Lenin Falls in Kyiv

  • December 22, 2013 - 8:31 pm
  • Lenin, Ukraine
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On the night of Sunday, December 8, pro-EU demonstrators on the Maidan pulled down Kyiv's most prominent remaining statue of Lenin, an imposing statue that had remained standing since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Below we have gathered photos, links to articles, and other information about this remarkable event:

Here's a photo of the original statue a few years ago:

Photo: Spyridon Kotsovilis

Photo: Spyridon Kotsovilis


Here is a link to the full-length YouTube video of the statue being destroyed - amazing!

Here's a photo of the statue being destroyed:

Photo: New York Times

Photo: The Atlantic


Here are photos of the aftermath:

Photo: BaseSat, Wikimedia Commons, 9 Dec 2013

Photo: BaseSat, Wiki Commons, 9 Dec 2013

Photo: Maria Popova, 14 Dec 2013

Photo: Maria Popova, 14 Dec 2013


Maria's comments on the photo below: "This is the pedestal of what used to be Lenin's monument in Kyiv. The Russian-language stickers are probably targeted at those who come to mourn, rather than celebrate Lenin's toppling. One says: "it [maidan] is not for Europe-- it's against corruption. Come to Maidan"

Photo: Maria Popova, 14 Dec 2013

Photo: Maria Popova, 14 Dec 2013


Photo: BaseSat, Wikimedia Commons, 10-Dec-2013

Photo: BaseSat, Wiki Commons, 10-Dec-2013


Oxana Shevel posted the photo below, with a translation of the joke: "Dear Nadia (Lenin's wife's name), I left to support the revolution. Your Vladimir"

Photo: Posted by Oxana Shevel

Photo: Posted by Oxana Shevel


Here are the relevant parts of the New York Times article on December 8, breaking the news:


December 8, 2013

Protesters in Kiev Topple Lenin Statue as Rallies Grow


KIEV, Ukraine — Public protests thundered into a full-throttle civil uprising in Ukraine on Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of protesters answered President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s dismissiveness with their biggest rally so far, demanding that he and his government resign. At the height of the unrest on Sunday night, a seething crowd toppled and smashed a statue of Lenin, the most prominent monument to the Communist leader in Kiev. The act was heavy with symbolism, underscoring the protesters’ rage at Russia over its role in the events that first prompted the protests: Mr. Yanukovich’s abrupt refusal to sign sweeping political and free-trade agreements with the European Union. . . . Later, as the Lenin statue was pulled down and men took turns splintering it to bits with a sledgehammer, protesters twice sang the national anthem, removing their caps and covering their hearts with their hands. One of the hammerers wore his hair in a mohawk; another was a priest in black vestments. Onlookers shielded their faces from the flying granite chips as they cheered them on, yelling: “Good job, guys.” A spokesman for Prime Minister Mykola Azarov called the statue’s destruction “barbaric.” . . .


The Atlantic's Uri Friedman has written the best story so far in English putting the statue in its historical context. I've pasted a few teaser paragraphs below; please go to the Atlantic's website to see the full article plus photos and videos:


The Remarkable History Behind Ukraine's Toppled Lenin Statue

In the largest demonstrations since the country's Orange Revolution, protesters tore down the symbol of Soviet influence.

Uri Friedman Dec 8 2013, 9:36 PM ET

There are many ways to create iconic moments during protest movements, but perhaps none is as reliable—as fraught with symbolism—as toppling a statue.

On Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets of Kiev in the largest anti-government demonstrations since the country's 2004 Orange Revolution, protesters did just that—tearing down an 11-foot-high statue of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin with a steel wire, smashing the monument with sledgehammers, and then carrying off prized pieces of the sculpture.

The massive "Euromaidan" protests, which have been roiling Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an EU trade deal in late November in an apparent effort to move the country away from Europe and toward Russia, are led in part by the right-wing, nationalist Svoboda party, which gleefully reported its involvement in the toppling of the Lenin statue (predictably, members of the country's Communist Party are fuming about the incident).

The statue, it turns out, has a remarkable history—and not just as a locus of protest during the latest wave of demonstrations in Ukraine. The monument was first created by the Soviet sculptor Sergey Merkurov, a man famous for making a plaster "death mask" of Lenin on the night he passed away, for a Soviet exhibition at New York City's World's Fair in 1939 (see the postcard on left). And it was hastily imported to the Ukrainian capital in 1946 when, as one BBC account puts it, local authorities suddenly realized "that unlike all the other Soviet republic's capitals, Kiev had mysteriously remained Lenin-free." . . . .


