The painting “The Great Experiment” is a harsh and unforgiving indictment of those who carried out the cruel experiment of building a “new world” according to Marxist-Leninist theory, and who made Communism -- the bloody specter that had long haunted Europe -- a reality. The very prominent five-pointed Masonic star accentuates and dramatizes the characters portrayed within it. We see the first regicide, Oliver Cromwell, the French revolutionaries whose slogan was “freedom, equality, and brotherhood,” and Lenin and his cohorts who arrived in Russia in the famous sealed coach. Also depicted are the members of the world Cominterm who were prepared to tear the world asunder with cold-blooded fanaticism.
On the left side of the painting are images of the great monarchy of Orthodox Russia, a free and wealthy nation. Through a red haze we see those who fought in the fratricidal civil war, the “Whites” and the “Reds.” Below, as if enveloped in a heavenly blaze, is the family of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, destined to be murdered and profaned. Above them, as if a scattered deck of cards, are photographs of the state criminals of tsarist Russia, including Ul’yanov (Lenin), Dzugashvili (Stalin), and others.
On the right, not far from the baneful star, is the head of Christ, carrying the heavy burden of the cross upon which he was crucified. Directly below are the theomachists -- the famous members of the Politburo, atop the Mausoleum.
One can spend a long time studying this work which is beautifully rendered in terms of composition and color, and explicit in its unforgiving historical condemnation. As with his other works, Glazunov avoids accusatory rhetoric and simply expresses his point of view in images understandable and accessible to all.
September 8, 1914.
Those born in obscure times
Do not remember their way.
We, children of Russia's frightful years
Cannot forget a thing.
Incinerating years!, do you bring tidings
of madness or of hope?
The days of war, the days of freedom
Have left a bloody sheen on our faces.
There is a muteness - the tocsin bell
Has made us close our lips.
In our hearts, once so ardent,
There is a fateful emptiness.
Let the croaking ravens
Take flight above our deathbed -
O Lord, O Lord, may those more worthy than us,
Behold Thy kingdom!.