Monday, December 9, 2013

Vladimir Lenin statue falls in Kyiv

By Michael

As I was publishing my last blog post yesterday, I heard the news that the Vladimir Lenin statue in Kyiv was taken down.

My initial reaction was similar to that of Brian Bonner, editor of the Kyiv Post:
Finally, the statue of Vladimir Lenin is gone from central Kyiv. It should have been taken down years ago, tucked away in a museum of Soviet-era relics. 
I was wondering why Kyiv didn't do what Lviv did with its statue in 1991. Upon gaining independence from the USSR, the city of Lviv took down Lenin and put him in a warehouse. The statue was not damaged and ordinary people didn't have to take it down, risking injury to themselves or the statue.

If other cities in Ukraine want to keep their Lenin statues, that is fine if a majority of people want it there. I personally don't understand why (they just seem creepy to me), but I'll do my best to remain open minded.

My family and Yulia's family directly suffered because of the Soviets. My great grandfather was shot at his doorstep by the NKVD while Yulia's great grandmother spent several years in a Gulag in Siberia. Her crime? Taking a loaf of bread from the bread factory she worked at to feed her hungry family. My grandmother's kid brother was blown up. He found an interesting device by the roadside, so, as any child might do, he examined it. It turned out to be a Soviet booby trap.

But I'll put aside my sour feelings for a moment. Here are my thoughts for the Soviet sympathizers of Ukraine and those who just want to remember Ukraine's Soviet history:

  • I would be much more sympathetic with the communist party if they showed a little more imagination. Instead of trying to resurrect the Soviet Union, maybe the communists could work at the level of city governments and try to get their party into the mayor's office. The city of Milwaukee in the US, for example, had socialist mayors for fifty years. Although I do not like the Soviets, I do respect Frank Zeidler and the other socialist mayors of Milwaukee. They genuinely cleaned up the corruption that plagued city hall  and helped stop the exploitation of and violence against immigrant factory workers. They allied with the blue collar workers of the city and helped them form successful labor unions.

  • Instead of erecting Lenin statues, why not put up a memorial to the Kronstadt Rebellion? The Kronstadt Rebellion was a rebellion started by sailors of the Russian Baltic Sea fleet. These sailors happened to help initiate the Russian Revolution itself. They were for workers' rights and real socialism and helped overthrow the monarchy. When Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik party brutally took power of the government, the Baltic sailors, former Red Army soldiers, and the people of Kronstadt cried foul and started a rebellion, which was suppressed by Lenin's forces. It seems to me that the Kronstadt Rebellion embodies the true values of the Russian Revolution, while Lenin symbolizes violence and dictatorship. 
But I am much more interested in what is happening in Ukraine right now as I write this than to talk about statues. Lenin seems like a bit of a red herring. The opposition has itself barricaded inside city hall, and the police have been authorized to use violence to get them to disperse. So far the police have stayed put. 

Praying for the safety of everybody involved...

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