DNIPRO, Ukraine – Sergei Sternenko says he has performed several daring night missions against Russian targets since armed conflict broke out in 2014 between Ukrainian nationalists and Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine a few months before the Russian invasion.
“Monuments to the Soviet regime and the Russian Empire remind people of the atrocities committed by Russia and the Soviet Union against the people of Ukraine,” said Sternenko, a YouTuber with about 900,000 followers who posted some of his exploits online. “When I see a monument to Catherine II in Odessa, it seems to me like a monument to Hitler in Israel.”
The outbreak of war has accelerated efforts to remove the names of famous Russian and Soviet figures from Ukraine’s metro stations, roads and landmarks. There is even an app. The only reason the Russian idol has not been removed lately, Sternenko says, is that the Ukrainians were too busy fighting.
“Once we have won the war, we will have time and we will clear all Soviet and Russian imperial monuments from Ukraine,” said Sternenko, a former regional head of the extremist militant group Wright Sector who said his statue had been erected. Catherine the Great in her hometown of Odessa.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war in their country on February 24, Ukrainians have stressed the importance of asserting their own historical heritage.
The Ukrainian census has echoed the controversy over the removal of the Confederate statue, the re-evaluation of American colonial history, and the dismantling of racist patterns from the past, from the mascot of professional baseball teams to Aunt Jemima’s syrup.
Anton Drobovich, head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, said: “In general, this is an interesting feature of our time, that we are beginning to understand history so sensitively.” He says that for Ukraine, however, the process of extracting its history from the years of Russian and Soviet rule is relatively new.
Reminiscences of Russian and Soviet domination are found almost everywhere in Ukraine. A street in Bucha is named after Alexander Pushkin, a poet whom the Russians revered as their Shakespeare. The 19th-century novelist Nikolai Gogol – who was born in Ukraine but claimed to be one of Russia’s best writers because he wrote in Russian – ignored one of Dinipro’s main boulevards from a foothold. The boulevard itself – although named after a prominent Ukrainian historian many years ago – still has at least one stone slab showing that it was once Karl Marx Avenue.
From archives: Crowds face protesters over Lenin statue in Kharkiv
Yaroslav Hritzak, director of the Institute for Historical Studies at the Ivan Franco National University of Lviv, says that when he was growing up, the ubiquity of Russian and Soviet markers became a kind of imperial wallpaper.
“I took it as a dull Soviet landscape,” Haritsak said. He said that as if the streets and squares in the streets, the historical memories of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and other former republics were left without lobotomized.
“Ukrainians were deprived of any kind of memory that would set them apart from the Russians,” Haritsak said. “Soviet policy towards Ukraine was a complete amnesia.”
The bilingual Ukrainians have left Russia since Putin started the war
Efforts to restore Ukraine’s cultural heritage have gained momentum in recent weeks.
The mayor of Mykolive announced in a telegram on Saturday that a Pushkin memorial had been removed because he said it needed protection from vandalism. Earlier this month, the Kiev Metro announced that five stations would be renamed, including one at Leo Tolstoy Square. When the city government of Kharkiv voted to change the name of three streets and an entire neighborhood.
Kiwkhlib, a commercial bread maker, said this month that it had changed the name of its popular, custard dark bread from Belarusian to Otamansky to the Zoroastrian Cossacks who ruled the Lower Denipar River Basin (although Cossack’s past includes its own darkest chapter, one of the largest against the Jews. Program).
A new social media tool called “What did Pushkin do to you?” Which offers mini-tutorials on why different Russian personalities should stay or go.
Tap Pushkin’s name, and the Telegram bot spits him out with a verdict writing him a “Russian chauvinist” who glorified tsarist imperialism. It says a lot about the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Mikhail Bulgakov, the Soviet author of “The Master and the Margarita”, is also a “no” (Ukrainian “NYET”) because – although born in Kiev in 1891 – he denigrated Ukraine’s national aspirations and insulted its mother tongue.
Two other giants of Russian literature – Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov – passed because of their humane and compassionate approach to almost everything they wrote. But Bot says it would still not be a bad idea for Ukrainian historical and cultural figures to phase them out.
Who could be? Ukrainians such as Vasil Semenovich Stas, a poet who died in the Soviet Gulag in 1985 while on hunger strike. Or Levko Lukyanenko, another Soviet dissident who spent years in prison and wrote the Declaration of Independence of modern Ukraine. Or Miroslav Skorik, a composer whose lyrically mournful works reflect folk music. Even the late Kiev-born late Israeli leader Golda Meir.
Ukrainians wear traditional clothing in the shadow of Russian aggression
A mirror image of the process has also been uncovered in eastern Ukraine, where Russian separatists argue that their culture has been oppressed by Kyiv and Western Ukrainians.
A video posted on the Telegram last week showed Russian singer Yulia Chicherina unveiling a bust of Alexander Zakharchenko in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region. He led the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic before his assassination in 2018.
“The issue of Ukraine’s historical memory is highly politically motivated,” said Alice Giuliano, a professor of political science at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. He said liberating Ukraine from most traces of its Soviet and Russian past was sometimes divisive, not just the breakup.
Many Ukrainians, especially older ones, embraced the patriotic narrative surrounding the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, Giuliano said. He says there has also been a fierce battle over how to commemorate Stepan Bandera, whose Ukrainian nationalist organization fought for independence against the Soviets but also cooperated with the Nazis.
A ghost in the history of World War II haunts Ukraine’s standoff with Russia
Concerns over street names and monuments may seem strange as a war rages, but scholars say the risk is higher as Ukraine seeks to unite. False histories and myths helped lead Russia to war, they argue.
“Putin has armed history,” Drobovich told the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory. “It simply came to our notice then. We, as an organization, do not lie to the past in our process. We try to show the past as it was, without any fiction or fabrication. ”
The Drobovich Institute has led efforts to restore the history of Ukraine The KGB digs up archives and improves the stories of tortured or silenced Ukrainians. The institute is also evaluating Russian personalities, such as Pushkin, and compiling a list of Ukrainian and Ukrainian objects that may take place in their memorials, especially the lesser-known Ukrainians.
The list includes the late Hollywood star Jack Palance – a one-handed, Oscar night push-up – whose parents were from Ukraine. It features the patriotic Ukrainian song “Oi U Luji Chervona Calena,” which Pink Floyd recently modeled for support.
As a child growing up in Soviet-controlled Lviv in the 1970s, Haritsak hoped for a day to come. He said he had a change of heart: “Lenin is down, and John Lenin is in his place.”
Sudarshan Raghavan and Anastasia Vlasova contributed to this report.