Ukraine’s fallen statues of Lenin are not just a rejection of Russia

o13-iconSrećko Horvat writes: A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Lenin.

Back in 2011 Ukraine was preparing to host Euro 2012. The government decided to release a promotional video titled Switch On Ukraine. Among the sites shown in the video was Liberty Square in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv. But something was missing. When the sun rose over the square, instead of an 8.5 metre-high statue of Lenin there was only an empty plinth. Someone had digitally erased the politically problematic icon.

In 2013 another statue of Lenin, this time in Kiev’s central plaza – once known as October Revolution Square and now known as Euromaidan – was smashed by angry protesters using sledgehammers. Many have correctly identified this as the key point in Ukraine’s political crisis. According to one estimate, of the nearly 1,500 Lenin memorials across Ukraine, protesters have destroyed around 100 of them, from Poltava to Chernihiv, from Zhytomyr to Khmelnytskyi.

This is nothing new of course. During the very beginning of the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia, I remember vividly how communist and anti-fascist monuments were torn down by nationalists who believed that democracy had finally arrived. Some urinated on them, others blew them up. In the period from 1990 to 2000 at least 3,000 monuments were torn down in Croatia alone.

Is the monument mayhem in Ukraine any different? It is: last week, residents of Kharkiv – the same town where the symbolic erasure of Lenin started in 2011 – installed barricades around the statue of Lenin after fending off an attack by Euromaidan revolutionaries. Even if the protesters weren’t defending the image of Lenin so much as exhibiting their attachment to Putin this is a remarkable state of affairs.

To return to the former Yugoslavia for the moment: according to the last statistics from the World Bank, the unemployment rate among young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 57.9%. This ex-Yugoslav state is not yet part of the European Union, but is already approaching Greece’s 60% rate. The newest member of the EU, neighbouring Croatia, is third in the union when it comes to youth unemployment, at 52%.

So this is what we got by getting rid of communism and entering the EU. [Continue reading…]

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