In the midst of the turmoil in Ukraine, a Kiev museum is exhibiting the “treasures” of the country’s fled leaders. Of course, many of these things are not treasures, but instead are exhibited to show how ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies wasted the Ukrainian people’s money on complete and utter tat. I wish I could go myself, in the spirit of “tasteful friends,” but I have to rely on the English-language Internet and the powers of Google Translate.
Which is where I run into a problem of history. English-language media attributes all this junk to Yanukovych, but although I’m sure he was capable of buying all this crap for himself, it isn’t all his—some of it, and some of the tackiest, was the property of Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka.
I feel that Pshonka should be given his due. He should be remembered, not just in his home country but abroad—remembered both for the money that he stole and for what exactly he spent that money on. If an English-reading Internet user passes by this blog, they should know the name of Pshonka. Why? Because he had the world’s most amazingly tacky house.
Unlike Yanukovych’s Mezhyhirya, which at least has the distinction of having been built in completely different styles by floor, like a layer cake with clashing flavors, Pshonka’s house is banal on the outside. It appears to be a quickly erected Western McMansion, complete with lion statues on the doorstep, ugly but nothing special. But a look inside reveals that everything is gilded, swagged, padded, and veneered to the nth degree. There are crystals and rhinestones stuck to every surface that will hold them, faux 18th-century paintings and statues on every wall and in every nook, velvet curtains blocking out the light from every window.
There are weapons—because there’s a man in the house, there have to be weapons—and awards, all hanging in their special display cases and porcelain holders, even the excess ones that have been banished to the attic.
Even God has visited Pshonka’s house, in the form of icons of wildly varying quality, fabulously bound Bibles (is it a real old Bible, or a real new Bible created to look like a real old Bible? Wheels within wheels!), and DVDs of what I assume are various kinfolk being baptized in the Jordan River. It’s the Platonic ideal of a certain type of tackiness, transcending differences in culture and language. Pshonka’s reproduction “Little Dancer” statue rips a hole in the fabric of space and time itself.
But bad taste alone isn’t what makes this residence special. Pshonka’s sheer vanity crowns this shithole of a house. Yanukovych’s painting of himself as a champion racecar driver is ridiculous, but it’s a touching expression of human pleasure in a hobby compared to Pshonka’s portrait gallery. Pshonka’s portraits emphasize his mighty power, as if the man could command the fate of billions from his suburban mansion. If for some reason you know Pshonka’s face, you know him as the person who had somebody photoshop him into the form of a Roman emperor.
This wasn’t his only expression of his royal puissance. His house is full of pictures of himself in prosecutor’s uniform, reproduced in every conceivable medium (including blanket). His family was princely in nature, too, a family harkening back to the glories of ancient times. His younger family members are photographed posed like Roman nymphs.
If it’s not the Romans, it’s the Russians. Here is Pshonka winning the Napoleonic battle of Borodino. (The battle wasn’t actually won by the Russians, but had Pshonka been there instead of Prince Kutuzov, I am sure it would have been a rout.)
Anyway, a mere general is a bit low for the Pshonka family, don’t you think! So this woman, whose exquisitely-coiffed head appears to be pasted onto a tsarina’s body, is Pshonka’s wife.
I think this painting is of Ms. Olga as a boyar’s wife, although I don’t know enough about either her or the boyars to confirm it. In any case, she is certainly the queen of this particular castle! What majesty emanated from this house!
I encourage you to explore more of Pshonka’s house, and enjoy a real paradise of china shepherdesses, gold lame curtains, and crystal jaguars. But if you only have a bit of time, you can really sum it all up with Pshonka’s fauxcoco widescreen television stand.
IT HAS HIS FRAMED RHINESTONE SIGNATURE ON IT, YO.
Thanks to Evhen Chubuk for thoroughly documenting this wonder of interior design. Check out his blog for the full horror! And click here for an English translation of a Russian-language article about Pshonka as hoarder and the contents of his “barn-palace.” Interesting to see the reaction of the Ukrainian commenter…