"Amid the celebrations and the darker scenes of death and looting," David Remnick wrote in the wake of the war in Iraq in April 2003, "the indelible image and photo op of the fall of Baghdad was the toppling of Saddam's statue on Firdos Square, an image that could not fail to echo the destruction of similarly forbidding icons in Moscow more than a decade ago.

"And yet that resonance should be deep and instructive: the initial fireworks blast of promise in Moscow soon settled down into years of painful transformation. In some of the states of the former Soviet Union, autocrats still reign. 'When smashing monuments,' the Polish Holocaust survivor and satirist Stanislaw Lec once remarked, 'save the pedestals -- they always come in handy.'"

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