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Outspoken French politician presents new statue of Lenin

Nearly 20 years after statues of the Bolshevik revolutionary were torn down en masse across eastern Europe, Vladimir Lenin has been immortalized again - in France. A regional politician lists Lenin as one of his heroes.

President of Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France Georges Freche

Georges Freche continues to make a name for himself

The southern French city of Montpellier has unveiled five imposing bronze statues of leading historical figures - including Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.

The figures will memorialize "the great men of the twentieth century," according to the project's brainchild, regional leader Georges Freche.

"Lenin was no blood-thirsty dictator," Freche, president of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, said. "He shaped the world in the twentieth century."

Likenesses of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin Roosevelt, French socialist leader Jean Jaures and general Charles de Gaulle were also delivered on Wednesday.

Each statue weighs close to one ton (1,874 pounds) and will cost local taxpayers around 200,000 euros ($260,000). Political opponents have criticized the project as a waste of money, and the Green Party has threatened to dismantle the figures.

Coming under fire

The head of the statue of Lenin which formerly stood in East Berlin

East Berlin's 18-meter statue of Lenin was torn down in 1991

"We could have had a vote for the people of Montpellier to decide who are their 'great men'," said Jacques Domergue, a local deputy for Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party. "Instead we got Freche's latest diktat. It's the ultimate sign of megalomania from a man who probably wants a statue of himself one day."

The first five statues will be formally inaugurated next month, before five more, including former South African President Nelson Mandela and Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, arrive next year.

The combative Freche was expelled from France's Socialist Party (PS) in 2007. He had previously called Algerian activists "sub-humans" and complained that there were too many black players on the French national football team.

A number of monuments of Lenin, whose real name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, remain in former Soviet republics.

Author: Thomas Sheldrick (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Matt Zuvela

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