Мемориальный комплекс и дом с оружием (Memorial complex and house with guns)Benjamin Somov (b. 1928)
Ul Soveskaya 151, Dal'neye Konstantinovo, Russia
The house with the guns on Soveskaya street in Dal'neye Konstantinovo can be seen from the street. The memorial complex is located on a field near the community’s Simbiley neighborhood; it may be visited freely by the public. The location is difficult to find using Google maps, the addesss is:
Ul Soveskaya 151
Dal'neye Konstantinovo, Nizni Novgorod region, Russia.
About the Artist/Site
Fronting a house along Soveskaya Street in the community of Dal'neye Konstantinovo, some 70 kilometers (around 40 miles) south of Nizni Novgorod in Russia, is a line of guns, replicas of weapons used by the Russians in their war against Napoleon in 1812.
These replicas were single-handedly made by self-taught artist Benjamin Somov, who was born in Malikova, a neighborhood of Dal'neye Konstantinovo. At a young age Somov had already shown his solidarity with the military, and in 1944, at age sixteen, he joined the Russian army as a volunteer. He was sent to the German front in the last year of World War II.
After the war Somov continued in the military for some time, finally returning to his homeland to live as a civilian. He worked as a blacksmith and a driver, and also practiced natural healing, but what he had experienced on the war front appears to have affected him so deeply that he had to seek ways to express his feelings.
He found this in artistic creation. Although he had attended primary school for only four years and had no training at all in art, he began sculpting. His works mainly consisted of busts of military personnel, although other characters were included as well. Some of these busts, decorated with military attributes such as medals, insignia, or ammunition holders, are still on display in the living room of the family home. On the home exterior is a bust of Lenin, while on its roof a bust of a soldier keeps watch on the arrangement of gun replicas along the street.
This art environment in front of Somov’s living house is of small scale in comparison with the memorial complex he began creating in the 1990s on a field near the Simbiley neighborhood of his hometown. This complex includes eleven sculptures larger than life-size, most of which honor the soldiers who perished in Russia’s wars. Somov made the sculptures in this memorial complex from surplus and recycled materials, personally paying for such necessities as cement although it is located in a more public area.
One of the first creations, a pillar of reinforced concrete with a simple orthodox crucifix at the top, is a monument to the victims of the Russian-Japanese war. Another is devoted to the victims of the Afghan war. It has a fluttering flag and a grave-like fence with pierced bars that produce a complaining sound as the wind blows through the openings. There is also a monument to the victims of Stalin's repression. The top of this monument has functioning bells and at the bottom there is a touching detail formed by two hands cuffed by chains on top of man-sized poles that stick out of the earth. Other monuments bring honor to the Russian participants in the Spanish Civil War, to Russian soldiers who died in Finnish prisoner-of-war camps, to crew members of a wrecked Russian submarine, and to inhabitants of Dal'neye Konstantinovo who died as a result of the violence of war.
A rather special monument, a huge cross with crossbars decorated with rivets, is dedicated to the victims of future wars and armed struggle among civilians. A sculpture with such purpose is probably unique in Russia.
Both the collection of guns in the front of the family home and the sculptures of the memorial complex can be seen as separate art environments in their own right, connected by Somov’s underlying view that warfare is inherent to human society.
The house with the guns on Soveskaya street in Dal'neye Konstantinovo can be seen from the street. The memorial complex is located on a field near the community’s Simbiley neighborhood; it may be visited freely by the public.
- Henk van Es
Map & Site Information
Ul Soveskaya 151
Latitude/Longitude: 55.8103515 / 44.0973612
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