Looking for Lenin
A work in Progress With Sebastien Gobert
The scene is well-known. A group of men circles a chain around the statue’s neck or feet and tie it to the back of a truck. A few babuchkas show up to the square to scream and shout in protest. Some cry silently. A few strollers watch from the distance. They stand hands in their pockets. Some shoot movies on their smartphones. The truck pulls away and tears the statue apart. Shortly after, Lenin is down. Its pieces are taken away. Some are left there on the spot. No one seems to bother too much. Lenin is down. And everyone goes home.
Niels Ackermann and I are interested in what comes next. Although so-called decommunisation is raging in Ukraine for over a year, no clear vision has emerged of where Ukrainians want their country to head to. The best way we found to reflect on this process is to focus on the first thing no one seems to care: where does Lenin go to, after it is down and gone.
We both live in Ukraine and travel extensively across this large country to find these fallen idols and their pieces. In garbage dumps. In gardens. In museums. In private collections. In kitchens. It does not go without twists and turns. Yet it makes up a thrilling project. Even more fascinating are our encounters with Ukrainians. Do they miss Lenin or not? Do they even care? Some privatise the bolshevik leader and transform “their” Lenin into a new idol, be it Darth Vador or Cossack leaders. Why? How do Ukrainians understand decommunisation? How much of the Soviet legacy do they want gone?
Our work combines pictures and stories, investigations and discoveries. We wish to bring some pieces of answers to these questions and contribute to the ongoing and fascinating debate on Ukraine’s decommunisation. Stay tuned.
Text: Sebastien Gobert
Pictures: Niels Ackermann / Lundi13