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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A 16-million-hryvnia Lenin

Sumy’s mayor decided to speak to communists in the language of Das Kapital. An interesting idea indeed
18 February, 2014 - 10:47
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

Sumy is Ukraine’s first city, where it was officially decided to hoist the European Union flag side by side with the National Flag. The fountain, known up to now as “Friendship of Peoples,” has been renamed as “European.” The decisions to this effect were adopted by the Sumy City Council. The Sumy Mayor Hennadii Minaiev has declared, albeit informally, the city an “EU territory.” By all accounts, the idea did not exactly appeal to everybody: some unknown wrongdoers have torn down three times the European Union flag near the Sumy Municipal Art Gallery, and the mayor recently received a letter signed by members of as many as four non-governmental organizations, including Ukrainian Choice and Russian Cultural Center. The letter urges that European Union flags be immediately removed because the Cabinet of Ministers has suspended signing the EU Association Agreement.

“There will be a flag of Europe in Sumy, at least as long as I am the city mayor. There will be no hoisting mechanisms on the flagstaffs. You will be skipping – ‘He who is not skipping is a moskal!’ There will be no Lenin either! Long live Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” the mayor answered.

The point is that Minaiev’s another city council-supported initiative – to dismantle the Vladimir Lenin monument – met with fierce resistance on the part of Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) representatives. The latter failed to have the councilors’ decision canceled by legal action: first the Zarichny District Court of Sumy and then the Kharkiv Administrative Court of Appeal upheld the legitimacy of the decisions and refused to satisfy the Communists’ lawsuits. Lenin’s bust near the Khimik company has already been removed from the pedestal, while the Bolshevik leader’s monument, now relocated from the central square, is no be dismantled within the next two weeks – by the City Council decision, it will be remelted for a monument to Gerasim Kondratiev, the founder of Sumy, and a commemorative sign in honor of the other founders.

But, in response to this, the Bolshevik leader’s admirers moved a bill to the Sumy Oblast Council, which suggests transferring the possession of the Lenin monument from Sumy’s territorial commune to those of the oblast for an ostensible purpose of territory beautification. In an official letter to KPU First Secretary Petro Symonenko, Sumy Mayor Minaiev said he agreed to transfer the possession of the statue directly to the KPU rather than to the oblast’s commune – provided the monument is out of the oblast center’s bounds and a charitable amount of 16 million hryvnias is paid for it.

COMMENTARIES

Hennadii IVANUSHCHENKO, historian, Sumy History webmaster:

“A character of the famous Twelve Chairs used to say: ‘No bargain here.’ But I want to say there can be bargain in this case. In spite of the ideas the communists have been toying with, they have already privatized almost everything: history, the party movement, etc. Let them privatize their leader’s statues now. Let them privatize their ‘Lenins.’ In my view, this money should be used to set up an accumulation fund in order to help victims of the communist regime and children of the people who anguished in Soviet prison camps and internal exile, as well as those who have suffered at the current Euromaidan and need medical treatment. For the Communists voted for the draconian antidemocratic laws on January 16. So I think this would be fair.”

Alla YAROVA, Pro-Rector, Ukrainian Banking Academy; member, Sumy City Council, Native City faction:

“As a city councilor, I once supported the decision to dismantle the Lenin monument in Sumy. There are different views in Ukraine today about what is to be done with a lot of still existing symbols of the totalitarian era. For some, it is a reminder of the terror in Ukraine; for others, it is nostalgia for the socialist past. But there is also a law in force, signed by a former president of Ukraine, on eliminating the monuments of totalitarianism.

“I am sure this idea can be implemented, for it is a compromise: if there are people who consider these monuments to be of artistic, cultural, or some other value, let them organize museums, thematic ‘art territories,’ etc. There are, for example, museums of Nazism. After all, it is history.”

Oleksii ZAKHARCHENKO, editor-in-chief, online newspaper Sotnia:

“By inviting the communists to buy out the Lenin statue, Hennadii Minaiev could not have done anything more symbolic. What is in fact symbolic is the very idea to remelt a monument to the founder of the Soviet empire for a monument to the founders of Sumy – so to speak, to change the reference point for the city’s history.

“But the Sumy mayor’s active citizenship prompted him to go further – so he came up with a new idea. Looking at the problem from the economic angle, Minaiev has made it clear to the communists that he is prepared to speak to them in the language of Das Kapital. I think Lenin, the follower of Marx, would have supported this approach.”

By Alla AKIMENKO, Sumy
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