Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 21.11.2018
Lenin was dead in Ukraine with independence in 1991. But it took the 2013-14 Revolution of Dignity for Ukrainians to get around to burying the corpse.
It is illegal in Ukraine to glorify the foreign occupation regimes of the Communist Russians or the Nazi Germans. Monuments to Lenin have come down everywhere in Ukraine except the parts that have been invaded and occupied by the Russian Federation, which are Crimea and part of Donbas. Ukrainians are asserting their heritage, culture, language and spirit in the massive task of giving places and things names that are genuine and positive rather than alien and oppressive.
Two recent changes of toponyms are indicative of the renaissance going on in Ukraine: Boris Nemtsov Square in Kyiv and Kropyvnytskyi district in central Ukraine.
On November 15, Kyiv city council decided to name a square at the corner of Surikov Street and Povitroflotsky Avenue after Boris Nemtsov. The Russian opposition politician was a supporter of the EuroMaidan protest movement which became the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. Deeply feared by Putin and his regime, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated on 27 February 2015 – one year after Russian special forces seized the regional parliament in Simferopol and began the Russian Federation’s invasion of and war against Ukraine.
Boris Nemtsov square is near the Russian embassy in Kyiv. The street on which the Russian consulate sits in Kyiv was previously renamed Volunteer Battalions Street. The Russian invaders of Ukraine have proximate reminders of the Revolution of Dignity and of the united defence by Ukrainians against Russian aggression.
The city of Kirovohrad was renamed Kropyvnytskyi by the Verkhovna Rada on 14 July 2016. Kirovohrad district was renamed Kropyvnytskyi district by Ukraine’s parliament on 20 November 2018. Kropyvnytskyi is 250 kilometres south-east of Kyiv.
The name “Kirovohrad” honoured a figure from the time of the Soviet Russian occupation of Ukraine named Sergey Kirov. Sergey Kirov was a leader in the Bolshevik coup which took place in the Russian Empire starting in 1917. Although a close, personal friend of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, Sergey Kirov was assassinated on 1 December 1934, possibly on the orders of Stalin.
Ukraine has a law called “On the Condemnation of the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) Regimes, and Prohibition of Propaganda of their Symbols.” For the name of a place in Ukraine to be “Kirovohrad” has been illegal since 9 April 2015. In the language of the decommunization/denazification law, it is an “outrage upon the memory of millions of victims of the communist totalitarian regime” to honour a blood-soaked oppressor from the Russian totalitarian occupation regime that crushed Ukrainian nationhood from 1920 to 1991.
The name “Kropyvnytskyi” honours Marko Kropyvnytskyi, a playwright and theatre impresario of local renown. He lived from 1840 to 1910. As the founder of what may be Ukraine’s first professional theatre, Marko Kropyvnytskyi was one of the leaders of a Ukrainian cultural renaissance while under conditions of brutal national oppression by the foreign occupation regime from Muscovy.
Ukrainians do not miss Lenin monuments. There is no empty space left behind. There is an opportunity for local and regional and national expression of cultural life – and Ukrainians are seizing that opportunity. Getting rid of “Lenin Street” in Ukrainian towns and villages is as essential to the restoration of Ukraine after independence as getting rid of “Adolf Hitler Square” in German towns and villages was to the restoration of Germany after World War II. As in any vibrant, quarrelsome, genuine polity, Ukraine will always be redefining itself in its names of places and in its monuments and in its commemorations. What is over and done with in Ukraine is the totalitarian oppression of normal life that was imposed by foreign powers, most notably Muscovy.