A Stone Cold War

One of the biggest victims of the Ukrainian protests has been Lenin:

Large protests continued in Kiev, Ukraine throughout the weekend in opposition to President Viktor Yanukovich and his government following the abandonment of a pact with the European Union. In the most visually impressive show of disdain for their leader, protesters tied electrical cable around a statue of Vladimir Lenin and toppled the statue, then broke it up into pieces with a sledgehammer (which had been blessed by an orthodox priest). The statue, first erected in 1946, was replaced on its plinth by a flag of the EU as well as a sign that read “Yanukovich, you are next!”

Uri Friedman chronicles the “remarkable history” behind the statue and its ilk:

What’s most surprising is that the statue withstood the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and remained in Kiev’s Bessarabska Square until today (“Ukrainians are not very hotblooded people,” one man in the central city of Uman explained in 2004, when asked about the improbable staying power of Lenin statues in the country). You’d be forgiven if your first reaction to the news out of Ukraine was, ‘Wait, Kiev still had a Lenin statue?’

In recent years, however, the monument had become a fierce battleground between nationalists, who detest Lenin and Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs, and communists. In June 2009, a month after the pro-Western Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called for the country to “cleanse itself” of communist symbols, nationalists chopped off the statue’s nose and arm, sparking skirmishes and even an effort by Communist Party supporters to volunteer as guards and defend the sculpture around the clock. With the statue looking increasingly imperiled, one art historian made a plea to preserve the monument.

The fight over the Lenin sculpture in Kiev mirrors a larger battle in Ukraine over monuments to the country’s communist past—one primarily waged between the traditionally nationalist west and pro-Russian east. In August, RIA Novosti noted that at least 12 Lenin statues had been defaced in Ukraine since 2009 as part of a “statue war” between communists and nationalists. In perhaps the most bizarre manifestation of this conflict, a promotional video for the Euro 2012 soccer championships in Kharkiv edited out a Lenin statue from a shot of the city’s main square to avoid showing “images of a commercial and political nature.