What to do with Lenin Statues?Friday, 2 August 2013
In Yekateringburg, part way across Russia on our Trans-Mongolian trip, our guide claimed her town’s big Lenin statue was one of only eight big ones left in Russia. We didn’t get to look at it, time was pressing and it was further down the main drag, but it sounded like a good travel quest: a trek around Russia to see all the remaining ‘big’ Lenins.
▲ The idea was quickly scrapped, there are plenty of Lenin statues – big and small – remaining, there’s even a Wikipedia entry devoted to listing them. My Russian Lenin-looking kicked off with the country’s biggest Lenin head in Ulan Ude.
▲ We moved on to the very fine (and big) one in Novosibirsk.
◄ Finally in Moscow, between our arrival on the train and our departure to London, we had time to visit the Art Muzeon Sculpture Park where Soviet era statues have gone to rest, rather than just be pulled down and destroyed. It looked like people really would have liked to have pulled down the statue of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky (1719), the founder of the KGB.
This is not the only place in the ex-communist world where unwanted statues have been assembled. In 2009 I visited Statue Park in Budapest, where that country’s out of favour commie heroes have been assembled. And I blogged once on the difficult question of what to do with them, whether it’s Russia, China, perhaps one day North Korea and, since I’d just been in Taiwan, the imaginative approach they’d taken to a big statue of Chiang Kai-shek.
My most interesting encounter with an unwanted Lenin statue was in Berlin, not long after the wall came down. The Russian embassy building was still there, although Bonn was now the temporary capital of the united Germany until Berlin once again became the capital. We drove by the building and my German friends pointed out a vertical wooden box in the front.
‘Guess what that is?’ they asked. ‘There’s a Lenin statue inside,’ they explained. ‘He’s out of favour of course, so they don’t want to leave him on display, but taking it down would be like admitting defeat. So that statue is still there, it’s just inside a box.’
◄ We saw assorted other Lenins along the way including in Kazan which had a statue of the young Lenin (he went to university there), instead of the usual coated, bearded version.