DescriptionThe sculpture in front of you was dedicated on July 2, 1992. This abstract sculpture was given to Spokane by our former sister city Makhachkala, in the Dagestan Republic.
The sculpture represents Shamil, a 19th-century political and religious leader of the Northern Caucasus. He was a hero of anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War and was the third Imam of the Caucasian Imamate in the mid 1800's. Shamil fought for the freedom of his people against the Russian Czars. The creation of the sculpture in 1992 was in part a celebration of the brand-new independence of Dagestan, which had just become an independent republic following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The two sister cities swapped sculptures the summer of 1992. A totem pole, created by the great Northwest artist Harold Balazs, was gifted to Makhachkala. In return, the hammered copper sculpture of Shamil, by Anatoli Abgudaev, was sent to the people of Spokane. The citizens of Makhachkala stated that the Shamil sculpture stands for the preference of peace over war, and the importance of freedom as a basis for peace.
Peace proved elusive for Dagestan, however, and the sister-city arrangement between Spokane and Makhachkala was short-lived. Instability gripped the new republic shortly after the exchange, and Spokane officials were unable to communicate with their counterparts for several years. When a Spokane delegation did travel to Makhachkala in 1994, they were fired upon after leaving the airport. Spokane's city council voted to end the relationship that year.
Spokane does maintain four sister relationships: Nishinomiya, Japan (established in 1961), Jilin City, China (1987), Limerick, Ireland (1990), and Jecheon, Korea (1999). Listen to the podcast on this page for more information about the sister cities program.