Lev Kerbel

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Kerbel (left) together with fellow Soviet sculptor Vladimir Tsigal, 1945
Lev Kerbel's monumental bust of Karl Marx in Chemnitz, Germany
The Lenin Monument in Parque Lenin, Havana, Cuba (1984, sculptor: Lev Kerbel; architect: A. Quintana)

Lev Efimovich Kerbel (Russian: Лев Ефимович Кербель; November 7 [O.S. October 25] 1917 – 14 August 2003) was a sculptor of Soviet realist works. Kerbel's creations included statues of Marx, Lenin, Yuri Gagarin, which were sent by Soviet Government as gifts to socialist and the Third World countries across the world.[1]

Kerbel was born to a Jewish family in the village of Semyonovka in Chernigov Governorate, Russian Republic (currently Semenivka, Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine), on the day that the Winter Palace in Petrograd was stormed by the Bolsheviks. Lev's family moved to the Russian Smolensk region, where he began sculpting as a child. He continued to sculpt and in 1934 he won an award from the Komsomol (Young Communist League) for a plaque of Lenin.

During World War II, Kerbel helped build the defenses for the Battle of Moscow, then served in the Northern Fleet, gaining renown as a military artist.

After the war, Kerbel's career took off with a wide range of commissions. In 1958 he sculpted a statue in Shanghai that depicted a huge Soviet and an equally large Chinese worker hand in hand. When Soviet-Chinese relations foundered a few years later, the statue was torn down by a mob.

In the 1950s to 1970s Kerbel sculpted many portraits of Soviet and foreign intellectuals: writer Boris Lavrenyov and violinist David Oistrakh, Canadian clergyman James Gareth Endicott, Giacomo Manzù (sculptor) and Pietro Orgento (orchestral conductor) from Italy and many others.[2] Another example of Kerbel's sculptures is the Lenin Monument in the Parque Lenin area of Havana, Cuba. In 1976 the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union presented the Government of Sri Lanka the monument of Solomon Bandaranaike, the late Prime minister of the country, carved by Lev Kerbel.[2]

While some people dismiss Kerbel's works as a form of flat Communist propaganda, Kerbel himself said that he was always more interested in art than politics. Many people now view his few remaining statues with nostalgia, particularly in Chemnitz, where his bust of Karl Marx is referred to as 'the head'. Among the monuments on the graves of the Soviet soldiers carefully preserved in Germany are Kerbel sculptures in Berlin and on Seelow Heights.[1]

In the 1990s following the collapse of the socialist bloc many of his works of art were destroyed. However his enormous Karl Marx monument in Chemnitz, formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt, has been preserved as a cultural monument. One of Kerbel's last works was the memorial to the crew of the Kursk submarine, inaugurated in Moscow on August 12, 2002.[3]

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b N. V. Voronov, ed. (1977). Лев Ефимович Кербель (in Russian). Moscow: Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers.
  2. ^ a b c N. V. Voronov, ed. (1977). Лев Ефимович Кербель (in Russian). Moscow: Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers. p. 30.
  3. ^ .rian.ru // В столице состоится открытие памятного знака в честь погибшего экипажа подлодки «Курск»
  4. ^ N. V. Voronov, ed. (1977). Лев Ефимович Кербель (in Russian). Moscow: Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers. p. 34.