MEPS urge French city to remove Lenin statue

28th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Dozens of European lawmakers have backed a drive to get a French city to remove a statue of Lenin erected last year, saying it insults the memory of the Soviet Union's victims.

Vytautas Landsbergis, who steered Lithuania's split with Moscow in 1990, said raising a monument to the communist revolutionary two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain was deeply wrong.

Landsbergis was one of 70 members of the European parliament who signed an appeal to authorities in Montpellier, southern France, to take the monument down.

He warned against commemorating leaders simply due to their historical importance.

"An important role played in certain areas cannot overshadow crimes," Landsbergis said. "Genghis Khan was also was also very important, but they haven't built a statue to him".

The 3.3-metre (11-foot) bronze of Lenin was among several of historical figures unveiled last August by controversial local leader Georges Freche, who died in October. He also erected monuments to Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Franklin Roosevelt, and had one to Mao Zedong in the pipeline.

Freche had defended the decision to honour Lenin and Mao, insisting their political legacy outweighed the bloodshed associated with the communist regime.

But that stance rankles in the Baltic.

Lenin, real name Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, led Russia's October Revolution in 1917 and was leader of the Soviet state until his death 1924, a period of civil war and violent political repression.

Lithuania and fellow Baltic states Latvia and Estonia won independence from Russian rule at the time. But Lenin's successor Joseph Stalin, whose police state claimed millions of lives, seized them during World War II.

They were scarred by the deportation of hundreds of thousands of their citizens to Siberia and Central Asia in the 1940s and 1950s.

Moscow only recognised their independence in 1991, and they joined the European Union in 2004.

"If there's a statute to Lenin, there should also be a plaque to those who died because of him. Honouring Lenin is blasphemy to the memory of all the victims of Soviet repression," Latvian European lawmaker Sandra Kalniete, who was born in Soviet captivity, was quoted saying by the Baltic News Service.

© 2011 AFP

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