There are symbolic moments that mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. It’s hard to predict the next steps of the Ukrainian upheaval. But the toppling of Lenin’s statue in Kiev has clearly a foundational value.
It is a watershed.
The protesters, or perhaps, better said, the revolutionaries, refuse to accept the prolongation of communism’s big lie. Some of them are nationalists, others are civic liberals, but they all share a deep contempt for the Leninist legacies of duplicity and terror. Getting rid of this ultimate material incarnation of Soviet imperialism should have happened before. The statue was once vandalized in recent years, but the government arranged for it to be repaired. Comrade Lenin’s memory needed to be salvaged.
In October 1956, the Hungarian revolutionaries pulled down Stalin’s statue in Budapest, thus symbolically signalling their rejection of an alien, asphyxiating despotism. From the generalissimo’s gigantic body nothing remained on the postament than the boots. In Russia, Lenin’s statues continue to dominate public spaces. In addition, Vladimir Putin’s regime has built new ones for the former KGB strongman, Leonid Brezhnev’s successor as head of the USSR, Yuri Andropov.
The nature of EU is not the point of the demonstrations. Ukrainians want to belong to the West, not to the East. They refuse Putin’s Eurasian mythologies as another camouflage for Russian hegemonism. EU has many problems, but the Ukrainians see it as a chance to escape a geopolitical fatality that has plagued their history for centuries. Before we minimize or discard their European dreams, let’s try to understand them.
For Ukrainians, Russia means oppression, humiliation, bondage. Others feel the same way. This explains why Georgia’s former president Mikhail Saakashvili and Moldova’s former prime minister Vlad Filat went to Kiev to spell out their solidarity with the protesters.
There are instances when euphoria needs to be understood, not condemned. When some leftist prophets irresponsibly proclaim the need “to retest the Bolshevik hypothesis”, (e.g. Slavoj Zizek), a morally outrageous and intellectually ludicrous statement, Ukrainian citizens get rid of the abhorred Bolshevik monuments. This type of action needs to be welcomed and supported.
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