Revered, despised Lenin statue toppled in Kyiv (UPDATED, VIDEO)

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Dec. 8, 2013, 7:15 p.m. | Ukraine Politics — by Mark Rachkevych

A man swings a sledgehammer at the fallen, 3.45-meter granite statue to Vladimir Lenin on Dec. 8 in downtown Kyiv in front of a shocked crowd.
© Katya Gorchinskaya

Mark Rachkevych

Mark has been a reporter for the Kyiv Post since 2006, but joined full-time in 2009. A native Chicagoan, Mark currently is editor-at-large and still contributes stories on an ongoing basis. He has written bylines with the Financial Times, Bloomberg News, Associated Press, Irish Times, and Ukraine Business Insight, among other publications. He is a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, a graduate of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, and fluent in the Ukrainian and Russian languages.

After 67 years, Kyiv’s main statue to Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was taken down. 

It happened at approximately 6 p.m. when a group of young men with no clear party or group affiliation used an electric steel cable to topple the 3.45-meter high statue. Authorities erected the statue in 1946 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the constitution, created by Joseph Stalin, Lenin’s successor who ruled until 1953. 

Police say they are investigating the incident. 

The move received polar reactions in the nation.

“This act is testimony to what’s happening in the country…that it is not a revolution or a democratic (process) but a neo-Nazi revolt designed to seize power in the country,” said Oleksandr Holub, a Communist Party lawmaker who hails from Lviv. “We’re seeing many western Ukrainians (in Kyiv) trying to impose their will, their own version of history and of the future…if this won’t be stopped by law enforcement then Ukraine will cease to exist as a unified country.” 

After the statue came down, the group shouted that “(President Viktor) Yanukovych, you’ll be next!” They then took turns using a sledgehammer to smash the granite statue to pieces. 

The tool, a steel cable, that what was used to take down the Lenin statue.

The nationalist Svoboda party which some singled out as being responsible for the act – said it would be unfair to lay the blame on them for taking down the statue. 

“Participants of EuroMaidan altogether toppled the monument, which was standing there illegally. There was a presidential decree (by former President Viktor Yushchenko in 2009) about its abolition,” said Yuriy Syrotiuk, the spokesman of Svoboda.

Eighty nine years after his death, to millions of Ukrainians Lenin is a derisive figure, but to millions of others he is still revered.

An almost sacred figure to former and current members of the Communist Party, but resented by millions of Ukrainians who view Lenin as an oppressor who deprived them of a state following World War I, this was the third notable and only successful attempt to take down the statue. 

The first in recent history came on June 30, 2009 when several nationalist and anti-Communist activists used a sledgehammer to break off Lenin’s nose and part of his left hand. The damaged monument was removed from its pedestal and was reconstructed. 

Then on Dec. 1, a group of 300 radical protesters tried taking down the statue with a similar tool. The police fended off the attack, but not after two of their own were injured. 

Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at 

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