§ Anche le statue muoiono
A Scroll through the monuments of Grutas Park
Matteo Locci

Following 90’s Lithuanian’s independence, billionaire Viliumas Malinauskas decided to purchase and keep dozens of Soviet commemorative statues removed by local authorities.
Although through a private acquisition, these statues were saved from a probable metal fusion; in an act of pure post-Stalinist escapology, they now constitute the backbone of the controversial Grutas Park. Together with unlikely reconstructions of Gulag landscapes, fake watchtowers, barbed wire distributed in abundance, the collection of 86 Soviet monumental statues makes the park an essential reference for understanding the touristic retention of removal. The paper shows Tripadvisor’s public debate on statues’ post mortem; a collection of the most interesting ideas carefully selected from over 346 (+37) reviews, honoring authors’ grammar mistakes, poetic licenses and opinions.

Agli inizi degli anni 90 in Lituania, il miliardario Viliumas Malinauskas decise di acquistare e conservare decine statue commemorative sovietiche rimosse dalle autorità locali a seguito dell’indipendenza della repubblica baltica. Con un atto di pura escapologia post-stalinista, attraverso un’acquisizione privata, queste statue sono state salvate da una probabile fusione metallica e costituiscono la spina dorsale del controverso parco tematico che è oggi Grutas Park. Insieme a ricostruzioni improbabili di paesaggi da Gulag, finte torri di guardia, filo spinato distribuito a iosa, la collezione di 86 statue monumentali sovietiche rende il parco un riferimento imprescindibile per comprendere la ritenzione turistica del rimosso monumentale. Attraverso una selezione degli spunti più interessanti tra le oltre 346 (+37) reviews, l’articolo riassume il dibattito pubblico sul post mortem delle statue su Tripadvisor.

Borkowskim, Lithuania, May 2018, 5 stars
«[…]Did you ever thought were soviet era monuments gone? In Lithuania they go to Grutas Park».

Rimantas_V, Nov 2018, 5 stars
«[…] After the fall of Berlin wall people started to demolish all Soviet monuments. Most part of Soviet style monuments that have been built in Lithuania are collected».

David L, Jul 2018, 5 stars
«The much despised and commonly misunderstood “Stalin-land” […] has preserved those small memories».

Peter M, Aug 2018, 5 stars
«What to do with 45 years worth of Soviet statues/monuments?»

Jane M, USA, May 2017, 5 stars
«[…] When these statues were removed from the public squares in Lithuania, they were saved, but for what? After much discussion, the statues were placed here. So this is a very ironic sort of place».

Lgreger, Sweden, Jul 2017, 5 stars
«[…] This is the meeting spot for all of you who love large concrete statues of old communist leaders (who doesn’t?)! It’s an eldorado of magnificent remnants from the last century behind the iron curtain».

Jan-Eric B, Sweden, Sep 2014, 4 stars
«[…] Many countries that were released from the love and tender care from the Soviet occupants have, after the collapse of the USSR and the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 1990th, destroyed all political statues and other remnants of their Soviet occupants. In Grūto Parkas Lithuania has gathered up a lot of these political statues, that earlier disfigure streets and squares in many towns and villages, to this far away museum».

PanduteDigitalArt, Lithuania, May 2013, 3 stars
«[…] It was nice to see a statue of soldier’s mother that used to mark one of the biggest intersections on the main highway of Lithuania during all my childhood and teens […]».

Francesco Franzoni, Italy, Jun 2018, 3 stars
«To those under thirty, this is something that will seem funny, like from another planet. But actually millions of people believed it and millions died killed by those who believed it or pretended to believe it».[1]

Sarahjean51, Jul 2014, 5 stars
«[…] I applaud the founders of this park for the forward thinking they have shown in preserving their history, no matter how dark it was. Many other former Soviet countries quickly destroyed and swept away this time in history, which is exactly what the Communists did. It’s important to record history, if only to serve as a lesson to future generations».

Nauris B, Lithuania, May 2014, 4 stars
«[…] Yes, it is so! You have a feeling, that you are back in those times».

Matthieu H, Belgium, May 2019, 4 stars
«[…] The stories of the statues, figures and sculptors are sad enough not to consider the park as “nostalgic”».[2]

ViaceslavasG, Lithuania, Sep 2020, 4 stars
«Some objects are close to self-parody, but for tourists, coming from the countries which had no Soviet past, it can be quite impressive experience».

