Finland state

Finland’s last statue of Lenin sparks heated debate | News

After Turku removed its statue of Lenin, Kotka is the last Finnish city to have a monument to the founding leader of the Soviet Union.

A statue of Vladimir Lenin stands in a park in Kotka. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

A larger-than-life bust of Lenin sits in a hidden park in the southeastern town of Kotka, but since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the monument is suddenly at the center of national debate .

The sculpture was received as a gift in 1979 from the Estonian twin town of Kotka, Tallinn, then part of the Soviet Union. Since then, the statue has been the target of vandals and protesters.

At the start of the Winter War in 1939, Kotka was one of the first areas bombed by the Soviet Union. The city’s bust of Lenin stands near a building where civilians were bombed by Soviet planes. The municipality has already received requests to remove the statue and put it in a regional museum, rather than destroy it outright.

Professor of Sociology Kotka Juhani Pekkola for some time has wanted the statue of Lenin removed from the city centre.

“The bombing of civilians is a war crime. A monument like this is in the wrong place. Instead of the aggressor, we should remember the people of Kotka who died in the bombing, the heroes of war, war children, and war orphans,” Pekkola told Yle.

Two-thirds of respondents to an online survey by local newspaper Kymen Sanomat said they would like to remove Lenin’s statue from the park.

Finland has a complicated history with the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin. Lenin spent time in Finland around the turn of the century and was the Soviet leader who signed the documents granting Finnish independence in 1917.

This story was important during the Cold War, when Moscow had a strong influence on Finnish society and Lenin was promoted as a friend of Finland despite his role in the Russian Wars and the Red Terror around the founding of the Soviet Union. .

In 1946, the first Lenin Museum outside the Soviet Union was opened in Tampere, where it is still in operation today. Besides busts of Lenin, the Soviets also donated other statues to communities across the country in order to spread their influence in Finland.

However, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Finnish statues of Lenin came under greater scrutiny. Critics argued that the sculptures insulted those who died at the hands of the Soviet Union, while supporters argued that the pieces were tied to the history of Finland itself and should be considered works of art. ‘art.

In mid-April, Turku decided to remove its own statue of Lenin from the city center due to the controversy surrounding it. Turku received it as a gift in 1977 from the city then named after the revolutionary, Leningrad – or present-day Saint Petersburg.

Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

Preserving History

Russian researcher and propaganda Reeta Kangas, of the University of Turku, considered these statues as historical monuments. As an art historian, she wishes to save monuments that may occupy an uncomfortable place in the public consciousness. Kangas said she believes the monument can take on new meaning through open discussion.

“You can talk about things and not just carry statues to one of the art museum’s warehouses to gather dust. It’s hard to see the monument glorifying Lenin more truly, but it remained a document of the past,” explained Kangas.

Kangas questioned the justification for Turku’s decision to remove Lenin’s statue from the city. According to her, there is a political reason behind this: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t understand the logic. After all, there is a statue of Alexander I in Turku, and no one has responded to this statue, even though it symbolizes the same great power as Putin,” Kangas stressed.

The Lenin Museum intervenes

The director of the Lenin Museum in Tampere, Kalle Kallio, also sees no connection between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Lenin’s statues. The Lenin Museum is the only museum dedicated to the revolutionary outside of Russia and is housed in a former workers’ hall where Vladimir Lenin and the eventual longtime Soviet leader Joseph Stalin first encountered in 1905.

Kallio agreed with Kangas, citing an inconsistency in the removal of the statues

“Helsinki’s Senate Square has a statue of Tsar Alexander II. In our history, he is the ‘good Tsar’ who allowed the use of the Finnish language and during which the markka [Finland’s then-currency] came. If we don’t accept Lenin, then why do we accept Alexander II?” Kallio asked.

Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

The future of the statue?

The Kotka City Council is still deliberating what to do with the statue.

Some council members oppose its removal.

To advise Leena Griinari (Green) said she would like the statue of Lenin to remain in its current location, but feels an explanatory sign is needed. Griinari said she considers the statue a work of art by the sculptor Matti Varikthe Estonian artist commissioned to create it in 1979.

“Here’s the artist’s irony that Lenin only has one hand, and it’s not his left. Whether or not this is some kind of subtle statement is debatable,” Grinari reflected.

In 1995, a sculpture of Lenin’s missing arm was unveiled near the statue as part of an art exhibition.

Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

“I think it’s all full of symbolism. Of course, it’s worth preserving on the basis of art history, but also on historical grounds,” Griinari explained.

The removal of the statue raises the question of forgetting or changing history. Kallio of the Lenin Museum treats these statues as mere statues, and he does not think the perception of the past is altered whether a statue is indoors or outdoors.

He referred to the statue controversy in the United States, where there has been a drive to remove monuments that glorify the legacy of the Confederacy. supporters of segregation build the majority (siirryt toiseen palveluun) of these statues in the United States in response to the civil rights movement throughout the 1900s.

“If the people of Kotka decide that Lenin’s Square is no longer outside, then it would be possible to remove the statue. But you have to be consistent. There may be other things that could no longer be exposed if we painted these issues so broadly,” Kallio recalled.