Plans unveiled for statue of Russian poet in Earlston

Lermontov monument
Lermontov monument

Residents of Earlston could soon be greeted by the sight of a life-size bronze statue of one of Russia’s most famous poets in the middle of their village.

For the past few months, talks have been ongoing with representatives of Russia’s Lermontov family – heirs of the great 19th-century poet, Mikhail Yuryevitch Lermontov – over a statue in Earlston.

Lermontov’s ancestor was a Scottish soldier, Captain George Learmonth, who settled in Bely, near Smolensk, in the early 1600s.

And legend has it Thomas the Rhymer, who is said to have lived at Earlston, was the first to bear the Learmonth/Lermontov name.

According to biographers, Lermontov felt great affinity for Scotland through his links with these two figures.

And with this year seeing both the 200th anniversary of the poet’s birth and the United Kingdom-Russia Year of Culture, there are major celebrations being planned for October.

Members of the village’s Friends of Thomas the Rhymer of Ercildoune group met this week with officials, councillors and Thomas Beavitt, co-founder of the Sco-Rus Organisation Ltd, over possible sites.

The proposal to erect two statues – one in Earlston and one in Bely – involves a partnership between the Sco-Rus Organisation Ltd and the Lermontov family.

The statues will be made by renowned Russian-American sculptor Viktor Sirotin.

John Paton-Day, a member of the ‘Friends’ group, told The Southern: “If this connection can lead to increased tourism, and create an educational link between our schools, it must be a good thing.

“The added possibilities of another twinning for Earlston with Bely is an interesting possibility.

“But most of all, it must have the approval of the people of Earlston, both in its position and scale.”

Mr Beavitt explained: “The plan would be to unveil the statue in Earlston in October to coincide with Lermontov festival.

“We looked at various places where it could be sited and, subject to approval, it would seem the best place would be the village square.”