New decommunization wave: What to happen to Motherland monument, Paton Bridge, Shchors monument in Kyiv?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Director of the Institute of National Remembrance Anton Drobovych revealed plans for a new decommunization campaign in the Ukrainian capital
21:57, 12 August 2020

Open source

The officials intend to dismantle the Soviet coats of arms, which are still present on the Paton Bridge, as well as on the Motherland's monument shield. By the way, the country's tallest flagpole for the world's largest Ukrainian flag is being erected near it, and, according to the architects, it will finally distort the relief of the Dnipro hills, wedging into the space between the architect Yevgeny Vuchetich’s sculpture and the bell tower of the Pechersk Lavra.

In addition, Drobovych promised to deal with the monument to Mykola Shchors. His horse had already somehow lost a leg thanks to unknown vandals, and then for a long time, it shyly hid with the rider behind the fence. At a certain stage, a plan was considered to send Shchors to a ghetto for monuments of the Soviet era. However, the concept has changed - and now Drobovych is going to modify the monument, turning it into an object with an intriguing name The Dark Horseman. The monument will be remade so as to erase the features of Shchors and will become a symbolic embodiment of the totalitarian regime.

After these projects, Drobovych, who does not often indulge the public with his initiatives, received a flurry of crushing criticism. And not only for ideological reasons, but also for practical ones.

Related: Who is Ukraine's new head of Institute of National Remembrance?

Mother or stepmother?

Regarding the Motherland monument, there is an opinion that it is better not to touch it. Carving a six-meter coat of arms will unbalance the sculpture. In addition, it is not clear how to plug the hole that forms in its place. By itself, this sculpture aroused negative emotions for too long just among the national democrats, so that now it would be possible to imagine a Ukrainian trident on it. To become a symbol of independent Ukraine after decades of curses against it as a hated communist symbol is too successful career even for a monument.

Separately, in the context of Motherland, issues of rights of the designer of the sculpture Vasyl Borodai are considered. And separately - the ownership of it. According to the law, since the Motherland is a local monument, it must be included in the list of objects to be dismantled by the appropriate order of the Kyiv City State Administration. But the Department of Culture says that the monument was not included in the list. So, would it be illegal to dismantle a monument or part of it?

Motherland Monument

Another argument against dismantling the hammer and sickle from the Motherland is the protected status of the monument and the ban on changes to such an object, which is established by the law "On the protection of cultural heritage". In particular, this norm is indicated in the Department of Culture of the Kyiv City State Administration and in the Ministry of Culture. The Decommunization Act also contains dismantling exemptions for works of art created before 2015. On the other hand, we are not talking about the dismantling of the entire monument, but only about one of its components.

MP from the European Solidarity party, historian with biased approach Volodymyr Vyatrovych three years ago announced that the Soviet coat of arms would certainly be removed from the shield. And now his successor Anton Drobovych declares the following: “We have already been approached by four engineering and construction organizations that are ready to take part in the tender and dismantle the emblem. Just to remove the communist symbols. We are ready to take this path again, but already go this road to the end," says Drobovych to Radio Liberty.

"The question here is not really for Drobovych - he just does his job, because this is his functional. The question is of reaching a public consensus. If it is achieved, then changes can be introduced. If not, then no. But the Institute of National Memory was created for this, in particular for decommunization," comments political scientist Yevhen Bulavka.

Related: Avenue in Kharkiv no to be named after Soviet Marshal due to decommunization, - National Remembrance Institute

As for the consensus, how the metropolitan community relates to the dismantling of the Soviet coat of arms from the Motherland is still unknown. It seems that no one has conducted a survey or discussion of this issue yet. The Paton Bridge is a completely different matter. The proposal to remove the coat of arms from it instantly activates another problem that is very painful for many people in Kyiv - the deplorable state of the bridge itself.

Paton Bridge: coat of arms against collapse

After all, the structure is gradually collapsing, as evidenced by the fact that large granite stones began to fall off from the structures of the crossing. Many activists in the capital are outraged that the Kyiv authorities are inactive and do not want to engage in repair work.

So, according to the Kyiv resident Mykhailo Petelitsky, he very often swims under this bridge and notices that one of the supports began to collapse a long time ago. "The stones do not fall constantly, but they fall from time to time, and perhaps someone even steals them into their estate," he said. Petelitsky notes that not only he witnessed the collapse of granite stones. According to him, officials constantly ride boats under the Paton Bridge and see perfectly what is happening, but pretend that they do not notice anything suspicious. It is necessary to somehow restore the bridge or strengthen the supports, he complains.

Meanwhile, the Paton Bridge is one of the old residents of Kyiv. Its construction was started in 1939, stopped in September 1941 due to the retreat of Soviet troops from the capital. However, already at the beginning of 1942, the construction of the bridge was continued by the Nazis. The new temporary building was named in honor of the German military leader of the Third Reich, Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau. In the fall of 1943, during the retreat, the Nazis destroyed the bridge. And the modern bridge was put into operation on November 5, 1953.

