Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law on April 21 that prohibits naming geographic sites in Ukraine after Russian figures or historical events associated with Russian aggression. The move is part of larger “de-Russification” efforts in Ukraine amid Russia’s full-scale invasion.
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.”
Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Ukraine has continued a ongoing process of “de-Russification” that gained momentum after the Euromaidan Revolution in 2014. As part of these efforts, monuments to Russian historical figures have been dismantled and streets named after Russians or Soviet history have been renamed.
In January of this year, Kyiv residents cast more than 100,000 votes to rename the capital’s metro station “Friendship of Peoples” (Druzhby Narodiv in Ukrainian) to “Zvirynetska," the historical name of the area, and "Lva Tolstoho,” named after the Russian writer Lev Tolstoi, to “Ukrainian Heroes Square.”
Last Spring, monuments to Russian writer Alexander 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.
Similarly, a monument to Russian Empress Catherine II was dismantled in Odesa on Dec. 28, following an online vote by Odesa residents. Activists had petitioned for years to dismantle the statue, erected in 1900, when Odesa was part of the Russian Empire. Despite being taken down by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s, it was put back up in 2007.