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Vladimir Lenin still needs bodyguards in Kiev, Ukraine

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(Read caption) A Soviet flag waves near Lenin’s defaced statue in Kiev. Last summer, a Ukrainian nationalist scaled the towering statue and took a sledgehammer to the famous Bolshevik’s face and hand

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Standing tall and distinguished, a marble Vladimir Lenin used to keep silent watch over downtown Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine’s capital.

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But last summer, a Ukrainian nationalist scaled the towering statue and took a sledgehammer to the famous Bolshevik’s face and hand. The Communist Party of Ukraine gladly paid for its reconstruction, but now the CPU is the one keeping watch.

Today, some of its most diehard supporters guard Lenin around the clock in 12-hour shifts.

“We’re going to remain here for as long as it takes,” says Valeriy Tayinov during his day shift on the first anniversary of the attack. “The nationalists constantly cause trouble and raise all kinds of provocations.”

The communist legacy is a bitterly divisive topic. While the CPU is a scant presence politically – it represents only 6 percent of parliament – much of the older generation remembers the Soviet Union with some fondness: education and medical care were free and jobs were guaranteed. Now, the all-powerful state apparatus has given way to a shaky free-market transition riddled with crony capitalism.

But Lenin also launched an experiment that cost millions of Ukrainian lives and blurred the country’s national identity, facts nationalists exploit to promote national consciousness.

Mr. Tayinov, who claims he receives no compensation for his duties, sits patiently guarding his dear comrade in its shadow, near a ramshackle red tent adorned with a hammer and sickle. “It’s not an easy job,” he says. “But I have some shade.”

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