Red Corner: From Lenin Statues to Zappa Busts

There is perhaps no greater act of revolution than pulling down a leader’s statue and dancing on its head. In the former Soviet Union, where there were more Lenin statues per capita than any other figure in the history of mankind, there were plenty of dancing opportunities.

As mentioned in Red Corner the last couple of days, a few of these statues still remain standing while others have been carted off to various statue parks. But what about the poor sculptors whose life work was creating those very statues? What became of them after their livelihood, for the most part, was toppled and trampled upon?

The incredulous answer for former Lenin sculptor Konstantinas Bogdanas stands in a leafy park near the center of Vilnius, Lithuania: a bust of Frank Zappa.

Zappa was a legendary figure under communist rule that was greatly loved by dissidents throughout the Warsaw Pact. In fact, playwright dissident Vaclav Havel was such a huge fan that when he became president of Czechoslovakia, he appointed the hirsute rocker as a cultural ambassador (an appointment he later withdrew under pressure from the Bush administration).

A group of Lithuanian students expressed their appreciation by commissioning a bust of the singer shortly after communism fell. This strange shrine honoring the man who crooned the irreverent ditty, Titties and Beer, is a must-see for the Zappa faithful and reason enough to stray from the beaten path while traveling through the Baltics.

To say it’s been a long strange journey for former Lenin sculptor Bogdanas is indeed an understatement.