Juanca284, Chile, 4 stars, July 2019
«Tribute or repudiation. Simply amazing».[3]

Globetrotter045, Belgium, Sep 2012, 4 stars
«[…] The owner collects all the statues, paintings, rugs and other stuff of communistic leaders like Stalin, Lenin and others. And puts them on display in this park. A little note mentions from which square in which town it comes from».

Lnwyd, USA, May 2012, 4 stars
«Sculptures, windows, murals, propaganda art forms of every kind were mutilated, destroyed and thrown into storage […] a way of critiquing the old regime and providing a lesson for those too young to remember it. His vision was widely criticized; many, understandably, simply wanted to forget those times. A lengthy display case is filled with reproductions of articles from newspapers and around the world discussing the Park».

PanduteDigitalArt, Lithuania, May 2013, 3 stars
«I sure admire the idea and efforts of the founder who brought all the exhibits into this park, and didn’t let them be destroyed».

BestAnge, Aug 2017, 3 stars
«[…] The most interesting thing is to look at the monuments next to which there is a photo at the place of its installation, but there are few such monuments, the most amazing thing is that they were all demolished at the first opportunity, 90-91».[4]

Penguins37, UK, Aug 2014, 5 stars
«This place is extraordinary, and raises lots of questions about how you memorialise/remember past events».

Volker_12, Germany, Oct 2013, 3 stars
«[…] If you don’t know anything about soviet history, this is a great place to learn about it».

Mike Beranek, Oct 2017, 4 stars
«There’s no doubt this attraction is pretty unique. It’s succeeded without any public funds to have translated monuments that once acted to oppress and annoy Lithuanian citizens in public squares, bridges and building walls for 40 years into to a new setting that renders them faintly absurd. One can still admire the art or at least craftiness of the works, some of which I found quite beautiful as contemporary iconographic efforts. There doubtless is also the hunt for hidden messages and nuances that escaped censorship».

Astraftis, Italy, Aug 2019, 3 stars
«Let’s clarify one thing: this park was born only from the initiative of a private individual […] who decides to take charge of the “disposal” of Soviet period sculptures and puts them in a splendid forest area, complete with of a scenic stream. This means that what one reads in the explanatory signs of the park are only his ideas and his opinions, however extremely ideologically aligned, which reveal an anti-communist (and anti-Semitic) hatred, given that it is repeatedly stressed that the “collaborationists” were his saying mainly Jews […] just to quote part of his thinking) that goes beyond the Soviet regime in Lithuania and has nothing to do with objective historical research or reconstruction […] However you want to put it, a weird place that is more interesting for anthropology than for history».[5]

Mark BenjaminL, Dubai, Aug 2017, 4 stars
«[…] The businesses man has performed a great service for Lithuania. He has preserved key memorabilia from an important era of the country’s history and done it in a very informative and educative way».

megstu_keliauti, Belgium, Mar 2012, 4 stars
«[…] Thank you Mr. Viliumas for bringing the chance and opportunity for the future generations to know what was happening in the not far past!».

AlexanderMQ, Belarus, Oct 2018, 2 stars
«[…] It’s like getting a slap in the face. The era of the USSR is so exagerated, while not a word about the good. Only negative. If a European visits this place, he will be hammered into his ears that in the USSR everyone walked in formation under watchtowers and sang songs about communism».[6]

Lnwyd, USA, May 2012, 4 stars
«The Park is a text-book example of entrepreneurial spirit and capitalism at work».

Phileas_Flogg, UK, May 2017, 5 stars
«As an enthusiast of Soviet-era iconography, I have no hesitation in saying that not only is Grutas Park the best of its kind I have visited anywhere in the world but also that it is very difficult to imagine how it could be better».

PascalB5976, France, Jun 2019, 3 stars
«A history of political art, or politics served by art».[7]

peeter k, Estonia, Aug 2016, 5 stars
«[…] For those who lived under the communist regime, it will be a blast! Seeing dozens of Lenins and other revolutionary dudes in different sizes and shapes and bizarre locations was just so so stupid and ridiculous and acts like sort-of warning as well».

Geir S, Iceland, Jul 2014, 5 stars
«[…] Understandably it has been controversial, but it is definitely important».

Talan7, UK, Jun 2014, 4 stars
«[…] There was some local controversy at the opening of this park. Some felt that these disgraced people should not be once again on display».

60degrees, Finland, Dec 2011, 4 stars
«[…] The descriptions of the people are quite balanced».

Kat, UK, Jun 2017, 5 stars
«[…] The information on communism is not very accurate (many of the plaques contradict each other)».

Enrique B, Nov 2018, 4 stars
«[…] There are photos where you could see the original place and the moment they were turned».[8]

Monique Escudero Gomez, Australia, Sep 2019, 3 stars
«Quite literally a walk through Soviet History […] Almost every statue is an information plaque about who the statue is of and where it was originally placed».

