Darth Lenin Comes to Odessa

Transformative art in a former Soviet state


Vladimir Lenin statue as Darth Vader, Odessa, Ukraine
Volokin Yevgeny/Reuters/Newscom

For decades, a statue of Vladimir Lenin had stood in a square adjacent to a factory in Odessa. The sculpture's days were numbered: In April 2015, Ukraine's parliament passed a law banning the former Soviet republic's remaining Communist monuments. But instead of dismantling the figure, the factory allowed artist Alexander Milov to transform it. Lenin is now Darth Vader.

The October unveiling ceremony brought out Ukrainians dressed as Chewbacca, as imperial Stormtroopers, and as Lord Vader himself. (The latter delivered a speech.) The revamped statue's head contains a Wi-Fi router, allowing people in the area to enjoy access to the Internet.

Milov, a proponent of the heritage-not-hate school of art appreciation, says that if it were up to him, the old Communist monuments wouldn't be demolished. Instead, "I want to take the statues out of the central squares of cities and put them in a different place like Disneyland, where they can be visited," he told the BBC in October. "It seems to me that if these statues are destroyed, people coming after us will have no possibility to make conclusions for themselves as to whether people needed them or not."

And if he can't preserve the stone Communists as they were? In that case, he said, he'd go a step beyond his Star Wars fan art. "I would turn them into characters from Soviet cartoons."