In a continued push by lawmakers throughout the country in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, statues and monuments paying tribute and honoring Confederate leaders and generals are being taken down one-by-one. However, in Seattle, the chief executive is calling for Confederate statues to be removed as well as a statue paying tribute to the former Soviet premier and communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.
Like many lawmakers, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray calling for the removal of Confederate statues is expected. However, for a city as far to the left of the political spectrum as Seattle, it’s puzzling that a statue of Lenin was erected in the first place, and that the political leader of the city from the Democratic party is calling for its removal.
In a statement on Thursday, Murray said, “In the last few days, Seattleites have expressed concerns and frustration over symbols of hate, racism and violence that exist in our city. Not only do these kinds of symbols represent historic injustices, their existence causes pain among those who themselves or whose family members have been impacted by these atrocities.”
He continued. “We should remove all these symbols, no matter what political affiliation may have been assigned to them in the decades since they were erected. This includes both confederate memorials and statues idolizing the founder of the authoritarian soviet regime.”
The Confederate memorial is located at Lake View Cemetery near Capitol Hill, while the Lenin statue is in the heart of Fremont. Both are standing on private property.
“We should never forget our history, but we also should not idolize figures who have committed violent atrocities and sought to divide us based on who we are or where we came from,” Murray concluded.
According to KIRO7, some view the statue of Lenin as a joke, while others believe it’s a work of art. The 16-foot bronze statue was created by Emil Venkov, a Bulgarian sculptor, created the statue in the city of Poprad in the former Czechoslovakia in 1988. Poprad is now Slovakia.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the statue was removed from its original location in 1989. Lewis Carpenter, a native of the Seattle suburb, Issaquah, found the statue in a Poprad scrap yard in 1993 and paid $40,000 to have it transported to the Pacific Northwest. Carpenter had to mortgage his house in order to get it done.
After Carpenter died in 1994, Peter Bevis, founder of Fremont Fine Arts Foundry, had it installed in 1995 after initial plans to place it in public were scrapped. It now stands in the heart of Fremont today.
When asked about the statue, Murray said, “You can look at the statue in two ways. It is a statue of a man who killed hundreds of millions of people. It’s also considered a joke. So is it a statue honoring him, or is it a statue actually making him into a joke? There are several different ways to look at it. I can see how some folks in the city, particularly from eastern Europe might find that Lenin statue not a joke, but perhaps something that should be removed.”
A recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll found that 60 percent of millennials do not want to have Confederate statues removed. So far, there is little polling on whether they also want statues paying tribute to communist leaders removed, too.