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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert


The lack of adequate commemoration policy in Ukraine provokes the new tide of the “war of monuments”
30 September, 2013 - 17:41

In his recent television interview on the channel TVi Yurii Andrukhovych metaphorically described the originality of symbolic landscape of different Ukrainian regions. So, in the west of the country, westwards from the Zbruch there are no monuments to Lenin, in the center they still exist but the locals take them without any enthusiasm. “On the one hand, there is no will to dismantle them, and on the other hand there is no loyalty and Soviet patriotism any more to honor them,” the writer emphasized. Eastern regions give the right finish to the picture: there the monuments to Lenin are, so to say, in a state of nature, decorated with wreaths and flowers. “Some might think it is a minor thing,” Andrukhovych said. “Probably, from some global point it is a minor thing. However, we should not turn a blind eye to this.” In general, we can agree with Andrukhovych’s deliberations (especially concerning the importance of this issue) but not completely.


The developments in the Ukrainian monumental and symbolic space disprove the writer’s thesis about the lack of will to dismantle monuments to Lenin in the central and northern regions. Rather the situation is the opposite: now in these regions we can see a real “Leninfall,” most often attributed to the activity of the nationalist party Svoboda. In February 2013 MP Ihor Miroshnychenko personally participated in dismantling the monument to Lenin in Okhtyrka, Sumy oblast despite the police’s warning about vandalism. Later the majority of Sumy City Council supported the decision of Hennadii Minaiev, city mayor, do dismantle all the monuments to the communist leader, which certainly outraged Lenin’s followers from KPU. The same way Lenin was officially “dethroned” in Novohrad-Volynsky, Zhytomyr oblast: the monument was moved from the Central Square to Slavy Garden. Demolition works were financed by Svoboda. In August 2011 the monument to the proletarian leader disappeared in Boryspil, Kyiv oblast; in Uzyn the monument to Lenin and his bust were recently destroyed by a “double hit.” In August 2013 the monument to Lenin was decapitated in Berdychiv, Zhytomyr oblast.

Poltava region, where the struggle with the monumental Leninism in different ways has been led for many years, does not lag behind these trends. About ten years ago some kidders wrote with paint “Take me away” on the monument to Lenin in Lubny. In April 2011 the unknown reversed the four-meter bronze monument in Shyshaky (however, in June KPU installed a new one with their money and donations). The next “victim” of vandals in February 2013 was the monument to Lenin and Krupska in the village of Zhovtneve in Reshetylivka raion; the spokesman of Svoboda Oleksandr Aronets enthusiastically reported about it on Facebook, however, he did not accept party’s responsibility for those actions. Nevertheless, Svoboda is suspected in anti-Leninist vandalism which was clearly proved by the recent developments in Poltava region. In the night of August 19 in the village of Petrakiivka of Khorol raion a group of people destroyed another monument to Lenin. During the session of Verkhovna Rada MP from Poltava Serhii Hordiienko (KPU) expressed his concerns regarding this issue and mentioned that advising assistants of deputies from Svoboda are among the suspects.

Moreover, Hordiienko emphasized that those hooligans were also going to destroy a monument to soldiers, killed during the Second World War, however, their car was timely stopped by the police, traffic police and State Security Service. The police confiscated a telescoping ladder, ropes, hooks, a waist belt, hammers and a fore-hammer, a chisel and an ax, which supposedly proved their involvement into the act of vandalism in Petrakiivka. KPU opine that the nationalists chose this village deliberately as Ihor Miroshnychenko’s grandmother lives there. Miroshnychenko, instead of working in the parliament, rushed late in the evening to Poltava oblast to rescue his associates with Andrii Mishchenko. Interestingly, the vandals were taken to Khorol district police office with the gold-plate bust of notorious chekist Feliks Dzerzhynsky in front.


Having rejected Hordiienko’s accusation regarding Svoboda, MP Andrii Illienko approved the actions of those who destroyed the idol and emotionally depicted communists’ further “prospects”: “Your so-called ‘monuments’ to the butcher and Ukraine hater Lenin will be soon dismantled all over Ukraine. When the new Kyiv City Council starts its work we will remove Lenin from Bessarabska Square with our first decision. And you, red bastards, will be condemned during the second Nurnberg for your crimes against the Ukrainian nation and for millions of victims of Holodomor and repressions.” In Poltava oblast Andrii Mishchenko promised similar things to communists; he positively assessed the action of “unknown” patriots and emphasized that Svoboda does it [destroys monuments. – Ed.] openly and with video cameras, not at night. So, they have nothing to do with the event in Khorol raion. Seemingly, the opponents of the nationalists do not think so and strike back with the help of “unknown internationalists.” Shortly after the demonstrative dismantling of the monument to Lenin in Okhtyrka, in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Rivne oblasts the monuments to the UPA and OUN leaders Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera were damaged. Meanwhile, the communists renewed their destroyed leaders and at some places in Donbas even opened new busts.

In 2013 the “war of monuments” started widening to the extent that even the Ministry of Internal Affairs acknowledged its unprecedented scale as compared to the previous years when similar things happened but not so often. The tide of vandalism flooding Ukraine is the consequence of the absent strategy of national memory at the governmental and local levels. Without having settled the communists legacy comprising its symbolic dimension the Ukrainian society is moving forward with difficulties. However, not all the Ukrainians agree to dabble in the grey post-Soviet mud and a part of them resort to radical actions without waiting for the “elite” to realize that it is unacceptable to honor odious characters such as Lenin, Stalin, and Dzerzhynsky and monuments in their honor.

Certainly, “the war of monuments” is often used with political purposes to raise rates and as a cover-up to distract people’s attention from social and economic problems, but it is not a minor thing. The symbolic space people live in has a direct influence on them. Publicist Ihor Losiev hit the nail on the head saying that it has a powerful ideological and mental radiation defining the world-view, values and behavior and thus the present and the future where one cannot go with the communist ballast that should be placed into a totalitarianism reserve or, at least, in a museum of socialist art.

By Serhii SHEBELIST, Poltava