The Limits of Iconoclasm: Soviet War Memorials since the End of Socialism
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There is a widespread perception that the countries of the former Soviet bloc removed all or most communist-era public monuments soon after the end of socialism. Based on a number of heavily publicized instances of iconoclasm, this claim is wildly exaggerated. Focusing on war memorials, the paper provides an overview of cases of destruction and removal, starting in Soviet times. It shows that centralized campaigns to remove Soviet war memorials (as opposed to local initiatives) have been the exception rather than the rule. Thus the most recent Polish decommunization campaign is an outlier among post-socialist policies regarding such memorials. The paper also contextualizes cases of removal and destruction by mentioning other ways of dealing with Soviet war memorials, such as symbolic marginalization, artistic interventions, or new construction.