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Ukrainians Lop Off Lenin's Nose

I don't know about you but I believe I've never seen a truly beautiful or aesthetic statue of Lenin. Perhaps it's because I've seen so many of them they all morphed into one generic image, or perhaps because the subject himself was no great example of masculine loveliness.

That's why I don't feel particularly sad that the Lenin standing on a central Kyiv street has literally lost his face. And left arm.

Two weeks ago RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service featured a video on our website about the statues, busts, and reliefs of Lenin that continue to live their lonely and forgotten lives in the courtyards of Kyiv's factories, production plants, and institutions.

It seems there are about 18 of those in Ukraine's capital. But the most conspicuous one was the one standing on Shevchenko Boulevard, flagged by two columns of graceful poplar trees.

In a classic pose (there were about four such preapproved iconic Lenin poses: right arm raised pointing ahead to a bright future, clutching a roll of papers or his cap, speaking from a podium, or holding the lapel of his overcoat), Lenin stands there, his right hand aloft pointing at Kyiv's famous Besarabsky market, where a kilogram of cherries costs about $5 today.

Erected in 1946 from expensive Crimean red granite this particular specimen was one of three Lenins that kept watch over Kyiv's central thoroughfare.

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko signed a presidential decree recently calling for all symbols of totalitarian rule to be dismantled. This decree, like many similar decrees and laws in Ukraine, are often not worth the paper they are written on, as no one bothers implementing them.

But Mykola Kokhanivsky of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists was determined to do so and said as much in our video. Well it seems Kokhanivsky is a man of his word.

Shortly after 4 a.m. on June 30, Mykola, accompanied by four co-conspirators, and armed with a ladder and a big hammer, proceeded to carry out his promise.

All this was captured on video by one of his colleagues.

Now it has been said that this Lenin was always closely guarded. Threats to bring down the monument had been made before and as a result the site was supposedly monitored by closed-circuit TV.

But the video of Kokhanivsky whacking Lenin with a hammer which is now making the rounds on the Internet is nearly seven minutes long and there is no sign of police intervention.

It turns out that Kokhanivsky and his colleagues were hammering Lenin for over 10 minutes before the police finally arrived and arrested them. By then Lenin had lost his nose, chin, and left arm. The perpetrators have been charged with hooliganism, a crime that is punishable by four years in prison.

Perhaps the reason why I was unable to find some aesthetic value in this Lenin statue is because I am wholeheartedly against everything the man did and stands for. But it is more than that I suspect.

This statue was uniquely dull and staid. Static and uninspiring. Red granite is a beautiful warm stone, but even that couldn't put any life into Lenin and his dead ideas.

The Lenin statues that really capture Lenin's spirit best are the ones made of plaster of Paris. These cheap mini-Lenins sprouted in every village, in front of every collective farm and village council. The elements have taken their toll and after a decade or two they all began looking like the creature from the black lagoon.

Like the one in a village called Hryhorivka in the Kyiv Oblast. This poor specimen had been painted over so many times that it no longer resembled a human being.

Facial features were distorted, the fingers grew together into a painted mitten. But the people remember. The village pranksters would regularly collect dried cow dung in a bucket and hang it on the extended arm of that creature, the arm that continues to point nowhere.

-- Irena Chalupa

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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