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Crane Removes Last Lenin Statue in Former Baltics With AM-Russia-Lenin

December 21, 1993 GMT

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) _ While 30 Russian pensioners and war veterans shouted protests, a crane pulled from its pedestal the last public statue of Vladimir Lenin in the former Soviet Baltic republics Tuesday.

″This is an act of vandalism 3/8″ complained Yuri Mishin, an anti-government leader and a former city council member in the city of Narva. ″Lenin is loved in this city and most residents are very angry about this.″

But the new mayor of Narva had a different reaction.

″It’s about time,″ Raivo Murd said, speaking by telephone from his office in Narva, where the bronze statue of the Soviet founder had stood for 41 years. ″This was purely an ideological symbol .. . we don’t need it anymore.″

But the mayor was not completely without respect for the Communists in the crowd; he personally ordered workers not to put the cable around Lenin’s neck.

In the end, it was economics as much as politics that sealed his fate. Lenin, it seems, was bad for business.

″In the past, when we tried to tell investors we were pro-reform. They took one look at that Lenin statue and said: ’We don’t believe you,‴ Murd said.

Lenin statues were a central feature of nearly every town throughout the former Soviet Union. But the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were quick to shed the trappings of communism. Most Lenin statues came down within days of the failed Soviet coup in August 1991.

After Estonia won independence in 1991, authorities in the capital, Tallinn, pressured Narva to take the 10-foot statue down. But Narva, a 96 percent ethnic Russian city located along Estonia’s border with Russia, repeatedly refused.

Estonian President Lennart Meri even weighed in on the issue, calling the statue an insult.

″The fact that this well-known politician and a syphilis patient still stands in this historic city is shameful,″ Meri said during a visit to Narva last month.

The new city council, elected in October to replace the old body dominated by ex-Communists, has taken a more conciliatory line with Tallinn and agreed last week to remove the statue by Christmas.

Indrek Tarand, until recently a special government envoy to Narva and now the prime minister’s chief of staff, said that Narva’s Lenin statue long symbolized the conflict between Tallinn and Narva, between ethnic Estonians and ethnic Russians.

″Narva has been a true Leninist city,″ he said. ″I hope with Lenin gone the process of getting rid of Leninism will begin and Narva will become more reform-minded.″