New Lenin statue stirs controversy in Vietnam

Image copyright HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Hanoi has Vietnam's main Lenin statue

Ho Chi Minh's home province of Nghe An in central Vietnam has caused controversy by a decision to put up a three-metre statue of Lenin in its main city, Vinh.

The project has been criticised on social media for its extravagance, given that Nghe An is a relatively poor province with high youth unemployment.

Although the statue was donated by the Ulyanovsk authorities in Russia, the cost of the whole project, including a site of ​​nearly 4,300 square metres, a flower garden and a fountain would run to about $340,000 (£264,000).

Ulyanovsk is the birthplace of Lenin, and has a statue of Ho Chi Minh.

A group of online activists have signed a petition demanding that provincial leaders stop what they say is a "wasteful and untimely project".

Chau Doan, a writer and journalist in Hanoi, published an open letter on Facebook questioning the decision to honour "Lenin, whose crimes against the Russian nation are well documented".

Ho Chi Minh's birthplace

Nghe An, the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of communist Vietnam, has always been very proud of its revolutionary tradition and strong links with Russia.

In 1930-1931, local communist cells in Vinh set up the first Vietnamese Soviet, in an attempt to stir up a nationwide anti-colonial uprising.

The French authorities that ruled Vietnam at the time reacted quickly and brutally - hundreds of workers were shot dead and many Soviet-trained protest leaders arrested.

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The annual per capital income of local people is at $1,600 just two-thirds of the national average, and each year the province receives huge assistance from the central government in the form of rice and financial grants.

However, for the local communist leaders, Nghe An is proud to have the second largest Lenin statue in Vietnam.

"This is an iconic project for the good relations between Vietnam and Russia in general, and the homeland of Ho Chi Minh and that of Lenin in particular," said Tran Xuan Le, the head of the Vinh municipal management board.

In 1982, Russia gave a statue of Lenin to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, as a special gift.

It survived the collapse of the Soviet Union, and has remained central to state and Communist Party ceremonies.

Reporting by Giang Nguyen, BBC World Service

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