Ukraine activists swap Lenin for Lennon

  • 23 December 2013
Lennon poster in Ukrainian

Pro-EU protesters in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv want to change the name of one of their main streets from Lenin Avenue to Lennon Avenue.

A poster "declaring" the name change was unveiled at the weekend during a rally in Ukraine's second-largest city. It's the work of local residents who are angry that the government in Kiev has put EU integration efforts on hold, in favour of closer ties with Russia.

It reads: "This avenue was named after a prominent musician, poet, composer and fighter for peace, John Winston Ono Lennon (1940-1980). From grateful residents of Kharkiv," according to Comments.ua. The move is unlikely to be approved by the authorities.

The event had a tongue-in-cheek, if lengthy, name: "Thank you, Grandfather Lennon, for our happy childhood!" This is a new take on a popular Communist-era slogan thanking "Grandfather Lenin".

As well as demanding closer ties with Europe, the rally's organizers said they wanted to try and heal divisions among Ukrainians. "Lennon is a compromise figure who can bridge different cultural paradigms and world-views," prominent Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan told the rally, according to Radio Svoboda. It won't take much to rename the avenue, Mr Zhadan added - "just replace one letter" - but for this to happen, the local pro-Russia authorities would have to be replaced first, he said.

Compared to other parts of the country, eastern Ukraine is traditionally more welcoming of Russian influence including the common Soviet past. But in the capital, Kiev, a statue of Lenin was toppled by anti-government protesters, who have been camped out in wintry conditions for more than a month now.

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