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Odessa creates tongue-in-check tribute to Soviet founder

February 20, 1997

ODESSA, Ukraine (AP) _ A granite Lenin statue points skyward. A bust of Lenin’s head rests in the slush, its features chipped but the look ever determined. And a bronze Lenin monument points at _ another Lenin statue.

The dozens of statues and busts of the Soviet founder in an Odessa park form a unique museum _ or graveyard _ for the many monuments to Vladimir Lenin that were hastily pulled down in Ukraine after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Here lie busts of Lenin that once adorned schoolyards, greeted factory workers and presided over city halls. They now face each other defiantly along a 500-yard lane in the Lenin-Komsomol Park.

Odessa Mayor Eduard Gurvits sees the park as an innovative solution to the ideological dilemma facing hundreds of former Soviet cities: What to do with all those Lenins?

In planning the display last year, Gurvits called it ``a memorial to history _ so that it will never be repeated.″

Some older folks come to the park to pay homage to the bearded revolutionary whose face and dogma dominated their youth.

``I call it the alley of shame,″ said Vladimir Fyodorov, a retired naval officer who visits the park regularly. ``They line him up here to laugh at him. Nobody respects his genius.″

In many former Soviet republics, most Lenin statues have been torn down and thrown away, though in Russia some of his monuments still stand.

In central Moscow, a tree-shaded spot has become resting place for discredited statues rescued from warehouses or destruction, but Odessa’s Lenin-Komsomol Park is the only tribute to Lenin alone.

Inna Aron, a schoolteacher walking her Great Dane down Lenin lane, said she wanted to bring her students to the park.

``I don’t agree with his beliefs, but we can’t forget about him,″ she said. That, she says, would be little better than the sanitized history preached during Soviet times.

But her husband, Alexander, said the park wasn’t intended to be taken too seriously. ``Satire. Pure satire,″ he said.

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