Hello, Lenin

Russians occupied a small town near Kherson and immediately put back up the Lenin monument that Ukrainians had taken down after the 2013 revolution and the birth of Ukrainian democracy.

The monument had been broken in 2015, so the Russians had to glue it back:

Please note the two flags on the administrative building. One is Russian and another is Soviet.

The removal of Soviet-era monuments and the renaming of Soviet-era streets that Ukrainians undertook after 2013 was a huge pain point for Russia. It was far from being the only or even the main pain point but it was very much there.

Once again, you need to know the region and understand all this history to be able to speak knowledgeably about what’s going on. Neat, tidy narratives won’t work. What do Lenin and the Soviet flag mean to the generation that probably doesn’t remember the USSR? Why do they mean so much?

11 thoughts on “Hello, Lenin

  1. \ What do Lenin and the Soviet flag mean to the generation that probably doesn’t remember the USSR? Why do they mean so much?

    I know more than most English-speaking users, yet still probably miss something.

    From what I understand, Russian new ideology is an unholy mixture of consecrated Romanov family, castrated communism and a cult of pseudo-stability.

    The first two provide the imperialist drive, while the latter uses fears of the hard past to justify the ugly present, helping ignore the creeping (before the war) degradation of not developing country.

    The communist internationalism also suits current Russian desire to annex Ukraine and Belarus. They were all one country in FSU times, thus the reference to idealized version of this past via Lenin and the flag.

    Besides, Putin and many ‘vatniks’ do remember the USSR very well, while people in their 30ies-40ies experienced USSR as children, so naturally have fond memories of their childhoods and much less nice memories of struggling in the harsh economy of the 90ies. I remember 90ies as a child and the memories are not pleasant, to say the least. Donbass area was hit badly, even if some people – like your family – enjoyed new opportunities.


    1. Yes, it’s all this and something more. Why isn’t the Russian flag enough? Why does it need to be supplemented with the Soviet flag that’s appearing increasingly often in the war?

      This is a sign that the Russian flag doesn’t carry enough meaning. There’s no emotional attachment. There’s no nation-state here that can generate an emotional response through the invocation of its symbols. Even the two flags together, the Soviet and the Russian, aren’t managing to create anything like the Ukrainian enthusiasm for the Ukrainian flag.

      The only way people fight is if there’s either a religious reason, a good pay (like in the pre-nation times), or an attachment to the nation-state. Otherwise. . . you can fight but you don’t win.


      1. “Even the two flags together, the Soviet and the Russian”

        What is it about the Russian flag… the first time I saw it I though…. meh. Not distinctive at all. I guess there wasn’t much to choose from but of course the real problem is Russia has never reached the nation state level. It’s still… for the lack of better terminology a feudal construct with some playing their parts wholeheartedly (vatniks, fascist babushkas, solovyov and his ilk – the clergy) and others just kind of marking time and trying to ignore what’s going on..

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Russians themselves refer to their flag as “an ad for Aquafresh toothpaste.” These colors are more recognizable as the toothpaste (whose introduction in the 1990s was a bigger deal than the flag) than a symbol of Russian patriotism. This is why Russians are so rabid over the signs of Ukrainian nationalism. They feel a gaping hole inside where their equivalent to these symbols should be located. But instead of saying, “we should have something like this, too,” they try to destroy the reminders of what they’ve been deprived of.

          See how much deeper this discussion we are having here is than the standard narrative about the NATO and all that?

          People have also started saying “Russians want communism because see, there’s a statue of Lenin.” That’s very superficial, too. Nobody wants “Communism.” Putin is a Communist like I’m Kamala Harris. You can’t understand what’s happening without thinking about the nation-state.


  2. Funny:

    Что по-своему забавно – давеча, накануне СВО, Путин толкал речь, в которой прямо обличал Ленина… как основоположника украинского нацизма. Круг замыкается еще раз.

    “Путин назвал Владимира Ленина автором и архитектором Украины. Он напомнил, что сегодня в стране сносят ему памятники. Если Украина, «созданная большевиками, хочет настоящую декоммунизацию», то Россия это устроит, заверил президент.

    Видимо, это она и есть на фотографии.



    1. Well, they would have gladly dragged out a statue of Stalin instead but those were destroyed back in the 1960s, so it wasn’t readily available.

      As we know, Stalin’s main disagreement with Lenin was on the status of the Soviet republics. Stalin didn’t want them to be republics and instead insisted that they be included into Russia with the status of autonomous regions. When Putin denounced Lenin’s contribution to the Ukrainian nationalism, he was siding with Stalin without mentioning him directly. Again, only the people who know this history and understand the historical trajectory of the USSR can understand this.

      This disagreement between Stalin and Lenin was so huge back in the day that Stalin almost got expelled from the Bolshevik party over it. The official narrative is that if Stalin’s viewpoint had prevailed, the USSR wouldn’t have broken up in 1991.


  3. Good old Soviet times: the people had nothing but they could take pride in themselves. Today, what can they be proud of ? There is a Russian soul and a Russian idea (Russkaya mysl) and a Russian people, but there is no Russian “nation” in the sense that we take it to have in the West. Building a state is not the same as Nation building. You need the latter before you can get on to the former.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! People should look at Russia and think about the neoliberal state. This is what it looks like. Extreme inequality, the government that feels no obligation to anybody but the oligarchs, people are completely dispensable, confused, angry. Family links are broken. No shared language, no shared culture, constant need for war to experience any sense of purpose or togetherness. It’s all total garbage. Who wants to live like this? How is this am improvement over the nation-state?


      1. Russia is primarily a kleptocracy. I don’t think you can really use it as an illustration of much else. Perhaps the official policies resemble those of a neoliberal state, but the money doesn’t go towards the stated goals anyway.


        1. Corruption can exist in any state form. Here I’m talking about something that’s bigger than the qualities of individual officials. It’s an entire state-form that’s in question.


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