The six-and-a-half-foot iPhone outside the St. Petersburg National Research University—a monument to the late Steve Jobs—is dismantled and gone. The business news portal BFM.ru claims that the owner of the statue, the West European Financial Union (ZEFS), had the oversized iPhone removed in response to Apple CEO Tim Cook's coming out last week.
According to BFM.ru, ZEFS worries that the iPhone monument, following Cook's announcement that he is gay, violated Russia's laws against “homosexual propaganda [sic].” BFM.ru also says ZEFS took down its giant iPhone in protest against Apple's alleged cooperation with the National Security Agency in the United States. The statue's creators were “taken in” by the “legend of a genius programmer,” ZEFS reportedly said, but that story turned out to be a “smokescreen” for American spying.
Russians, who spent roughly $1 billion last year on iPhones, have reacted strongly to the news out of St. Petersburg today.
Opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who's spent the better part of the year under house arrest, denounced the act of homophobia:
— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) November 3, 2014
Jesus, what scumbags: In Petersburg, after Tim Cook's announcement, a monument to Steve Jobs is dismantled.
Navalny's political ally, Vladimir Ashurkov (who's now in self-exile in London, avoiding likely criminal charges in Russia), echoed Navalny's sentiment:
— Vladimir Ashurkov (@vashurkov) November 3, 2014
How quick the brain goes numb. [News report]: In Petersburg, after Tim Cook's announcement, a monument to Steve Jobs is dismantled.
Brains were a common theme in many of the tweets criticizing the removal of the iPhone statue:
В Петербурге демонтировали памятник айфону. Незадолго до этого ответственные лица демонтировали себе мозг.
— Andrew Doronin (@AndrewDoronin) November 3, 2014
They've dismantled an iPhone monument in St. Petersburg. Not long before this, those responsible also dismantled their own brains.
Russia's only independent television station, the liberal-leaning TV Rain, joked on Twitter about the different directions Russia and Ukraine seem to be heading—where Ukrainians topple old statues of Lenin and Russians pull down a monument to Steve Jobs. The TV network even juxtaposed photographs of the iPhone's removal to images from Kharkov in September earlier this year, where a local mob demolished a Lenin monument.
— Телеканал ДОЖДЬ (@tvrain) November 3, 2014
In Petersburg, an iPhone monument has been dismantled. The Americans are guilty—Cook and Snowden. [Ukraine vs. Russia]
Not everyone is a fan of TV Rain's joke. Blogger XS_71 implies that comparing Lenin to the iPhone reveals a certain cultural or intellectual deficiency in Russian liberals:
Памятник айфону для креаклов, это что то вроде памятника Ленину в Харькове, да pic.twitter.com/brtCX7IrwF
— XS (@XS_71) November 3, 2014
The iPhone monument is for kreakls [the creative class] what the Lenin monument was in Kharkov. Yeah…
Other Russians on Twitter have wondered why a monument to Steve Jobs is being singled out, when there are other targets in St. Petersburg far riper for homophobic attacks, namely the statues and streets dedicated to composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Twitter's fake Russian Defense Ministry account got in on the fun:
Памятник Джобсу снесли. Не понимаем, как Милонов мирится с существованием в Петербурге памятника Чайковскому и улицы Чайковского!
— Мuнобороны Роисси (@FakeMORF) November 3, 2014
They've taken down a monument to Jobs. [But] we don't understand how [anti-gay city councilman Vitaly] Milonov is able to be at peace with St. Petersburg's statue to Tchaikovsky and street to Tchaikovsky!
The immensely popular Josef Stalin Twitter parody account also weighed in:
“В Петербурге после заявления Тима Кука о том, что он гей снесли памятник Стиву Джобсу” Питер, Питер… Такого мудизма я от тебя не ожидал.
— Иосиф Сталин (@StalinGulag) November 3, 2014
“In Petersburg, after Tim Cook's announcement that he's gay, a monument to Steve Jobs has been taken down.” Pete, Pete… I never expected this kind of fuckery from you.
Following the public backlash to the dismantling of the iPhone monument, St. Petersburg National Research University denied the story originally reported in BFM.ru, telling reporters at the state-run TASS news agency that the statue is only being removed temporarily, for repairs. The plans predate Cook's announcement that he is gay, the university says. The statue's disappearance, in other words, has nothing to do with Tim Cook being gay or Edward Snowden revealing America's spy empire.
Of course, some on the RuNet suspect that the monument was indeed removed for the reasons initially reported. The public reaction, says this theory, forced the authorities to backtrack and invent a new version of events.
@KevinRothrock Не выдержав всемирной славы, они дали задний ход )))
— Simply Tatyana (@SimplyTaNik) November 3, 2014
They couldn't handle the worldwide fame, and they [those who removed the statue] were given a way out.