AdventurePhiles, USA, May 2016, 5 stars
«[…] Detailed descriptions in Russian, Lithuanian and English accompany most of them. Several buildings offer a sober gallery of propaganda art and objects, each of which is described. The odd thing is that all of this is set in a beautiful, forested landscape with a river running through it». 

Astraftis, Italia, 28 Agosto 2019, 3 stars
«[…] The experience of a walk in the silence of the pine forest, punctuated by statues of personalities from the Soviet period, with the background of music from that period transmitted by croaking speakers, is truly bizarre. Too bad, however, that the selection is very limited: they are only statues and busts of people, many repeated (many Lenins) […] This is explained by the park’s clear objective: to create monsters to hate, not to reconstruct, recall or rework a (difficult) historical period. A pity that this happened due to the public disinterest in managing this aspect of their past».[9]

Lnwyd, USA, May 2012, 4 stars
«As an art historian, I even found much to interest me in the sculptures themselves as objects».

Me_n_my_rucksack, UK, Feb 2010, 5 stars
«As a lover of history […] I suppose I was always going to adore this place !Masses of Soviet era staues and paraphenalia set in woodland walks and small buildings I adored the whole experience. The wooden hut(s) full of soviet posters, books, phones, teleprinters, political paraphenalia etc were fascinating[…]».

Weronika M, May 2018, 1 star
«[…] It was a bit disturbing to think about terror and genocide while wandering around between llamas and goats…This is such a shame that a country with such outstanding nature allows such places to exist».

Thombly, Jan 2018, 5 stars
«[…] I am grateful that this Park exists in Lithuania, because it helped me to understand what the situation was with the Soviet Union».

Geir S, Iceland, Jul 2014, 5 stars
«Grutas park is important for collecting concrete memories of a gruesome period in human history».

Molotok0405, May 2018 5 stars
«If you were born in the USSR, but do not feel great joy from the monuments to the so-called leaders of the so-called. Communism, you will probably like it».[10]

Lee H, USA, Jul 2013, 5 stars
«[…] Walking the paths on a cold winter day in December, the atmosphere seemed about right. I’m not sure that a warm Summer day would have fulfilled my Cold War impressions».

OnaGirciene, Lithuania, Mar 2013, 3 stars
«[…] You really get a feel of it, but the place is probably better for tourists or youngsters as for people who have experienced themselves it’s like – “yeah, been there, done that”».

Petras Lisauskas, Lithuania, Feb 2016, 5 stars
«That is unique museum and i would dear to say best place to experience historical peculiarities of soviet times».

Phileas_Flogg, UK, May 2017, 5 stars
«The collection of sculptures is extensive and though solely drawn from the former Lithuanian Soviet Republic, is extremely comprehensive. It includes not only statues of political figures, but also heroes, abstract pieces and even stained glass rescued from factories. All thoughtfully and sensitively displayed in a wonderful lakeside/woodland setting».

Holdenute, UK, Jul 2014, 4 stars
«An hour’s stroll around these leftover communist era statues gave us a real history lesson into both communism and the impact of the Soviet Union on Lithuania».

Rasa M, Lithuania, Sep 2015, 5 stars
«This place is full of SSRS spirit. You feel yourself 20 years back […] The park is clean, big and full of soviet spirit. Lithuanians don’t like this place so much, but lovers of history must see this without no doubt».

DALI B, UK, Dec 2014 3 stars
«[…] Good for tourists, painful for patriots».

Andzelika007, Lithuania, Aug 2011, 5 stars
«[…] I felt like traveling back in time – felt the joy of Soviet Union times (I was kid then): young soldiers dancing with young girls, free milk and cookies, marching pioners […] for sure made some atmosphere».

Monique Escudero Gomez, Australia, Sep 2019, 3 stars
«[…] The information centres located in the buildings throughout the park are also very interesting and filled with Soviet Era art, photographs, newspaper clippings, medals and really just everything and anything Soviet».

SFrances C, Jul 2017, 4 stars
«From a historical perspective, this an interesting collection of statues, artefacts, and some surviving buildings. However, it is understandable why people in the area are not happy with Grutas Park […]».

CyberSurrealist, Aug 2017, 4 stars
«For people who suffered from that criminal regime, it must be horrifying to see all these statues, sculptures, and symbols together in one place».

Belyssa B, Oct 2017, 4 stars
«[…] A neighbouring exhibition showing the horrors of Lithuanians occupiers would be ideal».

