The artist may have been a favorite of Stalin, but Ivan Shadr's statue "Girl With an Oar" proved too sexy for the Soviet dictator.
The 23-foot nude statue, sculpted in 1934, was banished from pride of place in Moscow's Gorky Park to Ukraine in 1936 and replaced with a less sensual version, The Wall Street Journal reported.
However, a copy of the original was due to be unveiled Saturday on the bank of the Moskva River in the park at the finish line of an international regatta course, the paper said.
The replacement, still nude but apparently more tasteful, was destroyed in World War II; Shadr died of an illness in 1941 and the model for the statue, Vera Voloshina, was captured and killed by German forces, the WSJ reported.
But the statue is being given new life with Yulia Anikeyeva, a Soviet rowing champion and executive director of the Russian Amateur Rowing Association, telling the paper it had been adopted as the association's symbol.
"Nobody was sure what she'd look like," Anikeyeva added. "I remember a statue of a girl wearing clothes. So it was a true surprise to me, to all of us, to find her naked."
The copy is 6 feet 7 inches tall. "She's very beautiful," Anikeyeva told the paper, saying it was a reminder of the Soviet Union's athletic prowess, but also a rebuke of Communist values.
"We want to show that we now live in a different country. The notion that she must be dressed — that's changed," she added.
Imitations of the statue — that did not fall foul of the state censors — were put up throughout various parks, often dressed tastefully in track suit swimwear and swimwear. Those tarnished the memory of the original, which became something of a joke, the WSJ said.
"The very term 'Girl With an Oar' became an idiom for Soviet kitsch," Yekaterina Dyogot, a Moscow art historian, told the paper. "Hearing this term, everybody who still remembers the Soviet Union starts to laugh."
She said while nudity was allowed in Soviet times, suggestions of sex were taboo.
"Nudes had to be 'in good taste,'" she added. "Sexiness was not allowed. It was considered vulgar."