New East Digital Archive

Cardboard cut-out of Putin props up Geneva’s Broken Chair

Cardboard cut-out of Putin props up Geneva's Broken Chair

9 October 2014
Text Nadia Beard

The sculpture of the Broken Chair in front of the Palace of Nations, home of the UN office in Geneva, got a presidential makeover this week, after a 9.8-foot figure of Russian President Vladimir Putin stood in place of the statue’s missing leg in honour of his 62nd birthday.

The stunt was carried out by a “European art group”, according to Russian state-owned news agency TASS, and apparently draws attention to Putin’s efforts to support the needy and promote peace across the world. However, the identity of the group responsible has not been revealed by any media source, leaving the real meaning behind the stunt unclear.

The three-legged Broken Chair was initially intended as a temporary statue, erected in 1997 as a reminder of the price of war, with the broken chair leg symbolising the devastation of land mines and cluster bombs. However, due to public demand, the statue became a permanent fixture.

This week has seen celebrations across Russia commemorating Putin’s birthday in a mix of satire and sincerity. An exhibition entitled “12 Labours of Putin” opened in Moscow this week, with each of the 12 images depicting the Russian president as Hercules, fighting off mythical creatures representing the USA, UK and sanctions. Moscow shopping malls also noted an increase in sales this week of a line of T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of Putin’s face.