Culture & Art

Where did Lenin Go?

Yeah, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. The guy the German Empire shipped back to Russia on a fortified train during World War I, in an effort to spark the Bolshevik Revolution and pull the Russian Empire out of the war. Ironically enough, the German ruling monarchy that tried this gambit went on to lose “The Great War”, and had to abdicate immediately after the dust settled.

After the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin ruled the former Empire as it transformed into the Soviet Union until his death in 1924. In the following decades, all around the world (but particularly countries in close proximity, or within the Soviet Union), statues of Lenin popped up at an alarmingly quick rates the Soviets sought to deify their leader. The “crown jewel” of this, if you will, continues to be the preservation and display of Lenin’s body in his Mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow.

In the decades after WWII, as the Soviet Union cemented itself as the dominant alternative to the United States, controlling the Eastern Bloc and spreading influence in the developing world, the idolization of Lenin took off.

Here in Berlin, for example, there was Leninplatz in the DDR capital of East Berlin. It featured a massive Lenin statue. It was removed in 1991 (check it out on youtube), and today the area is known as the United Nations Square. This was extremely common in the countries behind the Iron Curtain, but you could also find Lenin statues as far away as Ethiopia, Mongolia, and Antarctica (too many to list here, but easy to look up on your own).

As the former Eastern Bloc countries transitioned to democratic governments and either joined the EU or NATO, or just pushed for closer relations with the US and the West, their Lenin statues disappeared. Notably, Belarus, Moldova, and some of the central Asian -stans still feature some Lenin statues. But for the most part countries like the Baltics, Poland, Hungary, and so on have removed their statues and changed the names of streets and squares named after ol’ Vlad.

I think the most notable to example to mention is the fate of Lenin statues in Ukraine. Since the 2014 revolution, the country’s leaders have focused new efforts on removing the remaining vestiges of Lenin as something that could symbolize lasting Soviet/Russian influence. Just a little over a year ago, a 20 meter statue of Vlad was taken down in Zaporizhzhya, a city in the country’s southeast (and broadcast live on webcam). The government’s program of ‘decommunisation’ is still ongoing, but has accomplished a lot since the Lenin monument in Kiev was torn down at the height of the Euromaidan in 2013.

And, you can even find Lenin statues in the USA! Just as Lenin would have undoubtedly wanted, he’s been placed in the heart of capitalism: casinos. This includes one in Las Vegas, where the casino later had to remove his head because of too many complaints. So, now a headless Lenin is in Las Vegas.

About The Author

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Nathan Shuftan

Nathan Shuftan is a long-time adventurer and first time blogger. Originally from Chicago but now based out of Berlin, he has worked the past few years as an across Europe, Asia, and Africa. He likes to keep moving because he believes you can't hit a moving target. His main interests are international relations, public policy, local political movements, sport, music, and food.