Sunday, April 10, 2016

What’s a Statue of Joseph Conrad Doing in Vologda? Residents Want to Know

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 10 – More than half of Vologda residents say they have no idea who Joseph Conrad was and only four percent have read the works of the great Polish-English writer, but 12.8 percent want to remove a statue honoring him from their city, with an additional  7.1 percent calling for it to be shifted to a less prominent place.

            According to, the Conrad monument was erected by the Polish government in April 2013 in recognition of the fact that the future writer lived in that Russian city as a child and at the same was welcomed by local officials as an indication of cultural cooperation (

            But that was before two events which have changed the situation in that northern Russian city: On the one hand, there has been an upsurge in Russian nationalism in the wake of Moscow’s Anschluss of Crimea. And on the other, many Russians are upset about Poland’s plans to tear down more than 500 Soviet monuments as part of a de-communization effort.

            The reason the Poles wanted to erect a Conrad monument in Vologda was that the future writer moved there with his parents.  But as Vologda bloggers have pointed out, the family didn’t just move there: they were exiled after Russia’s suppression of the Polish uprising in 1863 in which Conrad’s father had participated.

            Indeed, Severinform writes, what the father did was “little different” from what those who fought for the independence of Chechnya-Ichkeria two decades ago and thus equally deserving of condemnation rather than honor.

            Joseph Conrad personally was no better, the news service says. He fled Russia to avoid military service, hid his knowledge of the Russian language, and condemned Dostoyevsky as a failed novelist.  The outlet does not note that he also penned two remarkable novels about Russian secret service links to espionage and terrorism, “The Secret Agent” and “Under Western Eyes.” Perhaps the  Vologda writer hasn’t read them.

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