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One of the manifestations of decommunization has been renaming streets. Before 2017, ulica Anny German in Poznań (Anna German Street) was named in honor of Julian Leński.[1]

Decommunization in former communist states is the process of purging former communist high officials and eliminating communist symbols.

It is sometimes referred to as political cleansing.[2] Although the term has been occasionally used during the Cold War,[3] it is most commonly applied to the former countries of the Eastern Bloc, those countries that were considered being close to the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union to describe a number of legal and social changes during their periods of postcommunism during the post–Cold War era.

In some states, decommunization includes bans on communist symbols. While sharing common traits, the processes of decommunization have run differently in different states.[4][5]

Responsible institutions

Purging and prosecution of former communist officials

Decommunization came to refer to government policies of limiting the participation of former communist officials in politics. This should not be confused with lustration which is the procedure of scrutinizing holders or candidates for public offices in terms being former informants of the communist secret police.

According to a 1992 constitutional amendment in the Czech Republic, a person who publicly denies, puts in doubt, approves, or tries to justify Nazi or Communist genocide or other crimes of Nazis or Communists will be punished with a prison term of six months to three years.[7] In 1992, Barbara Harff wrote that no Communist country or governing body had been convicted of genocide.[8]

In August 2007, Arnold Meri, an Estonian Red Army veteran and cousin of former Estonian president Lennart Meri, faced charges of genocide by Estonian authorities for participating in the deportations of Estonians in Hiiumaa during 1949.[9][10] Meri denied the accusation, characterizing them as politically motivated defamation, stating: "I do not consider myself guilty of genocide." The trial was halted when Meri died on 27 March 2009 at the age of 89.[11]

State leaders

Elimination of communist symbols


Main article: Decommunization in Ukraine

The process of decommunization and de-sovietization in Ukraine started soon after dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, led by President Leonid Kravchuk, a former high-ranking party official.[14] In April 2015, a formal decommunization process started in Ukraine after laws were approved which outlawed communist symbols, among other things.[15] On 15 May 2015, President Petro Poroshenko signed a set of laws that started a six-month period for the removal of communist monuments (excluding World War II monuments) and renaming of public places named after communist-related themes.[16][17] At the time, this meant that 22 cities and 44 villages would need to be renamed.[18][19] In 2016, 51,493 streets and 987 cities and villages were renamed, and 1,320 Lenin monuments and 1,069 monuments to other communist figures were removed.[20]


Since 1989, Poland has taken down hundreds of Soviet monuments due to the negative reputation the Soviet Union has in Poland.[21] Although some Poles see the memorials as justified in honouring those who died fighting against Nazi Germany, others seek the removal of Soviet memorials because of the decades of totalitarianism that resulted from Soviet occupation, and also because of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact and the Katyn massacre.[22] Historian Lukasz Kaminski of the Institute of National Remembrance said, "Memorials in city centers and villages can send the wrong historical signal... What do you think we got, when the Soviets liberated Poland from Hitler, if not a new yoke?"[21]

In the 2010s, Poland continued to demolish remaining Soviet monuments, some of which have been relocated to museums.[23] The removals have attracted criticism from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who has lashed out at Warsaw officials for opposing the monuments,[23] as has Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry.[22]


Since the collapse of the USSR there was active debate regarding the fate of the Soviet symbols that were received as gifts. Particularly World peace sculpture that has been vandalized during its existence. Since Russia attacked Ukraine in 2022 the discussion of removing these symbols started to heat. Statues of Lenin were removed from Turku and Kotka supposedly as "a gesture of solidarity" for Ukraine. The World Peace sculpture was also removed from Helsinki (the official reason was that it needed to be relocated due to roadworks). The name of Lenin Park will be changed to in the future. The critics have considered the latest moves as harmful since by these actions history will be erased. It can also be asked if the erasure can be logically argued as Lenin and Putin represent different ideologies. There has been some criticism (from the political right-wing) regarding the history of the elderly Social Democrats who some accuse of spying for Stasi. The so-called Tiitinen list has been discussed and the right-wing has demanded it to be declassified.[24][25]

Czech Republic

In April 2020, a statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev was removed from Prague, which prompted criminal investigation by Russian authorities who considered it an insult. The Mayor of Prague's sixth municipal district, Ondřej Kolář, announced on Prima televize that he would be under police protection after a Russian man made attempts on his life. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš condemned that as foreign interference, while Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov dismissed allegations of Russian involvement as "another hoax".[26]


In December 2023, the Monument to the Soviet Army in downtown Sofia was dismantled and set to be put in the Museum of Socialist Art. As of March 2024, it has yet to be put in the museum or replaced with a new monument.


