Looking for Lenin in Ukraine: new photo exhibition opens in Newcastle

Looking for Lenin in Ukraine: new photo exhibition opens in Newcastle
A headless statue of Lenin in the Ukrainian town of Shabo. Image: Niels Ackermann

10 January 2018

In April 2015, the Ukrainian government announced a new wave of “decommunisation”: removing Soviet-era symbols from the country’s towns and villages.

With relations with Moscow at an all time low, the effects were fast and far-reaching. Streets and villages were renamed. The Soviet flag was outlawed. And across Ukraine, more than 5,500 statues of Lenin — the ever-watchful architect of Communism — were toppled. But what happened next?

Swiss photographer Niels Ackermann, who has built his career by documenting changing communities, was on hand to document some of the changes. He came to Ukraine in the aftermath of the 2014 revolution to capture the country’s struggle to forge a new identity.

Travelling with journalist Sébastien Gobert, he documented the remains of the once revered monuments.

The result of their work — Looking for Lenin — is now on show at Newcastle’s Side gallery.

Both men say the show explores three fundamental questions: What is the meaning of this decommunisation? How does it relate to the war in east Ukraine where Russian-backed rebels are fighting troops loyal to Kiev? How should we look at Lenin and the history he shaped?

“Lenin is dead”, says Gobert, “but his name still weighs heavily on the present and future of Ukraine.”

Looking for Lenin will run at the Side Gallery in Newcastle until 25 March 2018.

To read more about Ackermann and his work, check out The Calvert Journal’s full interview with the photographer here.