Conservation Heritage News Ukraine

Ukraine says ‘Goodbye Lenin’

Statues of the Soviet leader have been toppled across the country during recent protests, worrying some heritage experts

Protesters used sledgehammers to destroy a sculpture of Lenin by the Soviet artist Sergei Merkurov in Kiev

Statues of Vladimir Lenin are flying off their pedestals all around Ukraine. The purge of dozens of memorials to the Communist leader is a by-product of the Euromaidan protests that have ousted the country’s president Viktor Yanukovych, who has not been seen publicly since this weekend, when the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove him from office. On Monday, a warrant was issued for Yanukovych’s arrest on charges of mass murder in connection with the deaths of protesters in Kiev, where at least 82 people died in clashes with government forces.

The “Leninopad” or “Fall of the Lenins”, as the phenomenon has been dubbed, has also been seen as an effort to decisively sweep away the legacy of Soviet rule in the country.

Local media reported on Monday that five statues of Lenin have gone down in the Poltava region of central Ukraine. In recent days, sculptures have even been toppled in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula where pro-Russian sentiment is strong and Yanukovych is thought to be hiding out. However, there have been reports of crowds defending monuments in Odessa and Kharkiv. Ukrainian activists have been tracking the statues’ demise with an interactive map called “Goodbye Lenin”, while a Russian site that lists memorials to the Soviet premier around the world has been posting before and after shots of Ukraine's fallen Lenins.

The movement began last December, with demonstrators destroying a major Lenin monument in Kiev. The work was created by the Soviet sculptor Sergei Merkurov and its loss troubled some cultural figures.

Preservationists have called for the dismantled monuments to be collected and displayed in a park. On Sunday, the newly-created Ukrainian branch of the International Committee of the Blue Shield, which seeks to protect monuments in wartime, suggested that activists who are “dismantling statues of Lenin or other monuments of the totalitarian regime” should keep in mind that some are officially listed as heritage sites and “their dismantling requires that certain procedures be observed”.

“First check whether the monument that you want to take down is a heritage site!” the organisation advises.

Activists, meanwhile, are calling for monuments to be put up around Ukraine to honour those who died in the fight against the Yanukovych regime, known as the “Heavenly Hundred”.

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