Protesters across Ukraine tore down statues of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin last week as President Viktor Yanukovych clung to power, as reported by the BBC. The protesters were sending a message that they wanted to break away from Ukraine’s dependence on modern Russia, and their desire to break with Soviet history.
Protest organisers Euromaidan claim that in one video, far-right activists with the group Pravy Sector can be seen tearing down a Soviet statue in the city of Zhytomyr.
After parliament forced Yanukovych out of office on Saturday, he fled the capital city of Kiev, and Radio Free Europe reported that Lenin statues were still being toppled across the country. As of Monday, at least 90 Lenin statues had been destroyed, according to the Ukrainian newspaper Ekspres.
Because of the massive scope of “Falling Lenins,” an online map was created to show where all of the fallen statues had occurred.
Even a music video featuring a montage of “Falling Lenins” in various cities set to patriotic music was produced, as Mike Opelka of The Blaze notes.
Despite the widespread celebration, not all Ukrainians approved. According to BBC reporting, many Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians are protective of Soviet tradition and sceptical of the revolutionaries’ anti-Russian stance.
This RT video shows a rally on Sunday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where locals gathered to defend a Lenin statue.
While the tide of toppling Lenin statues reached its zenith over the past week, it actually began building up well before the dramatic events of this past weekend in Ukraine.
In response to President Yanukovych’s rejection of an agreement with the European Union, on December 8, 2013, Ukrainians gathered in Kiev and tore down the Lenin monument. According to Forbes, Ukrainian protesters claimed Yanukovych had capitulated to Moscow.
According to Euronews, after the Lenin statue was toppled, protesters erected a golden toilet as a symbol of regime excess.
Before the recent uprisings in Ukraine, Lenin statues were already a flashpoint between the country’s political left and right. According to Ria Novosti, 12 Lenin statues were vandalised between 2009 and 2012, including being smashed with sledgehammers, broken, shot with paintball guns, and even dressed in a rabbit mask.
According to the BBC, Ukraine’s competing historical narratives have tainted the country’s Soviet-era artefacts. The statues are considered works of art by some. For others, it’s a throwback to a simpler, more idealised Soviet era. Demonstrators on Euromaidan, however, see the symbols as symbols of the former Soviet Union’s continued control over Ukraine, which they would be happy to see crumble.