It’s been a bad few years for Lenin in the Ukraine—since 2013, nearly 1,000 statues of the communist icon have been toppled in the country as a form of nationalist protest. But not every statue of the former Russian leader goes down easily, as workers in the city of Zaporizhzhya learned. Their attempt to topple Ukraine’s largest remaining Lenin statue took all day—and unfolded in real time on YouTube.
The AP reports that citizens decided to pry the 66-foot bronze statue off of its gigantic base rather than blow it up. But it took several tries to loose Lenin from his glorious podium—and all day to remove the statue during the latest try. First, reports Claire Voon for Hyperallergic, an inscription reading “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country” was removed from the podium, and then construction equipment was used to take it down.
The Lenin statue in question has been contentious for years. Last year, activists bent on keeping the statue dressed it in a huge Ukranian folk shirt, or vyshyvanka, to prevent it from being pulled down. Lenin’s new threads illustrated an ongoing conflict in Ukraine over both Russia’s support for separatists and controversial “anti-communist” laws sent down by president Petro Poroshenko last May.
The laws essentially ban communism and require communist symbols and statues to be torn down. Hundreds of streets, cities and other public entities will be renamed under the law. The law also gives special status to violent far right groups and makes it illegal to speak against them in public—a move that has disquieted scholars and members of the public.
While some praise the move to rid Ukraine of symbolism of its past Russian overlords, other argue that by taking down the symbols, the country is erasing its own past. Perhaps governments should take a page from artist Alexander Milov’s book instead: Last year, he transformed a Lenin statue in Odessa into one of Darth Vader.