The Falling of the Lenins

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
The night of December 8th, 2013, a huge crowd appeared on a treeline boulevard in downtown Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

Julia Barton:
The crowd was there to watch, as a statue in the boulevard was pulled down by a crane.

Roman Mars:
That’s producer Julia Barton.

Julia Barton:
It’s a pretty large statue. A little more than 11 feet tall and as it topples to the ground, the crowd goes wild.

Roman Mars:
The toppled statue was of Vladimir Lenin, the communist leader who started the revolution that created the Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was once a part. The sculpture had shown Lenin striding into a breezy future, one that just barely rippled his marble suit coat.

Julia Barton:
But on the night of December 8th, 2013, this Lenin was no longer striding into a breezy future. He was lying on the cold concrete as protestors continued to abuse him.

Oleksandr Techynskyi:
They were just a shouting that, you know, that this monument needed to be ruined and that he’s a killer and that it’s not the place for Soviet sh*t here anymore and Ukrainians are owners of this land.

Julia Barton:
Ukrainian photojournalist Oleksandr Techynskyi rushed to the scene that night. He and his colleagues kept their cameras steady as the drama unfolded around them.

Roman Mars:
Their footage ended up in a documentary they later made called “All Things Ablaze”. It shows people taking sledgehammers to Lenin’s torso. The camera lingers on one man in a shiny tracksuit who spits on his hand, crosses himself three times, and starts whacking away with all of his might.

Julia Barton:
But at some point, a thin old guy in a black coat emerges from the crowd and just wraps himself around Lenin’s chest.

Oleksandr Techynskyi:
Yeah. He was trying to protect Lenin with his own body.

Julia Barton:
And did he say anything this whole time?

Oleksandr Techynskyi:
Yeah, he was. He was saying that it’s not right. It’s not correct. Please don’t do that. It’s a…

Julia Barton:
Barbarism.

Oleksandr Techynskyi:
Barbarism. Yeah.

Julia Barton:
Another man pats the old communist on the back. A little threateningly. He’s saying to this old communist sympathizer, “You’re the last one in the whole city, in the whole country, understand? When you die, things in this country will get better.” Eventually, some volunteers and reflective vests lead the old man away by the arms. His hat is gone. He looks ready to faint.

Roman Mars:
For the protesters, this old man and this statue of Lenin represents old Ukraine, one that is associated with the Soviet Union and with Russia. The protesters saw themselves as new Ukraine, independent and allied with the European Union.

Julia Barton:
The same protests that brought down that Lenin statue, eventually brought about a new government in Ukraine and that new government has been trying to get rid of all kinds of physical reminders of communism and of Russia: Lenin statues, names of streets and towns.

Roman Mars:
But it hasn’t always been easy to get rid of these things, logistically or politically, because it erases a part of history that is still important to some Ukrainians.

Kateryna Dronova:
People in different parts of Ukraine can see that history difference.

Julia Barton:
That’s Kateryna Dronova. She’s the legal editor at voxukraine.org, a website for Ukrainian news and policy analysis.

Kateryna Dronova:
For someone, it is a history of oppression. For someone, Ii is the history of having your town being developed under the Soviet rule and the process of Industrialization.

Roman Mars:
To understand all this, we should zoom out a bit. Ukraine is a country about the size of Texas that is bordered by Russia to the east and the rest of Europe to the west. So it’s nestled right between two superpowers, the European Union and Russia.

Julia Barton:
A lot of people in the U.S. still refer to Ukraine as “Value Crane”. Like the Midwest or the South – a region. It drives Ukrainians crazy.

Roman Mars:
But there is a reason for the mistake. For centuries, Ukraine was a region controlled by more powerful entities around it and the word Ukraine literally means borderland.

Julia Barton:
In the 1920s, much of the territory of Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union. Despite the efforts of a lot of people, who wanted it to be an independent country. In the 1930s, millions of Ukrainians died in a famine that Stalin engineered by forcibly taking food from peasants and trapping them into starvation.

