Iconoclasm

Demolition of a statue of Lenin in a small town in Ukraine in the summer of 1941, after the German invasion

We have already pointed out that, beginning in 1918, in Russia and later in the Soviet Union they preserved the pedestals of the tsarist public monuments, while exchanging the statues standing on them for the figures of Lenin (and later of Stalin). Traveling in the Ukraine in the past two decades, we could observe the opposite: preserving the pedestals of the statues of Lenin in the main squares, the figure on them was replaced by the statue of Shevchenko, as the symbol of Ukrainian language, history and unity. But not everywhere. Like in so much else, here also, it was the Zbruch, the former Galician-Russian and later Polish-Ukrainian border river, that was the invisible dividing line, and when traveling eastward from Czernowitz, soon there appeared the first preserved Lenin statues, the symbols of the protest of Eastern Ukraine against the new concept of nation and history propagated from the western part of the country. What is more, as if pointing out that the statues were not accidentally left in place, in many localities – mostly small towns – they added a new iconographic element to them, by completely painting them gold or silver.

This invisible border seems to be broken now, with the statue-demolishing actions carried out yesterday throughout Eastern Ukraine. According to @ukpravda_news, they hurled down the statues of Lenin in thirty-two towns, although the accompanying map indicates only sixteen locations, and among them at least the ones in Kiev and in Berdichev were already destroyed one or two months earlier by the protesters. Even in the following video, published yesterday by Yuri Kovtsunyak, we only see eleven, the majority of which, however, are destroyed in observance of the traditional rules of ritual statue-hurling as an execution in effigie: with the rope tied around the neck, pulling it down with a truck so that it falls head first to the ground, then pulling the body for a while on the pavement, and finally smashing it in pieces.


Click here for the text and translation of the music accompanying the video.

The pedestals, however, are still standing, and an empty pedestal cries for a statue. As to who will be put on them next in Eastern Ukraine, this question will be answered by the political developments of the next weeks and months.