Meanwhile, other Ukrainian Lenins have also suffered the consequences: 

Lenin Statue Toppled, Reinstated in Ukraine

KIEV, December 30 (RIA Novosti) ­ A statue to Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin was toppled in the central Ukrainian town of Vatutino on Sunday night only to be put back in place several hours later, the UNIAN news agency reported Monday.

"A group of unidentified persons detached the monument from the pedestal and toppled it. But it turned out that the statue, made of plaster and bricks, was solid enough to sustain the fall. Only the back of Lenin's head and his cheek were slightly damaged," the agency said.

Municipal workers put the statue back in its place on Monday morning and fixed it there with a layer of concrete.

A number of Lenin statues across the country have been vandalized since early December amid ongoing protests against the government's decision to halt a landmark political and free-trade deal with the European Union and, instead, opt for stronger ties with Russia.

The first and most notable act of vandalism took place in the capital, Kiev, on December 8, when a landmark statue of the founder of the Soviet Union was torn down by pro-European protesters in symbolic defiance of Russian influence.

Hours later, another statue of the Soviet leader was vandalized in the southern town of Kotovsk.


With ramifications as far away as Vietnam:


10 December 2013 Last updated at 10:46 ET

How Lenin's statue in Ukraine silenced news in Vietnam

By Quynh Le BBC Vietnamese

People surround a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, which was toppled by protesters during a rally organized by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, December 8, 2013
As Lenin's statue was toppled in Kiev, the authorities in Vietnam developed cold feet

As protesters gathered in the Ukrainian capital Kiev in late November, the authorities in Vietnam probably gave little thought to a story unfolding thousands of miles away. The blockade by protesters angry at a government U-turn on a free trade deal with the EU was widely covered in the Vietnamese press and proved a popular subject on social media. But everything changed in Vietnam when the statue of Vladimir Lenin came crashing down in Kiev. On Sunday a group of protesters smashed and dismembered the city's statue of the Russian revolutionary leader. Transgression too far?As was to be expected, the news was quickly and widely reported on all major websites in Vietnam. On the BBC Vietnamese website, it went straight to the most read spot, proving even more popular than coverage of the death of Mandela and protests in Thailand. But within 24 hours, all that changed in Vietnam - there was soon no trace to be found of articles mentioning the toppling of Lenin. State media coverage of Ukraine's continuing unrest was subdued. The most plausible explanation - say many analysts - is that the toppling of the statue of the revolutionary struck a nerve in Vietnam's Communist government.

Vietnamese and Russian officials at the statue of Lenin in Hanoi Vietnam's own statue of Lenin has pride of place in a park in central Hanoi

Where previously authorities saw little harm in fairly neutral coverage of a country so far away, the fate of the carved and polished red Labrodorite Lenin was a transgression too far and they suddenly developed cold feet. The Soviet leader is still revered by the ruling Communist Party in Vietnam, where his birthday is still celebrated each year. It may well have been an unwelcome reminder of countless statues of Lenin and other Soviet leaders being brought down as the former Soviet Union collapsed. Vietnam has its own notable statue. A 5.2m-high (18ft) bronze figure of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin on a 2.7m marble pedestal peers down at passers-by in central Hanoi. The statue was given to Vietnam by the Soviet Union in 1982. It overlooks some of Hanoi's most important sights. Lenin has become very much part of the landscape and few of those strolling through the park he is placed in would give him much thought. The official Vietnam News Agency described those who knocked down the statue as "extremists". Meanwhile, Thanh Nien, a major newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City, said "hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters" toppled the statue of the founder of the Soviet Union. Its tone of disapproval was similar.

Then the state media machine kicked in. After all, statues of Vietnam's own communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh are also to be found in cities around the country. There was cyber silence in Vietnam as articles were pulled from the websites. On Google, when one clicked on the headlines, one would be notified of "errors" - although many articles could still be found via Google Cache. The BBC was told that editors at some newspapers received "instruction on telephones" from the Ideological Department of the Communist Party, which enforces media censorship and control in Vietnam. But once news came out that the story had been censored, Vietnamese on social media started to become aware of just how sensitive the party was to that particular story. It is actually when the stories disappeared that people began to notice. "Politicians and leaders should learn to face the truth. You cannot hide everything any more," one user wrote on the BBC Vietnamese Facebook page. Indeed, had the authorities not become so fearful of news in Ukraine fuelling dissent in Vietnam, readers may well have glanced over the images of a fallen giant without giving a second thought to the bronze figure standing in Hanoi's Lenin Park.


The BBC also invites you to enjoy Five Lenin Statues in Unexpected Places.


Courtesy of Oxana Shevel, via Twitter, a map of the fallen Lenin statues in Ukraine:


Here's another update, an article from the BBC entitled Ukraine Commits Statuecide.