The view over the impressive statue of Lenin in the district of Großer Dreesch in the city of Schwerin looks like a postcard from the past. With his hands in the pockets and his venturous look, the communist idol stands in the middle of an unvaried landscape of Soviet architecture and long parallel avenues.
But not everyone feels comfortable about this glance of “Ostalgia” (a term created to define the East-German nostalgia): This figure of Lenin, made by the Estonian sculptor Jaak Soans and inaugurated on 22nd June 1985, is causing heated debates among politicians, citizen and historians, who, divided in supporters and detractors, are continuously arguing about its future. There is a wide variety of proposals, from the immediate destruction to the restoration.
After the reunification several action groups have tried to force the removal of the statue. On 17th June 2014 there was a demonstration in front of the figure of Lenin and his head was covered as a sign of protest. Politicians of different parties supported the initiative and remarked the importance of erasing symbols of injustice in our society. Georg Kleinfeld, leader of the Junge Union (JU), said categorically: “No one wants to have a serial killer in his neighbourhood. Neither a statue of him.”
Despite the striking argumentation, it has never been effective enough to convince the city council to remove the sculpture. At least a few years ago a critical information panel about Lenin was set in front of it.
On the opposite side there is a strong movement, which fights actively for the maintenance of the monument. The German Communist Party and the German Socialist Labor Youth consider Lenin as the mentor of modern socialism and demand the preservation of the figure. The day of the protest requesting its demolition, they organized a counter-demonstration under the slogan: “Love, laugh and read Lenin!” On the floor, in front of the statue they tagged with bright letters: “Lenin stays!”
Other groups are less enthusiastic when it comes to honour the founder of the Soviet Union, but criticize the destruction of monuments as form of handling with the historic responsibility. Sources close to the city council explain that the statue of Lenin should be respected and preserved as a memorial and a piece of art. The mayor Angelika Gramkow is tired of the eternal debate about Lenin: “This discussion is being held repeatedly since the 90s. I will not take part of it anymore.” Her personal position is clear: “Lenin is tolerable.”
Parallel to this political debate, there are other proposals for solving the issue, some of them quite eccentric. A family from the city of Teterow wants to buy the statue, in order to melt it down and make church bells out of it. The owner of the disco Kremlin in Schwerin wants to acquire it for decorating his dance hall.
But not everyone is just merely arguing and discussing. From both sides there have been repeated acts of vandalism: The opponents of Lenin smudge the statue, while his supporters attack the information panel, which is rather unflattering regarding the Soviet revolutionary, making it illegible.
While there is no solution and the debate holds on, the over 3 meters high Lenin will keep on standing at the Hamburger Allee and in the sunny afternoons his imposing shadow will invade the streets of Little Moskow (which is not called like this dew to the monument, but because of the high number of Russian emigrants).
UPDATE: When I visited the statue again in the summer of 2021, I noticed that it had been renovated and cleaned in the meantime. After the city discovered deficiencies in the stability of the monument caused by frost, it had the pedestal restored and the sculpture cleaned in 2020. So now the statue can be seen again in its original splendor on the former Leninallee.