Workers in Kyiv have recently taken down the hammer and sickle from a massive sculpture that overlooks the city. This is part of Ukraine’s ongoing campaign to eliminate Soviet icons in the wake of Russia’s invasion last year. The sculpture, which stands at an impressive height of 62 meters, was initially unveiled in 1981 as a tribute to the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II. However, since the invasion, Ukraine has been focused on eradicating references to Soviet history and Russian culture from various aspects of society.
The removal of the hammer and sickle is just one step in Ukraine’s broader efforts to remove Soviet symbolism across the country. A law on decolonization was passed this summer, and it has prompted the renaming of geographical locations and the removal of Soviet-era memorials. The “Fatherland Mother” monument, located on top of a war museum, is also under consideration for a potential name change to “Mother Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian culture ministry has proposed a plan to replace the shield held by the statue with a new one featuring the country’s trident emblem. This emblem holds significant importance for Ukraine as it symbolizes national identity and sovereignty. The shield with the Soviet symbols will be displayed in the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War.
Yuriy Savchuk, the director of the museum, believes that this project aligns with Ukraine’s aspirations to move towards the West and join NATO. He sees it as part of an ideological war for Ukraine’s identity and people’s consciousness. The removal process involves workers suspended from the top of the shield in a cradle, carefully lowering the wheat sheaves and ribbons of the Soviet emblem to the ground.
The decision to replace the shield comes with a cost of 28 million hryvnias ($758,000), but officials assure the public that it will be funded by donations and sponsorships rather than state funds. The arts minister, who supported the project, resigned due to criticisms about the high cost of arts projects during wartime. Nevertheless, a survey commissioned by the culture ministry indicates that 85% of Ukrainians support the removal of the hammer and sickle.
Rostislav Karandeyev, the acting minister, highlights the significance of this project in Ukraine’s ideological battle with its enemy. He expects the new shield to be in place by the upcoming national holidays in August. The decision to rename the monument will likely be made at a political level.
The sculptor responsible for creating the trident emblem, Oleksiy Pergamenshchyk, believes that removing the Soviet symbols has been long overdue. He assures that the monument itself is not a Soviet representation, as it was made by two Ukrainian sculptors, Evgeniy Vuchetych and Vasyl Borodai, in Greek attire. The new trident emblem, measuring 7.60 meters in length and 4.56 meters in width, symbolizes the strength and resilience of Ukraine. The statue, facing northward, represents Mother Ukraine looking directly at the enemy while holding a shield and sword.
Overall, Ukraine’s battle to remove Soviet symbols from the monument reflects a broader struggle for national identity and sovereignty. It represents the country’s desire to distance itself from its Soviet past and embrace its own unique history and culture.