Kateryna Dronova:
It was the policy of collectivization. They would take away the possessions of the people. They would collect the grain from farms and people were starving.

Julia Barton:
Many scholars believe Stalin did this specifically to cripple the movement for Ukrainian independence.

Roman Mars:
A decade later, during World War II, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, especially people in the East near what is now Russia, fought and died with the Soviet Red Army, but a smaller number of people in the West, who wanted an independent Ukraine, allied themselves with the Nazis.

Julia Barton:
And the Soviet Union and Germany both wanted control over Ukrainian territory.

Kateryna Dronova:
The territory of Ukraine was the territory of clashes during the second World War.

Roman Mars:
When it was all over, even more of Ukraine was part of the USSR. Soviet authorities wanted the people of Ukraine to unite around the narrative that they had defeated the Nazis and that communism would help the country rebuild.

Kateryna Dronova:
It was the story about winning the war and coming back victoriously and trying to rebuild the country from scratch. They had to find this inner resource to relaunch the country again and it was very hard because they come back to empty houses if houses at all because mostly the territory of Ukraine was heavily bombed.

Julia Barton:
As part of a campaign to unite Ukraine under the banner of Communism, the Soviets put statues of the USSR’s founding father, Vladimir Lenin, everywhere.

Roman Mars:
Ukraine eventually had around 5,500 statues of Lenin in the whole territory of Russia, which is 28 times the size of Ukraine. There were about 7,000 Lenins.

Julia Barton:
Apart from covering Ukraine in Lenins, the Soviet Union did help develop and rebuild Ukraine in the years after World War II. Small villages became big industrial cities.

Roman Mars:
But the Soviet regime also imprisoned by some estimates around 2 million Ukrainians in gulags and because the so union was not a free society with a free press, many people had no idea that kind of oppression was happening.

Kateryna Dronova:
This whole oppression and building up labor camps and gulag in the USSR and this information was not disclosed so people didn’t have access to that information.

Roman Mars:
The USSR said, “Everything is fine,” as they put up more and more Lenin statues all over Ukraine. Ukraine eventually became the most Leninized territory in the USSR.

News Anchor:
“The Chief State TV channel was halfway through its evening news when it got the first details of the agreement signed in Minsk. Quoting from it, the anchorwoman announced, ‘the Soviet Union no longer exists.'”

Roman Mars:
In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. Ukraine became its own separate country and so did Russia, but Russia hung onto its Soviet past.

Kateryna Dronova:
Russia, after the collapse of the USSR, officially announced that it is the successor of the USSR. It’s kind of the same. They have the music in the National Anthem, it’s the same. It’s just the words that have changed. (national anthem plays)

Julia Barton:
Russia dropped the tenants of communism and embraced capitalism in many ways, but the leadership of the country, especially current president Vladimir Putin, never stopped being proud of the Soviet legacy.

Roman Mars:
Ukraine, meanwhile, has struggled with its identity since gaining its independence in 1991.

Kateryna Dronova:
For a very long time, Ukraine was very indecisive, I would say, in international politics.

Julia Barton:
Would the country orient east towards Russia or west towards Europe? It was hard for Ukraine to completely cut ties with Russia. For one, they relied on it for coal and gas, but also many Ukrainians have strong cultural connections to Russia.

Kateryna Dronova:
Ukrainians have a lot of relatives living in Russia and it’s culture, it’s family, and it’s business relationship too because both nations speak the same language. It’s very easy to carry out business activities.

Roman Mars:
For years, the country seemed to vacillate. Some presidents of Ukraine lean west towards Europe. Others oriented east toward Russia.

Julia Barton:
And all of those Lenin statues and other communist symbols in the built environment? In Western Ukraine, where people felt less loyalty to the Soviet era, they got rid of most of them right after independence. But in the rest of Ukraine, they mostly stayed put. The will to remove them just wasn’t there.

Roman Mars:
And then in 2013, the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, tried to back out of a deal to bring Ukraine closer to joining the European Union. Huge protests broke out. The tide had turned, Ukrainians were in the streets saying they didn’t want to be beholden to Russia anymore.

Julia Barton:
These are the same protests that led to the Lenin statue being torn down in Kyiv, the one that you heard at the beginning of the story, but that’s not the only statute that came down. People started spontaneously tearing down Lenins all over Ukraine. So much so, that they had a name for it, ‘Leninopod’ or the ‘Falling of the Lenins’.

Roman Mars:
In February of 2014, following days of bloody protests in which more than a hundred protesters were killed, Viktor Yanukovych was forced out of the presidency and fled Russia. The protesters in Ukraine established a new government.

News Reporter:
“It had been a violent and shocking few days for Ukraine, but ultimately, the protestor’s victorious in their aims to top Yanukovych and installed a new government.”

Roman Mars:
Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t like that Ukraine was turning away from Russia and toward the European Union and in March of 2014, he expressed that by taking control of a part of Ukraine called Crimea.

News Reporter:
“This morning, more unidentified pro-Russia armed militias are controlling the streets of Crimea’s capital.”

Roman Mars:
Meanwhile, hundreds of miles to the east, Russian-backed separatists started fighting the Ukrainian military. Those battles continue today. At least 10,000 people have died.

Julia Barton:
By the end of 2014, Ukraine’s new government, now definitively oriented towards the west, had inherited a country in crisis. You might think Lenin removal would be at the bottom of their list, but battles with the separatists made the government want to rid its landscape once and for all of its Soviet past, which was linked with the enemy: Russia.

Kateryna Dronova:
When you have lost certain territory and you’re likely to lose another territory on the east and you have the community that is extremely polarized, the west and east, and dismantling Lenin monuments and dismantling the Soviet past in general, is a big, very, very powerful symbol.

Roman Mars:
One year after coming to power, the new government led by Petro Poroshenko, decided to make the falling of the Lenins into state policy. His allies in Ukraine’s parliament passed a package of bills called decommunization laws. Various post-Soviet countries had already passed similar laws. In Ukraine, these laws did a number of things to outlaw communism. One of which was to ban communist symbols.

Julia Barton:
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.

News Reporter:
“Ukrainians in Kharkiv have celebrated the toppling of a monument to form a Soviet leader, Vladimir Lenin.”

News Reporter:
“A 20-meter statue of Soviet Dictator, Vladimir Lenin, has been taken down in the Ukrainian city…”

News Reporter:
“Another day, another Lenin monument falls in Ukraine’s war-torn east.”

Julia Barton:
Some places in Ukraine got really creative about complying with the decommunization laws. A factory in Odessa hired a sculptor to refashion the figure of Lenin as Darth Vader.

Roman Mars:
Overseeing the removal of all these symbols is a government organization: the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.

Alina Shpak:
I’m Alina Shpak. I’m the deputy head of Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.

Julia Barton:
Shpak told me it’s not easy to go from totalitarianism to democracy.

Alina Shpak:
That’s a very complicated process definitely. Coming from a totalitarian society up to a democratic society.

Roman Mars:
It’s also not easy to erase communism from the built environment. The Soviets made things to last. There are long bridges lined with wrought iron hammers and sickles. There are whole forests planted in such a way that if you fly over, you see the Cyrillic initials for the USSR and there are neighborhoods that do this too.

Alina Shpak:
In Ternopyl, for example, when we have a set of buildings which are built up in such a way so as to construct letters of USSR letters, for these buildings.

Roman Mars:
That’s one communist symbol that may have to stay for now.

Julia Barton:
Shpak says the process of decommunizing isn’t just about removal. It’s also meant to help Ukrainians learn their own history. Which is why in many cases, the Institute of National Remembrance has suggested that towns revert to the names they had before the Soviets changed them. This is actually what happened to Kateryna Dronova’s hometown.

Kateryna Dronova:
The Institute of National Remembrance made a proposition to restore the historical name of the town.

Julia Barton:
In 2016, the name of her town was restored to Kamianske.

Kateryna Dronova:
It is rooted back to 1750 when there were cossack settlements.

Julia Barton:
The Soviet name of Katerina’s town that it had up until 2016 was Dniprodzerzhynsk.

Kateryna Dronova:
Dniprodzerzhynsk and it’s absolutely unpronounceable. Even for natives.

Roman Mars:
In Dronova’s Town, the majority of people just wanted to keep the old unpronounceable Soviet name because she says it was just a tiny village before the Soviet set up a metallurgical plant there. The city owes its very existence to the Soviet history.

Kateryna Dronova:
It has become a town. It has become so big because of the Soviet rule. So it does make sense that there was a big part of the population that opposed the change.

Julia Barton:
But in the end, it didn’t matter if the people wanted to keep the name. Their town was named for a prominent Soviet figure, Felix Dzerzhinsky, who founded the Soviet secret police and the new law mandated the town’s name be changed.

Tarik Cyril Amar:
What local communities do not have is a choice to keep the Soviet names.

Julia Barton:
That’s Tarik Cyril Amar a historian of Ukraine in Eastern Europe at Columbia University in New York.

Tarik Cyril Amar:
This type of, as I would say, fairly ham-fisted attempt at dealing with the Soviet legacy, is actually producing some of the Soviet legacy – some of the habits of doing things the Soviet way.

Roman Mars:
And this is a major criticism of the decommunization laws that Ukraine is being kind of authoritarian about separating from their authoritarian past. Not just because people don’t get a say in whether they change the name of their town, but because the laws also make it illegal to join the Communist Party or display any kind of Soviet symbols or to deny the quote “criminal nature” of the Soviet regime.

Kateryna Dronova:
It is forbidden to deny the criminal nature and the criminal nature is not defined so we’re not even sure about what we’re not allowed to deny a question.

Julia Barton:
Scholars we spoke to for this story oppose these parts of the decommunization laws. The ones that seem to limit freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Dronova believes the laws are too ambiguous. It’s unclear if, for example, wearing a t-shirt with Karl Marx on it could make you criminally liable. Since the formal process of removing communist symbols began in 2014, more than 50,000 objects have been renamed. This includes cities, towns, villages, streets, squares and parks and more than 2,000 monuments and memorials have been taken down or modified.

Roman Mars:
In general, these changes have been hardest on Ukraine’s older population. The people who lived under Soviet rule, who didn’t understand how bad it was for some people because there wasn’t a free press or freedom in academia. The extent of the repression was hidden from the general public. Some Ukrainians are now just finding out that millions of people died because of Stalin and that millions more were put into gulags.

Kateryna Dronova:
These notions of oppressions, the facts and statistics, come to them as a big revelation right now and there is a, you know, denial.

Julia Barton:
There’s been a lot of change in Ukraine in the past couple of decades and it’s still volatile. Over a million people have been displaced and some Eastern parts of the country are locked in semi-permanent conflict with Russia.

Kateryna Dronova:
You live in this permanent condition of not knowing what’s going to happen next and what to expect. That’s why it is easier for someone who has been, you know, living under the Soviet rule to feel nostalgic about it.

Julia Barton:
Dronova says that for now, many Ukrainians have shifted away from wanting to be allied with Russia and toward wanting to be allied with the EU, but Russia still exerts a lot of political influence and there are pro-Russia forces within the country that could cause trouble for a long time.

Roman Mars:
Despite feeling like some parts of the decommunization laws are too ambiguous, Dronova thinks that removing communist symbols in public spaces is an important step as Ukraine continues to develop as an independent nation.

Kateryna Dronova:
I think it is. I think it is because I think it should have been done earlier. It should be understood that it’s never easy to do that. There would always be a certain percent of the population that would strongly oppose that change.

Julia Barton:
It’s tricky for Ukraine, for any country really, to figure out how to leave behind symbols of oppression without completely denying and erasing the past.

Roman Mars:
In Lithuania, which was also a part of the USSR, they threw a lot of their Lenin, Stalin, and Karl Marx statues into one park, Grutus Park, unofficially called Stalin’s World.

Kateryna Dronova:
And the park is open for visitors. So those people who feel, you know, very sentimental about the whole communist part and communist issues, they are welcome to come there, visit, and enjoy the view of the big Lenin statues in the multiple variations around.

Julia Barton:
Ukraine doesn’t have any such park, but there have been some efforts to acknowledge the existence and loss of these monuments. For a week in 2016, a group got permission to put a temporary installation around the empty pedestal in Kyiv that used to hold the same Lenin we heard being toppled at the beginning of this story. The installation consisted simply of metal stairs that people could ascend to stand on a platform placed over the pedestal and then descend on the other side.

Roman Mars:
In the process, they could see the world from Lenin’s perspective and of course, take a selfie.

Julia Barton:
A Ukrainian curator who helped organize the installation, says it’s “a way of asking what a monument is for and everyone decides for themselves.” That’s because she says, “decommunization starts first in the mind.”

  1. Olivia Golden

    Hi,
    I was in Fremont, Seattle, Washington a few years ago and was amazed to see a Statue of Lenin!! It was the most surprising thing. I wonder how many Lenin statues stand around the world totally out of context. With so many Lenin Statues existing there must be more that were brought out of Ukraine and ended up somewhere else. I’d listen to that Podcast (though of course, I listen to all your podcasts)!
    Thanks for the entertainment.
    Olivia (Dublin, Ireland)

  2. Great episode Team. It reminded me that there is a Lenin statue in Seattle somewhere. Bit closer to beautiful downtown Oakland California than the war torn streets of Kiev! Saw it when we passed through on our USA road trip a couple of years ago. It was brought over from Slovakia I think. His left hand is painted red to symbolise the blood spilled by the communists… There’s a photo on our semi REM themed travel blog if you fancy a look…. :)

    Keep up the good work!
    Dave and Kirralee – biggest 99pi fans in Australia!!

    http://www.mexicotonewyork.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Portland_Seattle_010a.jpg

  3. Dani R

    I don’t think you’d have a problem with how Germany legally treats their Nazi past right? then don’t be so surprised the Ukrainians do the same with a system that killed and brutalised even more people.

    And I’d even say that many people in the west are now waking up to what communism stands for and what it did. We must treat communism the way we treat national socialism.

  4. Mykyta

    It is true story. I am from Ukraine. I took part in great protests in 2001, 2004 and in 2013. I was making “molotov cocktails” next corner when first Lenin was demolished. I saw that man who want to save Lenins monument, my ultra-left comrades even ttied to reconcile him. I did not participate in revenge against statue. I thought it is not efficient using of social rage. And now I sure that war with monuments it is fake and not right way for our country, in place of economical changes, developing of democracy and free market.

  5. A serious and informative piece of work. What’s missing, however, is a central (not side) aspect of the story: thanks largely to the extremely activist and politicized leadership of the Ukrainian Institute of Memory, the decommunization policy is also used to shield Ukrainian nationalists, especially during World War Two, from public debate and criticism of their real historical record, which included ethnic cleansing massacres and participation, to one substantial extent or the other, in the Holocaust. (These facts have nothing to do with “Russian information warfare.”) This “linkage” between decommunization (aimed at loosening the hold of Soviet myths) and nationalist revisionism (aimed at strengthening the hold of nationalist myths, which are untruthful and also divisive in Ukraine itself) is not at all necessary or “natural.” Instead it was deliberately constructed and enshrined in law precisely by the head of the Institute of National memory. Thus what is presented to the West as ‘simply’ decommunization also serves the ethno-nationalization of memory – and it’s meant to do so. Decommunization may have genuine rationales; it is also a cover. It is quite a tragedy to see how the attack on one set of authoritarian myths (of the far left) is used to help install another one (of the far right).

    1. This is an extremely important point, and I’m so glad that Professor Amar brings it up here. As a reporter, I really wrestled with explaining the complex historical factors behind Ukraine’s decommunization — it’s a struggle to do justice to all that in an audio format for a general audience. Prof. Amar has a very valid criticism of the piece and really any story that tries to take on a history such as Ukraine’s in the 20th century, with its multiple layers of tragedies, repression, ideology and warfare. I’d urge everyone to check out this piece about the uglier side of Ukrainian nationalism here: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/166945/no-time-to-waste-in-ukraine Also listen to Prof. Amar’s recent interview on WNYC’s On the Media about his concerns: http://www.wnyc.org/story/radical-historian-rewriting-ukraines-past

    2. Piotr

      Valid point. As mentioned in the piece, Ukraine ‘continues to develop as an independent nation’. These debates around decommunisation, strong palarisation between east and west, desertions in Ukrainian army during the ongoing conflict and especially the abovementioned idea to instill Stepan Bandera, a psychopath mass murderer, as a national hero (!) speak for themselves. There’s an extremely long way to go. In Poland for example laws also dictate changes in town names (and street names, which are currently undergoing a thorough decommunisation), they make it illegal to even start a Communist Party, display Soviet propaganda, the “criminal nature” of the Soviet regime is as clear as a blue sky and yes – wearing a communist T-shirt is forbidden by law and even if it wasn’t, doing so can get you in serious trouble. But Poland was a well constituted nation well before the communist regime was installed in 1945. Ukraine at the time was in the beginning of the definition of the nation, stopped by the WW2 and the post-war order. I hope they’ll finally make it.

    3. Ksenia Everton

      You are completely missing context with your WWII comment. The nationalists had zero interest in ethnic cleansing. All they wanted was to have the freedom to speak their language and practice their religion. Stalin’s agenda was always to erase Ukrainians as a people and erase their culture (which is why he killed millions of them in the most horrific ways and sent more millions to labor camps). Hitler, who also believed Slavic people to be inferior, didn’t however, have a priority of ridding the world of everything Ukrainian. Thus, the Ukrainians hoped that if they sided with Hitler, he would help them be free of Stalin. This lasted very briefly, as Ukrainians quickly learned that Hitler has no intention of helping them what so ever. My home town in Ukraine was largely Jewish and many of my Ukrainian family members who were nationalists never had any issues with the Jewish population. Many of them participated in the anti-Stalin resistance AND helped to save many Jewish friends.
      Every single family in my city in Ukraine has dozens of horrific recollections of how Russians killed, tortured, starved, sent to labor camps, burnt, and raped many members of their families for several generations . If you lived in that reality (or you can read any Ukrainian literature from the last 250 years), you would understand why there was this very brief military alliance with the Germans. Ethnic cleansing was never part of the Ukrainians’ agenda, only the freedom to be Ukrainian. The “Ukrainian nationalists are Nazis” argument is a cliche, brainwashing tactic used by the Russians. Based on the events that continue today, it is clear that Russia is still trying to get rid of us.

  6. Humboldt

    This was a fascinating episode and I appreciated the attempt to explain why some people in Ukraine may still feel nostalgia and appreciation for the symbols of a regime that was, by any standards, murderous and oppressive. I would be curious to see if a future episode of podcast could cover the issue of Confederate memorials and monuments in the southern United States with a similar degree of evenhandedness.

  7. Mathias Voss

    This was a great episode about a very serious and current issue. However, i’m struggling to find the design aspect of it all. I know that one of the key beliefs of the podcast is that design is found everyhere (an idea i completely agree with), but talking about Ukraine, using the angle of the statues, seems like a stretch to me.
    I had the same thoughts about the Stone Wall Riots episode.

    What do you guys think? Does it even matter when the quality of the podcast is just as great as the ones concerning infrastructure, architecture, fashion and other more obvious design stories?

  8. Lenin is as despicable as Hitler. There is no justification for his images still being around the world, unless you’re a real fascist or you don’t know a thing of history.

  9. Darcy

    There is about 2 minutes missing from the episode availble from the podcasts app. I found the missing parts available here, but thought others might have a similar problem. The episode from the podcasts app jumps about 24 seconds into the episode and cuts the intro story out completely.

