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Pieces Of Toppled Lenin For Sale In Ukraine

Giant Lenin Toppled In Kharkivi
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September 29, 2014
A giant statue of Lenin was pulled down by jubilant crowds in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on September 28. Thousands of people marched through the city waving Ukrainian flags before gathering at the 20-meter monument. Previous attempts to pull it down were prevented by pro-Russian protestors, amid violent clashes in March and April. (RFE/RL's Ukrainian service)
WATCH: A giant statue of Lenin was pulled down by jubilant crowds in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on September 28. Thousands of people marched through the city waving Ukrainian flags before gathering at the 20-meter monument. Previous attempts to pull it down were prevented by pro-Russian protesters, amid violent clashes in March and April. (RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)

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By Charles Recknagel and Merhat Sharipzhan

Most of the massive statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin that a crowd in Kharkiv toppled on September 28 still lies where it landed in the city’s central Freedom Square.

And no wonder. The statue -- reputed to be the largest in Ukraine -- is 8.5 meters tall, weighs thousands of kilograms, and is difficult to move.

But in recent days, body parts from the statue have begun appearing for sale. A nose here, an ear there, plus hints that there are more if collectors want them.

One seller in Kharkiv recently showed the Lenin statue’s nose -- 36 centimeters wide, 36 centimeters long, and about 25 centimeters high -- to RFE/RL's Ukraine Service and other media in the city.

Wearing a ski mask and identifying himself only as “Oleksiy,” he said he was ready to sell the nose to anyone who will make a sizeable contribution to Ukrainian volunteers fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"If there is anyone who says, 'I am ready, let's say, to provide a battalion of soldiers with winter underwear and uniforms,' then we will give him [the nose]," he said. "That is, if no one says, better yet, that he's ready to provide two battalions with the things I have mentioned."

A protester holds Lenin's nose.
A protester holds Lenin's nose.

Oleksiy says he got the nose when the statue hit the ground face first. The nose -- including bridge, both nostrils, and mustache beneath -- split off, and he and his companions lugged it away.

At the same time Oleksiy is trying to sell the nose, another seller is offering one of Lenin's ears.

The ear is up for auction on Facebook by Aleksandr Makarenko, a Ukrainian from Kharkiv who says he, too, is raising money for Ukrainian forces.

"The money collected will go toward a thermal camera for the Kharkiv-1 battalion," he writes on his Facebook page. "Make me an offer. The ear weighs close to 35 kilograms. You can hear Donbas through it."

Lenin Will Live?

Whether those selling pieces of Lenin can do so without fear of prosecution is an open question.

When the crowd pulled down the statue on the night of September 28, sawing through one of Lenin's legs and using cables to pull him off his pedestal, the city's police looked on impassively.

Chanting "Glory to Ukraine" and waving Ukrainian flags, the crowd toppled with impunity a symbol of the Soviet Union that had towered over Freedom Square since 1967.

But the day after the statue was toppled, Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes gave an angry press conference in which he branded the crowd's actions "illegal" and vowed to put Lenin up again.

"We will restore it on Liberty Square on the same podium," he said. "If there is no way to restore it, then we will make [a new one] from scratch."

He also said he was ordering the police to hunt down those who had "barbarically destroyed" city property.

As Kharkiv’s mayor, Kernes has straddled the pro-Kyiv and pro-Russian camps in his city in a risky balancing act that already has nearly cost him his life.

On April 28, he was shot in the back by an unknown gunman as he was jogging and today remains confined to a wheelchair.

Whether he now really believes it is possible to reassemble the Lenin statue and hoist it back onto its giant pedestal is hard to know. Just as it is hard to know how easily those selling the pieces of the statue will find any buyers.

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