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Dushanbe's Last Lenin Dismantled E-mail

 

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Tajikistan has dismantled its oldest monumental effigy of Vladimir Lenin erected back in 1926, just two years after the Bolshevik leader’s death. Asia Plus agency dates it back to 1925.

Last year President Rahmon re-named the National Park of the capital - where stood Lenin - after the ninth-century Tajik (Persian) poet Rudaki and ordered to replace the monument by the poet’s new statue to celebrate his 1150 th anniversary later this year.

Lenin was stripped down on the night of March 1 and handed over to Tajikistan’s Art Holding. The latter will decide what to do with the capital’s last statue of Lenin.

Tajik Communists are still hopeful of retaining the right to the statue and erecting it in front of their party headquarters. The Communists’ plea was handed in to the authorities last November and thus far the government has not responded.

Shadi Shabdalov, the Tajik Communist Party’s leader, was taken aback by the news, since he learnt it only Monday morning. He has expressed his hope to Asia Plus that finally the government would comply with the party’s request for the statue relocation.

The news has thrown Communists into despair. "You can’t do that. He was a great man", Reuters quotes Sobhan Safiallayev, a party official. But it has been done and we have to wait and see whether and where the statue will re-emerge.

 

 But this muffled protest of aging Communists is not even a feeble echo of the outcry caused by the demolition of the first and main statue of Lenin in Dushanbe in September 1991. The major vestige of the Soviet Empire in the Tajik capital was pulled down and crumbled by angry protesters. Here is a fragment of The New York Times’ dispatch on September 24, 1991:

"While Tadzhikistan, a former part of the Persian empire, is not a major power among the republics, its action was a reminder of the anxious state of affairs across the provinces as the republics indulge home rule and tentatively seek a path toward survival without the central Kremlin control of the past 70 years…

As elsewhere in the falling Soviet nation, ebullient crowds had pulled down statues of Lenin in recent days as symbols of the party's demise. But the parliament struck back, declaring unconstitutional the anti-party decrees of acting President Aslonov and of Dushanbe Mayor Maksud Ikramov, and ordering troops to protect the remaining Lenin statues from vandals."

Gregory Freidin wrote on the event for The New Republic on October 14, 1991:
"Some time in early September, urged by the Tadzhik democrats, [Dawlat] Khudonazarov agreed to run for President of the Republic. On September 20th, he left Moscow for the capital Dushanbe where mass anti-communist demonstrations prompted the city's Mayor, Maksud Ikramov, to follow the example of Moscow's Gavriil Popov and order the removal of the towering statue of Lenin. I have been told that a tug-of-war between the detractors and the upholders resulted in the statue falling down and breaking into several pieces. Rakhmon Nabiev, the new emergency President has ordered the arrest of Ikramov, and to have the statue re-installed. According to the last communication from Dushanbe, Mayor Ikramov is still at large, the statue cannot be put together again, and Davlat Khudonazarov is heading the resistance."

Eventually, Mayor Ikramov was imprisoned in March 1992, but the statue did not return to its revered position. Its place was occupied by a grandiose figure of the 9th-century Tajik (Persian) King Ismail Samani in 1999. The 270 kg demolished Lenin was sold for scrap metal in 1992.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of the Collapse many other monuments to Lenin, Mikhail Frunze, Cheslav Putovsky, Yefim Shatalov, Nikolay Tomin and other Soviet leaders and commanders started disappearing quietly as well leaving speechless and fading Communist Party in a painful shock.

Some agencies have wrongly reported that the latest dismantled Lenin statue was actually the last one in the entire country. There is still a statue of Lenin in Khorogh, Badakhshan, located at the highest point from the sea level, and the tallest Tajik Lenin (12 m-high) is still intact in Khojand. And there are still many busts and smaller monuments to the leader of Bolsheviks throughout the country that keep the Soviet nostalgia alight among the elderly.

However, the National Park bronze statue was unique of its kind in Tajikistan. Built as an exact replica of its original in St.-Petersburg by Russian sculptor Vladimir Kozlov, the statue was taken first to Termez, Uzbekistan, by train. Then it was taken into pieces and put on camels. The "Lenin caravan" was escorted to Dushanbe by the Red Guard soldiers. The statue was erected in the centre of Dushanbe in 1926.

A poll conducted by Asia-Plus weekly in Tajikistan shows the degree of the population’s attachment to the statue: 29%of responders wanted the statue to stay, whereas 39% of them demonstrated their indifference by stating that there were more important problems to discuss.
 

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