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A Soviet Artists Risks All to Sculpt the Cross

I have interviewed [faithful followers of Christ] in places like Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Albania, and Romania. "Why did you take such a risk?" I ask. "Why did you choose to follow Jesus when your government your teachers, and perhaps even your family insisted it was all a lie?" Again and again I have heard a two-pronged answer. They speak of their spiritual thirst, an inner longing that no amount of noisy propaganda could silence. And then they tell me of a humble Christian who loved them, who held out the possibility of a power that could help in their battle against alcoholism or drugs or meaninglessness or whatever demon happened to be tormenting them.

One of the faithful, the Soviet Union's most renowned sculptor, who had designed Nikita Khrushchev's tombstone, eventually went into forced exile in Switzerland … Knowing the sculptor's talent, the authorities tried at first to hold on to him. "We need Neizvestny," said one official, "but we cannot use him. We must create a Communist Neizvestny." His final rupture with the regime took place over a commission he did for a Communist Party building. Neizvestny constructed a huge sculpture some fifty feet high and fifty feet wide, that covered the entire facade. He submitted the design in sections, each of which was approved by Party officials. Only at the unveiling did they see it as a whole—and gasped in horror. A huge cross covered the front of the Communist headquarters.

"A cross?" said Neizvestny. "Can't you see it's a face?" But, knowing his Christian beliefs, authorities took it for a cross and expelled him from the country. The cross stayed in place. The state that opposed it did not.

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