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Ukraine authorizes dismantling of Pushkin statues, among other Russian and Soviet figures

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 10, 2023 7:44 PM 2 min read
A man looks at a monument to Russian poet Alexander Pushkin with his face smeared with red paint in Kyiv on 7 Nov. 2023. (Oleksii Chumachenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images).
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The Ukrainian Government has removed a number of monuments of Russian and Soviet figures from the state register of monuments of national importance, allowing for their dismantling, the Culture Ministry announced on Nov. 10.

One of the monuments that has been withdrawn from the register is a statue of Russian writer Alexander Pushkin on one of Kyiv's main streets, which has been the scene of protests in recent weeks.

Local activists in Kyiv hung a brightly-colored camouflage net over the statue to "remind society and the authorities that the symbols of Russian imperialism still stand quietly in our cities."

"The process of de-Russification should take place more actively," said the protest group, who are called the "Solomianski Cats."

Overnight on Nov. 7, unknown protesters then painted the words "decolonization cannot be stopped" over the base of the statue and threw red paint over the Pushkin's face.

Monuments to Pushkin will also be removed in Zhytomyr and Kharkiv, while statues of both Pushkin and the Russian nobleman Prince Vorontsov will be dismantled in Odesa, the Culture Ministry said.

Other monuments set to be removed in Kyiv include a statue to the Red Army commander Mykola Shchors, a monument to a crew of a Bolshevik armored train, and a Soviet river warship named after the Russian sailor Anatoli Zhelezniakov, which was installed in 1967.

"The local authorities must finally clear the space of markers of anti-Ukrainian politics, the acting Culture Minister Rostyslav Karandieiev said.  

President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law in April 2023 that prohibits naming geographic sites in Ukraine after Russian figures or historical events associated with Russian aggression.

Titled "On Geographical Names," the law aims to address the "decolonization of toponymy" and to regulate the use of place names in Ukraine, according to the text of the law.

The law prohibits naming geographical sites with titles that "glorify, perpetuate, promote, or symbolize" Russia or its "prominent, memorable, historical and cultural places, cities, dates, events, and figures who carried out military aggression against Ukraine and other sovereign countries."

It also bans geographic markers associated with "state totalitarian policies and practices related to the persecution of opposition figures, dissidents and other persons" who criticized "totalitarian Soviet and totalitarian Russian regimes."

Last spring, monuments to Pushkin were dismantled in cities like Ukraine’s southern port city of Mykolaiv, Ukraine’s western city of Ternopil, and in the western Zakarpattia Oblast.

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