Lenin's back, as French city honours 'great men'
Twenty years after Lenin's statues began to disappear from post-Communist Eastern Europe, the great revolutionary rose anew as a 3.3 metre (11 foot) bronze in France on Wednesday.
Flamboyant regional leader Georges Freche ordered five huge statues for the southern city of Montpellier, celebrating his heroes Lenin, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Franklin Roosevelt and Jean Jaures.
Each weighs in at between 850 kilos (1,874 pounds) and a tonne and each cost local taxpayers an estimated 200,000 euros (260,000 dollars). They were unveiled on Wednesday and will be formally inaugurated next month.
Freche, a former Socialist who was expelled by the party after making what were regarded as racist comments about the French football team, says the art will honour the "great men of the 20th century".
Next year, five more figures will arrive, bringing Mahatma Gandhi, Golda Meir, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nelson Mandela and Mao Zedong to Montpellier.
Freche's political opponents have criticised the operation as a waste of money and questioned the decision to honour some of the figures.
The Green Party has threatened to dismantle the statues, and the right-wing UMP is furious to see its hero -- Free French wartime leader General De Gaulle -- standing alongside the Russian Bolshevik revolutionary Lenin.
But Freche, who is president of the Languedoc-Roussillon region and chairman of Montpellier's development community, enjoys strong personal support despite, or perhaps because of, a history of controversial remarks.
In a recent interview with the Montpellier local newspaper La Gazette, Freche defended his decision to honour Lenin and Mao, insisting that their political legacy outweighs the bloodshed associated with their regimes.
© 2010 AFP