Z8050NN, Israel, July 2019, 2 stars
«Very conflicting impressions».[11]

MPS_VP, Jun 2017, 5 stars
«[…] What I found most interesting were the three large, inside, museum rooms/buildings which are filled not only with Soviet memorabilia but an excellent collection of oil portraits of Soviet politicos. Further, their collection of Socialist Realist art […] is superb and more extensive than either the art museums or historical museums in Moscow or St Petersburg».

JoAnn K, Jul 2019, 5 stars
«[…] I highly recommend the audio tour which had the descriptors of each statue and original audio and even jokes from Soviet era».

Галина Е, Aug 2017, 5 stars
«Soviet songs of the war and post-war years are heard from the speakers».[12]

Mike Beranek, USA, Oct 2017, 4 stars
«I loved a collection of bear-mascot memorabilia from the Moscow 1980 Olympiad. So there is a fascinating continuum from busts of the most savage and psychopathic apparatchiks of the Lithuanian Soviet government, communist ‘heroes’ terrorising the fledgling new Republic 1918-22». 

Judie555, Oct 2017, 5 stars
«[…] Above all, the collection of goods by Misha, the bear character from the Moscow Olympics, is amazing!»[13]

Jelle wrote, Jul 2020, 3 stars
«[…] A soviet museum, a child’s playground and the most horrific animal zoo one could imagine […] I felt that the cruelties that the sculptured soviet leaders performed to people, were simply redone to animals».

JetlagJerry, Poland, Feb 2019, 3 stars
«What does the horrible zoo has to do with anything? […] Super sad and unnecessary. It is neither amusing or is humanitarian. The animals belong in the nature while the communist era and the history deserves proper respect and treatment».

Mari, Finland, July 2020, 1 star
«The exhibition was ok, perhaps not as interesting as we expected. What we did not know was that there are also plenty of animals, including wild animals, in captivity. We would not have supported the park if we had known it. It was heartbreaking».

Christopher C, UK, July 2019, 4 stars
«[…] Didn’t get the fields containing animals, mixing a serious subject with llamas and kangeroos, odd».

SUSAN B, UK, May 2019, 4 stars
«Fascinating Slice of History but Release the Bears!! […] please release them to an animal sanctuary as a matter of urgency!»

Levi, Finland, Jul 2020, 1 star
«Would be a worth to visit place, but until we walked further the Park and came to the zoo?? (what zoo has anything to do with the Park itself?)
Do not Support this place with your money!

Honisoiquimalypense, UK, Sep 2018, 5 stars
«[…] There is a tacky zoo attached but you don’t have To go there».

JetlagJerry, Poland, Feb 2019, 3 stars
«I really enjoyed my visit, but they just need to do away with the zoo aspect and highlight the history».

Katemape, Ireland, Sep 2018, 3 stars
«This was the only really disappointing element of this day trip».

Rimgav, Lithuania, July 2019, 4 stars
«The Soviet history is interesting and it’s nice to see the statues of ruthless megalomaniac leaders relegated to an odd attraction park in the woods. However, the animals on display seemed to be in their own sad version of a concentration camp».

Veni Ultra, Sweden, July 2019, 5 stars
«[…] This is truly the epitome of tragicomedy. The Soviet men stand there bombastic and exalted as demigods, on the basis of a ill-conceived communist idea, with dictatorial consequences. But so good that someone collected them and not just scraped them! It will be a bit like an inverted concentration camp, where instead of the most vulnerable, they have instead gathered the most exalted here, but in statue form. So all this difficult history has become something comical».[14]

FritzKubrick, Sweden, Jun 2018, 5 stars
«[…] Is the best presentation of Soviet art and history I’ve ever visited».

JetlagJerry, Feb 2019, 3 stars
«[…] The only other place I’m aware of even remotely similar to this is Memento Park in Budapest».

JulieBrink, Denmark, July 2019,4 stars
«[…] Gives an insight and time to reflect on art and propaganda».

Juanca284, Chile, July 2019, 4 stars
«[…] Magnificent sculptures predominate, those that are, for the most part, large. Tribute or repudiation of ideology, each will have their own impression».[15]

Jetlag Jerry, Poland, Feb 2019, 3 stars
«[…] Overall, I really enjoyed my visit, but they just need to do away with the zoo aspect and highlight the history».

