In this gigantic statue, Peter the Great stands proudly atop a tower of ships, clutching a golden scroll in his hand. He looks like a poised, triumphant ruler ready to conquer the seas. But unfortunately, this statue can’t even conquer the public’s approval.
Moscow locals aren’t a fan of the behemoth work of art. Nor, it seems, is anyone else for that matter. The statue has been frequently voted among the ugliest buildings and statues in the world. At 322 feet tall—it’s the eighth tallest statue in the world—the tribute to the great Russian leader is viewed as more of an enormous riverside eyesore than a fitting tribute to a legendary emperor.
In fact, the not-so-great statue may not have even been made to honor Peter the Great at all. According to one prominent rumor, it was actually created as a tribute to Christopher Columbus to mark the 500th anniversary of his first voyage.
According to this version of its origin story, sculptor Zurab Tsereteli couldn’t find an American buyer for the work, so his friend and former mayor of Moscow commissioned the piece. It was reworked to represent the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy Peter the Great founded and was finally erected in 1997.
The people of Moscow aren’t thrilled they wound up with the statue—after all, Peter the Great disliked the city so much he moved Russia’s capital to Saint Petersburg. It’s been proposed to relocate the monumental effigy to the emperor’s favored city, but so far Saint Petersburg has kindly declined that offer.
Know Before You Go
The monument stands facing southwest, with its back to the Bolotny island (Balchug). You can see it from either bank of the river, with Muzeon Park (part of Gorky Park) on the right and Prechistenskaya embankment on the left. It can be easily combined with other sights like Christ the Savior's Cathedral or Tretyakov Gallery.
Highly recommend a river boat cruise on Moskva River. Not only will you be able to get up close to the monument, in both directions, but also a tour in various languages of other significant points of interest.