On the night of December 8, 2013, a huge crowd gathered on a tree-lined boulevard in downtown Kiev, Ukraine. The crowd was there to watch as a statue in the boulevard was pulled down by a crane. The toppled statue was of Vladimir Lenin – the communist leader who started the revolution that created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Ukraine was once a part of the Soviet Union.
The same protests that brought down that Lenin statue eventually brought about a new government in Ukraine, which sought to eliminate all physical reminders of communism and Russia. But it hasn’t been easy, logistically or politically, because removing these things erases history that is still important to some Ukrainians. Furthermore, communist symbols are very pervasive in the built environment – they can be found on buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.
Ukraine’s current government, led by Petro Poroshenko, decided to make the removal of Lenin statues into state policy. Ukraine’s parliament passed a package of bills called “decommunization laws.” Local authorities had a year to get rid of their Lenin statues. If their town or streets had communist names, those had to be changed, too.