Ukrainian Government to Encourage Dismantling of Soviet Memorials

January 12, 2015
Protesters remove the smashed statue of Lenin in Kharkiv, September 28, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Staunton, January 11The Ukrainian government will “encourage any public initiatives connected with cleansing Ukraine from monuments” to officials and others from the communist past, according to Ukrainian Culture Minister Vyacheslav Kirilenko. His words likely open the way for a new wave of dismantling and demolishing statues of Lenin and other Soviet figures.

Ukrainian officials, from President Petro Poroshenko on down have supported such initiatives but typically after the fact. Kirilenko’s statement, carried on the website of his ministry and picked up by various news outlets suggests a more pro-active stance.

The minister declared that the numerous monuments “to odious figures of the totalitarian regime are not objects of the cultural heritage of either national or local significance,” are not on the State Registry of monuments, and in the future will not be protected and preserved by the Ukrainian government.

Thus, Kirilenko continued, “the state will not oppose but on the contrary will do everything it can to assist any social initiative which will struggle for the cleansing of Ukraine from these relics of the totalitarian past.” And he added that his ministry will ensure that none of these monuments are considered to be under state protection.

Over the last year, Ukrainians have torn down many of the more than 4,000 statues of Lenin that the Soviets had erected there, but both angry reaction from Moscow and concerns about how such steps might play out with ethnic Russians in Ukraine had kept the government from promoting such actions.

Now, apparently, Kyiv has decided that it has little to lose and everything to gain by eliminating such monuments to a totalitarian regime that Ukrainians and others had hoped had died more than two decades ago.