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The invisible monument: the struggle to find a place for Dovlatov’s statue in St. Petersburg.


A monument to Sergey Dovlatov cannot acquire residency in St. Petersburg – there’s simply no place for it in the city. Although, a fan of the writer’s works is ready to pay for installation. There’s even a plaster version of it, but there’s no sense yet to put it into bronze. Tatyana Bazhenova found out what kind of difficulties those who are masterminding the project have encountered.


Tatyana Bazhenova, reporter: “Nobody wants to keep the statue of these words’ author off the streets. But its as if the writer knew the fate – back in the 90’s. Its all Dovlatov-style – sad and comical. The 2-meter monument to him – created on charity money – is almost ready. But there’s no place for him. At least here – at the Rubinshteina Street. But it was here that Dovlatov had spent the majority of his life”

If biographic stories are to be believed, Dovlatov used to work as a stonecutter at some period, and now – in a similar workshop – there’s a plaster model of a monument to him, waiting for its hour. Disassembled into pieces. Architect Vyacheslav Bukhaev has been working on the project for more than 2 years. The monument is ready, only putting it into bronze makes no sense now – until the location for it is agreed. The architect based his work on his own memories. Once he saw Dovlatov – and had a very positive impression of him. So – when in bronze – the monument will look like Donatych, leaning on the doorframe.

Vyacheslav Bukhaev, architect: “We argued who’d go to a store, and he – bang – and went there quickly. He told stories about Pushgory, really interesting. Really fine man, Seryozha. I liked him a lot”

A park at the corner of Grafskiy lane and Rubinshteina street was seen as the perfect Dovlatov spot for those who initiated the project. Its literally one block away from the famous house number 23 – at this 1940s photo, bloggers say, little Seryozha sits on his sleds. Dovlatov spent his childhood and teens in a communal flat. Then he worked in Tallinn, but still returned to Leningrad, to the Rubinshteina street. By then he had a flat of his own. In 1978 he left for good – to New York – also from here. His friends reminisce that the writer – deemed suspicious by the Soviet authorities – could walk into this street wearing slags. He had no idea then, that decades later people would want to put a monument of him here

Andrey Aryev, literature expert, friend of Sergey Dovlatov: “He would have held his head and laughed. But he would have been happy inside. Because he always wanted fame, discreetly. He wanted to return here as the writer. He had been saying often – I want to come to Leningrad, to St. Petersburg, not just as someone, but as a writer with my own books”

A manager of a big St. Petersburg company allocated his private money to sponsor the monument to Dovlatov. First he turned to masters, and then he moved to coordinating the blueprint. And there is no agreement, still. Documents are travelling from one regulating body to another. Authorities deem the park as an unsuitable place. They’re saying that less than 30 years have passed since the writers death and that the spot is protected by the state. And that there’s a memorial placard to Olga Berggoltz nearby. All this damages the concept.

Nikolay Burov, chairman of St. Petersburg’s public chamber: “I saw it as too tight, it contradicts the philosophy of the monument. Its an open door to nowhere, greatly reflecting the character and works of Dovlatov. And that place is too narrow. Which one should it be? I don’t know. Maybe we should organize an open contest of opinions on the matter”

The person who initiated the project – fan of Dovlatov – is a lot more liberal than others. He has not come up with another place for the monument, although there’s a joke of a back-up version.

Dmitriy Nikitin, mastermind of the Dovlatov monument project: “We are ready for everything. It doesn’t have to be this park at the Rubinshteina, it would be interesting to put the monument to Dovlatov at the exit of the Pulkovo airport – as if he has returned”

Both Pushgory, where museum of the writer was opened, and New York, where a street was named after him, are ready for Dovlatov’s jubilee in 2 years. In the Northern Capital, the only thing reminding of the famous emigrant is a memorial stone placard. But there’s still time left. Dovlatov once wrote “I got sick of it and I left. To be precise, I stayed”. Maybe, a little later he will forever return and stay in St. Petersburg. In bronze, that is.