By JARI TANNER
HELSINKI (AP) — A city in southeastern Finland on Tuesday removed the country’s last publicly displayed statue of Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin following pressure from residents in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A group of construction workers in Kotka, a port city of 52,000 not far from the border with Russia, hoisted the statue into a truck and drove it away to a warehouse of a local museum.
City museum director Kirsi Niku told Finnish public broadcaster YLE that the bronze bust was designed and constructed by Estonian sculptor Matti Varik in the late 1970s on orders from Moscow.
It was presented to Kotka in 1979 as a gift from friendship city Tallinn, then the capital of the Estonian Soviet republic and now the capital of the Baltic nation of Estonia.
Presenting such statues was a common practice by Moscow, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, to underline the Finnish-Soviet friendship in the post-WWII era.
The Lenin statue is located in a central Kotka park adjacent to a wooden house where the Bolshevik party founder who became the Soviet Union’s first premier is said to have stayed.
The statue was vandalized over the years but remained in the park until Kotka’s city council decided to have it removed. Other European countries have moved to get rid of their remaining Soviet-era monuments since Russia invaded Ukraine more than seven months ago.
Finland and Russia share a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) land border and a complicated history.
Finland remained a part of the Russian Empire as an autonomous Grand Duchy for over a hundred years until Dec. 6, 1917, when it declared independence in the wake of the Russian Revolution led by Lenin.
Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership recognized the Nordic’s country independence on the last day of 1917. Ahead of the Russian Revolution, Lenin was exiled to Finland on several occasions, living in various cities and towns across the southern part of the country.
The southern Finnish industrial and university city of Tampere hosts a Lenin museum. Future Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and Lenin met for the first time in Tampere in 1905 during a meeting of Bolshevik leaders in the city.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine