I don’t remember Romania’s Lenin statues. I was too young to remember. But I do remember streets that had his name. The statues quickly disappeared after the revolution, and the names of the streets changed as well. To me, this getting rid of symbols was and still is fascinating. It is as if someone has been moved out of the apartment, throwing away all his stuff, which include personal items in the form of photos and statues, and his name on the door bell. Making these things disappear is the supreme post-regime clean-up and makes you realize just how deeply involved into the fabric of everything the regime really was. It took Ukraine a long time and some scandals around it, but here is Niels Ackermann’s photo series documenting where the ‘Lenin-toys’ go.
Niels Ackermann tracks down these no longer wanted statues and his ongoing series Lost in Decommunization (I think Leninopad – Lenin-fall – is a better name). More than 900 statues have been put away since 2014 and you can read more about on The Calvert Journal and Wired.
I believe that the final symbolic good-bye to the painful era Lenin started would be putting away Lenin himself. As far as I know the original Lenin is still on display in the Red Square. 10 years ago I went to Moskow and among other things I went to see him. I remember a huge line, and how a bribe given by our group’s guides solved the matter of waiting. I remember how they were checking all bags thoroughly after first asking where you came from. Romania was a good answer and so they didn’t check my bag too much. And then we went downstairs, somewhere in the basement, because you see, Mr. Lenin has been dead for a good number of years now and he needs the cold temperature too keep his make-up on. You walk around his coffin, seeing him from the distance. Soldiers are there too. The place doesn’t feel imposing or heroic in any way, it is a mix of curiosa and discipline, because you have to come, keep walking and get out without stopping, all under soldiers’ eyes. It also costs money to have him there, quite a lot of money.
See the photos below and for more, check Niels Ackermann’s website.
And if you haven’t seen my last post on Feature Shoot, of Dmitri Beliakov‘s documentation of the conflict in Ukraine, you should see it. He sent me the photos one night and I opened them one by one in the dark. They broke my heart.