There are a few statues depicting Lenin in public spaces in Finland. I don’t care much for them, they look boring but I get a melancholic vibe in their presence. They feel like puzzles or glitches which echo desires from a past, in a language I don’t understand. They feel displaced and lonely.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, there has been an urgent push to remove all references to Lenin from public spaces. Turku is having their minuscule Lenin bust, situated at the corner of a silent street removed and Kotka is planning the same. Helsinki has a park called Lenin’s park which might get renamed. There might be others too.
Right-wing conservative politicians in Turku argue that their statue is due to removal because it “depicts an undemocratic and tragic phase in history, which does not manifest the developing cities strategy or the humane values of contemporary Turku city” (A loose translation of a statement by Turku major Minna Arve). Their critique does not extend to statues depicting different Russian tsars or Swedish kings. They want Lenin removed because it reminds them of communism.
Their argumentation is populistic and manifest the spite which past right-wing generations felt over the achievements of organized labour movement. Moreover, the project is an attempt to evade discussing present day political relations and ties with Russia. Debating the removal of a statue is a convenient way to evade guilt over the fact that we –as the west we were– enabled Putin’s regime to emerge.
This evasion is useful for the present day Finnish politicians, who have leaned on Putin’s Russia and benefited economically from its exploitative and corrupted regime. For example Turku Energy was invested in the Fennovoima/Rosatom nuclear initiative and remained onboard in the project despite the Russian invasion of Crimea. Similarly National Coalition Party politicians have been acceptive to Russian oligarch investments (and a lot Finnish companies still operate in Russia), past Social Democratic Party leaders have worked for Nord Stream II lobbies and Centre Party leaders have taken positions in Russian banks and institutions.
The manner which the statues of a past communist figurehead is discussed, portrays them as been erected by an invading force. They were not. We did it because wanted to. It felt like a good idea at the time. Similarly, we have not been coerced into working with Putin – We took him as an opportunity and this backfired.
Removing a Lenin statue is much easier than removing the stench of failed business deals. The attention they are receiving is a symptom of diminishing political agency. People feel powerless, that they cannot change the current system. They are taking revenge on an image of past communist leader, because this is easier then figuring out why establishing liberal economical ties with the Russia state failed in developing a democratic society. Lenin has a few theories as to why… #☭