Monumental Landscapes and the Politics of Place: The First Lenin to Fall
On August 1, 1990, there was an unprecedented event in the Ukrainian town of Chervonohrad: a crowd gathered at the central square and, for the first time in the USSR, demolished a monument to Lenin. The demolition caused a political scandal and was the first of a chain of Lenin statue topplings all over Soviet Ukraine and beyond. Chervonohrad’s deconstruction is often compared to the array of Lenin statue demolitions that took place during the 2013-14 Ukrainian Revolution. Yet, this historic comparison does not answer the question: why was Chervonohrad, out of all the Soviet political centres and peripheral towns, meant to go down in history in this monumental way?
Although the transformation of monumental landscapes has been among the most studied aspects of the post-Soviet condition, it has often been approached unilaterally. The studies of dismantled monuments have explored the largest scale of national and international politics, national imageries, and historic myth. The overwhelming attention paid to major metropolitan areas overshadowed the importance of place politics, local actors, and power relationships within former Soviet republics. As a result, the transformation of Soviet monumental landscapes has been sometimes misread as a top-down geopolitical process over the plain and ghostly backgrounds of post-Soviet metropolitan cityscapes.
This article questions the scales and methods used to study monumental deconstruction. While national politics were undoubtedly an integral part of Chervonohrad’s milestone event, this study aims to understand the complex causes that led to the removal of the monument through Chervonohrad’s politics of place, the history of urban displacement and appropriation, and the agents and constellations that made this demolition possible.
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