About five years ago I wrote Finding Paradise, a novelette on Volyn, or, to be more exact, on the past and present of Volhynian Polissia. In an episode, the hero comes to Liubeshiv, one of Volyn oblast’s few district centers, where there was a Lenin monument until recently. Incidentally, one of the current communist leaders in Ukraine, Adam Martyniuk, hails from the Liubeshiv region. Here is an excerpt from this story:
Liubeshiv at last… There used to be a trade road here from Volhynia to Lithuania. Polissia residents laid it by building dams and weirs in the impassable swamps.
The town mostly consists of little one-story houses. Only in the center stand a few multistoried buildings and… a Lenin monument – like in the neighboring Belarus.
This statue looks strange on the Polissia land, at least at first glance. But the Polissia man is a conservative and, at the same time, a timeserver by nature. He will easily accept a new government, for he does not knows what his own government is.
As I stopped in front of the “grandpa Lenin” for a few minutes, a little old man came up to me.
“Lenin has been venerated before,” he puts on a well-worn record, “and there was order.”
“There can be no order without Lenin,” I say to continue the conversation.
“Right,” my interlocutor says joyfully.
“Look, granddad,” I say in a desire to taunt him. “There’s no order now.”
“So what is this Lenin for?”
Indeed, what is Lenin for? There is no order such as it was in the “good” old communist era. For that order rested on the fear of repressive services.
Naturally, there are also some people now, who dream of the erstwhile “iron order.” For example, I learned recently that Volyn communists had put up a Stalin statue in their Lutsk office. Yet they are afraid that the ungrateful people will not understand their “good intentions.” So they hid this statue in their office. However, the office has been smashed now, as has the monument to the “father of the nations.”
But, at a closer examination, is there a great difference between Lenin and Stalin? Yes, Stalin masterminded the Holodomor for Ukrainians. Besides, millions of other deaths of our compatriots are on his conscience. But he was a loyal successor to Lenin! After all, both Lenin and Stalin were enemies of Ukrainian independence. Owing to Lenin, Ukraine failed as a sovereign state. It is he who organized the invasion of Ukraine by Bolshevik hordes. He blessed the formation of a puppet (ostensibly Ukrainian) Bolshevik government in Kharkiv. Lenin threw Ukraine into the whirlwind of the 1918-20 Civil War that claimed hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Ukrainian lives. Nevertheless, monuments to this butcher of Ukrainian independence are still standing in the squares of our state’s cities and villages.
In fact, these are not just monuments. These are certain symbols that “tag” the territory. Sovietness continues to dwell where they are. And Ukrainian independence remains inadequate there.
But in the last while, when Ukraine has seen Euromaidan-induced mass protests, Lenin monuments began to fall in various nooks of Ukraine. This seems to have begun in Kyiv and then spread to the regions. We can hear almost every week that a Lenin statue has been toppled or dismantled somewhere. Moreover, this occurs even in the regions, where a strong Soviet spirit seems to remain intact.
Naturally, it is not an accidental process. It shows at least that, in spite of all difficulties, Ukraine is gradually doing away with the communist past and begins to be aware that its independence is in earnest and for a long time.