    1. 99pi

      Can you tell us what kind of device (make/model) and which app you are using?

    2. Darcy

      Device: iPhone 6 Model A1586
      App: Podcasts version 2.5.2 (1140.8)

  10. Sophia Alecci

    I grew up in Fremont, Seattle, and as a kid I walked past a giant Lenin statue everyday. I never completely understood why this Lenin statue was in the middle of Seattle, a rather progressive city. I always liked the statue, because it was a landmark that always made it really easy to explain where I lived. I’ve long since moved away, and over the years it seems more and more out of place. I really appreciated this episode, and it opened my eyes to some of my sheer ignorance. I’m curious what the general response is to the Seattle statue, do people want to take it down? Have people tried? How did it end up there? Who fought against having it there?

  11. Anton

    A Ukrainian living in Ukraine here. Gals you get a solid A for your effort. Yet a C for the quality of your material. Sorry, I see you did extensive research and tried very hard, but there’s a bunch of things you got wrong. I also know that language barrier is a problem, Ukrainian materials are harder to discover if you don’t speak the language, although Google Translate works wonders these days. Some criticism below:

    THE ARTICLE

    * Removing statues is not erasing the history. Removing statues is removing statues.

    * The word “Ukraine” does not mean “borderlands”, in fact we don’t know what it means and what are its origins.

    * Holodomor was not orchestrated to crush the independence movement, it’s been crushed long before that. The Holodomor (the largest of several orchestrated famines) targeted the farmers who didn’t want to join the Kolkhozs (communist collective husbandry). Most of Ukrainians were farmers back then.

    * “A decade later, during World War II, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, especially people in the east, fought and died with the Soviet Red Army.”
    – nope, millions (not hundreds of thousands) of Ukrainians fought and died in the WWII, conservative estimate is at least 1.3M dead, other estimates state about 10M of military, partisans and civilians deceased. Ukraine was the largest war theater in the Eastern Europe. Millions of Ukrainian soldiers after defeating Nazis in the USSR went on to liberate Europe and a significant number (can’t give you the number off the top of the head) went on to liberate China. Pretty much everybody, not just the people in the east of Ukraine fought the Nazis.

    * The map you use in the article is manipulative. Possibly put together by these “Russian trolls”. I assure you nobody “gave” territories to anyone ever. Especially in the first half of the XX century. Also, all of the territories marked on the map are populated by ethnic Ukrainians, which is why they are called Ukraine.

    * All of the Ukrainian presidents leaned toward Europe, except Yanukovych. Strong connections with Russia, however, really existed, their remnants still exist.

    * You keep saying “Western Ukraine” and “Eastern Ukraine”, that’s not how Ukraine is organized. It consists of (clockwise, north oriented) Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, and Central Ukraine. Also, note this is not the administrative division, but rather a convenient way of referring to the parts of the country.

    * “…protests broke out, and the people began pulling down Lenin statues on their own.”
    – nope, the statues were being removed months later.

    * “In February of 2014, following days of bloody protests, Viktor Yanukovych was forced out of the presidency and fled to Russia. The protesters in Ukraine established a new government.”
    – this is false and ridiculous. Yanukovych was never “forced” out of presidency, he just fled. The protesters never established any form of government and most went home in early March 2014. Presidential elections were scheduled (after Yanukovych went missing) for June 2014 by the Parliament elected in 2012. Parliamentary elections were scheduled for 2015 by the same Parliament as well.

    * “It’s unclear if even wearing a communist t-shirt could be considered a punishable offense.”
    – it’s pretty clear that wearing a communist t-shirt is not a punishable offence if you read the actual law (which, I guess, you didn’t).

    * “Because the Soviet Union didn’t have a free press, or freedom in academia, the extent of the repression was hidden from the general public.”
    – although the USSR really didn’t have free press, the general public was absolutely aware of the repressions, since it was the general public being repressed.