[1] Translated from: è roba che, a chi ha meno di trent’anni, sembrerà buffa, come da un altro pianeta. Ma milioni di persone ci hanno creduto e milioni sono morte ammazzate da chi ci credeva o faceva finta di crederci”.
[2] Translated from: Les histoires des statues, des personnages et des sculpteurs sont suffisamment tristes pour ne pas considérer le parc comme “nostalgique”. À voir!
[3] Translated from: Tributo o repudio. Simplemente…Impresionante.
[4]Translated from Интереснее всего смотреть на памятники рядом с которыми есть фото на месте его установки, но таких памятников мало, самое поразительное что все они были снесены при первой же возможности, 90-91r.
[5] Translated from: Chiariamo una cosa: questo parco nasce solamente dall’iniziativa di un privato […] che decide di farsi carico dello “smaltimento” di sculture del periodo sovietico e le mette in una splendida zona di foresta, con tanto di torrente scenografico. Questo significa che quello che si legge nei cartelli esplicativi del parco sono solo le sue idee e le sue opinioni, peraltro estremamente ideologicamente schierate, da cui traspare un livore anticomunista (e antisemita, visto che più volte viene sottolineato come i “collaborazionisti” fossero a suo dire principalmente ebrei… solo per citare una parte del suo pensiero) che va oltre il regime sovietico in Lituania e non ha nulla a che fare con una ricerca o ricostruzione storica obiettiva […] Comunque la si voglia mettere, un posto bislacco che interessa più per l’antropologia che per la storia”.
[6] Translated from это как пощёчину получить. Настолько гиперболизирована эпоха СССР, при этом ни слова о хорошем. Только негатив. Если европеец посетит это место, ему вдолбят в уши, что в СССР все только строем ходили под вышками часовых и пели песни о коммунизме.
[7] Translated from: Une histoire de l’art politique, ou la politique servie par l’art.
[8] Translated from: Hay fotos donde se veía el lugar original y el momento que fueron volteados.
[9]  Translated from: L’esperienza di una passeggiata nel silenzio della pineta, scandita da statue di personalità del periodo sovietico, con lo sfondo di musica di quel periodo trasmessa da altoparlanti gracchianti, è davvero bizzarra. Peccato però che la selezione sia molto limitata: sono solo statue e busti di persone, molti ripetuti (tantissimi Lenin) […] Il che si spiega con il palese obiettivo del parco: creare dei mostri da odiare, non ricostruire, rievocare o rielaborare un (difficile) periodo storico. Un peccato che ciò sia successo per il disinteresse pubblico a gestire questo aspetto del proprio passato.
[10] Translated from: памятников деятелям т.н. коммунизма, наверное, вам понравится
[11]  Translated from: “Очень противоречивые впечатления”.
[12] Translated from: “Из динамиков доносятся советские песни военных и послевоенных лет. Очень позабавили изба-читальня и сельский клуб с агитационными плакатами того времени”.
[13] Translated from: “ 特にモスクワ五輪の熊のキャラクター、ミーシャのグッズのコレクション数はすごい”!
[14] Translated from “[…] tta är verkligen sinnebilden av tragikomedi. Sovjetgubbarna står där bombastiska och upphöjda som halvgudar, på grundval av en illa uttänkt kommunistisk idé, med diktaturiska följder. Men så himla bra att någon samlat dem och inte bara skrotat dem! Det blir lite som ett inverterat koncentrationsläger, där istället för de mest utsatta, så har man istället samlat de mest upphöjda här, fast i statyform. Så all denna jobbiga historik, har blivit något komiskt!
[15] Translated from: “[…] Predominan las esculturas magnificantes, las que se encuentran, en su mayoría, de grandes dimensiones. Tributo o repudio a la ideología, cada uno tendrá su propia impresión”.

Matteo Locci is a multimedia artist and a critical conjurer with an architectural background. He recently completed is Diplôme Supérieur de Recherche en Art at the Ecole européenne supérieure de l’image.
Sitting at the intersections of popular history, art, activism and performance, his work highlights the shifting relations between power, technical images, and participation, focusing on the ways by which attention is triggered, produced, circulate, and disappear in the neoliberal participatory governance.
Instigated by the notion of distraction within the attention economy his current research analyses the neurological implication of the dopamine based circle of addiction while exploring the variety of the existing non attentive perceptions.
Most of his research is carried out with and thanks to the interdisciplinary collective ATI suffix from Rome. At the base of the collective’s research is the understanding and the stressing of the contributions given by each actor participating in the construction of the city. They conceive their involvement as contaminated contaminants in co-created processes open and co-directed by the circumstances, the contexts, the people and the communities encountered. They refuse to operate in the urban environment within the logic already governing the city, thus they push their research as a trojan horse to decode, provoke and break pre-established convictions while operating as an unbalancing factor.