Fifteen Monuments to Lenin still standing in the former USSR 

Even though the USSR fell apart in December 1991, propaganda in creative form can still be found in many corners of the fifteen republics that previously comprised the Soviet Union. Represented in various forms, including busts, plaques, symbolism and mosaics, it is probably monuments and memorials that are, collectively, still the most prevalent manifestation thirty years after the Unions demise. 

Ranging from monumental in size and well maintained to inconspicuous and left to the mercy of the elements, the spectrum of ideology that was represented throughout the thousands of monuments and memorials that were erected all over the Soviet Union was broad indeed.

Monuments and memorials from the Soviet times interest us a great deal and we actively seek out and photograph as many as we can when we visit parts of this once vast empire. We try and find out what we can about them and, eventually, they end up on the Architectonic section of this website. 

We would be lying if we didnt admit that it was the gargantuan, often concrete-dominated monoliths that attracted us to the subject matter in the first instance. Statues such as Valourin the Belarusian city of Brest or the all-commanding Motherland Monument in Kiev, as examples, have a fierce aura about them and are masterpieces of Soviet monumentalism. But our interest in the genre has developed over time and all manner of Soviet-era monuments and memorials now attract our eye, including those dedicated to cosmonauts, writers, scientists, political figures and countless other heroesof the USSR. 

But, when it comes to monuments of this type there are, however, two key figures in Soviet history that are conspicuous by their absence – Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka Lenin, and his successor, Joseph Stalin. Weve spent time in most of the Soviet states, with Russia itself being the noticeable exception and, apart from Grutas Park in Lithuania, weve not yet seen a statue of Joseph Stalin in a public space (*). 

(*) Grutas Park is a private pay-to-enter sculpture garden that displays only Soviet-era monuments and other memorabilia.

House of Soviets Tiraspol Transnistria-4Lenin bust outside the House of Soviets in Tiraspol, Transnistria

Am I doubt if we ever will. The horrors associated with the Soviet tyrant are well documented and it wasnt long after his death in 1953 that, even within the Union itself, he was universally denounced for his horrendous crimes against humanity. Statues of him began to be taken down and replaced with alternatives monoliths a long time back. In Yerevan, for example, one of the largest monuments depicting Stalin in the entire USSR was taken down in 1962 and eventually substituted with an equally huge statue of Mother Armenia. Even in Stalins home town of Gori in Georgia, where there is a museum dedicated to his life, there are no public statues of the dictator anymore. The last one was taken down in 2010, although it can still be seen inside the museum, along with the odd bust and, bizarrely, his death mask as well. 

Lenin, on the other hand, is a very different kettle of fish. As far as I can make out, statues of the Russian revolutionary, who also had his moments of ruthlessness but was never in the same league as Stalin, stayed in situ right up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in late 1991. What happened to the monuments, thereafter, depended on the attitude to the breakup from each of the newly formed independent states and their relationship with Russia at the time and also going forward. 

In a political sense, Ukraine probably lashed out the most. The 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, which resulted in the ousting of the then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, and the toppling of the Ukrainian Government, sparked a wave of either destruction or removal of monuments dedicated to communist figureheads, including those of Lenin. In the month of February 2014 alone, 376 statues of the Bolshevik leader were taken down across Ukraine and by April 2015, there was a decommunisation law in place in the country that outlawed, among other things, communist symbols.

We have travelled to more than twenty-five cities and towns in Ukraine. To date, we have only seen one public statue of Lenin during our time there and that was inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Foolishly, we didnt photograph it as it was before our interest in documenting Soviet monuments and memorials had developed. Given there used to be 5,500 Lenin monuments in Ukraine (in comparison there were 7,000 in Russia and 1,400 total in the rest of the Union combined), its evident that certain factions within the country took to the task of decommunisation with zeal (*).

(*) I took these figures from a book we have called Looking for Lenin by Niels Ackermann and Sébastien Gobert (Fuel Publishing, 2017). 

