Aleksandra Kuczyńska-Zonik (Lublin): Soviet monuments – symbols of victory, loss or reconciliation?

The principal goal here is to examine the statues’ role in constructing the relation between the Soviet monuments and social transition in Central and Eastern Europe. The focus will be on statues in the Baltic states where the controversy and ambiguity of the Soviet heritage are still actual. The Soviet monuments in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are deeply linked to historical experiences of the war and of the Soviet period, and serve as a symbol of heroic victory (for Russian speakers) or occupation, deportation, and loss of independence by the Baltic States (for ethnic Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians). My discussion is based on the assumption that heritage is a matter of permanent political and social discourse, seeing Soviet monuments as a dissonant heritage in the context of the ongoing process of de-communization. Here I pay attention on the Soviet monuments that have been still existing in the public space. Firstly, the Soviet monuments strengthen cultural identity and sense of belonging of Russian speakers. The monuments also support a trend of nostalgia and sentimentalism towards Soviet times, and of commemoration of the Red Army heroes. Secondly, the statues constrain confrontational relationships between national and ethnic identities. Right-wing parties and many ethnic Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians have demanded that the monuments be removed. Finally, some of them, the desolate, abandoned monuments have become socially neutral, which is why they do not arouse emotion. Instead, the abandoned status of those objects seems to indicate that the transition has been accomplished, and society is reconciled with the past. Residents do not take care of the objects, thus showing that they are rejecting the past in a more peaceful (»natural«) manner. In other words, their attitude toward the objects of memory indicates their attitude toward the past that these objects symbolize.