Finland on Tuesday tore down its last public statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, as dozens gathered in the southeastern city of Kotka to watch its removal.
Some brought champagne to celebrate, while one man protested with a Soviet flag as the bronze bust of the leader, in a pensive pose with his chin in his hand, was lifted off its pedestal and driven away on a lorry.
“Removing the statue of the founder of one of the most brutal systems of government in the world, Soviet Communism, from the streets is a great thing,” 77-year-old spectator Matti Leikkonen said.
For some people, the statue was “to some extent dear, or at least familiar” but many also called for its removal because “it reflects a repressive period in Finnish history”, city planning director Markku Hannonen said.
Finland — which fought a bloody war against the neighbouring Soviet Union in World War II — agreed to stay neutral during the Cold War in exchange for guarantees from Moscow that it would not invade.
This forced neutrality to appease its stronger neighbour coined the term “Finlandization”.
But many Finns consider the statue to represent a bygone era which should be left behind.
“Some think that it should be preserved as a historical monument, but most think that it should go, that it doesn’t belong here,” Leikkonen said.
The statue was given as a gift to Kotka by the city of Tallinn in 1979.
It was vandalised several times, even prompting Finland to apologise to Moscow after someone painted Lenin’s arm red, local daily Helsingin Sanomat wrote.
In recent months, Finland has removed multiple Soviet-era statues from its streets.
In April, the western Finnish city of Turku decided to remove a bust of Lenin from its city centre after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a debate about the statue.
Lenin’s monument represented an “undemocratic and tragic phase in human history” which is “not in line with the values of the city of Turku”, Mayor Minna Arve said at the time.
In August, the capital Helsinki removed a bronze sculpture called “World Peace” gifted by Moscow in 1990.
After decades of staying out of military alliances, Finland announced it would apply for NATO membership in May, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
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