World

Lenin Goes Down In Ukraine: The Symbolism Behind It

In Ukraine's Kharkiv, a crowd of protesters toppled a 26-foot-tall statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin Goes Down In Ukraine: The Symbolism Behind It
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

All eyes were on one man during anti-Russian protests in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv Sunday.

And we're not talking about this guy.

This was the scene as protesters toppled a massive statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. (Video via YouTube / Katya Soldak

After the protesters sawed off his legs and pulled him down, the crowd rushed to grab pieces of the 26-foot-tall monument — one of the only such monuments left standing in Ukraine. (Video via Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Since February, when the country's pro-Russian president was ousted from power, over 150 Lenin statues have been toppled in different parts of Ukraine. (Video via YouTube / Іван ПалійYouTube / Игорь Богдосаров, RT, BBC)  

The Lenin statues represent different things to different people. For some, they evoke a time of stability and Soviet tradition, but for the Ukrainian nationalists yanking them down, the Lenin statues represent an era of repressive government.  

For the past six months, pro-Russian separatists have been battling the Ukrainian government in the eastern part of the country. Kharkiv had stayed relatively out of the fray — short of some protests.

So the fact that Kharviv — a primarily Russian-speaking region — just tore down a Lenin statue is significant. It's a gesture a writer at The Washington Post calls a "signal of hardening Ukrainian attitudes toward Moscow."

Though Russia's RT tried to soften that with a suggestion those who didn't want to see the monuments toppled were "[hesitant] to intervene after police on Saturday detained several dozen participants of the anti-war march labelled by authorities as separatist."

The West and Kiev accuse Russia of not only stirring up separatist sentiment but also directly supporting the pro-Russian insurgents fighting Ukrainian troops — all of which Moscow denies. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.