Thursday, February 18, 2021

Most Russians Can’t or Won’t Rate Lenin but Overwhelmingly Oppose Taking Down Monuments to Him

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – In most other former Soviet republics, people favor taking down statues of Lenin or renaming any place or street bearing his name – Ukraine, for example, has completed these tasks (,

            But a new Public Opinion Poll suggests Russians have a very different view. It found that while “a majority are not in a position to say what Lenin did, good or bad, [they] are against renaming streets and squares given his name (76 percent) and even more against taking down monuments to Lenin” in such places (83 percent), historian Roman Shlyakhtin says (

            In many places, he says, the Lenin monument remains “an attraction” and even a symbol of something of value from a better past that people are opposed to dispensing with. In many villages and towns, “there is an administration building with a new Russian flag, a flower bed, a monument to the fallen, a church and Lenin.” People still “respect him.”

            But Shlyakhtin suggests that an important reason for this respect is not just a generalized belief in the past but rather the longstanding efforts in Soviet times and even since to link Lenin with local events and developments. Lenin statues for all their supposed commonalities vary widely, he says; and people in this place or that like that.

            Russians in many places, he continues, thus see Lenin as part of their history just as they see churches and monasteries; and they oppose doing away with any of these things. To remove a Lenin statue or retitle streets given his name seems to them to be a case in which they are losing something rather than gaining.

            “In contrast to the states of the former Soviet bloc,” the historian says, “in Russia, Lenin is viewed not as a synonym for occupation but as one of a rich and legendary Soviet past.” Most Russians do not want that past taken from them all at once. They have suffered too often from such radicalism, including that Lenin and his followers promoted.

            Consequently, Shlyakhtin continues, “people voluntarily bring flowers to [Lenin] monuments to the creator of an inhuman, godless and cruel state in which the best part of their lives passed. For them, Lenin is important and significant,” and they need time and the chance to decide for themselves how to deal with such erections.

            Boris Yeltsin gave them this chance, to destroy the monuments or keep them or possibly to do both at one and the same time; and that possibility could in fact lead to a far better future than any radical action one way or the other, the historian concludes.



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