Finding Lenin: The ongoing hunt for Ukraine’s missing Soviet statues

(CNN)When revolution comes, statues find themselves on the front line. And like pawns on a chessboard, they’re often the first to fall.

It’s as true for Ukraine as anywhere else in the world. Nearly a century after his death, monuments to Vladimir Lenin have come down in parts of the country, thumbing its nose at pro-Russian unrest in eastern regions.
    But what of the shattered pieces? Can there be new life after the death of a statue?

    The story behind “Leninopad”

    Swiss photographer Niels Ackermann and journalist Sebastien Gobert seek answers to these questions as they zigzag across western Ukraine in their hunt for fallen Lenins. Their ongoing project “Lost in Decommunisation” documents the fate of the leader as he goes to ground and becomes an unlikely trophy for everyone from ultra-nationalists to local officials.
    Ackermann and Gobert say that once upon a time Ukraine possessed around 5,000 statues of Lenin — a number more impressive when you consider Russia, 28 times its size, held only 2,000 more. Approximately half of Ukraine’s Lenins disappeared with independence in 1991, but the pair estimate a further 1,200 have fallen since unrest began in 2013.


    Gobert says there are plinths bearing the name of Lenin that have been without his likeness for three and a half years in parts of the country.
    Tearing Lenin down is a move “against the past and their Soviet heritage,” he argues, “but it’s not for anything either.”
    The duo say they are still on the hunt to find more Lenins, suggesting the numbers are on their side. Whether they’ll be able to turn Ackermann’s lens on all the statues they uncover is a different debate entirely.
    “[The project] keeps on changing and dragging us to new spots with new people,” says Gobert. “It’s like a never-ending story.”

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