Saturday, April 13, 2019

Dismantling of Lenin's Statue (April 13, 1991)

The current Republic Square in Yerevan was called Lenin Square during Soviet times and a huge statue of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, was the dominant feature of the square for more than fifty years.

In his blueprints of modern Yerevan, architect Alexander Tamanian located the future statue at the intersection of the square and the city boulevard (currently Vazgen Sargsian Street). At the end of the 1920, a two-meter obelisk was installed at the place with an inscription that marked it as the future location of the statue.

An open competition of projects for Lenin’s statue was launched in 1938. The winners were Sergei Merkurov (1881-1952), Popular Painter of the USSR, and two young architects who lived in Tiflis, the spouses Levon Vardanov (Vardanian) and Natalya Paremuzova.

The monument was designed to have 18 meters of height, including the pedestal. Merkurov refused to have the statue melted in bronze, due to its height (7 meters), and suggested using forged copper. The couple Vardanov-Paremuzova prepared the designs for the granite pedestal with Armenian traditional ornamentation inspired from a khachkar (stone cross) found in Gosh.

The statue was installed on November 24, 1940, on the twentieth anniversary of the sovietization of Armenia. It was considered one of the best representations of Lenin in the entire Soviet Union. The project of Republic Square won the state prize in 1970 թվականին, and architects Vardanov and Paremuzova also received the prize posthumously.

Twice a year, on May 1 (commemoration of Labor Day) and November 7 (anniversary of the October Revolution), the leadership of Soviet Armenia, standing on the three rostrums especially built-in at the pedestal, reviewed the workers’ parade. Every ten years, a wooden attachment was added to the sides of the central rostrum; the fourteen first secretaries of the Central Committees of the Communist Party in the other Soviet republics arrived in Yerevan to participate in the fortieth (1961), fiftieth (1970), and sixtieth (1980) anniversaries of Soviet Armenia. They were preceded by the highest leaders of the country in 1961 (Nikita Khruschev) and 1970 (Leonid Brezhnev). The last such parade happened in November 1988.

After the declaration of independence was approved by the Supreme Council (Parliament) of Armenia on August 23, 1990, and the “Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic” was replaced by the Republic of Armenia, it was only a matter of the time for Lenin’s statue to go. On March 28, 1991, the decision to dismantle the statue was approved at a session of the Municipal Council of Yerevan with two negative votes and four abstentions. It entrusted the executive committee of the Municipal Council to finish the dismantling by April 22. The operation was executed on April 23. A crane carefully severed the head from the body of the statue, with a multitude of people enthusiastically watching one of the symbols of the Communist regime being toppled. Both sections of the statue remained for several years in the courtyard of the National Gallery of Armenia, on the opposite side of Republic Square, and the head was later confined to the deposit of the gallery. The empty pedestal remained on its site until July 1996, when the government of the Republic allowed the authorities of Yerevan to proceed to its dismantling. The remainders of the pedestal are kept at the municipality’s deposit in the neighborhood of Charbakh.