Posts Tagged ‘Exhibition’

Comrade Lenin is back

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Twenty-four years after the 62-foot statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin was buried outside of Berlin, Germany, its granite head was unearthed this month and placed in a Berlin museum. Just last year, in August 2014, the Berlin senate had claimed that the giant statue was lost. At that time, authorities had maintained that they knew the general location of its burial place but had no records of the precise location. Digging up the entire pit, long overgrown with shrubs, to unearth Lenin’s head had seemed too costly an undertaking.

Who was Comrade Lenin?

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian communist revolutionary and politician. He played a senior role in the October Revolution of 1917. Under his administration the Russian Empire was dissolved and replaced by the Soviet Union. His political theories are known as Leninism. Admirers view him as a champion of working people’s rights and welfare. Critics see him as a dictator responsible for civil war and massive human rights abuses. In East Germany, Lenin was held up as a model communist.

Where was Comrade Lenin’s statue located?

Designed by Nikolai Tomsky, Lenin’s giant sculpture was originally located in Leninplatz (Lenin Square) in the Friedrichshain district of former East Berlin. A gift from the Soviet Union to East Germany, the monument was carved from Ukrainian red Kapustino granite. Three days before the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth it was unveiled before 200,000 guests. The celebration took place on 19 April 1970. Subsequently, in 1992, the square was renamed Platz der Vereinten Nationen (United Nations Square).

Lenin statue at Leninplatz, Berlin, photo Bundesarchiv, Germany

Lenin statue at Leninplatz, Berlin,
photo Bundesarchiv, Germany

Why was Comrade Lenin’s statue removed?

The East German government had commissioned the statue to express East Germany’s reverence for and gratitude toward Lenin. But following the fall of the Berlin Wall, many Germans wanted to get rid of Soviet symbols, and Berlin’s then mayor Eberhard Diepgen ordered the statue to be removed. Critics argued that the monument was part of the history of the neighborhood and should remain. Nonetheless, two years after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, demolition took place.

Since 1994, a bubbling fountain has taken the place of Lenin’s sculpture in the Platz der Vereinten Nationen (United Nations Square). Now, water bubbles from five roughly hewn granite boulders in a group of fourteen that grace the square.

Where was Comrade Lenin’s statue buried?

The demolition of Lenin’s statue began in November 1991 and took several months. It was split in 129 sections and buried in a sand pit at Seddinberg in the district of Treptow-Koepenick, a southeastern suburb of Berlin. It seemed that Lenin’s statue would remain buried forever until historians started campaigning for its excavation last year. When the Berlin government claimed not to know where exactly it was buried, Rick Minnich, a Berlin-based US filmmaker, stepped up. He told the media that he knew its precise location because he had it partially unearthed a few years earlier for his 1990 film, Good-bye, Lenin.

Where is Comrade Lenin’s head now?

On 10 September 2015, Lenin’s 3.5-ton granite head was transported from the Seddinberg sand pit to Berlin’s Spandau Zitadelle museum. It is scheduled to be the showpiece in the Zitadelle’s exhibition, “Berlin and its Monuments,” which will display more than 100 original Berlin monuments from the 18th century to the fall of the Wall. According to Berlin officials, Lenin’s head will remain the only part of the statue to be excavated. All other sections will remain buried.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.