Looking for Lenin by Niels Ackermann and Sebastien Gobert

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Based in Ukraine for several years, photographer Niels Ackermann and journalist Sébastien Gobert take a curious look at the history of this country. Since the Maïdan revolution, the Ukrainian government has been trying to mark a clear break with the Soviet past twenty-five years after the country’s independence, notably by enacting “decommunization” laws.

The two reporters went in search of the tangible marks of the Soviet period, under its most widespread and apparently banal aspect: the statues of Lenin. These have now disappeared entirely from the Ukrainian landscape. The scene is well known, repeated dozens and hundreds of times since 1990: the statue is thrown to the ground by a large vehicle, grandmothers scream or cry, men smoke, some film the scene. But what happens to the statue after it falls? Is there a cemetery for such emblematic objects? Does the shattered Lenin have a black market value? What do people think of this destruction of symbols?

In their investigation, Niels Ackermann and Sébastien Gobert discover Lenin in the most unlikely places, gardens, garbage dumps, museum corridors, private living rooms… They bring back several interviews with their guardians or owners and magnificent images, zany or offbeat, sometimes tinged with nostalgia. Some Lenin are reconstituted, others customized or diverted – Darth Vader, Cossack or sandwich man. They have become inoffensive everyday objects, and we dedicate to them a form of tenderness, or a fierce hatred: they are the sign of a cumbersome past, which must be seized in order to invent a future for Ukraine.

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