Tajikistan Pulls Down Its Last Lenin Statue

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajikistan has dismantled its last monument to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, bidding farewell to another vestige of its Soviet past.

The removal over the weekend followed last year's decision by President Imomali Rakhmon to rename Lenin Park, where the statue was located, after Persian poet Rudaki.

Rakhmon, who has led Central Asia's poorest nation since 1992, has tried to stress his Persian roots and distance himself from the Soviet past with its heavy Russification, by dropping the Russian-style "-ov" ending from his surname.

The dismantling of the Lenin statue -- the last surviving one of many erected in Tajikistan under Soviet rule -- caused an outcry from the Communists, the nation's second biggest party that supports Rakhmon on most issues.

"You can't do that. He was a great man," party official Subkhon Safialoyev lamented, sitting in a room decorated only by portraits of Lenin and his successor, Josef Stalin.

A poll conducted by popular weekly ASIA-Plus showed that 29 percent wanted the statue to stay.

But the most popular answer, chosen by 39 percent of the readers, was, "Haven't we got any other problems?"