Monument to Payola Sought
Published: May 15, 2013 (Issue # 1759)
A St. Petersburg businessman has invested money into funding a competition to find the best monument commemorating bribes. Boris Lipner, owner of the local chain of orthopedic stores Kladovaya Zdorovya, is the driving force and the wallet behind the nationwide sculpture contest to create a monument titled “Greyhound Puppy.”
The title is an allusion to the famous phrase from Nikolai Gogol’s legendary play, “The Inspector General,” in which the writer uses the expression “to take bribes in the form of greyhound puppies.” The phrase has since become a symbol of bribe taking and has been widely used in Russia ever since.
The contest finalists’ projects went on public display on May 14 at the St. Petersburg Museum for Urban Sculpture at 179/2, Nevsky Prospect, where they will be exhibited for two weeks. It will also be possible to visit the exhibition during the Night of Museums that begins in the evening of May 18 and runs through the early hours of May 19.
Winners of the competition will be selected on May 28. Once the best project has been selected, the competition organizers will contact City Hall’s town planning and architecture committee for permission to install the monument. No potential location has been suggested as of yet but Lipner believes that a quiet park or green courtyard would be suitable. His opinion is shared by the majority of jury members, while political opposition and more critically-minded locals would be thrilled to see such a monument in the vicinity of a local or state government building, from Smolny to the Prosecutor’s Office to the local police headquarters.
The competition began in June of last year and sparked significant interest among artists, professionals and amateurs alike. More than 400 designs have been submitted, many from far beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Artists from across Russia, from Irkutsk to Volgograd to Petrozavodsk, presented their designs, along with contestants from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
A total of 18 finalists have been selected, whose works are being showcased at the City Sculpture Museum. The jury features art historians from the city’s leading galleries, including the State Russian Museum and the State Hermitage Museum. The author of the winning design will receive a prize of 150,000 rubles ($4,785) from Lipner.
The bribery monument initiative is not the first quirky anti-corruption project to come from St. Petersburg residents. Every year, the local branch of the Democratic Party Yabloko awards the Golden Toilet Brush prize for the most absurd use of state funds by a government official or organization.
The award was founded in 2008 and owes its name to ex-governor Valentina Matviyenko’s infamous renovation of her office at Smolny, which altogether cost a handsome 32 million rubles ($102 million). On official documentation listing the expenses, 12,794 rubles ($408) was listed as having been spent on new toilet brushes, causing critics to speculate whether those items were indeed made of gold. A standard plastic toilet brush can generally be purchased for less than 100 rubles ($3.19).
To select the nominees each year, Yabloko politicians scrutinize websites listing state spending, awarding the most egregious the sobering prize of a gold-painted, white plastic toilet brush.