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A Hidden Memorial to Lenin in a Forest

Vladimir Lenin was a controversial Russian revolutionary leader who has been idolized and demonized in equal proportions since his death in 1924. Even during his lifetime, Lenin had developed a cult of personality rivaled only by America’s George Washington, according to historian Nina Tumarkin. Tens of thousands of Lenin statues were erected across the Soviet Union and in allied Communist countries. Almost every village had one. His face adorned postage stamps, crockery, posters, and the front pages of Soviet newspapers. Libraries, streets, farms, museums, towns, and whole regions were named after him.

lenin tree memorial

Photo: Slava Stepanov

After the fall of communism, the former Soviet states made a concerted effort to cleanse itself of Leninism. Statues of Lenin were defaced, decapitated and toppled, and memorials adoring the controversial figure were destroyed. Among the handful of surviving memorials, there is one on the outskirts of Tyukalinsk, in Omsk Oblast, Russia. It’s a giant memorial, so big that in order to see it you have be airborne.

The memorial in Tyukalinsk is not your typical statue, but a grove of pine trees that was planted decades ago such that it spelled Lenin’s name in giant letters across the earth. The letters are 82 meters tall and stretches for 300 meters. Although everyone in Tyukalinsk knows about it, nobody is sure when the trees were planted.

Russian photographer Slava Stepanov had espied the memorial in satellite photographs years ago, but only recently he got a chance to visit the region in person.

lenin tree memorial

Photo: Slava Stepanov

Stepanov, who studies rarely photographed geoglyphs scattered throughout the former Soviet Union, believes the trees were planted in the 1970s for one of the many Soviet anniversaries when there was pressure to prove one’s dedication to the communist system.

“In the U.S.S.R., people were very focused on anniversaries, especially the birthday of Lenin and the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution,” Stepanov told RFE/RL. “Every factory, every enterprise, or even whole villages tried to somehow congratulate higher, stronger, more powerfully; to be more interesting and more noticeable than the rest. Among other things, there was an idea that communism would be eternal.”

lenin tree memorial

Photo: Slava Stepanov

lenin tree memorial

The view from inside of the Cyrillic letter “H”. Photo: Slava Stepanov

lenin tree memorial

A ground-level view of the "Lenin" forest. Photo: Slava Stepanov

Living memorial to totalitarianism is not unique to the Soviet Union. On the side of a mountain overlooking the town of Antrodoco, in the province of Rieti, Italy, there is another memorial to the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Across the mountainside, DVX is spelled out with an estimated 20 thousand trees. The word “dvx”, which is an alternate spelling for “dux”, is derived from the Latin word “duce”, which means leader.

Benito Mussolini dvx

Another famous memorial to Adolf Hitler appeared in a pine forest about 60 miles north of Berlin, where Nazi supporters planted a giant swastika made of larch trees. The trees were cut down in 2000.

Also read: 8 Living Memorials Shaped Out of Trees

swastika forest

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