x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Lenin statue going, going, gone in Mongolia

The Life: Ulaanbaatar's city council announced last month it planned to remove the last statue of Lenin in the Mongolian capital after deciding the Soviet-era relic was a symbol of repression.

The last bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin in Ulaanbaatar is removed. Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir / AFP
The last bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin in Ulaanbaatar is removed. Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir / AFP

The Big Ticket customarily brings you news of luxury trinkets adorned with hefty price tags. But this week, the emphasis is on the "big" rather than "ticket", as we flag up the opportunity to buy a larger-than-life statue of Vladimir Lenin.

Ulaanbaatar's city council announced last month it planned to remove the last statue of Lenin in the Mongolian capital after deciding the Soviet-era relic was a symbol of repression.

The mayor, Bat-Uul Erdene, a founding member of Mongolia's Democratic Party who helped to overthrow the communist government in 1990, went as far as to describe Lenin and his fellow Communists as "murderers".

The four-metre bronze statue has clearly seen better days since it was erected in front of the luxury Ulaanbaatar Hotel in 1954: the metal is discoloured, the plinth collapsing. The good news is that this is reflected in the auction's low starting price of 400,000 tugrik (Dh1,069).

Opportunities to buy such relics are diminishing as many of the statues of Lenin that were erected across the capitals of the Soviet Union after the revolutionary leader's death in 1924 have been torn down or turned into scrap.

Lenin has very much fallen out of favour in Mongolia since capitalism swept the country in the early 1990s, with many people benefiting from the concomitant mining boom. Now, statues of the 13th-century warlord Genghis Khan are very much in vogue. And in 2008, a statue honouring The Beatles was erected in front on the State department store to honour the freedom their music represented to young people living in a closed society in the 1960s and 1970s.

Still, statues of Lenin retain some popularity among older Mongolians who admire him for supporting their fight for independence from China in 1921.

Sansar, a resident of Ulaanbaatar who goes by one name, said that he was happy to see the back of the statue.

"Lenin was the leader of the communist revolution and Mongolia does not identify with communism any more," he said. "During communist times, 30,000 to 40,000 Mongolians were killed. It is a myth, anyway, that Lenin had something to do with Mongolian independence. Actually, it was Stalin and he's an even bigger murderer."

Sansar has no intention of participating in the auction. "I am not interested. Let anyone who is interested buy it. I am not interested. Mongolia is not a communist country. Now we have different values. We are a democratic country. People used to have statues of Hitler, too, but that stuff is not OK any more."

lgutcher@thenational.ae