Ukraine has torn down the Soviet hammer and sickle from a towering WWII commemoration statue in the heart of Kyiv, the latest show of defiance amid Putin’s invasion.
Standing a whopping 335ft and weighing some 560 tonnes, the ‘Motherland’ statue depicts an imposing woman – known colloquially as ‘Baba’, or ‘Grandma’ – holding a shield and sword aloft above her head as she surveys the nation’s capital with a prideful, protective gaze.
Built in 1981, the incredible monument is the centrepiece of Ukraine’s National Museum of the Second World War, paying tribute to the millions of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who gave their lives in the fight against Nazi Germany’s fearsome Wehrmacht.
But earlier this year, Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture announced plans to remove the Soviet emblem from the Motherland’s shield and replace it with a trident – a national coat of arms seen on the uniform of soldiers fighting tooth and nail to regain territory from Russian occupying forces.
Workers dismount a Soviet emblem from the shield of the ‘Motherland’ monument, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at a compound of the World War II museum in Kyiv, Ukraine August 1, 2023
Workers remove the former Soviet Union’s coat of arms from the Motherland Monument
Workers stand around hammer and sickle, part of a Soviet emblem dismounted from the shield of the ‘Motherland’ monument, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at a compound of the World War II museum in Kyiv
Standing a whopping 335ft and weighing some 560 tonnes, the ‘Motherland’ statue depicts an imposing and resilient woman – known colloquially as ‘Baba’, or ‘Grandma’ – holding a shield and sword aloft above her head as she surveys the nation’s capital city
Built in 1981, the incredible monument is the centrepiece of Ukraine’s National Museum of the Second World War
The move is part of a longstanding ‘decommunisation’ drive dating back to 2015, just one year after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
Officials in Kyiv at the time placed a ban on further use of Soviet terms or symbols in the construction of new monuments, cultural projects or even the naming of new roads and streets.
The idea of replacing the instantly recognisable Soviet hammer and sickle emblazoned on the Motherland Monument’s shield was first floated by Volodymyr Viatrovych, the director of Ukraine’s Institute for National Remembrance, in 2017, but nothing came of it.
That is, however, until May 2022, when the Ministry of Culture revived the plans off the back of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops and tanks rolling across the border two months prior.
In a press release published on July 13 – the day works first began to remove the Soviet symbol – urban planning agency DIAM claimed that out of a poll of 800,000 Ukrainian citizens, an overwhelming majority of 85 per cent backed the decision to replace the hammer and sickle with Ukraine’s trident.
Stunning images showed how workers were lifted hundreds of feet in the air by crane and inched towards the statue’s shield, where they set about dismantling the accoutrements, stripping them away from the metal latticework beneath.
Workers were later seen standing in a circle looking down upon the iconic Soviet emblem as it lay on the floor of the national WWII museum following its removal.
Workers remove the Soviet coat of arms from the Motherland monument on August 1, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine
A view of the Motherland monument with partially removed Soviet shield on August 1, 2023
Part of the Soviet symbols, which was removed from the shield of the Motherland monument
A general view shows the ‘Motherland’ monument during the dismount of a Soviet emblem from its shield, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at a compound of the World War II museum in Kyiv, Ukraine August 1, 2023
In a social media post, museum director Yury Savchuk shared a clip of the work, writing: ‘This is the moment that millions of Ukrainians, generations of Ukrainians have dreamed about…
‘This is the moment we dismantle the empire – the symbol of the Soviet Union – opening up a fresh perspective not only on the wonderful scenery of the Dnieper, but for a new life in a free family of European nations.’
The project to replace the shield is set to cost 28 million hryvnias ($758,000), though Ukrainian officials stress it will be paid for by corporate donations, not state funds.
The arts minister who had backed the project resigned last month amid official criticism of the cost of arts projects in wartime.
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