It speaks to the nation's insular nature that only a few of Russia's wonders are familiar to westerners. I seriously doubt, for example, that John Doe in Peoria would recognize Valley of the Geysers (one of the lesser-known UNESCO sites), Mount Elbrus (Russia's highest peak at 5,600 meters), or the mysterious Poles of the Komi Republic (a series of bizarre vertical rock formations). National icons like St. Basil's Cathedral (the colorful, onion-domed church at one end of Red Square) and Peterhof (the "Russian Versailles" in St. Petersburg) are much better-known, and certainly wouldn't seem out of place on a list of modern wonders.
And then there's The Motherland Calls (pictured), an enormous statue in Volgograd that commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad. At 85 meters tall, it was the tallest statue in the world when it was dedicated in 1967, and its scale still inspires awe. I mean, look at the thing. It's huge!
The larger-than-life statue seems to summarize quite well the Russian character traits of hard work and unshakable resolve. Unfortunately, it also represents some of the country's structural problems, as the uneven ground beneath it is shifting, causing its foundation to move by 20 centimeters and making collapse a very real risk.
If it does collapse, perhaps Russia's free-spending oligarchs can build an even bigger one. I wonder what that would look like.
[Photo: The Oriens]