A public statue of an Apple iPhone installed in St. Petersburg, Russia, as a memorial to Steve Jobs was removed on Friday, allegedly in response to the tech company’s new chief executive, Tim Cook, coming out as gay. Reports in the Russian media cited by Western news outlets suggested that the statue might be deemed illegal according to Russia’s recently passed law outlawing art that might encourage “non-traditional sexual relationships.” But further comments attributed to the statue’s patron suggest that the rationale might be more convoluted.
The interactive, six-foot-tall statue, which allowed passersby to learn more about Jobs’s life and work, was accused by the Western European Financial Union (ZEFS) of potentially being in violation of a law recently passed in Russia that bans anything that could be construed as gay “propaganda,” according to a press release quoted by Russia’s Ekho Moskvy news site and cited by BBC News. ZEFS paid for the memorial’s installation in January of last year in a courtyard on the campus of the St. Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics, and Optics (ITMO). According to an article on the Russian news site TASS, however, ITMO has stated that the public monument was removed on October 31 in order to be repaired. Video posted by the Daily Telegraph shows four men carrying the large smartphone out of the courtyard.
Statements excerpted from a ZEFS press release regarding the monument and attributed to the company’s founder and board chairman, Maxim Dolgopolov, claim that US surveillance agencies are able to use Apple technology to monitor global communications and that the giant iPhone would allow visitors to the site to send messages directly to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade and Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.
The Jobs monument is not Eastern Europe’s only monument to a digital technology giant: Last month the town of Słubice in Poland inaugurated its “Wikipedia Monument,” a fiberglass and resin sculpture devoted to the open source encyclopedia.