In April 2015 Ukrainian Parliament approved the new law that condemned the totalitarian Communist and Nazi regimes and banned all related symbols and propaganda. Practically this so-called decommunization law means that all kind of USSR-related imagery including public art works depicting episodes from Soviet history and monuments of Communist leaders are to be demolished around the country. Most of centrally located monuments were pulled down quite rapidly, this process became known as “Leninfall”. But the further destiny of minor and remote ones is a bit more obscure as the political pressure isn’t that strong for local governments in smaller towns and villages.
I started to shoot and research Soviet cultural heritage in all regions of Ukraine including Crimea right after the outburst of Revolution of Dignity in late 2013 when it had become clear that the nation’s attitude towards the Soviet past came to the point of complete reconsideration. My aim is to create a visual archive of once dominant and now vanishing elements of the cityscape, and to show different cases of how the symbols of the past have been reworked, vandalised, confusedly hidden and also mixed with new symbols referring to “patriotic identity” and thus appropriated by new political agenda.
Over the past four years, I worked on creating a multilayered visual archive of Soviet cultural heritage in the public space of modern Ukraine. I traveled across the country and captured the state of objects (or their remnants) from the Soviet era that until recently were everywhere and today are almost gone. The images reveal the diversity and frivolity of approaches to “decommunisation” taken by authorities, active communities and resourceful communal services offices. The numerous granite Soviet leaders, gypsum young pioneers, cast iron soldiers and stone workers have been transformed, vandalized, concealed, strangely decorated, or combined with elements from the new arsenal of “patriotic symbols” and thus appropriated by the new political conjuncture.
The project problematizes the “hidden agenda” of official political memory and draws attention to the lack of civilized mechanisms of working with the past.