Man patinka Lietuva

I like Lithuania – a visitor's point of view


Ukraine to remove evidence of soviet past

CNV00035In May President Poroshenko of Ukraine signed a law that effectively banned all reminders of his country’s past with the USSR.

This was clearly in response to the annexation of Crimea by Russia and its support for the the separatist war in Eastern Ukraine.

The law was hailed as a giant step forward for Ukraine and officials are rushing to implement it before  Independence Day on the 24th August.

Every statue of Lenin, every soviet street name and every red star in every underground station will be removed. Under the same law about two dozen towns and cities which were named after Soviet heroes are being renamed.

Unlike Lithuania Ukraine left most of its communist symbols untouched after the collapse of the soviet union in 1991. Work had already started after the Maidan revolution when dozens of statues of Lenin were toppled and dismantled. The Ukrainians even invented a new word for it – Leninopod, or Leninfall.

The ban on soviet symbols is part of a package that includes opening KGB archives to the public. As in Germany with the holocaust denying law it is now an offence to publicly deny “the criminal nature of the communist regime“.

There are some critics who say it all smacks of communist-style censorship including historians in Canada and the USA  who urged the President to veto the new law. Others say that Ukraine has too much on its hands with a faltering economy and the war on its Eastern frontier to bother about symbols and historic issues.

P1000342In Lithuania there are very few symbols of its communist past left. (See: Where’s the evidence?“)

The statues on the Green Bridge in Vilnius are probably the most famous. Many of the old statues of Stalin and Lenin ended up in Grutas Park as a tourist attraction.

P1000482Lithuania even chiselled out the cyrillic alphabet version of Vilnius on the large boulder in the cathedral square.

It will be interesting to see what Ukraine does about the famous Motherland statue in the centre of Kyiv.  Part of the Museum of the history of Ukraine in WWII (renamed by law to remove reference to the “Great Patriotic War“).

CNV00014This giant stainless steel statue, designed by Yevgeny Vuchetich,  and revealed in 1981, stands 62 m tall with an overall height of 102m.

There is a sword in the statue’s right hand which is 16m long and weighs 9 tons and which was shortened so that the overall height of the statue was not higher than the cross on the Orthodox Church’s dome at Pechensk Lavra in the city (even the soviets conceded an advantage to the worship of god).

I was told that there was a plan to sell the statue to China after independence but the costs of dismantling it were prohibitive so there it still stands for now.

CNV00034_1I have visited the statue and the museum as it is not far from an open air concert arena which is used on Independence Day. I was taken by some Ukrainian friends there one evening to see the concert.

CNV00021We went in by a circuitous route bribing the soldiers guarding the statue with some beer and photographs of them with the ladies in our party. It was all very  good humoured although later when I fell over (a vodka assisted stumble I confess)  I was almost arrested by some plain clothes police until my Ukrainian friend rescued me explaining I was a foreigner!

Whether the Motherland statue ends up in a tourist park remains to be seen.