An exhibition that focuses the removal of public statues of Lenin in Ukraine.
Sculptures of Lenin have become the enduring trope of post-Soviet landscape, firmly imbedded in the collective imagination as symbols of USSR power and the mythologising of their revolutionary past. Following the break-up of the USSR in 1991, statues of Lenin started to fall across the satellite states, many of whom were to become part of Europe. ‘Leninfall’ was a wave of symbolic violence that swept across the Ukraine. Many were toppled by crowds, while others fell by decree of the state. Indeed, in 2015, the Ukrainian government banned any symbols, statues, flags, anthems, street signs or city names affiliated with the Soviet Union.
‘Leninfall’ is catharsis – a collective, ecstatic, performative action that seeks to re-write Ukraine’s national narrative, free from Russia and the mistakes of history. There is no consistency in the destruction of the statues of Lenin; they have been variously toppled and left unclaimed, stored away by authorities, broken up beyond recognition and repossessed by creative locals who paint Lenin’s suit in the colours of the Ukraine flag, or transform him into Darth Vader.
Today, not a single Lenin statue remains standing in Ukraine. Photographer Niels Ackermann has attempted to find a number of them, creating a monument to a monument. Russia has always been displeased with Leninfall – and the war in Ukraine reminds us that history hates an empty pedestal.
To find out more, read our Leninfall Gallery Guide by Pauline Tristani.
An exhibition curated by Pauline Tristani, an MA Curating student from School of the Philosophy and Art History (SPAH) at the University of Essex.