News / Europe

Communist Symbol Ban Spreads Among Russia’s Neighbors

Bans on Communist Symbols Spread Through Russia’s Neighborsi
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James Brooke
August 16, 2012 1:45 AM
The countries and regions around the edges of the old Soviet Union are banning communist symbols -- hammers and sickles and five pointed starts. James Brooke reports from Western Ukraine on the growing symbol gap between Russians and their neighbors.
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LVIV, Ukraine — In Lviv, Western Ukraine nationalists fought last year to block communists from bringing red flags to the city’s World War II Hill of Glory.  This year, Lviv banned all public displays of Communist and Nazi symbols.

The ban on hammers and sickles and swastikas follows similar bans in the Baltics, in Georgia, and in much of Eastern Europe.  Moldova implements its ban on October 1.

In front of Lviv’s Opera House, where a statue of Lenin once stood, there is now a fountain. And near the railroad station, where there was once a fountain, there is now a statue to the late Stepan Bandera, a leader of the anti-Soviet Organization of Ukrainian nationalists.

"The new monuments that we see being built are monuments to the national heroes, who are viewed as heroes here, who were fighting the Soviet Union," said Sergiy Kudelia, a political scientist in Lviv.

But in Moscow, there are 93 statues and busts of Lenin.  From their side of the history divide, many Russians say the Soviet Union was a force for progress.

Alexander, who makes a living impersonating Lenin for tourists visiting Red Square, says Ukraine developed economically and culturally as part of the Soviet Union. He says that only Ukrainian nationalists oppose communist symbols.

Back in Lviv, magazine editor Taras Voznyak retorts that Russians cannot shed their imperial world view:  He says modern Russia sees itself as the successor to the Russian Empire and the Soviet Empire.  Ukraine, he says, always played a subordinate role to Moscow and can not see itself as a successor to the Soviet Union.

In the latest clash of historical views, the Kremlin financed "The Match," a new Russian-language movie about Soviet resistance in Ukraine to the Nazis. Ukrainian nationalists tried to have it banned in May because all Ukrainian speakers were shown as Nazi collaborators.

The former mayor of Lviv, Vasil Kuibida, charges the 1930s Soviet-era famine, or "Holodomor," easily killed as many people as Nazi wartime atrocities in Ukraine:  He says more than 10 million Ukrainians died in the famine and millions more were executed or deported to labor camps in Siberia.

In turn, some Russians charge that many Western Ukrainians are soft on fascism.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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by: curt from: USA
August 17, 2012 10:32 PM
In Eastern Europe during the early 1990's I remember seeing statues of prominent communists, Lenin, Stalin and such, painted so that they looked like they clowns or vagrants. My regret is I never took a photo of them.


by: Mike from: California
August 17, 2012 6:14 PM
There are many kinds of censorship. Take California for instance: If a person "violates" the rule of political correctness, the media, politicians, and social activists will all attack you. Even the state government may get involved. Usually these topics have to do with race, gender issues, sex, and immigration. Regardless of a person's position on these issues, they should be free to express those positions but they are not allowed to. Recently, Facebook postings have been castigated in the media by the Thought Police.

At one time it was illegal in U.S. slave-states to make anti-slavery statements. We are not that far away from outlawing other forms of speech.

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