A Man to the Sky
Let us not mix up. Who placed it, how much money was spent, who is defacing and who is celebrating it – all that will be windblown by time. (How many of us know the name of the president of the Belgrade municipality at the time the Monument to Prince Mihailo or the Victor were raised? And was he loved by people?) Only the saint and monarch will remain, as well as the artist who created it, and the sky above it. He is unearthly, beautiful. He reminds us of our own height and peaks. It has something of infinity, ceremonial, evading finality. He comes from the depths of time, permeating with a feeling that eternity exists. He glorifies the vertical around which we have woven our entire history

By: Vesna Kapor
Photo: Dragan Bosnić

”Next station. Savski Trg” is heard from the speaker. We all turn our heads towards the window, even before the bus turns. When we finally come to the Square, we all watch. Quietly, with our masks on. Strange feeling, nobody is saying a word. The silence, in contrast to the fury on social networks, is comfortable; it leaves each of us alone under our masks. Our heads are still a bit slanted, even when the Monument is no longer in sight. He is beautiful, I tell my floral mask-scarf. What is he really like, someone who has not seen it will ask? He is like we ourselves are. There is a story about a man who, prior to his arrival to a city, asks what people in that city are like. His companion replies with a question: what were people in the city you come from like? In a broader sense, the story could be transferred to the fury following the monument. Cross or sword? Smaller pedestal, higher figure? Helmet or acorn? Samovar? Saint or monarch? Destroy! Celebrate! That is what the monument is like. Made of all our burning passions, because it is no longer about the monument, it is about us: who is smarter, more consistent, more educated. Traditional-believer or democrat-liberal? The earth under our feet is shaking from so many voices. And truly, it seems as if a poor desolate space received a luxurious gift. A gift which, whatever the case may be, leaves an impression on everyone.
Who built it (what is his conscience like and what his intentions are), how much money was spent, who is now discussing (who is defacing or celebrating it), all that will be windblown by time. Only the saint will remain – the Grand Prince, the artist, and the sky above. Finally, that’s the only righteous way. Pyramids excel the desert. What do we say about the Parisian glass pyramid, for example? Many monuments next to which we take photos around the world are monumental. And we don’t have anything against them being symbols of empires, power, tyranny; we don’t mind the insignia, size, position. It is important to take a picture, to brag about it, intellectually, carelessly-proudly on social networks. Perhaps we could behave the same with this monument?
He is unearthly, a thought comes by, beautiful. The artist took out the line of softness which touches the clouds and, on the background of the sky, provokes a feeling of two worlds touching. It changes its size when observed from different angles. A matter of perspective. In one moment, he is leveled with surrounding buildings, in the other he is higher than them. When you come down from the Church of St. Mark, if you by chance went to visit Emperor Dušan, Stefan Nemanja is only a point in the distance. As you approach it, the figure becomes bigger and his monumentality truly attracts, sucks in, cancels. Some go mad and furious, some are enthralled. While we go down his, Nemanjina Street, he waits for us alone, humble.
That is how monk Sava writes about Stefan Nemanja, Simeon the Myrrh-Bearing: he is great and spiritual. Monarch, shepherd, teacher, giving meaning to things, guardian and defender; both gentle and strong. How shall I call him, truly, I am in a dilemma, writes the hagiographer.


Truly, Stefan Nemanja comes as a gift to us: the luxury of spirit we hardly care about. It is not my intention to put even a drop of oil into the fire of furious discussions about the monument in the Serbian capital city, the monument of all Serbs: everyone speaks about himself and through himself.
However, somewhere in the back of my head, I hear the words of Miodrag Pavlović echoing: an artist creates his work on the seismically active area of his own personality. There is a bit of infinity, something ceremonial, evading finality, there, under the feet of Stefan Nemanja. Regardless of remarks and praises, one thing is for certain: you cannot remain indifferent when encountering the Grand Prince. Art evades, confronts our views of the world, our standards and ego: it exists because of the passions it provokes. In that aspect, judging by the number of reactions, the artist can be satisfied.
The monument breathes with ancient history, comes from the depths of time; and, somewhere, in the canvas of the sky which the figure touches, a world invisible to us is bustling and passing by. Forms which all of us hope to reach are mixing.
So, what is the monument really like? What does man know? He is slave to his passions. He judges by his bitterness or joy. By his wallet and power. Could the money have been spent differently? Yes. However, poor people would certainly never see even a part of that amount. In a packed bus, covered by masks, deadened to the point of collapsing, we breathe slowly, exercise patience; we were subjects of exercising obedience for so many centuries; and nothing, there has always been an unclear feeling here that eternity exists and that the end is certainly not there, in the mud. There is too much fury, about everything. And it is well known that fury is a good recipe for underhanded dealings. This moment of encountering Russian vastness (I didn’t mention that?) through the figure of the Grand Prince opens the edges of space and time, when distant things are touched. From the aspect of a foggy second at noon, while someone is coughing on the platform of a packed bus, as if he is going to get seriously ill, our life is just a moment. Everything else is eternity.


Appearance, Symbols
The monument on Savski Trg square in Belgrade represents the monarchical figure of Stefan Nemanja in an aristocratic robe. He is holding a sword in his right hand and Decree of Chilandar in the left. Together with the pedestal, the monument weighs 80 tons and is 23,5 meters high (the highest monument in Serbia). The pedestal is in the form of a broken Byzantine helmet (symbol of Nemanja’s battle for independence from Byzantium), from which a scepter is diving out, symbol of monarchical power. Reliefs from Nemanja’s life and Serbian history during his reign are on the pedestal. On the front side, immediately below the figure, is the cross of Studenica. The external side of the pedestal depicts Studenica and Chilandar, two most important endowments of Stefan Nemanja. Other reliefs are made according to motifs from Serbian frescoes, including the Nemanjić Dynasty, made based on the one from Visoki Dečani, Metohija.


Hand of a Master
Alexander Rukavishnikov (Moscow, 1950), author of the monument to Stefan Nemanja in Belgrade, is a famous Russian sculptor. Son of Yulian Rukavishnikov (1922–2000) and A. N. Filipova (1923–1988), also sculptors. Deserved artist of Russia (since 1984), chief of the Cathedra of Sculpture at the V. I. Surikov Moscow Art Institute (since 1993), permanent member of the Russian Academy of Arts (since 1997). Alexander Rukavishnikov’s workshop in Zemlyani Val was opened in 2012. His works are kept in the Tretyakovskaya Gallery, Russian Museum, ”Ludwig”, ”Siemens”, ”Hermes”, ”John Wilson” museums and many others in several continents. With his master pieces throughout Euro-Asia, from Spain to Russia, he eternalized Dimitry of Don, Dostoyevsky, Rostropovich, Mikhail Skobelev, Sergei Mikhalkov, Vladimir Nabokov, Vladimir Vernadsky… even goal keeper Lav Jashin. The monument to Stefan Nemanja in Belgrade is considered one of his most important works.

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