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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Moscow divided over vices statue
Model of statue depicting adult vices
Locals find proposed new statue scary
Muscovites are up in arms over a plan by the city fathers to erect a new statue highlighting the effect that adult vices have on children.

Russian Public TV said this was not the first time a project promoted by the authorities has been pilloried by locals - especially by those with artistic taste - who are forced to live alongside such "masterpieces".

One of twelve figures that cause offence
Figures will be brought to Moscow from the US
At the centre of the latest row is Mikhail Shemyakin's cluster of twelve bronze figures, to go up on a central city square, depicting alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution and other vices to which children are subjected.

Four years ago, the erection of a controversial statue of Peter the Great on the banks of the Moskva river was almost halted by a similar uproar.

Since then, a commission has been set up to bridge any gap between the public and officialdom.

Hotly contested

If the plan goes ahead, local residents who see Peter on one side of the river will now soon have to put up with the sight of as many as 12 deadly sins on the other side.

The city fathers believe Mr Shemyakin's creation should focus attention on children's problems. But specialists reckon the sculpture is more likely to give them neuroses.

Moscow memorial to Nazi victims
Battle also raged over Nazi victim memorial
The issue is being hotly contested. One city official, Mikhail Moskvin-Tarkhanov, told the TV it was virtually a done deal.

"A special procedure operates here. The sculptor is very well known. The statue has been given as a gift. The commission has given its formal consent. Now it's up to the mayor and city government to take the final decision," he said.

Statue "a blasphemy"

Yet locals are vehementlly opposed to the new statue and have threatened to pull it down. The commission has taken heed and proposed a different site.

Commission member Nina Moleva said that if the statue was intended as confirmation of the artist's genius, then it belonged in a museum. "To site it here is blasphemy," she said.

One of the 12 figures
Set to scare the crows
Mr Shemyakin's sculpture will soon be shipped from the USA to Russia for assembly. It is due to be unveiled on 2 September, the anniversary of Moscow's foundation.

Public pressure could yet force the authorities to choose an alternative site. The Victims of Nazism statue was removed from the city's main war memorial complex after it frightened children and parents.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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