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Moscow outraged by calls to remove statues of Russian colonizer in Alaska

Alexander Baranov was the first general manager of the Russian-American Company, and the statue of him was erected to honor the role of commerce in Sitka’s past. (Photo by Katherine Rose/KCAW)
Moscow outraged by calls to remove statues of Russian colonizer in Alaska
Calls across the United States to take down statues honoring figures of the past who abused ethnic minorities have now come to Alaska, where an initiative group in Sitka is seeking the removal or demolition of a statue to Aleksandr Baranov, the ruler of Russian settlements in North America at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries.

Not surprisingly, some Russians are outraged, have denounced such plans as part of “a war against the Russian past,” and are demanding that the Russian government intervene to signal their displeasure even if it is not in a position to block this step.

A statue of Baranov has been standing in Sitka, Alaska’s capital, since 1989; but representatives of the Tlingit native peoples say it must be removed from its prominent location because of his racist policies.  Not all residents want to see that happen, and city officials are seeking a compromise, including possibly retaining the statue but erecting a statue to the Tlingit.

The statue of Baranov remains in place, and no decision has yet been taken to do anything to it.  But even the suggestion that an American city might remove a statue to a Russian has been enough to spark anger among officials and commentators in Moscow. They want their government to take actions to defend the monument.

We need to talk about this because we are talking about our history and our heroes,”

Andrey Klimov, head of the Federation Council’s foreign relations committee. He said that taking down statues in this way represented

a form of barbaric insanity … We cannot not take note of this,” and the Russian embassy in Washington must speak out.

Valery Voronov and Natalya Makarov entitle their article about the discussions in Alaska and the Russian reaction to them, “Alaska has Begun a War with the Russian Past”. They cite Klimov but also and more extensively Moscow commentator Vladimir Solovyev.

The television host says that if the Americans won’t respect monuments to Russian heroes, perhaps Moscow should seek to have these statues moved to somewhere in the Russian Federation.  He added that such attacks on statues of figures from the past in the United States was not so much about politics as about the kind of mental illnesses Freud talked about.

This isn’t even leftwing radicalism,” he says, “but about issues” the founder of psychoanalysis talked about. “This is an attempt of fighting the past, the denial of one’s own past because it is so heavy. This is a great big Oedipus complex,” the result of the failure of Americans to know and respect their own history.

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