The decapitation of the Lenin Statue in Kyiv on December 8th 2013 was a visible symbol of the current tensions in Ukraine, where young pro-EU protestors continue to demonstrate against the recent decision of President Yanukovych to abandon an Association Agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.
However, it might equally be asked how this relic of the Soviet era lasted for so long. There are few more tangible representations of the transition away from communism than the removal of Soviet-era statues. Kyiv’s protestors argue that Lenin has long been squatting, given that former President Yushchenko signed a decree ordering the removal of the statue in 2009.
Ukrainians are far from the first in the former Soviet sphere to face dilemmas over the fate of Soviet-era statues. The Estonian have shown little appetite for keeping souvenirs of this difficult period in their history. Monuments to Lenin, Stalin and Stakhanovite ‘comrades’ were quietly rounded up and unceremoniously dumped in the back garden of the Estonian History Museum. There they lie, forgotten and unloved, reflecting the sentiment of a country that is so keen to forget about its long occupation that it won’t even organise a formal disposal for Lenin and his cronies.
However, the transition away from communism also heralded the beginning of a period of vigorous capitalism. In Lithuania, one canny entrepreneur realised that, while the local population would rather forget about the Soviet-era, there was money to be made from curious tourists. The statues were collected and displayed in a theme park, where tourists can gawp for a charging a basic entry fee for 20 litas (€5). A further 26 litas buys an audio guide,
While protestors in Kyiv continue to hack away at a statue that has out-stayed its welcome, it is ironic that Lenin’s safest and most comfortable resting place has been within the very bosom of capitalism.