My Armed

2019 — 2020

MY ARMED MOTHERS combines personal vs. cultural memory and mythology; its influence on human self-identity; unconscious connection of material symbolic objects with folk psyche; connections between art, semiotics and mythology.

The project refers to the mother archetype and monumental history of Post-Soviet countries. It takes four biggest Mother-Motherland monuments of four countries: Russia (90 meters), Georgia (20 meters), Armenia (51 meters) and Ukraine (102 meters), and researches their historical, visual, social, cultural and spiritual parallels; and also their parallels with the contemporary world.

In 2018 I was working on an artistic research-based project titled ‘Motherland is Calling’, supported by AFK, Stichting Stokroos and W.E. Jansen Fonds. The project title came from the name of the tallest female sculpture in the world that stays in Volgograd city (formerly Stalingrad) in Russia. The ‘Motherland is calling’ statue is a part of a monumental ensemble commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad that was built in 1967. The ‘Motherland’ is a gigantic woman with a mouth wide open, that calls her ‘children’ to the war, holding her sword high up. The whole territory around the sculpture is a monumental ensemble and a burial place for about 45.000 Soviet soldiers.

The idea to research this topic came from the personal biographical fascination: I was born in Volgograd and visited the monument a number of times. The place has a ‘saint horror’ atmosphere and is perceived as being ‘sacred’ in the contemporary Russian ideology (that takes its roots from the Soviet ideology). The same way it is presented in many related texts, songs, and films. The feeling of this ‘saint horror’ in front of the sculpture [in front of the motherland, in front of the mother, in front of any war-related objects, in front of the ‘war’] was cultivated from the childhood, and is forming a part of Soviet identity. It follows me through all my life, and I see similar feelings in many Russian-speaking people. Within the project I wanted to evaluate this ‘saint horror’ and to give it an artistic shape.

In ‘Motherland is Calling’ project I took the particular ‘Motherland’ sculpture of my childhood, as a study case of the role of female warrior figures in a war cult and propaganda and of the phenomena of ‘motherland‘ sculptures in general. I studied its multi-layered symbolism, its role in shaping the war perception and people’s personal ideologies (mine in particular). Following concepts were relevant to the research: Motherland, Femininity, War, Cults-creating processes and a Monument as a cult object. As a result of this research I created a nonlinear narration in the form of an art-book and a series of prints presented in an installation setting. The project also included a Public Program that articulated the topics of feminine, mother archetype and war cults from sociopolitical, antropological, spiritual and artistic views.

Though it is often referred to Mother Russia as a personification of the Russian nation, during the research I found that many countries have statues of ‘Motherland‘ (or visual idea of it): Indian Bharat Mata, Marianne of French Republic, Spanish "la Madre Patria" and others. Some researchers see these ‘Motherlands’ as symbolic war-goddesses. A female character represents ‘Motherland’, that needs to be protected, or the one that is calling for protection, or just calling to fight (“to die for the Motherland”). Other researchers see these monuments as symbolic metaphors of ‘national identity’ that, at the same time, construct this ‘identity’. As I was interested in the country of my origin, I noticed a repeating type of Mother-Motherland sculptures in former- USSR countries. These Mothers-Motherlands are usually massive sculptures situated on a hill (often a grave), with strong, a bit aggressive, almost goddess-looking faces, with a sword in their hands. I’ve chosen the 4 biggest sculptures I want to focus my research on (that concerns this application): the Mother-Motherlands of Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine.

These monuments were built at the end of the Soviet Era, and in a way they were symbolic personifications of the soviet ‘Motherland’. The USSR is not there anymore, but these ‘Motherlands’ are still standing and serving as national symbols of the countries. How do these ‘Motherlands’ function in nowadays space? I would like to give these sculptures a voice in the contemporary context, creating a work of art out of their story, and see what results it might bring, what connections and patterns can be traced back in time and space.

Looking at these sculptures from various points: as soviet monumental history, totalitarian architecture, monumental propaganda, artificial community constrictors, and even as war- goddesses of pre-Christian times, I want to combine all these views, to search for their connection, role and the message.

To understand the connection with the cultural psyche of these monumental ‘Motherlands’, I went to the four Post-Soviet countries, where the biggest Motherland sculptures are situated for field research and cultural networking, to study the local history museums and archives, but also to collect an alternative mythology connected to the sculptures by interviewing local citizens. As a result of this research I created a series of artworks in various media.


THE MOTHERLAND CALLS [Родина-мать зовёт!] monument in Volgograd, Russia. When the memorial was dedicated in 1967 it was the tallest statue in the world, measuring 85 meters from the tip of its sword to the top of the plinth. The plinth measures another 2 meters, and is installed on a concrete foundation with a depth of 16 meters. The figure measures 52 meters, and the sword 33 meters. The monument weighs over 8,000 tons. The statue contains 5,500 tons of concrete and 2,400 tons of metal structures; the sword itself weighs 14 tons. The rigidity of the frame is supported by 99 metal cables constantly in tension.

THE MOTHERLAND [Батьківщина-Мати] monument in Kiev, Ukraine. The stainless steel statue stands 62 m tall upon the museum main building with the overall structure measuring 102 m including its base and weighing 560 tons. The sword in the statue's right hand is 16 m long weighing 9 tons, with the left hand holding up a 13 by 8 m shield with the State Emblem of the Soviet Union. Opening date: 9 May 1981.

MOTHER ARMENIA [Մայր Հայաստան Mayr Hayastan] monument in Yerevan, Armenia. It has a height of 22 meters, thus making the overall height of the monument 51 meters, including the pedestal. The statue is built of hammered copper while the pedestal-museum is of basalt. Opened in 1967.

MOTHER OF A GEORGIAN [Kartlis Deda ქართლის დედა] monument is Tbilisi, Georgia. Was erected in 1958. It is a 20-meter aluminum figure of a woman in Georgian national dress. She symbolizes the Georgian national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand is a sword for those who come as enemies.

The project is realized with the kind support of Mondriaan Fund, Wilhelmina E.Jansen Fonds and i-Portunus mobility grant.


Project blog: My Armed Mothers ->
Exhibition: ՄԱՅՐԵՆԻՔ /  Motherland ->
Exhibition: Mother[hood] ->

Olga Ganzha ©