2021.08.24 17:00

How Lenin statue fell in Vilnius 30 years ago: 'his legs were cut in line with Lithuanian folk tradition'

LRT.lt2021.08.24 17:00

Thirty years ago, on August 23, 1991, Lithuania knocked downed the Lenin statue, providing iconic images that symbolised its independence and the collapse of socialism.

A crowd was applauding in Lukiškės Square of central Vilnius when a crane lifted the black statue off its platform it had stood on since 1952.

Only the pedestal remained in the centre of the square, with knee-high stubs sticking out. It fell down soon enough, too.

“There's a Lithuanian saying, to have one's legs cut,” says Vilnius University historian Algirdas Jakubčionas, which means to be immobilised by extreme shock or fright. “This way, he [Lenin] had his leg's cut, in line with Lithuanian folk tradition.”

A Lenin statue had been a fixture of every Soviet republic capital and images of the founding father of the USSR falling from his pedestal provided iconography for the collapse of socialism.

Lithuania had declared independence from the USSR in March 1990, but it took almost a year and a half to get rid of the statue.

Jakubčionis says this was due to a complicated situation and the “double power” the country was under. The independence had been declared by the country's democratically-elected legislature, the Supreme Council, while much of the executive power was still in Soviet hands.

“In such a situation, provoking the Soviet system even more was probably unwise,” says Jakubčionis. “But once there was an opportunity, the Lenin statue was taken down and whisked away.”

The opportunity was presented by the coup attempt in Moscow that had happened just days earlier and was the final blow to the USSR. Estonia had declared independence on August 20.

“Everyone was using the opportunity presented by the disintegration of the Soviet Union,” says Jakubčionis.

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