|Tolstoy, the immortal Russian author, |
who died 101 years ago this month.
A look at the center's history explains why. The Centro Cultural Leon Tolstoi was founded in 1944 by the Soviet Union, just as the Allied victory over Nazi Germany and its allies was becoming inevitable, to promote communist ideology here. In conjunction with such cultural centers in Colombia and other nations, the Soviet Union gave scholarships to students from all over the world, who it hoped would return home infused with socialist idealism.
|Detail of a mural by Fernando Oramas.|
Today's Russia has a corrupt form of crony capitalism, which has produced a crop of multi-billionares. It is ruled by a few strongmen thru a contolled democracy and intimidated media. But at the Tolstoy Center here in La Candelaria, one might think that the old Soviet Union continued. There are the traditional Russian robes, the heroic mural by the entrance, the busts of Lenin and famous cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. A plaque on the center's front wall celebrates the Soviets' victory over Nazi fascism, forgetting that the Soviet Union then imposed its own form of fascism on half of Europe.
|Lenin still presides here.|
I talked to the center's cultural director, who lamented that the Soviet Union's economic system was ruined by 'ambitious men.' I agreed. Ambition is what makes both communism and capitalism such lousy systems - with the difference that capitalism actually rewards and harnesses that ambition. And, when it works right, that ambition can benefit lots of people, as did the ambitions of American billionare Steve Jobs and Colombian billionare Julio Santo Domingo.
|Right now, the center is commemorating |
poet Pushkin, a giant of Russian literature.
|Traditional Russian robes.|
Most likely, the Tolstoy Center in La Candelaria will maintain its ideology from another era, a sort of museum to a nation which espoused an idealism which failed - and got swept out of history.
|Commemoration to the Soviet Union's victory over the Nazis.|
|Russian matryoshka dolls.|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours