Photographs: Niels Ackermann
Text: Sébastien Gobert
‘Lenin lives! Lenin is with you!’ Since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, this hymn has been more than an ever-present slogan. Throughout the C20th, the figure of the revolutionary leader was omnipresent. As Russia prepared to celebrate the centennial of the October Revolution, however, Ukraine, the other pillar of the Soviet Empire, would have none of him. The Be-all and End-all of Decommunisation: by late 2016, none of the 5,500 statues that formerly dotted the territory was still standing.
Lenin has left the square. His face no longer overlooks the metro station. His name has disappeared from the topography of the city. This sudden eclipse evokes more questions than answers. What is the meaning of this decommunisation? How does it relate to the war in the east of the country? How should we look at Lenin and the history he shaped?
To visualize these questions, the photographer Niels Ackermann and the journalist Sébastien Gobert went in search of Lenin. In the summer of 2015, they set off, traveling through Ukraine in search of crumbled stone and fragments of metal. What began as a simple journey of curious friends became a fascinating investigation, an astonishing adventure through Ukraine in upheaval.
Every statue, whether found in a garbage dump, in the locker room of a nuclear plant, in a private collection or transformed into Darth Vader, tells a story. Through a collection of photographs, halfway between documentary and symbolism, the authors create a catalogue and typology of this decommunisation, capturing the issues of memory for this country that is seeking its own identity. Lenin is dead; Lenin is no longer with the Ukrainians. But his name still weighs heavily on the present and future of Ukraine.
Niels Ackermann talks about his work at the exhibition’s Side Gallery opening, Saturday 13 January, 2pm