How Ukraine Profits From Soviet Era Monuments

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The other day a public group, which includes former participants of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation in Donbass” (ATO) and representatives of far-right Ukrainian organizations, took the initiative to cement at the legislative level the right for to put dismantled symbols of the USSR and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic “under the hammer”. According to the authors of the idea, all the money obtained from the sale of monuments, busts, steles, and even plaques will be officially directed towards supporting the UAF and replenishing the devastated State treasury. The corresponding petition was already sent to relevant committees of the Verkhovna Rada and Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and the action itself was supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Institute of National Memory (INM). However, experts say that in this case it is only about the intention to regularize profiteering on history” — the authorities have long traded fragments of statues demolished during decommunization. The correspondent of Federal News Agency learnt about the situation.

This news literally stirred the public. In the city of Chop in the Zakarpattia region, the local administration put a bronze monument of the leader of the world proletariat up for auction. “Chop’s Lenin”, the height of which is more than four meters, and weight — 3700 kg, was sold to an unknown buyer for 254,000 hryvnias ($10,000). Until recently the aforementioned monument was on the central city square, but after the adoption of the law on decommunization it was dismantled and placed in a warehouse of one of the enterprises. Subsequently, according to the promises of the then Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who swore that all symbols of the Soviet era will be collected into a single “museum of totalitarianism”, it should have been transferred to the balance of the INP. What exactly introduced the amendments to these plans isn’t known, but the money gained from the sale of “Lenin of Zakarpattia” arrived into the accounts of city structures. As was expected, the city hall will spend this sum on improving Chop and on gifts to the Ukrainian military personnel in Donbass.

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Also, the monument to Lenin in Gadyache (Poltava region) “worked” for the ATO. Local volunteers without the consent of anyone handed over the dismantled sculptural composition for scrap metal, and with the obtained 109,000 hryvnias bought the UAF two SUVs. Besides Lenin, a similar fate befell monuments to the same Lenin, and also to Kosior, Kirov, Yakir, plus memorial compositions in honor of Komsomol members and communists in Vinnytsia, Zhitomir, Dneper, Poltava, Kharkov, and several dozen more settlements all over the country.

In addition, announcements of the sale of fragments of the aforementioned compositions can be met on sales websites on the world wide web. “The Internet dazzles with offers from ‘independent sellers’ offering literally everything: from a granite boot of the leader, to his foot, and in some cases it is possible to buy even a bust, for example, of the Radchenko’s brothers (the first colleagues of Lenin) with a pedestal,” said the Kiev collector Mikhail R. told in a confidential conversation with the correspondent of FAN. “As a rule, such “auctions” are authorized by either criminal groups, or corrupt officials. It seems that the government in Kiev also wanted a slice of the cake, having tucked away under itself this extremely profitable business”.

By the way, the “museum of totalitarianism” itself, the creation of which was widely announced by the team of Poroshenko-Groysman, still doesn’t exist. As the director of INP Vladimir Vyatrovich declared to journalists, its opening can be dated for the 100-year anniversary of the October revolution. However, a suitable place for it hasn’t yet been chosen.

“Probably, they will not choose it,” said the representative of the World Monuments Fund Jeff Allen to the correspondent of FAN. “Today it is much simpler for the Ukrainian authorities to sell off monuments and steles even in parts, and to direct the earned profit either towards the war in Donbass, or on economic projects”.

Meanwhile the Kiev administration stated its intention to transfer the monument to the Commander Nikolay Shchors from the center of the Ukrainian capital. The composition considered as one of the signatures of Kiev the day before was attacked by vandals, and local officials explain the plan “to rescue it from destruction”. Where it will soon find itself — nobody knows.

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