* Pavilion shaped like Louis Vuitton suitcase ruffles Russia
* Giant trunk meant to house temporary exhibition
* Louis Vuitton: exhibition a tribute to its Russia ties
By Ian Bateson
MOSCOW, Nov 27 Matthias Rust shocked the Soviet
Union when the young German landed a small plane on Red Square
in 1987. This week, a giant symbol of mammon appeared in
Russia's most venerated public place and traditionalists were
President Vladimir Putin's government found itself
struggling on Wednesday to contain an uproar over a gigantic
Louis Vuitton suitcase set up to house an exhibit on the travel
and possessions of the rich and famous.
Communists denounced the suitcase-shaped pavilion - placed
mere steps from the Kremlin and the mausoleum of Bolshevik
revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin - as an evocative symbol of
the conspicuous consumption that has enveloped Russia since the
1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.
"I am ashamed of our country for putting a suitcase on its
main square, this sacred area that should be protected by the
state," said Valery Rashkin, a Communist member of the State
Duma, the lower parliament house. He called it an "eyesore".
The protests appeared to work, for by late on Wednesday
evening, a sign on a fence surrounding the structure said it was
being dismantled - though the structure remained intact.
Despite straps on the pavilion in the colours of the Russian
flag, the image of a Western luxury good only the richest can
afford jarred with Putin's appeals to patriotism in the face of
what he calls foreign threats to Russian culture.
His standing somewhat dented by protests by liberal city
dwellers in 2011-12, Putin has championed the kind of
rank-and-file, provincial Russians for whom a trip to Moscow and
a stroll on Red Square is a rare treat.
Putin loyalists in his United Russia party also railed
against the outsized suitcase, and nationalist Vladimir
Zhirinovsky said on Tuesday that it should be moved to a more
remote part of Moscow.
Citing an unnamed Kremlin source, Russian news agencies said
Wednesday that Putin's administration had ordered the 30
metre-(100-foot)-long, nine-metre-(30-foot)-high suitcase
"There's nothing terrible about the trunk itself and the
good intentions - on the contrary," Putin spokesman Dmitry
Peskov told reporters. "But it is obvious that there's a problem
with the sense of scale."
While a skating rink has been set up on Red Square for the
winter holidays in recent years, the Kremlin is sensitive about
use of the history-steeped expanse at Moscow's heart.
Protest band Pussy Riot performed on the square a month
before their "punk prayer" in a cathedral that resulted in jail
terms, and a man who stripped naked and nailed his private parts
to the cobbles this month may face criminal charges.
Louis Vuitton, whose parent company is LVMH,
had said the exhibit - which was to open on Dec. 2 - was a
tribute to its longstanding ties with Russia and that all
revenue from it would go to the Naked Heart Foundation, a
The charity's founder, model Natalia Vodianova, is the
fiancee of a son of Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH.