Ukraine dismantles Soviet symbol from 100-metre-tall statue

By Leila Steed03 August 2023

Ukrainian authorities have dismantled one of the country’s most iconic monuments, removing a Soviet coat of arms that was emblazoned on the metal statue.

The Motherland Monument is situated at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine (NMHU) and overlooks the Dnipro River in Kyiv. It was erected on a 40-metre-high pedestal in 1981 and depicts a woman holding a 12 x 8 metre shield and 16-metre-long sword.

“Motherland-mother” herself measures 62 metres high and weighs almost 500 tonnes. Described as a monument “to science and technology of local importance”, the statue is believed to be the “highest monumental sculpture in Europe”. 

Dismantling crews recently completed the removal of the hammer and sickle fixtures – the emblem of the former Soviet Union – from the shield’s coat of arms, as part of a plan to replace them with the Ukrainian Trident – the country’s national symbol.

The dismantling team with the removed Soviet fixtures. The dismantling team with the removed Soviet fixtures. (PHOTO: Kirill Chubotin via Reuters Connect)

The NMHU described the works as “rather difficult”, as the complete structure comprises three welded layers; a 280-t basic steel carcass, a 108-t auxiliary carcass with plating and a thick stainless steel covering that weighs 90 t.

The decision to replace the coat of arms was made after a public consultation, which saw 85% of the 800,000 respondents vote in favour of the project.

Replacing the hammer and sickle fixtures is said to have cost around 28 million UAH (US$760,000), with the bill being covered by a number of major Ukrainian businesses.

The Ukrainian Trident will be installed over the coming weeks, with its unveiling currently expected to take place on August 24, as part of the country’ Independence Day celebrations.

An excavator with a demolition attachment tearing down a building

The permit for the removal of the shield’s coat of arms was issued by the government’s State Inspection of Architecture and Urban Planning (DIAM) on July 13, 2023, following the introduction a law (May, 2023) to remove all Soviet and Russian monuments in the country.

In a statement issued at the time, the NMHU said: “The decommunization of the dominant monument ‘Motherland’ is a significant event for the Museum and the entire country.”

What will happen to the hammer and sickle fixtures – whether they are to be destroyed, kept as part of a historical archive, or melted down and recycled – has not been disclosed.

Video Copyright: NurPhoto via Reuters Connect

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