Donald Weber Photographer

Monumental Propaganda

The Soviet poet Mayakovsky once wrote: “Whoever does not sing with us today, he is against us.”

Across Ukraine today, Soviet monuments are rapidly disappearing. Empty pedestals sit with an inscription someone has attempted to erase, but not completely: V. I. LENIN. How do these empty granite cubes affect people’s imaginations? Do they feel powerfully there ought to be someone standing on it? And if no one is standing on top, then how do these absences affect the references of the citizenry, the topographical and metaphysical sense of place, of belonging to something?

A common belief of every new generation is that they are inherently different and will never be like their ancestors. But that is not the way things seem to work out. The present generations are no better or worse than others; their beliefs, mistakes and behaviour depend on the historical and personal circumstances in which they grow up. It doesn’t take a prophet to predict that people will be blinded again, and more than once, by false teachings, will yield to the temptation of endowing certain individuals with superhuman qualities and glorify them, raise them up on a pedestal and then cast them down again.

Later generations will say that they were fools, and yet do the same. History hates empty pedestals.

“And you, disdainful descendants . . .”—Lermontov