Out with the old, in with the new. Or so the saying goes. A saying that in recent years has become increasingly apt to describe Ukraine’s policy on the Soviet monuments of the past. The citizens of Odessa took the policy a little further however and added a comical pop culture twist. In October 2015 they decided to replace the aging Lenin statue with that of the iconic Darth Vader.
Whether to Destroy, Remove or Keep?
Since the fall of Communism there has been an ongoing debate as to how to deal with the legacy of their Communist past. Whether to destroy, remove or keep the iconic Soviet monuments of the past. Some argue that it would be dangerous to rewrite history while others claim that the monuments are nasty reminded of a past best forgotten. Each country has taken a different path. Lithuania and Budapest chose to bring all the monuments together in open air museums. Others allowed the people to remove or destroy the monuments. Ukraine recently passed laws attempting to decommunise the country of all Communist symbols. Thus, the Statue of Lenin in Odessa faced demolition.
It was at this point that an innovative suggestion was tabled by a local artist Alexander Milov. Milov, whose work can also be seen at Burning Man Festival in 2015, wanted to retrofit the Lenin statue with another iconic figure of the 20th Century, Vader.
A New Titanium Alloy Suit and Shiny Helmet
And so it was that the ageing and weathered Lenin got some a new titanium alloy suit and shiny helmet. The long sweeping coat of Lenin was transformed into a cape, the iconic clenched fist now holds a lightsabre and the iconic helmet houses a wifi router. The force has indeed awakened.
This statue in Odessa is perhaps the only monument to Darth Vader on the planet. However this is not the first time that the Star Wars villain has featured in Ukrainian politics. In the 2014 elections the Internet Party of Ukraine put forward Darth Vader as a prospective candidate for the office of Prime Minister. He is becoming something of a national obsession, or to some an embarrassment. The statue has received on balance a positive response from locals and most appreciate a lighthearted stance being taken on a highly divisive issue. It is a iconic moment where art, pop culture and politics have come together to make everyone crack a smile.