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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Is it a Socialist-Realist Renoir? A Monet? A Manet? Just where is this Artwork? KesterTester48

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

I'd estimate that perhaps 5,000 people per day might see this image, though in truth, most probably barely even give it a glance. But where might it be?

[Updated with results of KT47 - The Map with its 'Dear Leader']

Photo: The artist certainly wasn't a footplate man - even an apprentice fireman would shrink in horror at that exhaust plume coming from the chimney of a standing locomotive. But we can forgive the artist that error, perhaps - I mean, you can feel the fervour of the comrade engineers, poring over the blueprint, eager to complete the next phase of the 5-Year Plan, while the commissar presents the latest worker award.

The local tourist board prefers to ignore it - it's certainly not promoted on their webpage. (A case of political correctness in the current climate, perhaps?) It's in a location once with a royalist connection and, I strongly suspect, it was badly damaged in WW2.

In the aftermath, it was seen as particularly strategic and thus, I suppose demanded some prestigious artwork. But where is it?

I can't really say any more - oh, alright then, maybe quite a few readers have been near this location, but perhaps never quite in the right spot.

There, now you have more than enough clues. If I say any more, there'll be no challenge.

Answers please via the website contact system or an email. (But if I've told you about this and 'fess up. That wouldn't really be fair, would it?)

I'll post the results of KT47 here on Saturday - so you can still sleuth your way to glory on that Tester.

UPDATE: The Results of KT47 and that artefact featuring a 'dear leader'.

Well, I must say KT47 features what must be the saddest, most forgotten corner of Europe, stuck, as it is between two 'empires' – one aggressive and grasping, the other limp and, in the face of the big bear – largely ineffective. And of course, it is the ordinary people – many of whom are in practice intelligent and extraordinary in their entrepreneurial efforts to make life liveable – who suffer.

But in terms of the KesterTester, this challenge produced some excellent sleuthing from some of Perspectives Budapest's extraordinary readers, although most respondents seemed content to identify the dear leader rather than deduce where this artefact might be located.

Quick as a flash after my posting, SharonLee Cowan, teaming up with St Petersburg-based friend Nathan Longan, nailed the individual involved.

“We think the person whose face is featured on the map is Vagit Alekperov, Lukoil’s CEO, who is Azerbaijani by birth.

The map has a Lukoil logo, and the face looks like Alekperov. He turned 70 last 1 September 2020, so the map clearly dates back quite a few years.

What is mysterious is the “50”. Was it his 50th birthday? Did it mark the occasion when Lukoil achieved a presence in 50 countries? As a company it is not old enough for the 50 to relate to the company’s anniversary.

I look forward to reading other people’s guesses," wrote SharonLee.

Very impressive team work, SharonLee, and so quickly too. I had missed the Lukoil logo in the photo, I must say – or perhaps I thought it was a Cyrillic letter.

But others soon followed, Marius Lazurca and Priit Pallum also identifying the Lukoil chief, and both guessing the artefact would be in Lukoil's headquarters, Priit writing: “Surely the Turks have a brewery in Baku, Valelkperov´s home/birth town.”

They may have, Priit, but even if they do, this particular item is not there!

Along the way, a couple of folk had a stab in the dark, including Nigel Thorpe, who thought the dear leader might be Enva Hodja, the Albanian dictator of many years. I happen to agree with you, Nigel, for some reason this does have a Hodja 'feel' to it.

But it isn't him.

We then got into Power-Sleuthing territory.

Olav Berstad, certainly had a good crack: “Greetings from Norway! My suggestion is that the picture is from Tiraspol, Moldova, and the brewery picture from Chisinau. Why and how? The picture is obviously in commemoration of Vagit Alekperov, the president and CEO of Russian oil company Lukoil. He turned 50 in 2000. Outside Russia and Azerbaijan, Transnistria is probably one of the few places where they would make a special plaque or something in the honour of a Russian oil tycoon.

"It is more than likely that Lukoil has gas stations and exports oil to Transnistria, so my hunch is that you have actually seen (and recorded for eternity) this picture in some business promotion office, other office or even museum in Tiraspol. It is also a place where cyrillic is in everyday use, I believe."

[Explanation to non-expert readers. Moldova is sort-of split in two, with the eastern part of the country - Transnistria - controlled de facto by a Russia-friendly administration. It's 'capital' is Tiraspol. The capital of Moldova proper is Chisinau.]

Olav continued: "I could of course be mistaken with regard to Tiraspol, since the brewery shot was taken "at a location not far from where the Tester photo was snapped". Chisinau and Tiraspol are about 60 km apart. I think that counts for "not far". I checked with Efes and they have a brewery in Chisinau. (My first personal encounter with Efes was in Istanbul 1982, we have been on friendly terms ever since). So, what is your verdict?”

Well, that's a jolly good effort there, Olav – and your kind of thinking was followed by Alan Sutton, who charged in with this effort.

“The chap in the picture is Vagit Alekperov, founder and CEO of Lukoil. The 50 was a bit of a mystery as it does not refer to the company (which is only 30 years old) or the number of countries in which it operates, (40) so I presume was in honour of Alekperov's 50th birthday in 2000.

"Alekperov was from Baku which is just in Europe, and is not in the region you describe. More to the point, Efes does not have a brewery there - so I am plumping for Chisinau in Moldova where it does have one."

At this point, Alan (a football fan) quipped: "They think it's Moldova - it is now!"

(Apologies, you have to have been of a certain age in 1966, and English, or at least British, to appreciate this.)

Alan signed off pondering: “Not sure about Moldova or why they would want to celebrate Alekperov other than the fact that their site noted that they began expanding in Moldova in that year.”

So – here is the story as well as I can remember it. In 2008, I was invited to join a press trip to Moldova sponsored by the Schönherr law firm of Vienna, and thought up by their then brilliantly inventive, fun-loving head of PR, Gina Tondolo.

Photo: Members of the Schönherr press trip on arrival from the airport in Chisinau, Moldova, September 2008.

Now if I remember correctly, on the first day in Chisinau, we all visited the Floare Carpet company. I know next to nothing about carpets, but I have to say that to non-expert me (and I'm open to correction, naturally) but the quality of goods produced by the weavers in this plant appears up there with the best in class.

Photo: The Showroom at the Floare Carpet Plant, Chisniau, Moldova, September 2008.

Anyway, in their showroom, this carpet, presumably ordered for Mr Alekperov's 50th birthday, takes (or took) pride of place.

I have written to Floare Carpet to see if they will give the story as to why it's still with them, and not with the Lukoil boss, but have not yet received a reply.

As for the KesterTester, despite Olav's excellent effort, the EU-approved, black woolly hat is not needed, as Alan Sutton (ignoring the hoary football joke) wins a walk-over, even greater global fandom and the coveted right to buy me two beers on the first possible occasion.

And if you are ever in Chisinau and needing something to do, you might ask to visit the carpet factory and confirm (or otherwise) that the Alekperov carpet still hangs proud in their exhibition room.

Here is their website:

Congratulations to all who had a stab at this, by no means an easy one.

Now – what about that steam engine and the latest news on the Five-Year Plan up above?

Have a good week.

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