The St. Basil's Cathedral has long served as a globally known symbol of Russia, but failed to be voted to the top 10 list by Russians. Source: Lori/Legion Media
10 landmarks out of 600 made the final cut in a three-stage contest that was created to promote Russia as “a unique country with a rich cultural and natural heritage.” After a nationwide vote that also included hectic lobbying by politicians, particularly regional governors, the following symbols were chosen: The Kolomensky Kremlin, the Akhmad Kadyrov Heart of Chechnya Mosque, the Rostov Kremlin, the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, the Pskov Kremlin (Krom), Peterhof, Mamayev Kurgan and the “Motherland Calls” sculpture, Kizhi, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, and Lake Baikal. The organisers decided not to distribute final places among the top ten winners in order to emphasise their equal importance for Russians.
Voting took place on a special dedicated website and through text messages.
The Heart of Chechnya Mosque and Kolomensky Kremlin’s selection as winners was known beforehand due to a scandal involving the two during the course of the competition. Second-round tallies designated Kolomensky Kremlin the vote-leader, surpassing the Heart of Chechnya Mosque which had long held first place.
The Heart of Chechnya Mosque. Source: Lori/Legion Media
The Heart of Chechnya Mosque named for the late leader Akhmad Kadyrov had 38 million votes in the second round of the contest, but analysts argue that an outright victory by the mosque would have been seen as “scandalous.” Some votes were lost allegedly due to a technical error, pushing the mosque to second place.
Chechnya’s president Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that cellphone operators had ignored some 4 million votes cast in favour of the mosque, denying it victory, and said he would withdraw his region's landmark from the contest. He demanded that mobile phone operators return the money spent on voting. This was followed by violent attacks by locals in Chechnya on the offices of Beeline, a major telecom operator.
Cellphone operators eventually returned the money and the competition’s organizers declared that both the Heart of Chechnya Mosque and the Kolomensky Kremlin had become symbols of Russia by default, even before the final result was announced. The scandal probably led organisers to not rank the final winners.
However, the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre conducted an alternative survey among Russians, the results of which indicated that the country’s symbol was Lake Baikal, which gathered 58 percent of votes.
Lake Baikal. Source: Lori/Legion Media
This was not the first project of this kind for the Russia 1 TV channel. Three stages of the 7 Wonders of Russia contest took place from October 1, 2007 and February 1, 2008, with voting also being conducted through the internet and text messages. Appearing among the wonders of Russia, just as in the “Symbol of Russia” competition, were Mamayev Kurgan and the “Motherland Calls” sculpture, Peterhof, and Lake Baikal. In addition, the Valley of Geysers in Kamchatka, the Manpupuner rock formations (or “Poles of the Komi Republic), Mount Elbrus, and St. Basil’s Cathedral were also included on the list of wonders.
In 2008, Russia TV channel selected Alexander Nevsky as the winner of “The Name of Russia” contest after a series of television debates.
Based on materials from the Moscovsky Komsomolets newspaper, RIA Novosti, and the Russia 10 competition’s website.
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