Dimitri Venkov’s Krisis is based on a Facebook discussion on December 8, 2013, the day that “Leninopad,” the widespread demolition of monuments to Vladimir Lenin, kicked off in Ukraine. The first monument to be dismantled in Kyiv was made by Soviet sculptor Sergei Merkurov and was erected in 1946, while Stalin was still in power. The Ukrainian ultra-nationalist party Svoboda (Freedom) claimed responsibility.
The monument was demolished during the Euromaidan, popular protests against the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych had rejected EU integration and thrown his lot in with Vladimir Putin, thus maintaining his country’s dependence on the Russian Federation. Police loyal to Yanukovych attempted to disperse the Euromaidan—made up of liberal, right-wing, and leftist groups—several times. But shortly before the monument’s demolition, ultra-right-wingers tried to expel leftist activists from the Euromaidan for their alleged communist sympathies.
The Euromaidan led to regime change in Ukraine. Yanukovych fled to Russia, and parliamentary and presidential elections were held. Ukraine has now adopted a “decommunization” law, a policy of dismantling symbols of the Soviet period. The country’s economy is in poor shape.
Venkov considers the role played in politics by the insoluble and inexplicable, by things that spark controversy, arguments, and suspicion, but remain opaque. The historical complexity surrounding the demolition of the Lenin monuments is manifested in two mediations of the event, in two gaps. The first lies between the event in Kyiv and the people writing on Facebook, mostly Russian citizens outside Ukraine. The second emerges between the Facebook discussion and its staging onscreen, reminiscent of a classicist drama. The film unfolds between these gaps like an endless court case, with no possibility of a unanimous verdict.