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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Artist, Leaving Lenin Behind Is a Piece of Cake




As the knife hovered ominously above Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov's body, some called for his head, others for his groin.


Surrounded by onlookers and bathed in the bright lights of the television cameras, Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, was lying not in state Monday but in 52 kilograms of frosting ready to be cut up into slices.


Artist Yury Shabelnikov, whose previous work includes a 30-kilogram replica of the Reichstag for the 50th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, presented his latest venture, a life-size replica sponge cake of Lenin in his mausoleum at the Dar Gallery.


The performance's aim was to symbolize Russia's departure from communism and the Soviet empire before entering the third millenium.


"It's not just to tell jokes and laugh, but to think. The ritual is the means, a question. It's not a solution to a problem," said Shabelnikov.


There are many ways to relate to Lenin, said Shabelnikov, whether it be to admire him, curse him or denounce him.


"Lenin has ceased to be real and a conflict has arisen within us," said Dar Gallery director Sergei Taraborov.


The conflict, he continued, lies in how to remember him since he was such a major part of many people's lives.


"Every person can eat a piece of this cake. What he will think is completely his own free will," Taraborov said, whether good or bad, or indifferent.


Shabelnikov also stressed that it's just a cake. "Eat," he said, gesturing dramatically.


Invitations were sent out to a number of politicians but only Sergei Baburin, the deputy speaker of the State Duma, replied, refusing to attend on the grounds that he did not want to associate with cannibals.


Yevgeny Popov, deputy editor of Sovietskaya Russia and a member of the Communist Party, was outraged on hearing of the event.


"That's not only cynical, but it shows a lack of elementary taste," he said, adding that every state has its sacred things and that Lenin did a great deal for the country.


"I can't imagine that the United States would do something [like this] in the shape of Lincoln," he said.


Popov was uncertain as to whether the gallery should be punished for the event. "It's possible, I'm a bad lawyer," he said. "But from a moral point of view certainly."


The attitude among those present was more jovial.


A television crew quickly nabbed one of Lenin's hands and his head was whisked away soon after to be gobbled up by an opportune spectator.


A group of children gathered for the performance mulled the meaning of the occasion.


"I don't know if this is right, if we should be doing this," said Asya, 15, sitting in a corner munching on the raspberry-flavored former leader. "He's a person of the past who made his mistakes."


"If this was a sad [occasion], we'd have hardly touched it," said Liza Bogadist, 9.


She added, "I don't think he was good or evil. He tried to do something for our country, something very good."