Lenin's monument, largest in Ukraine, taken down in Kharkiv
Article by: Taras Klochko
The toppling of the monument to Vladimir Lenin in the former capital of Soviet Ukraine should mark the beginning of the end of the “neo-soviet era” in Kharkiv, which was represented by the current mayor Hennadiy (“Gepa”) Kernes.
The attempt by Kharkiv Communists to hold a separatist demonstration in the city center has led to their loss of a key symbol — the 20-meter monument to Lenin. During the “peace march” on Saturday by the Kharkiv Communists, which, despite multiple ads in social media attracted at most around a hundred retirees, the patriotic forces of the “first capital” answered with a powerful act that culminated in the destruction of the Communist idol on Svoboda square.
The demolition of Lenin was even blessed post factum by the authorities in the person of Governor Ihor Baluta, who immediately after the fall of the monument signed the order for its official dismantling. In turn, the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, a Kharkiv native, announced that his agency was not concerned about Lenin’s fate and would close the criminal case that had been opened during the first attempt to pull down the monument.
The only Kharkiv official who continued to stand by the leader of the world proletariat was the loathsome Mayor Hennadiy Kernes, whose warm feelings for Lenin have been well known to all. In his time, he had promised to “break two arms and two legs” of anyone who threatened the integrity of the Kharkiv monument.
However, this was in the days of Yanukovych. Now the stern “Gepa” expressed his angry indignation only a day after the incident. His previous expressiveness was lacking as well.
“Last night the monument to Lenin was barbarically destroyed. This was the largest Lenin monument in Ukraine — an example of monumental art and local importance. The monument was included on the state registry as an object of cultural heritage. But this monument was destroyed, knocked to the ground. Pieces of the monument were taken as souvenirs by people who fiercely hated it,” Kernes commented belatedly in his official statement.
The mayor says that what happened is a crime, accuses the police and Minister Avakov personally for condoning a criminal act, and promises to restore the monument without fail. As we can see, he no longer is in a hurry to break legs. Regarding the promise to restore Lenin, there are considerable and well-founded doubts. His former accomplice Mykhailo Dobkin also promised to restore the Kyiv Lenin at one time, but after his embarrassing failure during the presidential elections, the previously verbose Dobkin has been entertaining his Twitter followers with fishing reports and the silly support of his associate Alona Bondarenko.
Unlike Dobkin, Kernes has not given up his position as city mayor and continues to muddy the waters in Kharkiv. However, his impact is shrinking day by day. The revolution of dignity and the war in the Donbas have accelerated the “desovietization” of Ukraine, as confirmed by the catastrophic decline in the popularity of the Party of Regions and the Communist Party, who in all their political activities engaged in speculation on the Soviet past. Thus, we can state that the toppling of Lenin marked the end of the “Gepa” era in Kharkiv
This view is shared by Kharkiv political scientist Valeriy Dudko. “After attempts to return the monument, Hennadiy Kernes has reduced the tempo of his activity and I think there will be no concrete action on his part,” Dudko said when commenting on Expreso.TV. He also noted that most of Kharkiv residents support the toppling of the Lenin monument. “I took the metro to work today and six local residents that I talked with supported the initiatives to topple Lenin with a great deal of appreciation,” he said.
Dudko does not believe Lenin’s toppling will result in the activation of separatist unrest in Kharkiv. “The Communists today represent a party that is disintegrating. Ten years ago it could gather up to 10,000 people for a demonstration; today it barely draws a group of a 100 or so. This is why it is unlikely that this will lead to increased separatist sentiment,” he said.
Another analyst Oleksiy Holobutskyi also thinks that “the Kernes era is ending.” “This is a symbolic gesture in response to the ‘peace march’ of the Communists,” he said. “We now have a generation whose members no longer remember the Soviet Union and who understand that all this is dragging us down. These are questionable symbols. For example, our neighbors did this 23 years ago and now their standard of living is 2-3 times higher.” he noted.
The entire history with the Kharkiv Lenin demonstrates that people are no longer paying any attention to Kernes in his city. Unable to defend his beloved leader, “Gepa” has almost completed his transformation into a decorative mayor similar to the well-known Lonya-Cosmos during his last year as head of Kyiv. And given the zero chances that Kernes will win the next election, it seems very likely that “Gepa” will ultimately become a political clown similar to his “space colleague” whose jokes will become increasingly less funny and interesting. (References to former Kyiv mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, known as Lonia Cosmos for behavior many people considered bizarre — Ed.)Lenin monument: AP Photo/Igor Chekachkov