The Lenin statue was toppled in December 2013. I would walk by it all the time when I was living in Kyiv. It stood there – looking at me; evilly. Looking over the city he almost destroyed and the people he manipulated. Lenin was a jerk.
It’s worse that his statue was on Taras Shevchenko Blvd. The father of Ukrainian nationalism wouldn’t have like that all too much. Once someone put a red nose on him – I think it was meant to be a clown nose but it also made him look like a red-nosed liar. I once gave a Lenin statue the finger in Chernihiv. It was awesome. And gratifying.
Why was it so gratifying? It’s a statue made out of granite and cold stone? It can’t talk back to you nor does it recognize you. It’s what that statue represents: the years of Soviet domination, the destruction of millions and the legacy of corruption that resulted in one man’s warped idea of communist ideology and its evolution.
Lenin was an intellectual – the one thing he himself hated in Russian culture: a bourgeois! He came from money and was able to use this status to travel Europe and study Marx and Engel’s radical but not widely known idea of a communist utopia: where class is no longer a status and everyone is equal. It was a pipe dream but could have worked in Western Europe where there were far more workers than in the Russian Empire. Lenin should have known that – he probably did but didn’t care to understand the fundamentals of Marx and Engel’s theory (FYI: Marx himself never envisioned communism in the Russian Empire simply because it did not have the concept of a true proletariat-bourgeois society, the very words to describe worker and elite came from France and that’s where the communist ideology was favourable).
Lenin came back to Russia during a time of turmoil and war in Moscow, forced a revolution that no one understood and had limited popular backing (again, little understanding about his ideas outside of the small circle of intellectuals in Moscow and St. Petersburg). The October Revolution was more about displacing a totalitarian monarchal regime than instigating a communist revolution. But Lenin pushed and pushed and he got what wanted: a Russia little changed from the past, set in its class-based system but now the intellectuals were on top (although calling themselves equals), the workers in the middle (having an illusion of equality with those in the Party) and the peasants at the bottom (being slowly destroyed by forced industrialization and famine). This is what Lenin brought to the Russian Empire (and ultimately the whole of Eastern Europe) and not the promised land of equality for all. Lenin was a liar.
It’s often a misconception to hold him up in high regards: he should have known that a communist revolution in a largely agrarian society wouldn’t be successful. No one with the simplest idea of Marxism would think it would be successful: communism needs workers and the Russian Empire didn’t really have any. What it had was serfs, basically. Peasants who lived “freely” on someone else’s property – working for their lords and had something for themselves afterward. Russia first needed an industrial revolution before it could have a communist one. And this is the problem that Lenin created: in order to justify communism, Stalin had to instigate industrialization. And this killed millions, displaced millions and turned millions into political criminals. Lenin began this and he should have been smart enough to stop it in its tracks.
As much as modern scholars (Russians in particular) like to glorify the man – he was a classic imperialist Russian elitist. Why invade Ukraine in 1918 if not for imperialistic reasons? I wrote an essay for a political science theory class about it at McMaster University once (I threw it out, stupid me). He invaded a country that was going through its own turmoil, albeit a democratic change rather than a ruthless take-over by communists. Any tactician would know it would have been smarter to develop political stability in your own country first and then move into another’s territory. But he did it anyway. Invaded Ukraine, installed his own puppet government in Kharkiv and proclaimed that they represented the whole of Ukraine (it wasn’t true – modern scholars accessed archives which show that hundreds of villages across eastern Ukraine pleaded to Kyiv for protection against the invading Red Army).
He took eastern Ukraine after signing a bogus treaty with Poland. He knew what he wanted: the rich earth of the Ukrainian steppe and the industrial heartland of the former Russian Empire: all located in Ukraine. Without Ukraine, there would not have been a Soviet Union. Lenin knew this but lied to everyone that he wanted to unite the great Slavic nations. Again, Lenin was a liar.
And that is what he represents for many who know the history of this man: he represents the beginnings of the Soviet Union, he was the Soviet Union in many ways. The destruction of his image all over Ukraine means the destruction of the Soviet system: its values, its bureaucracy, its historical narrative and its leaders. Hopefully, Ukraine can finally start to move towards its own democratic path – without the direct influence of Moscow. Yes, it seems paranoid and nationalistic to say that many (if not most) of the problems Ukraine faces today started with Lenin. But it’s also true: Lenin began this, and Ukrainians had to end it. They ended it because they finally realized that Lenin was a liar.