Chasing Lenin – The Ukraine Edition

Hi All,

Given my limited blogging on this page for some time, you could easily be mistaken for thinking I have not been travelling much but on the contrary I pretty much haven’t stopped travelling for the past year! I just lost the drive to blog about it!

Don’t worry I am still going to do the odd post for unique and interesting things I see out there. I mostly just focus on my aviation blog these days though, please check it out over at Aces Flying High – aviation related travel is truly my major passion!

Since November 2016 I have travelled in Ireland, Northern Ireland (UK), Spain, Andorra, Gibraltar (UK), Morocco, Portugal, the USA, Australia, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Moldova, the little Moldovan breakaway “country” of Transnistria (only Transnistrian’s officially recognize it as a country but it has its own government, border control, army, currency etc.!), Belarus, Norway and Sweden ($candinavia – yikes!). Right now I am back in Australia to spend the Christmas and New Year period with my family.

Most recently I was mainly travelling in the Wild Wild East of Europe (Ukraine, Moldova, Transnistria, Belarus plus the not so wild but excellent Poland) with my friend and fellow intrepid traveller, Jessie (check out her fun and quirky blog The Wandering Kiwi). After our travels and misadventures in the Balkans in 2015, she surprisingly agreed to walk down yet another dodgy road with me and once again to discover the path less travelled, leading to somewhat worrisome encounters with border guards, soldiers, state police and more (including near arrest for stumbling into a no go military zone!) – all’s well that ends well though (we have a lot of stories and in jokes to remember that will only ever be funny to us)!

Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov aka Lenin (1870 – 1924)

Something we decided to do on this journey was locate statues, monuments and the like dedicated to the glory of the former Soviet Union and in particular one Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov aka Lenin (1870 – 1924). We both have a keen interest in the past and especially Soviet times, including Lenin who came from exile to lead the Russian Bolshevik October Revolution in 1917 and establish Soviet Russia and then the Soviet Union which he lead from 1917 until his death in 1924.

Yes the Soviets could be cruel (Lenin was not exempt from this), corrupt and ultimately were a failed regime but also they had great military success at a huge cost of life in what they call the Great Patriotic War (World War Two), lead the Space Race for a time and had many great historical figures and scientific achievements which they were proud to celebrate in these impressive monuments. Many of these monuments were obviously seen as a symbol of oppression outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union though.

Lenin – Occupations Museum Tallinn, Estonia in 2010

Now in the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Estonia – forcibly part of the Soviet Union) and former Warsaw Pact nations outside of the Soviet Union- once made up of Bulgaria, the former Czechoslovakia and East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania it is hard to find anything but war memorials and an occasional Cosmonaut monument as they all went through a de-communisation period when they broke free of Soviet rule in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This meant a widespread celebration of destroying statues of former communist leaders became widespread(some can still be found in museums).

Understandably the Soviet reign and totalitarian rule was a chilling and oppressive part of their history and they wanted to be free of the memory. Despite the history behind them, finding these monuments today or where they once stood, can make for a quirky but interesting journey!

Czech Republic – No Lenin Here!

A statue of two cosmonauts waving near the Háje Metro Station in Prague, Czech Republic.
A statue of two cosmonauts waving near the Háje Metro Station in Prague, Czech Republic. This suburb was called Kosmonautů during Soviet times – October 2017
Monument to Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968), the first
Monument to Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968), the first “Starman” into space on April 12th, 1961. Ostrava, Czech Republic – October 2017
An impressive monument in Ostrava to the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Tank Brigade of the Soviet Army during World War Two. Atop the monument is a T-34 tank and surprisingly given the 1989 Velvet Revolution in the then Czechoslovakia, the Soviet symbols remain! The images on the sides of the monument are very dramatic and emotive yet still depict Soviet might! Ostrava was also the first major battle to liberate Czechoslvakia from Nazi control during the war in 1945.
An impressive monument in Ostrava to the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Tank Brigade of the Soviet Army during World War Two. Atop the monument is a T-34 tank and surprisingly given the 1989 Velvet Revolution in the then Czechoslovakia, the Soviet symbols remain! The images on the sides of the monument are very dramatic and emotive yet still depict Soviet might! Ostrava was also the first major battle to liberate Czechoslovakia from Nazi control during the war in 1945.

Ukraine – Seek Lenin and You Shall Find

Following its dire troubles with Russia over the annexation of Crimea and pro-Russian conflict and unrest in the Donbass region since 2014, Ukraine recently went through the same process of de-communisation. In April 2015 laws were introduced that outlawed communist symbols in Ukraine, leading to the mandatory removal in 2016 of communist monuments excluding those dedicated to the Great Patriotic War, which obviously involved and impacted greatly Ukraine and her people on more than a political level. They also  renamed public places, streets etc. that were named after communist leaders and related themes.

A statue of Lenin once stood atop this plinth in central Kiev. Now it has been replaced with the symbol and flags of Ukraine!
A statue of Lenin once stood atop this plinth in central Kiev. Now it has been replaced with the symbol and flags of Ukraine! September 2017

The Ukraine government released figures stating that as of December 2016, Ukraine had renamed 987 cities and villages, plus 51,493 streets and removed 2,389 monuments of communist leaders and important figures including 1,320 monuments to Lenin alone! I can tell you they have been very thorough but there are some exceptions in museums and even in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone where time has literally stood still since the tragic explosion at Nuclear Reactor No. 4 changed the world on April 26th, 1986. Sadly we ran out of time to see the Lenin statue that was turned into Darth Vader in a factory courtyard on the outskirts of Odessa!

mine and suitably daubed in Ukrainian colours at the Battle for Dnieper Diorama in Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk) in eastern Ukraine
A Lenin head removed from a statue at a mine and suitably daubed in Ukrainian colours at the Battle for Dnieper Diorama in Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk) in eastern Ukraine – October 2017
Lenin makes multiple appearances in the Time Machines Museum in Dnipro, Ukraine - October 2017
Lenin makes multiple appearances in the Time Machines Museum in Dnipro, Ukraine – October 2017 – that cross beam across the Lenin picture and the shroud over Lenin say something…
Chernobyl Exclusion Zone War Monument
Welcome to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone! September 2017
Chernobyl Welcome Sign Ukraine
Welcome to the town of Chernobyl! September 2017

Whilst walking through the town of Chernobyl we were shocked to see an all too distinctive looking statue off in the distance. I knew immediately that it was Lenin, a rarity in Ukraine, but here within the exclusion zone, most things remain the same, as a monument to the past and the tragic events of April 1986, even Lenin!

Lenin Statue in the town of Chernobyl Ukraine 2017
Lenin in the town of Chernobyl. This was an unexpected sight in Ukraine as we thought all such statues had been removed in 2016 but in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone it’s still in 1986! Photo taken during my 2 day tour to Chernobyl in September 2017
Lenin Statue in the town of Chernobyl
We didn’t take a Geiger counter reading but I can only imagine the Chernobyl Lenin is highly radioactive – September 2017
Memorial to the Liquidators in the town of Chernobyl - Dedicated to the heroes of the Chernobyl disaster
Memorial to the Liquidators in the town of Chernobyl – Dedicated to the heroes of the Chernobyl disaster – Firefighters, Miners, Doctors, Scientists and more who helped contain the fires and leaking radiation following the Chernobyl Reactor 4 explosion in April 1986 – October 2017
Chernobyl Reactor 4 and the Chernobyl Disaster Memorial at the reactor - That is the new sarcophagus over the reactor, the emergency one built in 1986 was full of holes and gaps! October 2017
Chernobyl Reactor 4 and the Chernobyl Disaster Memorial at the reactor – That is the new sarcophagus over the reactor, the emergency one built in 1986 was full of holes and gaps! September 2017
A war memorial, radiation hot spot and the famous Pripyat Ferris Wheel within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
A war memorial, radiation hot spot and the famous Pripyat Ferris Wheel within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – September 2017
Old toys and gasmasks Pripyat October 2017
The grim and creepy reminder of the devastation caused by the Chernobyl nuclear accident on April 26th, 1986 – Pripyat October 2017
Lenin, propaganda and military training artwork within the grounds of the Chernobyl-2 military base within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone - October 2017
Lenin, propaganda and military training artwork within the grounds of the Chernobyl-2 military base within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – October 2017

In Moldova (especially Transnistria) and Belarus though, Lenin monuments and even some for Stalin and Karl Marx can be found here and there. De-communisation is currently not part of their agenda. In my next post I will show you what we discovered in Moldova.

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