Russia unveils bust of Putin as Roman emperor

A monument portraying Russian president Vladimir Putin as a Roman emperor has been unveiled by a group of Cossacks in the outskirts of the city of St Petersburg, local news outlet Nevskie Novostireports.

The bust of the president, designed by sculptor Pavel Greshnikov and commissioned by the local Cossack community was first revealed in March in Greshnikov's studio, when local Cossack leader Andrey Polyakov hailed Putin as one of Russia's "brightest, positive heads of state we have seen in the last hundred years or so". The original plan was to install the bust within the Petersburg city limits, near the Parnas metro station, but it has now been place further north.

Speaking at the official opening of the bust in Agalatovo, north of St Petersburg this weekend, Polyakov announced that when the materials are available he wants the bust to be recast but make it twice the size and out of bronze, instead of the cheaper materials it is currently made of.

He also told local media that Greshnikov's initial design had a laurel wreath placed on the head of the toga-clad Putin, but that this was removed as the Cossacks believed this made the statue appear untrue to Putin's nationality.

"This way he is Russian, one of our own," Polyakov said. "With the wreath he would be too much like a Roman."

The unveiling of the monument coincided with Polyakov's birthday celebrations, who bears the title of Ataman (chieftan) in his community, and three new houses were also revealed in Agalatovo, alongside a horse stable and a church, although these have yet to be finished.

Polyakov told local press that there are plans to add two more statues to the village, commemorating a historic military leader of Cossack fighters in the Second World War, Pyotr Krasnov and a local Cossack who was killed in March while fighting for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Dmitriy Sizikov.

Cossack communities are ultra-conservative groups in Russia, which purport to live by the orthodox Slavic tradition and value military valour very highly. Historically the Cossacks were a warrior people depicted in the folklore of many countries including Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Although the term is an officially recognized ethnicity in Russia, it has also become linked with modern paramilitary groups loyal to the Russian government, many of whom have formed volunteer battalions, participating in modern Russia's territorial conflicts since the fall of the Soviet Union, such as the Chechen wars, the Ukraine crisis and the assault on Georgia.

Russia unveils bust of Putin as Roman emperor | Politics