Update 2: Мост Ахмата Кадырова

In my last post, I wrote about the scholarly works on Akhmad Kadyrov I was reading. Now, in St. Petersburg, I’ve been focused on another lens through which to view his legacy—the Akhmad Kadyrov bridge, located on the outskirts of the city.

I’ve been to the bridge, as well as analyzed local, contemporaneous news stories on the naming of the bridge and the subsequent protests, and found some LiveJournal posts to analyze. In classes, we’re talking a lot about the methodology of historical memory, and I’m able to view what I’m finding through that lens.

The bridge itself was opened in 2016 and given its controversial name. Some people protested, and a petition to change the name garnered about 70,000 signatures. Other forms of protest included graffiti “renaming” the bridge in honor of Anna Akhmatova, a play on the similarity of her surname and Akhmad Kadyrov’s first name. On Google Maps and on LiveJournal, the polarization of this bridge is further evident. While some argue that Kadyrov, as a Hero of the Russian Federation, should be honored anywhere in Russia, others aggressively disagree.

In the middle of the night, this "renaming" of the bridge appeared. Image via https://varlamov.ru

In the middle of the night, this “renaming” of the bridge appeared. Image via https://varlamov.ru

When I found such strong opinions on the bridge, I expected something more than what I saw when I visited. Last Sunday, a friend and I made the trip out to see it. Thirty minutes on the metro, followed by another forty-five on a bus, deposited us directly on the bridge. It was in the midst of endless high-rise apartments with more being constructed, and it was an anonymous, plain, unmarked bridge. We walked around the entire thing and did not see a single sign, nothing suggesting its name. Cars drove over it in under five seconds.

That such an out-of-the-way, inconspicuous bridge stirred up protest in the center of the city points to a conflict between the official legacy of Kadyrov, and public memory of him. I think that the fact that, after about a year, little else was heard of the bridge, reflects both its physical location and the daily realities of people living in that neighborhood, almost all of whom make long commutes every day; to many, as reflected in Google Maps reviews, the bridge, rather than a point of politics, is much-needed relief for heavy traffic.

Akhmad Kadyrov Bridge, St. Petersburg, Russia

Akhmad Kadyrov Bridge, St. Petersburg, Russia

Alongside the Kadyrov Bridge.

Alongside the Kadyrov Bridge: Litter, Graffiti, etc.

I feel like I still have so many questions and so much to learn about Kadyrov’s legacy, toponymy, and collective memory. Next week I’ll be able to visit a few relevant sites in Moscow and hopefully further paint my picture of the state commemoration of this controversial figure.

Comments

  1. ascholle says:

    The tension between something that has a lot of significance online and hardly any attention in person is something I’ve certainly noticed, especially in my travels in Italy and in ancient ruins. In museums and archaeological parks, it almost certainly stems from a lack of knowledge to contextualise what people are seeing. Do you believe that is the case, that the bridge’s name is either unknown or the person who it is named for is not familiar to many of the people who use it? On the other hand, if he is known well, that might argue for a kind of distancing between the bridge and the namesake. I’m thinking about airports around D.C., especially Dulles and Reagan. While I have heard some people refer to Reagan National solely as “national” in order to avoid the name, in my own experience, the names become new words in my head, devoid of reference to the actual historical people they reference. Could this be an intentional part of naming a bridge after a controversial figure, to replace people’s idea of the historical person with a bridge that they use to get to work and thereby sanitize or whitewash history?

  2. Yutong Zhan says:

    Your research project is fascinating! My research is also about historical memory, so your analysis of popular memory through examining a physical site seems particularly interesting to me. Your post prompts me to think about what could be considered as sites of memory. According to your post, it seems that the commemorative implication of the bridge has somewhat separated from the practical use of it, which, I think, might have contributed to the controversy online and the indifference in real life. The controversy certainly suggests the contested popular memory around the historical figure, but if the estrangement between the commemoration and practical use does exist, would this site still embody part of the politics of memory and still be considered a site of memory?

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