A Russian billionaire has offered to purchase two controversial statues in the U.S. that protesters want removed, CNN reported. One is of former President Theodore Roosevelt and the other is of a Russian, Alexander Baranov.
Andrey Filatov is, among other things, the founder of the Art Russe Foundation, which collects and preserves Soviet-era art. His organization has set its sights on two statues of men who, according to him, made great contributions to Russia. Both of the statues he wants have faced calls for their removal.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, statues honoring Confederate fighters, statues honoring people with problematic pasts, and statues that make their point in ways that are uncomfortable when viewed through the lens of history, have been given renewed attention. In some cases, protesters have forcibly torn those statues down; in others, governments have moved them or made plans to move them; others still remain.
One that remains, and that protesters want gone, is a statue of Theodore Roosevelt that has stood for decades in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The statue depicts a Black Man and a Native American man walking at the feet of Roosevelt, who is mounted on horseback. Protesters say it presents nonwhites as “subjugated and racially inferior.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio agrees, and has announced plans to remove the statue.
If New York City doesn’t want it, Russia will take it, Filatov said.
“We have deep respect and appreciation for individuals who contributed to the development of Russia and were associated with the history of our country,” said an Art Russe Foundation spokesperson in a statement.
Roosevelt had helped broker a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, putting an end to the Russo-Japanese War.
Another statue that Russia will gladly take if the U.S. doesn’t want it is one of Alexander Baranov, who served as the governor of the Russian colonies in what would later become the U.S. state of Alaska.
As KTOO-TV reported, some residents of Sitka, where the statue stands, say that Baranov was a colonialist who came to the land uninvited, and purportedly led an armed invasion against a local tribe, and who does not deserve a place of honor in the town.
“Both the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, and the governor of Russian settlements in North America, Alexander Baranov, were statesmen who left their positive mark in Russia’s history. We therefore see the need to preserve their memory for future generations,” said the Art Russe Foundation.
The foundation confirmed that it has written to both the American Museum of Natural History and Sitka’s City Hall to discuss prices. It remains unclear, as of this writing, how much money is on the table or even if either entity is interested in selling the statues.