The Soviet obsession with statues is clear. From Berlin to Bishkek, the former Iron Curtain cities are littered with these grand images of strength and unity – propaganda and personality cult – like the scattered wreckage strewn across the landscape in the wake of a mighty storm.
For those too young to remember a time when these effigies where a permanent and unquestioned fixture of the town hall square, these alien objects must seem like the abandoned props from a giant movie set, or an art installation thats got out of hand.
For those who can remember these times of pain and strife, however, the question of memory becomes a very poignant one. Now that this empire has collapsed, what should be done with its remnants? Do these statues deserve a place in the public square or are they only fit for rubble? The answer to this question is extremely revealing; an indicator of how memory and Soviet rule are treated in the modern day.
To the former Soviet nations that still fly the Communist flag, heroic images of Lenin and, unbelievably, Stalin still take pride of place in the central plaza, reinforcing the central tenets of a Communist ideology that still harbours delusions of grandeur.
In Tallinn, however, the story is very different.
Grab a bicycle and head towards Pirita along the beautiful cycle path that hugs the lapping waves of the Baltic Sea. As you glide on the tarmac, admiring the view and inhaling the fresh sea air, keep an eye out for a large building perched atop the hill, overlooking the bay. This grand structure is the Estonian History Museum, a fitting location for many a fine piece of Estonian heritage, preserving memories for generations to come. Maybe the Estonians saw fit to store the statues in here?
Instead of heading in through the main entrance, take a stroll around the side of the building and behold the majesty of the Soviet regime… a dumping ground of scattered statues, disarranged and abandoned, waiting for a revival that will never come. Providing nothing more than a unique photo for any traveller that will venture this far from the Old Town.
As I write, Lenin and Stalin sit there, stern-faced and defiant, left to the mercy of the elements. The crumbling facade of a once-great regime; forgotten. In a final act of apathy and indifference, the Estonians have made their opinions on the memory of the Soviet Union perfectly clear.
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