Kyiv, Ukraine ( Associated Press) – On the streets of Kyiv, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s name is disappearing, while Andy Warhol’s is making his way back.
Ukraine is speeding up its work to erase any traces of Soviet and Russian influence from its public spaces, removing monuments and including its own artists, poets, soldiers, pro-independence leaders and its war heroes Hundreds of streets are being renamed to remember others. year.
Following the February 24 invasion by Kremlin troops, igniting a war that has killed or injured countless civilians and soldiers and destroyed property and infrastructure, Ukraine’s leaders have turned to a campaign that was once focused on eradicating their communist past. Now it is “derusification”.
Ukrainian street names that once commemorated Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin or the Bolshevik Revolution have all but disappeared. The enemy is no longer the Soviet legacy, it is Russia.
It is partly a response to crimes committed by Russia and partly an assertion of a national identity that honors Ukrainian dignitaries that have been largely ignored.
Many in Ukraine view Russia as a nation through the Soviet Union, which has marked dominance over its smaller neighbor for generations, relegating its artists, poets and military heroes to relative obscurity compared to Russians. .
If victors write history, as some say, Ukrainians are rewriting it on their own, even as their fate hangs in the balance. Its national identity is experiencing an unprecedented surge in ways big and small.
For example, President Volodymyr Zelensky is wearing a black T-shirt with the caption: “I am Ukrainian.”
He is one of many Ukrainians who were born speaking Russian as their first language. Now, they avoid it, or at least limit its use. Traditionally, Russian was spoken more in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Western Ukraine, ahead of Russia, was the quickest to abandon Russian and Soviet iconography.
Now other parts of the country are coming under its grip. The eastern city of Dnieper on Friday tore down a bust of author Alexander Pushkin, who like Dostoevsky was a colossus of 19th-century Russian literature. Sure enough, the Ukrainians used a crane to put a strap around the statue’s neck before removing it.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced this month that some 30 more streets in the capital would be renamed.
Volodymyr Prokopiev, deputy director of the Kyiv City Council, commented that Ukraine’s “decommunization” policy, which has been in place since 2015, has been implemented in a “soft” manner so as not to hurt sentiments or even support among the country’s Russian-speaking population. Ho. Moscow.
“With the war, everything changed. Now the Russian lobby is powerless. In fact, it no longer exists,” Prokopiev said in an interview with The Associated Press at his office overlooking Khreshchatyk Street, the capital’s main avenue. “Renaming these streets is like erasing the propaganda imposed on Ukraine by the Soviet Union.”
During the war, the Russians have also sought to impose the stamp of their culture and dominance on the Ukrainian territories they occupied.
Andrew Wilson, a professor at University College London, warned about the dangers of “rewriting a period of history in which Ukrainians and Russians cooperated and built things together. I think it is important to de-imperialize Russian culture.” The goal should be to point out where we were previously blind, often about the West.”
Wilson said that the Ukrainians are “taking a very broad view.”
He quoted the 19th-century Russian author Pushkin, which may naturally upset some Ukrainians.
For them, for example, the Cossacks – a Slavic people from Eastern Europe – “mean freedom, while Pushkin described them as brutal, barbaric, old-fashioned and in need of Russian civilization,” added Wilson, whose book “The Ukrainian” published its fifth edition recently.
For his campaign, Kyiv conducted an online poll and received 280,000 suggestions in a single day, Prokopiev says. The responses were reviewed by a group of experts, and final approval was given by city officials and residents of certain streets.
As part of the “decommunization” program, about 200 streets in Kyiv were renamed before this year. So far in 2022, several streets have been renamed and another 100 are to be renamed soon, Prokopiev says.
A street named after philosopher Friedrich Engels will now commemorate Ukrainian avant-garde poet Bohdan-Ihor Antonych. A boulevard whose name translates as “Friendship of Peoples”, an allusion to the various ethnicities under the Soviet Union, will pay tribute to Mykola Mikhnovsky, one of Ukraine’s early advocates of independence.
Another road already recognizes the “Heroes of Mariupol”: the fighters resisted for months against the devastating Russian offensive against that port city on the Sea of Azov that eventually fell. A street in the Russian city of Volgograd is now named Roman Ratushny, after the 24-year-old environmental and civic activist who died in the war.
A small street in northern Kyiv is still named after Dostoevsky, but will soon be named after Warhol, the late American pop art visionary whose parents had family roots in Slovakia, across Ukraine’s western border.
Valery Sholomitsky, who has lived on Dostoyevsky Street for nearly 40 years, said he could take either side.
“We have less than 20 houses here. There are very few,” Sholomitsky explains, clearing snow from the road in front of a faded sign with the Russian writer’s address. He says Warhol was “our artist” because of his predecessors in Eastern Europe.
Now, “it will be even better,” he says.
“Maybe it’s good that we now change so many streets, because before we used to call them incorrectly,” he says.