The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, and it wasn’t long afterward that Lee Edwards, a historian at the Heritage Foundation in D.C., launched a campaign to build a museum memorializing everyone who had died under communism. The following years were filled with ups and downs as a location was identified, permissions were obtained, plans drawn up, and funding was raised. In the end, rather than a museum, the efforts resulted in the Victims of Communism Memorial (MAP).
On this ride I went to the Memorial, which is located in northwest D.C. at the intersection of Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenues and G Street, two blocks from Union Station and within view of the U.S. Capitol. The monument is a 10-foot-tall, one-third scale replica of the “Goddess of Democracy” — itself a variant of the Statue of Liberty — which was erected by students during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
The Memorial is a tribute to more than 100 million people who died as a result of revolutions, wars and atrocities committed by various communist regimes. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation says the purpose of the memorial is to ensure “that the history of communist tyranny will be taught to future generations.” The pedestal on the front of the memorial reads, “To the more than one hundred million victims of communism and to those who love liberty.” Its back pedestal reads, “To the freedom and independence of all captive nations and peoples.”
On June 12, 2007, the 20th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech in front of the Berlin Wall, the Memorial was unveiled and dedicated by President George W. Bush. Hundreds of people, including dignitaries from Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and other countries, supported the Memorial and participated in the dedication ceremony.
However, the unveiling of the statue did not occur without its critics as well. The statue drew criticism from the Chinese embassy, which called its construction an “attempt to defame China” because the memorial evokes the Tiananmen Square protests. And in the embassy In Ukraine, there was a response to open a museum about U.S. imperialism, which highlights United States interventions in foreign countries, as well as focuses on the repression of Native Americans, slavery, and racism.
The destination for this ride made me think of C. S. Lewis, the writer and lay theologian, who once said, “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”