And yet, in light of all of this they somehow can afford the luxury of destroying historically, and more importantly – financially valuable monuments, solely for crowd entertainment. This simply doesn’t make any sense. If certain regions of Ukraine wish to get rid of everything that reminds them of communism – there is a better and more profitable way to do so!
Before I make my proposal, a disclaimer has to be made. I am not, by any means, advocating for indiscriminate deconstruction and sale of Lenin, as well as any other, Soviet statues in Ukraine or elsewhere. I firmly believe that all of these statues must remain where they are, and be protected by the local government, regardless of the fact that some percentage of the population finds them offensive. Removal of these statues is illegal and inappropriate for a civil and democratic society. Further more, UNESCO as well as the world community should step in, and take a more proactive role in protecting them.
With this said, the reality of the actual situation on the ground in most parts of Ukraine (and Eastern Europe at large) is simply incompatible with my idealistic views in the previous paragraph. The rate and the sheer amount of Soviet statues that have already been destroyed shows that the only options are - a violent teardown or a quiet deconstruction with subsequent destruction of these historic monuments.
I cannot agree with this line of thinking and thus wish to propose another viable and bipartisan alternative.
A lot of these statues have their own unique history and provenance like the larger than life-size (3.45 meters / 11.32 feet) Lenin monument, erected on Kiev's Khreshchatyk Street in 1946, that was built by Soviet sculptor Sergey Merkurov from the same red Karelian stone as Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow, and was even displayed at the 1939 New York World's Fair (1). These historic facts equate to today’s hard cash and Ukraine should take advantage of this by selling their Soviet statues to people and organizations officially at open auctions.
How to do this right? Those regions in Ukraine, and Eastern Europe at large, where people feel strongly against these monuments that they wish to have them removed, the municipalities should hold an official vote, and if the majority votes for the monument to stay – the monument stays; if they vote to have it removed - the monument is put for an auction. Authorities should issue an official removal permit, initiate a selling process, and make sure all proceeds would go to the local population.
A special provision must be made to account for situations where people vote for the statue to stay however authorities cannot guarantee its safety due to significant amount of protesters who may ignore the law and use violent means to tear down the statue anyway. Social experts that are advising the government must account for this factor and inform the municipality of such risks. If the likelihood that this statue will be destroyed is very high, authorities should engage the majority of the population on how to proceed further. In such cases the sale may be the only option available to protect the monument.
To note, the removal and shipping of the statue is done at buyers expense, however until the statue is sold it may stay where it is, so not to incur any additional expenses. All in all this is not a substantial issue considering the costs: shipping & container - $5000 US; deconstruction - $2000 US, on average. Due to low labour wages in Ukraine buyers should not expect to pay more than $7000 US for regular size statues that can fit in a large shipping container. Considering the over all value of the purchase, such shipping and handling frees are more than reasonable.
I am confident that there would be many buyers, especially from China, interested in purchasing Lenin statues for more than $100,000 US, each! This is a win-win for all sides because the municipality and the local people will get the much needed cash, the buyer will get a unique historic artwork and the statue itself is not lost forever.
Statue of Lenin In Seattle! "There is a 16 foot (5 m) bronze sculpture of Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, Washington.... The statue was constructed by a Slovak Bulgarian sculptor, Emil Venkov, under commission from the Soviet and Czechoslovak governments... Lewis E. Carpenter, who was teaching English in Poprad, offered to buy it for $13,000. With the help of the original sculptor, the statue was professionally cut into three pieces and shipped to the United States at a total cost of $41,000... It now stands two blocks northward at the intersection of Evanston Ave N, N 36th St, and Fremont Place, outside a falafel shop and a gelato shop... The Carpenter family continues to seek a buyer for the statue. The asking price as of 2006 is $250,000, up from a 1995 price tag of $150,000."
Text and image source:
Another viable alternative is creating a Soviet theme park where these statues can be brought to from all over the country and act as a tourist attraction. This was successfully done in Lithuania, a former USSR republic, by a local entrepreneur who created a place called - Grūtas Park (www.grutoparkas.lt). This private park is successfully attracting local and foreign visitors solely because of the Soviet statues that the owner was able to buy, move and preserve there. Ukraine now has the same choice to make – lose these valuable artworks or make money on them. Considering the state of the economy and widespread poverty, the choice is clear.
Personally, I think the government of the Russian Federation should step forward and create a special fund, with the sole purpose of preserving all statues and monuments created by the USSR, regardless of their location; and in the event where they cannot be preserved - purchasing and relocating these historic artworks back to Russia.
Lastly and just to be clear: Soviet monuments that are not under immediate danger should stay where they are and not be sold unless threatened with demolition.
By Dmitry Tamoikin
President of Tamoikin Art Fund
Founder of Soviet Jewelry Project
CEO of Earth Sphere Development Corporation
Contributor to Russia & America Goodwill Association
Editors notes: This article is not meant to imply the author's or RAGA's agreement with, or sympathy for, Soviet system or ideology. We merely argue for a civilized approach to monuments regardless of the political image they had during the period when they were erected. In particular, we deplore the use of Leninopad as a means to incite ethnic, national or racial hatred against any group of Ukrainian citizens
All statements in this report are an opinion of the author. Act at your own risk. Russia & America Goodwill Association (RAGA) is not responsible for the content of the article. Any views or opinions presented in this report are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RAGA. Any liability in respect this communication remain with the author.