The Reclining Lenins of Ukraine

In times of revolution, political statuary often pays the price. Since Ukraine’s latest troubles began, sculptures symbolising the country’s turbulent relationship with Russia have felt the full force of the nation’s anger.

A “statue war” between pro- and anti-Russian citizens foreshadowed the current crisis, with at least 12 statues of Lenin defaced in Ukraine since 2009. One of the casualties was a historic statue in the centre of Kiev, which lost its nose and part of the left hand. Installed in 1946, the statue had long symbolised Russia’s attempts to control of its neighbour. On 8 December 2013 the iconoclasm escalated when the same statue was toppled by protesters. The felled sculpture was attacked with hammers and an EU flag was placed in the remaining pedestal, a nod to the removal of a hated statue of Stalin in Budapest in 1956 (read more about that incident in the ESPIONART post Uprising Against Hungary’s Sculpture).

lenin statue beforeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since the attack in Kiev, violence against Ukraine’s Cold War era sculptures has become epidemic, and in a matter of months over 100 figures of Lenin have been destroyed. The statues have now become a battle ground between Ukrainians on either side of the dispute, with pro-Russians camped out below the statues to prevent their destruction.

Images: Statue of Lenin near Bessarabsky Market in Kiev – before and after its destruction on 8 December 2013

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