Poltava Ukraine-1Re-decorated plinths where once a Lenin or another Soviet dignitary used to stand are a common sight in Ukraine. This photo was taken in the central Ukrainian city of Poltava

As well as attitude to the breakup of the USSR, I cant help but think that the number of Lenin statues still in existence in an ex-Soviet republic might be connected to that particular countrys wealth. The three nations that comprise the Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – are relatively well off compared to, say, the Central Asian Stans, or Moldova, for example. It seems to me that the countries of the Baltic States, particularly Latvia and to a lesser-extent Estonia, had the financial means to either remove, rename or alter Soviet vestiges if they were inclined to do so. To add credence to this presumption, it is yet another region of the former USSR where we have travelled extensively yet seen only one Lenin monument in a public place, and even that was rather dubious (see Narva (Estonia) below to understand why). 

At the other end of the spectrum, and where we have seen more Lenin statues than anywhere else, are the less affluent countries and those territories that didnt want the Soviet Union to end. specifically Belarus and the (mostly) unrecognised territories of Transnistria and Abkhazia. All three states still depend on Russia for political and financial support and presumably leaving such monuments in situ is one way of keeping happy the powers that be in the Kremlin?

Even though, according to this article in Balkan Insight, there are only a dozen or so monuments dedicated to Lenin publicly on display in Moldova, weve managed to see three of them, which is a decent percentage, but, generally, we dont see many statues of Lenin while travelling around the former Soviet Union. And that is the reason why we look out for them. It has nothing to do political ideology or anything like that – the number of Lenin statues in public is on the decline and we are simply interested in documenting them while we can. 

What follows is a selection of some of the Lenins we have come across on our travels, along with a few facts if we happen to know them. Ive also put them on a map in case searching for Lenin interests you also. The only one listed below that I would advise caution about going to see is the one in Tkvarcheli, Abkhazia. You can read why here.

Striking Lenin Statues as spotted on our travels…

Monument to Lenin in Kulob, Tajikistan

Apart from looking rather fetching in gold, there isnt a whole lot else I can tell you about this Lenin statue in the southern Tajikistan town of Kulob.

Lenin Statue Central Park Kulob Tajikistan-3-2Monument to Lenin in Kulob, Tajikistan

Monument to Lenin in Chisinau, Moldova 

This is allegedly the last remaining public statue of Lenin left in the Moldovan capital. Originally erected in 1949 outside Government House, it was dismantled and moved to a corner of the citys part-abandoned Expo Centre in 1991. Lenin was joined by Karl Marx and Georgi Dimitrov (the first communist leader of Bulgaria) and the ensemble was given the new title of Wall of Honour. Apparently, the granite from which it was produced was of such a quality and so highly polished that pigeon crap was unable to cling to it and just rolled off! 

International Exhibition Centre MoldExpo Chisinau Moldova Chisinau Moldova-6Monument to Lenin in Chisinau, Moldova 

Monument to Lenin in Zeltini Soviet Missile Base, Latvia

This huge bust of Lenin was unveiled in 1970 in Alūksne, a small town approximately 25km to the east of this once top-secret Soviet military base. It was transported to the (by-then) defunct base in August 1991 by town locals to save it from potentially being destroyed.

Zelteni Soviet Missile Bases Zelteni Latvia-20Monument to Lenin in Zeltini Soviet Missile Base, Latvia

Monument to Lenin in Tiraspol, Transnistria

There are two easy-to-locate statues of Lenin in Tiraspol, the capital of the de-facto European state known as Transnistria. This statue stands defiantly outside the Transnistria Parliament building. The other sculpture (pictured above), which is a bust rather than a statue, is situated at the main entrance to the House of Soviets at the other end of the city.

Transnistria Parliament Tiraspol Transnistria-3Monument to Lenin in Tiraspol, Transnistria

Monument to Lenin in Bendery, Transnistria

And this is one of two monuments to Lenin, that we know of, in Transnistrias second city, Bendery (also known as Bender). Located on the edge of a public park in the centre of the city, it was erected in 1951.

Monument to Vladimir Lenin Bendery (Bender) Transnistria-4Monument to Lenin in Bendery, Transnistria

Monument to Lenin in Brest, Belarus

Constructed in 1958, this Lenin in the Hero City of Brest in the west of Belarus now has the task of overseeing a pedestrian crossing. Like the other Lenin statues we have seen in pro-Russian Belarus, this one is well maintained.

Monument to Vladimir Lenin Brest Belarus-8Monument to Lenin in Brest, Belarus

Monument to Lenin in Comrat, Moldova

Although I cant give you any additional information about this statue of Lenin, we have written a detailed post about Comrat, the capital of the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia, in which it is located.

Monument to Vladimir Lenin Comrat Moldova-4Monument to Lenin in Comrat, Moldova

Monument to Lenin in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

The Lenin statue in Bishkek was initially the centrepiece of the citys main square, now called Ala-Too Square but originally known as Lenin Square. It was moved to a much smaller public space around the back of the National Historical Museum in 2003.

Lenin Statue Bishkek Kyrgyzstan-1-2Monument to Lenin in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Monument to Lenin in Bzypta, Abkhazia

Doubtless a victim of the Abkhazian-Georgian conflict that took place between 1992 and 1993, we found this neglected Lenin inside the grounds of an abandoned school on the road linking Sukhumi, the capital of the breakaway republic, with the Black Sea resort town of Gagra. 

Former School Bzypta Abkhazia-12Monument to Lenin in Bzypta, Abkhazia

Monument to Lenin in Anenii Noi, Moldova

Located in the nondescript Moldovan town of Anenii Noi, this particular Lenin was way bigger in person than the photo does justice. It’s one of the dozens of Lenin statues that still stands proudly in town centres across the post-Soviet States.

Monument to Vladimir Lenin Anenii Noi Moldova-3Monument to Lenin in Anenii Noi, Moldova

Monument to Lenin in Narva, Estonia

This is apparently the last public statue of Lenin left in Estonia. Once taking pride of place in Narvas central square, it now stands unceremoniously in a sheltered corner of the citys impressive Hermann Castle. Not exactly on display but not out of sight either, the statue is a peculiar sight that the local authorities in this most-Russian of Estonian cities appear to not really know what to do with. It’s best described as a limbo-Lenin!

Hermann Castle Narva Estonia-10Monument to Lenin in Narva, Estonia

Monument to Lenin in Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Osh is Kyrgyzstans second-largest city and it is somewhat surprising that this huge statue of Lenin hasnt been dismantled and placed somewhere less conspicuous given that is exactly what happened in Bishkek in the early 2000s (see above). This monument to the Bolshevik leader was completed in 1975.

Monument to Vladimir Lenin Osh Kyrgyzstan-8Monument to Lenin in Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Monument to Lenin in Sucleia, Transnistria

I believe that this Lenin statue in Sucleia on the outskirts of Tiraspol was damaged and then subsequently pieced back together and thats why it has a rather strange look about it.

Monument to Vladimir Lenin Sucleia Transnistria-5Monument to Lenin in Sucleia, Transnistria

Monument to Lenin in Tkvarcheli, Abkhazia

Tkvarcheli, a once prosperous mining town in the south of Abkhazia, was devastated by the war between Abkhazia and Georgian. There are still abandoned buildings everywhere you look, yet this Lenin bust on an oversized plinth looks like it is attended to every now and then. 

Tkvarcheli Abkhazia-8Monument to Lenin in Tkvarcheli, Abkhazia

Monument to Lenin in Minsk, Belarus

Standing outside the constructivist-style Belarusian House of Government and overlooking Independence Square, this impressive sculpture of Lenin dates back to 1933 and is cast in bronze. It was destroyed during World War II but was subsequently restored in 1945.  

Belarusian Government Building Independence (Nezalezhnastsi) Square Minsk Belarus-1-2Monument to Lenin in Minsk, Belarus


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