Communist parties outside of Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states were not outlawed and their members were not prosecuted. Just a few places attempted to exclude even members of communist secret services from decision-making. In a number of countries, the communist party simply changed its name and continued to function.[27]

Stephen Holmes of the University of Chicago argued in 1996 that after a period of active decommunization, it was met with a near-universal failure. After the introduction of lustration, demand for scapegoats has become relatively low, and former communists have been elected for high governmental and other administrative positions. Holmes notes that the only real exception was former East Germany, where thousands of former Stasi informers have been fired from public positions.[28]

Holmes suggests the following reasons for the turnoff of decommunization:[28]

Similar concepts

Decommunization has been compared to denazification in post-World War II Europe, and the de-Ba'athification in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.[29]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "German zastąpi działacza komunistycznego". (in Polish). Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  2. ^ Jennifer A. Yoder (1999) "From East Germans to Germans?: The New Postcommunist Elites", ISBN 0-8223-2372-9,, pp. 95–97
  3. ^ The Current Digest of the Soviet Press. American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. 1968.
  4. ^ "Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols", BBC News, 17 June 2008, retrieved 3 June 2016
  5. ^ Shevchenko, Vitaly (14 April 2015). "Goodbye, Lenin: Ukraine moves to ban communist symbols". BBC News. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Greetings". The Committee of National Remembrance. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  7. ^ Whine, Michael (27 April 2008). "Expanding Holocaust Denial and Legislation". Jewish Political Studies Review. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 20 (1/2): 57–77. JSTOR 25834777.
  8. ^ Harff, Barbara (1992). "Recognizing Genocides and Politicides". In Fein, Helen (ed.). Genocide Watch. 27. pp. 37–38.
  9. ^ "Entisen presidentin serkkua syytetään neuvostoajan kyydityksistä" (in Finnish) ["Former President's cousin accused of Soviet-era raids"]. Baltic Guide. Archived from the original on 2 April 2009.
  10. ^ "Estonian charged with Communist genocide". International Herald Tribune. 23 August 2007. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Estonian war figure laid to rest". BBC News. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  12. ^ "BBC News | Europe | Bulgaria's ex-communist leader dies". Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Three presidents to attend Jaruzelski funeral". Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  14. ^ Khotin, Rostyslav (26 November 2009). "Ukraine tears down controversial statue". BBC Ukrainian Service. BBC News. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  15. ^ Motyl, Alexander J. (28 April 2015). "Decommunizing Ukraine". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  16. ^ Poroshenko signed the laws about decomunization. Ukrayinska Pravda. 15 May 2015
    Poroshenko signs laws on denouncing Communist, Nazi regimes, Interfax-Ukraine. 15 May 2015
  17. ^ Shevchenko, Vitaly (14 April 2015). "Goodbye, Lenin: Ukraine moves to ban communist symbols". BBC News. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  18. ^ (in Ukrainian) In Ukraine rename 22 cities and 44 villages, Ukrayinska Pravda (4 June 2015)
  19. ^ (in Ukrainian) Komsomolsk in any case be renamed, (1 October 2015)
  20. ^ Decommunization reform: 25 districts and 987 populated areas in Ukraine renamed in 2016, Ukrinform (27 December 2016)
  21. ^ a b Welle (, Deutsche. "Poland plans to tear down hundreds of Soviet memorials | DW | 13 April 2016". DW.COM. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  22. ^ a b "Poles apart: the bitter conflict over a nation's communist history". the Guardian. 13 July 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  23. ^ a b "Poland Set to Demolish 500 Soviet Monuments". The Moscow Times. 31 March 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  24. ^ "Kotka removes Finland's last remaining Lenin statue". Yle. 4 April 2022.
  25. ^ "Helsinki removes monument gifted by Soviet Union". ERR. 8 August 2022.
  26. ^ "Prague district mayor says he is under police protection against Russian threat". Reuters. 29 April 2020.
  27. ^ After socialism: where hope for individual liberty lies. Svetozar Pejovich.
  28. ^ a b Michael Mandelbaum (Ed., 1996) "Post-Communism: Four Perspectives", Council on Foreign Relations ISBN 0876091869
  29. ^ Eric Brahm, "Lustration", Beyond, June 2004, 8 Sep 2009