14:08 Jul. 13, 2016
Tearing Lenin down is a move "against the past and their Soviet heritage"
When revolution comes, statues find themselves on the front line. And like pawns on a chessboard, they're often the first to fall.
It's as true for Ukraine as anywhere else in the world. Nearly a century after his death, monuments to Vladimir Lenin have come down in parts of the country, thumbing its nose at pro-Russian unrest in eastern regions.
But what of the shattered pieces? Can there be new life after the death of a statue?
The story behind "Leninopad"
Swiss photographer Niels Ackermann and journalist Sebastien Gobert seek answers to these questions as they zigzag across western Ukraine in their hunt for fallen Lenins. Their ongoing project "Lost in Decommunisation" documents the fate of the leader as he goes to ground and becomes an unlikely trophy for everyone from ultra-nationalists to local officials.
Read: What is architecture actually for?
Ackermann and Gobert say that once upon a time Ukraine possessed around 5,000 statues of Lenin - a number more impressive when you consider Russia, 28 times its size, held only 2,000 more. Approximately half of Ukraine's Lenins disappeared with independence in 1991, but the pair estimate a further 1,200 have fallen since unrest began in 2013.
The move is one aspect of Ukraine's ongoing decommunization effort. Soviet symbols, from flags to statues to road signs, were banned in 2015; Lenin Street became John Lennon Street in one humorous corner in the southwest, but by and large the process has been a somber erosion of a chapter of Ukraine's history.
The destruction of monuments - dubbed "Leninopad" ("Lenin-fall") - has been fractious and symbolic, suggest Ackermann and Gobert.
"They're all still owned by municipalities - at least on paper," Ackermann explains. In some communities local governments have voted to remove statues of Lenin. Elsewhere vigilante groups and ultra-nationalists have torn down statues independent of authorities' will.
"The way that the Lenins fall down, it's being implemented in a very dysfunctional way," says Gobert. "There's not just one process, there's not a single way that it is done."