a pedestal) Statue of Unity, depicting Vallabbhai Patel  — he is called one of the fathers of modern India along with Jawaharlal Nehru.

They won't overgrow: why do people build giant statues

The construction of the statue began in 2013, with the project enjoying huge support from millions of ordinary Indians. The Statue of Unity movement collected old agricultural tools as a source of metal for construction, held marathons, created petitions, and so on. The erection of the monument cost 430 million US dollars. In addition to the statue itself, a whole memorial complex was created, including a garden and a museum; in the future they will be supplemented by a hotel, a conference hall and an amusement park. It is surrounded by an artificial lake with an area of ​​12 km2.

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Images of deities and religious figures

“We say ‘giant statue’ – we mean the Colossus of Rhodes (the god Helios) or Jesus Christ in Rio, – this phrase is true when it comes to Western culture. In the East, in particular in India, China and some other countries of Southeast Asia, a giant Buddha or – with a big lag – Guanyin, a character of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese mythology, will come to mind.

< p>Moreover, giant statues began to be erected in this region more than one and a half thousand years ago, and today Buddha images account for the largest number of largest statues in the world —along with the already mentioned Guanyin and other figures of Buddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religions.

The situation is not new: for 12 centuries, the highest sculpture in the world in the world was the 71-meter statue of the seated Maitreya Buddha carved in the rock near the Chinese city of Leshan, until it was overtaken by the Volgograd “Motherland” with a sword in 1967. And today, in the list of the largest statues, in second place after Vallabbhai Patel is the Buddha of the Spring Temple, a 128-meter figure of Vairochana Buddha, built in 1997-2008. in the village of Zhaocun, in the Chinese province of Henan.

They won't overgrow: why do people build giant statues

Buddha of the Spring Temple was in first place in terms of height for 10 years. Interestingly, the closest Western religious competitor to this and many other Asian giants is not the 30-meter Christ the Redeemer in Rio mentioned above, but the 47-meter reinforced concrete Virgin Mary, installed ten kilometers from the Venezuelan city of Trujillo.

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Perpetuating an idea

We put cyclopean figures in this category , not depicting someone specific, but personifying an idea. The construction of such monuments was especially famous for the Soviet government, which, however, tried to build giant monuments to specific people, but we are not talking about them now.

Patriotism (understood mainly as love for the Communist Party and the state system) in the USSR was elevated to the rank of religion, and the role of giant Buddhas was confidently taken by images of the Motherland – “The Motherland is calling!” in Volgograd (85 m), “Motherland” in Kyiv (62 m; with a pedestal – 102 m), “Mother Armenia” in Yerevan (22 m; with a pedestal – 54 m). They competed with warriors, the largest of which is the Murmansk “Alyosha” (35.5 m; with a pedestal – 42 m), also known as the memorial “Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War.”

They won't overgrow: why do people build giant statues

However, the USSR was not a pioneer in the way of perpetuating ideas in the form of statues representing a certain collective image. The most famous building of this kind will, of course, be the Statue of Liberty (46 m; with a pedestal – 93 m), opened in 1886 on Bedloe Island (now – Liberty) in Upper New York Bay. And although, if desired, it can be considered a monument to the ancient Roman goddess Libertas, it is still worth remembering the full name of the structure: “Liberty, bringing enlightenment to the world” (option: “Freedom, illuminating the world”), & nbsp; – and the reason for its construction. It was a gift from France to the United States for the centenary of independence.

Another example of statues of this kind is the 49-meter African Renaissance Monument opened in the capital of Senegal, Dakar, in 2010. It was built for two years, at the height of the economic crisis, in a very poor country from steel and bronze by North Korean workers at the suggestion and at the insistence of the local authoritarian ruler. The construction cost $27 million and caused widespread discontent among local residents.

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