• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Welcome back, Lenin': Soviet leader returns

AFP · 10 Sep 2015, 15:55

Published: 10 Sep 2015 08:55 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Sep 2015 15:55 GMT+02:00

The 3.5-tonne piece, long buried and half- forgotten in a forest on the edge of the city, will become an eye-catching highlight of a new museum exhibit of key figures that played a role in Germany's turbulent history.

Workers dug up the goateed and bald-headed likeness of the communist leader and used an industrial crane to lift it onto a truck for what may have been Lenin's final journey across the sprawling capital city.

"Welcome back, Lenin," quipped Gerhard Hanke, district councillor for culture in Spandau city, west of Berlin, where the head arrived in a museum - only slightly worse for wear, missing its left ear.

Hanke said Lenin "wasn't a big man, but a great figure", as the granite likeness was carefully lowered with a forklift, before Russian and other international TV crews.

The cross-city transport was reminiscent of a scene from the bitter-sweet 2003 reunification comedy "Good Bye, Lenin" in which the revolutionary's head was airlifted by helicopter across the roofs of Berlin, symbolising the demise of communist East Germany.

While that scene was entirely fictitious, the real-life journey of the sculpture of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, alias Lenin, has been no less dramatic.

People power, sand lizards

At the height of the Cold War, which divided the city and the world, the 1.7-metre (five-feet) -high head was part of a statue carved from Ukrainian pink granite that towered 19 metres above East Berlin, framed by Soviet pre-fab apartment tower blocks.

It was designed by Nikolai Tomsky, then president of the Soviet Academy of Arts, and its massive stone blocks were hauled from Russia to the socialist brother-state in a convoy of trucks.

The statue was inaugurated before 200,000 people on April 19, 1970, three days before the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birth, and remained there for 31 years, dominating a square named after the Bolshevik revolutionary.

After a wave of people power brought down the Wall and the Iron Curtain - sending Lenin and Marx statues toppling across eastern Europe - the Berlin icon too became a lightning rod for public anger.

Lenin's head lying outside the Zitadelle Spandau museum in west Berlin, where it will be exhibited from 2016. Photo: DPA

The first mayor of reunited Berlin, the conservative Eberhard Diepgen, ordered its removal in late 1991, wanting to rid the city of an icon of a "dictatorship where people were persecuted and murdered".

The statue was disassembled over months as workers cut through granite, concrete and steel beams inside, splitting Lenin into about 120 parts.

The pieces then were trucked to a secluded forest in Berlin's far southeast and buried in sandy earth.

For long it seemed Lenin's head would remain buried, until historians started campaigning for its excavation.

Story continues below…

As recently as a year ago, the Berlin government claimed no-one knew exactly where it was, at which point a Berlin-based US film-maker helped out.

Rick Minnich told local media he knew where it lay, having partially unearthed it in the early 1990s for a "mockumentary".

Local officials relented and gave the OK for Lenin's "resurrection".

But the excavation was further delayed when environmentalists identified a colony of endangered sand lizards, which, after a biological field study, was resettled on a nearby pile of rocks.

In its new home, the Spandau Citadel museum west of Berlin, Lenin's head will be a showpiece of the exhibition "Unveiled. Berlin and its Monuments", set to open in early 2016.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Poland criticizes Germany’s 'self-serving' foreign policy
Witold Waszczykowski. Photo: DPA

The Polish foreign minister has said that Germany all too often follows its own interests at the expense of its partners, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to visit Warsaw.

Vast majority of Germans in favour of burqa ban: poll
Women wearing niqab veils in Saudi Arabia. Photo: DPA.

A survey found that the vast majority of respondents were in favour of Germany passing a ban on the full-body veil sometimes worn by Muslim women.

Czech police detain driver for harassing Merkel's motorcade
Angela Merkel. File photo: DPA

Czech police arrested a man on Thursday for attempting to drive into the motorcade of visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Prague, they said.

Teacher convicted for holding kids back after class
Photo: DPA

A music teacher from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has been found guilty of "holding people against their will" after he made some naughty stay kids back after class.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,614
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd