Mon, Jan 25, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Lenin presides, but Russians increasingly indifferent

AFP, MOSCOW

People stand in front of a mosaic portrait of Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin at the Kiyevskaya subway station in Moscow on Nov. 21, 2011.

Photo: AFP

To reach the gigantic statue of Vladimir Lenin that overlooks Moscow’s October Square, pedestrians can stroll down streets named after the Bolshevik revolutionary’s wife or mother, or cross Lenin Avenue that intersects with a road named after his brother.

More than a quarter of a century has passed since the fall of Communism, but reminders of the Soviet Union’s founding father — who died on Jan. 21, 1924 — are still easy to find.

Yet the man himself seems increasingly to mean little to many people in Russia, the cradle of his revolution.

Lenin monuments, busts and eponymous streets commemorating the leader of the 1917 October Revolution still dot cityscapes across the country and his body still lies embalmed for tourists to visit in the mausoleum on the capital’s iconic Red Square.

“On July 19, 1918, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin met in this building with the party members from factories of the Zamoskvorechye neighborhood,” reads a plaque in the center of the Russian capital.

Down the street, another plaque reminds passersby that the Communist leader addressed workers from the Yaroslavl and Vladimir regions from a balcony above their heads.

And Moscow’s sprawling subway system — which carries an average of 7 million passengers every day — also officially bears Lenin’s name.

In some other former Soviet republics, most prominently Ukraine, many statues of Lenin have been dismantled, toppled or vandalized since the fall of Communism.

However, for ordinary Russians the lingering presence of the Communist leader among the advertising hoardings and shopping malls of their consumerist society appears to stir mixed opinions — or more often just indifference.

Every year on the key Communist holidays such as May 1 or the anniversary of the revolution on Nov. 7 dwindling groups of ageing supporters gather with portraits of Lenin at monuments to him across the country.

However, while some who are old enough to remember the Soviet epoch view these vestiges of another era with nostalgia, others look on them with resentment.

“These monuments bother me,” said 60-year-old Muscovite Viktor Dzyadko, whose hostility toward the Soviet revolutionary is tangible. “They should all be sent to some museum.”

For the younger generation, who have grown up outside the Soviet system, the presence of Lenin is often little more than a historical oddity.

“During the Soviet era, all these monuments had an ideological role, but now they are just relics from our history,” said Alexander Polyakovsky, a 20-year-old student.

“We are witnessing growing indifference,” said sociologist Lev Gudkov, the head of independent pollster Levada Center. “Lenin does not represent anything to the young generations, who only have a vague idea that he was the founder of the Soviet state.”

In a poll conducted by the Levada Center about views of Lenin last year only 5 percent of people said they thought his ideas will influence people in the future.

In the heady days of the early 1990s during the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of the key symbolic statues of Soviet leaders — most famously secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky outside the KGB headquarters — were toppled.

However, as the new country plunged into chaos, Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin — often keen not to alienate the large chunk of the population that looked back on the Soviet era with fondness — left most of the Lenin statues untouched.

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