    * “Some Ukrainians are just now finding out that millions of people died because of Stalin, and that millions more were put into gulags.”
    – although there might be, like, five people in Ukraine who’ve been living under a rock for years, which constitutes as “some”. The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians are well aware of Stalin’s atrocities and the GULAGs

    * “Meanwhile, Russia still exerts a lot of political influence in Ukraine and there are pro-Russia forces within the country that could cause trouble for a long time.”
    – Russia has about zero political influence here as of now. But Russian government has agents of influence embedded in the Ukrainian political system as well as a horde of spies. That is a real problem we are facing today.

    VIDEO:

    * nope, Ukraine is not divided as shown on the map in the video, in fact the division demonstrated comes from vote results in 2004 presidential elections (Yuschenko vs Yanukovych), and means just that, the dynamics have been changing quite a bit since then. The map, however, was used a lot by Russian propaganda, so, I guess, that’s why it’s pretty common on the Internet.

    * nope, Crimea doesn’t sit on oil and gas, in fact it doesn’t sit on anything valuable. There’s some oil and gas in the Black Sea shelf, but it’s closer to Romania and Odessa county than to Crimea.

    * Ukrainians are bilingual, stats showing 46% of russian speakers are wrong. 99% of Ukrainians speak Russian including me. That’s due to how Soviet and post-Soviet education system worked. There are, however, maps showing prevalance of Ukrainian/Russian language by region and those maps are nothing like what is shown in your video.

    * nope, we don’t know how many people of Crimea voted for joining Russia, since we don’t know how many voters participated in the “referendum”. The registry of voters for the entire country is held some place in Kyiv (unlike the US, you don’t need to register for voting, but instead you get an invitation for each election/referendum by mail if you are in the registry. Every citizen of Ukraine becomes a voter automatically upon reaching 18) Also, the options in the ballots were loaded. Also-also, the ballots weren’t protected by watermarks and stuff and could be copied easily. Basically the whole event was bogus as hell.

    COMMENTS:

    * To Tarik Cyril Amar, dear sir, please, do you research. The public debate on UPA role is raging as it’s always been. Decommunisation is not aimed at loosening Soviet myths, those died long ago during Perestroika. Nationalist revisionism is literally what is NOT happening. The Institute of National Remembrance is just another useless government department leeching off the taxpayer money, you are grossly overestimating its role.
    “It is quite a tragedy to see how the attack on one set of authoritarian myths (of the far left) is used to help install another one (of the far right).”
    – it’s a tragedy to see a professor making judgements without any prior research or understanding of the subject.

    So, that’s that. Feel free to ask any questions, clarifications, sources, etc. I didn’t include sources in this comment, because it already got a lot longer and took more time than I initially expected and it’s 1am already here, but if you need some, dear reader, some I’ll get them for you.

    1. Julia Barton

      Thank you for the extensive and thoughtful comment, Anton! Are there sources in English that you recommend on Soviet and post-Soviet Ukrainian history?

    2. Ksenia Everton

      Thank you, Anton. I was just typing out many of the exact same comments here on the map, the comments, and other details of the podcast.
      I was also furious That the one source they had “we share the same language (referring to Russia)” HELLO!!!! How about the UKRAINIAN language that many millions of us use and many millions lives were lost to preserve?!?!? Unbelievable!
      Please see my response to Tarik Amar — seeing people spread falsehood about our people is incredibly frustrated.

      99% Invisible — this podcast was promising, but ultimately disappointing and has reduced my trust in your reporting abilities.

    3. Ksenia Everton

      P.S. Anton, I think when you say 99% Ukrainians speak Russian, you mean that 99% of Ukrainians CAN speak Russian. In the west, were I grew up, we all spoke Ukrainian. The fact that much of central, easter, and southern part of Ukraine is speaking Russian right now is the success of Stalin’s and Lenin’s deUkrainization.
      I wish there was a way to reverse that, but it is a personal opinion.

  12. Roza

    Pretty sad to see you use “Kiev” instead of “Kyiv”, especially considering you mention the difference between “The Ukraine” and “Ukraine” in the podcast. Could you please correct this in the article?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All Categories

Playlist