Tripura Is Not Alone – Lenin’s Statues Are Falling Around The World, Even Russia

by Harrshit Varma - Mar 9, 2018 03:53 PM +05:30 IST
Tripura Is Not Alone – Lenin’s Statues Are Falling Around The World, Even RussiaLenin stands disowned in a Ukrainian forest. (Staropramen via Pixby) 
Snapshot
  • There are several precedence of the Russian leader’s statues being toppled around the world, much before the Tripura incidents.

    Contrary to several perceptions, for much of the populace involved, demolishing Lenin’s statues is symbolic of attaining freedom from tyranny and state-sponsored oppression.

Celebrations over the Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) win in Tripura – the last remaining Communist citadel in India – saw two recorded incidence of people rising and toppling Lenin statues in the State. Though these events have opened a Pandora’s Box in India – with opinions being flung loosely from all sides, they cannot be counted as one-off incidents of vandalism.

In fact, Lenin statues have been the target of popular uprisings around the world, with incidents being reported even in Russia, which reportedly still takes pride in its Communist past.

The uprisings to remove Lenin statues are more pronounced in former Soviet republics which view toppling Lenin statues as a way of disconnecting themselves from the Soviet legacy, which is no longer viewed favourably by the citizens.

Ukraine, the second most populous of the post-Soviet republics after Russia, has on several instances gone on government-backed demolition sprees of Lenin busts and statues across the country.

Protestors hammer a Lenin statue in Kiev as the Ukrainian flag is seen in the backdrop. (Brendan Hoffman via Getty Images)
Protestors hammer a Lenin statue in Kiev as the Ukrainian flag is seen in the backdrop. (Brendan Hoffman via Getty Images)

And Ukraine has more reasons than most to be disillusioned with Lenin. Between six and eight million people, in what is now Ukraine, perished in a famine (1918-1923) owing to policies of the Soviet state under Lenin. And, that too just after the World War One got over, while much of the Europe inched towards normalcy.

Many in Ukraine still remember the catastrophes inflicted upon them by the Soviet state, and the country’s government has gone for a large-scale Lenin statue demolitions - the most recent being in January 2017.

At the time of independence, in 1991, Ukraine had a total of 5,500 monuments dedicated to Lenin across the country. But by 2017, after the latest government-sponsored Decommunisation drive was launched, only a few hundred remain.

Mongolia, which wasn’t a part of the Soviet Union, too wants a break its past from the Communist association. Mongolian capital Ulan Bator saw a Lenin statue being dismantled with popular support after the mayor ruled it as a symbol of Soviet oppression.

The Lenin Statue in Ulan Bator lies dismantled as people surround it and take pictures. (Paula Bronstein via Getty Images)
The Lenin Statue in Ulan Bator lies dismantled as people surround it and take pictures. (Paula Bronstein via Getty Images)

Romania, too, emerging from 40 years of Communist rule, celebrated its liberation by toppling a huge Lenin statue that dominated the capital’s plaza. The statue was removed amidst loud cheers from the people and now lies in a derelict condition, relegated from the position of prestige it held earlier.

The Lenin statue that used to dominate the Romanian capital earlier. (Ferran Cornella via Wikimedia Commons)
The Lenin statue that used to dominate the Romanian capital earlier. (Ferran Cornella via Wikimedia Commons)

Several African nations, too, which have had to suffer communism in the past, directly or through Soviet influence, have moved to cut off all links with the Communist ideology, with the most prominent expressions being toppling the monuments - usually Lenin’s statues.

A boy stands beside a toppled Lenin statue in Ethiopia in 1991. (image via Reddit) 
A boy stands beside a toppled Lenin statue in Ethiopia in 1991. (image via Reddit) 

Even in Russia, the successor of the Soviet Union, and which is still proud of its Communist history, Lenin’s monuments continue to fall. Statue toppling is rare, but vandalism is not unheard of. Although most acts are ascribed to hooligans rather than outbursts against the leader or the ideology, Russian reactions to such acts are far from what was observed in the aftermath of Tripura incidents.

A Lenin statue at the St. Petersburg railway station that was bombed. 
A Lenin statue at the St. Petersburg railway station that was bombed. 

However, Russia is trying to reclaim the former glory which it enjoyed as the world’s biggest empire which entails acknowledging its Communist nature. That is reflected in the general public disbelief that someone would want to topple Lenin’s statues in the country. The feeling, however, does not save the statues from dilapidation and being abandoned.

Lenin bust lies in disrepair. Sviyazhsk, Russia. 
Lenin bust lies in disrepair. Sviyazhsk, Russia. 

So while Lenin statues are falling all over the world, the one question that the Indian Left might want to answer is why the hoopla around an insignificant statue in India? For a liberated lot, toppling Lenin’s statue has been a way of celebration throughout the world.

And if not toppled by people, as the Russians have claimed, the Lenins of the world will be blown over by the wind.

Harrshit is a senior sub-editor at Swarajya.

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