When Antifa, BLM, and other rioters destroyed historical monuments in various American cities, they mostly failed to replace them with anything much.
In contrast, the Russians operate in precisely deliberate way and know what their objective is: a restoration of Soviet and, to a lesser extent, Russian symbols.
Since the last invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Kremlin has talked openly about “reunification” and “returning home.” High officials nostalgically invoke analogies to the Soviet Union and “Mother Russia.”
Thus, for example, after the capture of Mariupol, the Russians destroyed a monument to Ukrainian soldiers defending the city from Russia and a statue to Metropolitan Ignatius, an 18th century Orthodox saint, who co-founded the city. The occupiers plan to replace it with a sculpture of a 13th century Ruthenian prince, Aleksandr Nevsky, whom the Muscovites claim as their own.
In Sevastopol, Crimea, the occupying authorities will change street names to honor their fallen heroes of the invasion of Ukraine. In Mariupol, Ukrainian Freedom Square reverted to old Soviet Lenin Square.
The Ukrainians reciprocated in kind; a rather indiscriminate, if understandable, wave of de-Russification of street names has swamped the nation. There were even online referenda on that.
This has been an ongoing process which commenced even before the implosion of the Soviet Union and concerns not just Russia and the Intermarium, lands between Black and Baltic seas, but places as far afield as the Caucasus, Kazakhstan, and everything else in between. In Ukraine it is called “rectification of names.”
Of course, it is monuments that are most visible targets of de-Communization and de-Sovietization. The folks in the Intermarium have been consistent and conscious about their targeting Soviet monstrosities. They resent them as symbols of Soviet domination and imperialism.
Alas, post-Communism, with the attendant supremacy of former Communists, prevented their removal in one, grand sweep after 1989. Instead, the animus against the structures of the horrific past waxes and wanes, only occasionally translating into popular anger and political will to destroy them.
Even the Poles are amiss: There is still a towering horror show called The Palace of Stalin (aka “Culture”) dwarfing everything around it in Warsaw. Had the people torn it down in 1989, the spectacle would have rivaled, if not overshadowed, the destruction of the Berlin Wall back then and forever after in the popular imagination.
Nonetheless, many Communiste-ra structures were eliminated. There is now a new uptick in removal activities in the Intermarium.
In July, the presidents of Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland actually signed an official instrument of understanding, “The Joint Letter on European Memory,” to counter “Russian historical revisionism and imperialistic narrative.”
Accordingly, Latvia smashed a huge Soviet “Victory” memorial in Riga. Estonia has followed suit. It dismantled a Soviet war memorial in Narva, right on the Russian border. Other ubiquitous status to “Red Army tank liberators” are on the chopping block throughout the Baltics, up to 400 of them in Estonia alone.
Moscow hates it, and so does the Russian (or, rather, post-Soviet) minority in the successor states. The locals love it; they feel that the Russians and their monuments had it coming. Others in the Intermarium agree.
In Sofia, Bulgaria, a gigantic Red Army monument has been defaced many times. Unknown graffiti artists painted the Soviet troops as Wonder Woman, Ronald MacDonald, Captain America, and other U.S. superheroes. Now the city mayor has vowed to excise the Soviet monstrosity.
In Poland alone 24 monuments have been liquidated since March.
As a rule, Soviet military monuments tend not to be destroyed. Instead, they are relocated from central locations in Polish towns to off site storage areas. In particular, if bodies of troops were buried at the original monument sites, they are solemnly exhumed and moved to Red Army cemeteries elsewhere in Poland.
Removing Soviet-era monuments goes hand in glove with anti-Kremlin sanctions to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and with other such moves.
The Intermarium nations that belong to the EU insist Brussels and others commemorate victims of Communism. They impose additional sanctions on Moscow and suspend economic cooperation with Russia.
They lobby to restrict visas to Russian citizens. They supply Ukraine with weapons and other assistance well beyond their means.
And they beef up their defenses. Latvia even reintroduced the draft.
Civis pacem, para bellum. The U.S. should, too. We also need monuments that unite us.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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