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. Although the term has been occasionally used during the Cold War, 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.
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. In 1992, Barbara Harff wrote that no Communist country or governing body had been convicted of genocide. In his 1999 foreword to The Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia wrote: "Throughout the former Communist world, moreover, virtually none of its responsible officials has been put on trial or punished. Indeed, everywhere Communist parties, though usually under new names, compete in politics."
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. 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.
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. In April 2015, a formal decommunization process started in Ukraine after laws were approved which outlawed communist symbols, among other things. 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. At the time, this meant that 22 cities and 44 villages would need to be renamed. 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.
Since 1989, Poland has taken down hundreds of Soviet monuments due to the negative reputation the Soviet Union has in Poland. 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. 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?"
In the 2010s, Poland continued to demolish remaining Soviet monuments, some of which have been relocated to museums. The removals have attracted criticism from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who has lashed out at Warsaw officials for opposing the monuments, as has Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry.
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.  
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".
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.
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.
Holmes suggests the following reasons for the turnoff of decommunization:
Decommunization has been compared to denazification in post-World War II Europe, and the de-Ba'athification in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.