Lenin Beheaded

Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of politics at the University of Maryland (College Park) and author most recently of "The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century" (University of California Press, 2012).


lenintThere 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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  • merhy

    “For Ukrainians, Russia means oppression, humiliation, bondage.” after this phrase, it became clear that the journalist knows nothing about Ukraine or deliberately lying.
    Saakashvili at all about insanity. If anyone does not know, during the suppression of protests in Georgia, in May 2011, 2 persons were killed and nearly 40 wounded. in suppressing protests in 2007, more than 300 wounded.
    yes, a great democrat Saakashvili :)

    about the statue of Lenin – in the Ukraine is still going strong leftist sentiments, and all these in reality these actions do not reflect the sentiments of all the citizens of Ukraine.

    • poest

      Ukrainians should invite the Ukrainian Russians you are talking about to return back to Russia where they can erect all the Lenin statues they wish.

      • MarilynA

        Ethnically Cleansing the Ukraine of Russians will result in international condemnation just like the UN et al interceded and forced the Serbs to surrender Kosovo and Bosnia to the Abanian Muslims who had invaded with the aim of creating two more Muslim dominated countries with votes equal to that of the USA at the UN.

        • poest

          All forms of colonialism have only infected these once naturally delineated areas into festering boils infected with alien organisms….so to speak. Without a “cure” these will be a constant source of conflict ad finitum.

  • rbla

    So the protestors want to trade one tyranny, the USSR, for another, the EUSSR.

    • poest

      Oxymoron comparison!

  • arishsahani

    Any nation who can’t give freedom to people to think and practice common sense laws will not exit specially most islamic and communist nations.
    Show me ISlamic nation where people are free and happy and productive.

    • Dallas25305

      Your right and Obama wants to bring that to the U.S.A.

      • MarilynA

        Not only is Obama reinventing National Socialism, he is using the old ruse, demonize an individual or group to blame for all failures and problems. Hitler demonized the Jews. Today white Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPS) and Christians are the new objects of demonization.

  • poest

    The Nazi/Stalin/ pact vis-a-vis Poland is the model for the Putin/Assad/N.Korean/Iranian political evil, Ukrainians wish to avoid.

    • MarilynA

      Read revelations and you will understand what is going on.

  • Crassus

    Obama will send for Lenin’s head in order to put it in the White House to take the place of the bust of Churchill.

    • Dallas25305

      Correct he will put that Lenin bust right beside the Christmas tree, opps sorry I think Obozo would call it the “Multicultural Tree” with bulb decorations with his other hero Chairman Mao’s picture on them.

  • Demetrius Minneapolis

    2004 redux. Hope they get it right this time.

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    It should only happen here. The better universities pay their obeisance to Leninism every day. See http://clarespark.com/2013/05/06/the-new-left-activist-scholars/. “The New Left Activist Scholars.” It was not always thus.

    • MarilynA

      Since they know Communism does not work they have reinvented Hitler’s National Socialsim. The govt. doesn’t own everything, it just regulates and controls everything through taxes, regs, fines, and threats.

  • Dallas25305

    Breaking down Lenin’s statue will make most western Liberal Socialist very angry.
    Obama, Bill Ayers and most leftist university professors will have to double down on their Liberal Socialist indoctrination of American and students of other western nations. They don’t want the road they are paving to Marxist Socialism slowed down.

    • MarilynA

      Our hold over Communists who are now in charge of all our government agencies, thanks to Bill Clinton’s and now Obama’s Civil Service hires, insist that Communism failed in the USSR because they weren’t practicing it right and in it’s true form it will work. Hence, Obama’s reinvention of National Socialism in which the government controls privately owned businesses via restrictive regs and threats of fines and jail terms. (Recent NSA, Homeland Security, FBI Surveilance,, and IRS scandals attest to how it works.) It’ not really new. It’s the same system Hitler instituted in Germany in the 1930s.

  • Race_Dissident

    The Ukrainians despise the Communists so much that they’re willing to rush into the arms of the Frankfurt School Marxists at the EU. Genuine Western conservatives so despise the Frankfurt School Marxists who dominate the West that we wish Putin’s Russia well and are ambivalent about Ukraine’s flirtations with the EU. Identical motivations produce opposite outcomes.

  • tagalog

    Ukraine has chafed under the Russians for a long, long time. Pulling down Lenin’s statue is just another moment in the well-known Russian-Ukrainian negative relationship. Go you Kievans!

  • ampersand

    I saw “news coverage” of this event on Amy Goodman on “Free Speech TV”. They showed the toppling of the statue, but never, never, never mentioned that it was a statue of LENIN! If you listened and watched the show you would have thought that “Occupy” was protesting against the capitalists in New York.

    Four legs good, two legs better.

  • Dyer’s Eve

    The Ukranians want to achieve what the Poles finally did: to get out of the Russian orbit. If Poland can do it, Ukraine can also. It will take time, but they will. However, Stalin still casts a long shadow over eastern Europe. Stand up, Ukraine! Fight!

  • tagalog

    They need to retest the Bolshevik hypothesis (in a murder-free context) and give it a resounding 0. That’s Zero. Zero-minus, come to think of it.