Russian Art Park Burns 23-Meter-Tall Tower of Babel as Symbol of Discord

This year, the Nikola-Lenivets art village in Russia celebrated Maslenitsa by burning a 23-meter-tall wooden Tower of Babel, a biblical symbol of discord.

Every year since 2001, Nikola-Lenivets, a popular art park about 220 kilometers from Moscow, has celebrated the Slavic holiday of Maslenitsa by burning a specially-made artwork. Maslenitsa symbolizes the passing of winter and the coming of spring, a new beginning, but this year, the artistic tradition has been more grandiose and more meaningful than ever. A 23-meter-tall wooden tower of Babel designed by young architect Ekaterina Polyakova was set ablaze in a ceremony designed to symbolize the end of discord between nations.

Photo: Nikola-Lenivets Art Park

The Tower of Babel is an origin myth meant to explain why the peoples of the world speak different languages. It tells the story of a united human race speaking the same language as it tries to build a city and a tower tall enough to reach heaven. God, seeing the people becoming prideful, disrupts their work so that they can no longer understand each other and finish the structure.

Although the Tower of Babel isn’t always referred to as an example of discord among people, it was for this exact reason that the artists of Nikola-Lenivets chose it as this year’s effigy.


“It so happened that the Tower of Babel was never completed because of the discord between people and entire nations. The current one, which we are building for Maslenitsa in Nikola-Lenivets, serves as a modern symbol of such disunity,” Ekaterina Polyakova said.


The impressive structure was built out of wooden logs, brushwood, timber and hay. Last Sunday, before the tower was set ablaze, the thousands of people who arrived at Nikola-Lenivets for the event were invited to climb up and leave a piece of paper on which they had written all the things they wished to get rid of from their lives, so they could burn with the tower.

Three years ago, we covered another impressive Maslenitsa effigy at Nikola-Lenivets, a grandiose cathedral made of tree branches and burnt to a crisp in the name of art. However, in the light of recent geopolitical events, this year’s ceremony is a lot more meaningful…

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