Related: Ukroboronprom state defense concern sells decommissioned property via Internet

Thus, this year the Paton Bridge turns 67. It, in the words of Mayor Klitschko, is very "tired". And yet this is not yet the age when it is time to retire. Provided that it is properly repaired, the bridge will serve more than one generation of Kyiv residents. The only problem is that no one is in a hurry with the repair.

For the first time, the need to reconstruct the bridge was discussed in the 1990s. But at that time the city did not find the funds for this. In 2008, they started talking about reconstruction again in connection with preparations for Euro 2012. A project was even developed, according to which it was planned to remove the reinforced concrete coating and replace it with a lighter metal one. By reducing the load, the load-bearing beams could withstand 8 lanes, instead of the current 6, and the total width of the bridge would increase from 21 to 38 m. However, this project was not implemented either. Due to financial problems, the reconstruction of the Paton Bridge was postponed indefinitely.

The result of such a delay is obvious: the bridge, along with several other bridge structures in Kyiv, fell into the category of communications, which were assigned the fifth, highest level of danger. Against this background, talk about the need to remove the Soviet coat of arms from the bridge causes, to put it mildly, irritation. Why, then, does Anton Drobovych raise this topic?

Continuing tradition

"Drobovych is less active in media, but at the same time, more systemic than Vyatrovych. Because Vyatrovych came to this position as a publicly known person, while Drobovych is from the academic environment. And this could not but leave its mark. Drobovych is more reasonable, which is natural because he was appointed already under the new government. But, oddly enough, he keeps the line of his predecessor - and not only on decommunization but also on conducting a historical discourse, "says Yevgen Bulavka.

At one time, the new team of President Zelensky demonstrated its dissatisfaction with Vyatrovych. One of the conflicts was associated with the Kharkiv monument to Marshal Zhukov. When the monument was demolished, the mayor of the city, Gennady Kernes, immediately promised to restore it. Then the press secretary of Zelensky, Yulia Mendel, took the side of Kernes, said that "the mayor of Kharkiv took responsibility as the chief arbiter."

After replacing Vyatrovych with another person in Zelensky's team, they expected at least a decrease in the degree of tension in society. However, it is not a fact that such a decrease took place.

“The main decisions that had to be made were made even under Vyatrovych,” comments Bohdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism. “Now I don’t see any fundamental changes in either direction. I see only problems that arise at the local level. The same Kharkiv issue, for example. These are problems which, first of all, associated with renaming. And they arise because often the solutions proposed by Vyatrovych were too radical. That is, for part of Ukraine these ideas were acceptable, and for part (first of all for the East) - excessive".

“At one time, Petro Poroshenko made decommunization a part of his patriotic rhetoric,” Petrenko continues. “He actively used this rhetoric during the campaign, inscribing it into the electoral strategy. Then it all worked, but now it openly slows down. It’s because Vyatrovych was a speaker: he went out to the public and was heard, but the new head of the institute was not heard at all. So the question arises about the expediency of the institute's existence if we do not see its work."

As for the latest initiatives of Drobovych, they, according to the expert, have a somewhat mercantile background. “Drobovych’s activity may be connected not so much with the elections, but with the fact that in September the MPs must consider the budget of Ukraine in the first reading. Therefore, each state institution must prove its necessity. Because the situation in the economy is difficult, and everyone understands that, despite the bravura promises to increase the minimum wage, the belts will have to be tightened, including cutting spending on state institutions," Petrenko is convinced.

And his colleague in the political science department, Kyrylo Sazonov, sees the reasons for Drobovych's activity in something else. "From the point of view of current policy, Drobovych is doing everything right, since the supporters of the "gray-haired hetman" (that is, Poroshenko - Auth.) have repeatedly reproached President Zelensky for not reaching the title of a patriot and that his entire team is soviet. But such an initiative from the mouth of the person appointed by Zelensky knocks out their favorite arguments from the hands of Poroshenko's team ... Technologically and politically, Drobovych's initiative is correct," he said.

"All the monuments of the Soviet era," adds Sazonov, "are pure political technology, which the Bolsheviks and communists actively used. So that all the symbols of that era were in front of our eyes everywhere and always. It was done according to the principle "if a person is told a hundred times that he is a pig, then for the hundred and the first time he will grunt." This is not such a harmless thing as they try to present to us - they say, this is our history, it's okay ... No, it's scary. So if Soviet traces remain somewhere, then let's say goodbye to them."

But such a farewell does not work out painlessly, just as it does not always work out rational. Although the officials responsible for this "farewell", obviously, have a different opinion.

Related: Kyiv to face another wave of decommunization


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