Monday, 24 February 2014


"Leninopad" is the name of the latest craze to hit Ukraine. Following the two-word name style of the very successful "Angry Birds", or "Flappy Birds", this one can perhaps best be rendered in English as "Falling Lenins". But there the resemblance to computer games ends, because "Falling Lenins" doesn't happen in virtual reality, it doesn't happen on your smartphone, it happens in real cities, all over Ukraine - as you can see from this map, where each of the Lenin symbols represents a city where civic statues of Vladimir Ilyich have fallen (read: "been pulled") down in the last few months:

More information:

It's not hard to understand why Lenins have started to fall so frequently. They represent the Communist and Soviet past and, while there are still many people here who regret its passing, the majority - and especially the younger generations, the ones who didn't really know Soviet days - feel no strong connection with this period of the country's history. So why bother to have statues everywhere celebrating one of its most important figures? But, perhaps more interestingly, youthful indifference is no explanation for the growing tendency for Lenins to fall (down, rather than just into disrepair) - this can only be attributed to a positive antipathy to what they represent.

You'll have noticed on the map that Lenin is more of a survivor in the south and east, and more likely to fall in the north and mid-west (in the far west he fell long ago). The southern and eastern areas of the country are Russian-speaking, and generally more pro-Russian than the others - although, in truth, I rather think the media make too much of this, in the interests of creating drama. I'm writing from Odessa, which is Russian-speaking and in the south, but I get the impression that most people here actually want to live in Ukraine, not Russia. In fact, I heard some discussion about creating another falling Lenin in Odessa earlier today. In the end it didn't happen, although other Lenins all over the Odessa administrative region have been falling recently:

Ukraine is at a major turning point in its short history as a nation-state. Right now, on the streets, in parliament, in government offices, across cafe tables, in family homes, the decision whether Ukraine continues to move away from its Soviet past, or re-establishes strong ties with Russia, is being made. For some people, the desired outcome would even be to join Russia, and forget about the historical anomaly that is the independent state of Ukraine. For others, the only acceptable outcome is a sovereign, independent Ukraine, having close ties with Europe, and even eventually being a member of the EU.

It's not clear which way the country as a whole will go. Nor if the country "as a whole" will continue to exist. Partition is a distinct possibility. I know which decision I want the Ukrainian people to make, but the choice is theirs, not mine. The falling Lenins could just be a symbol of the path they've chosen.