Visitors to Kyiv may wonder who is the powerful woman nobly protecting the city while yielding a sword and shield with Soviet symbols? She is The Motherland Monument, and ever since the beginning of her construction she has remained controversial. To some, she is a loving mother, offering strength and identity, while others consider her to be a “Soviet monstrosity”.
One of the most prominent features of the Kyiv skyline, the Motherland Monument is surrounded by other World War II memorials in the area which commemorate the heroism of soldiers and citizens of the Soviet Union who fought with the Allied Powers. Indeed, the atmosphere of this area is cathartic and poignant, and the artistic quality of the statue’s figure is moving. The Motherland Monument was designed by Yevgeny Vuchetich, the famed architect of another giant WWII memorials in Russia. The project was ultimately completed by Vasyl Borodai. However, the memorial’s adjacent location to the Pecherska Lavra caused controversy as to whether or not it was appropriate to construct anything taller than the churches in the monastery – or so close to it for that matter. Of course, in those officially atheistic times, this argument was disregarded. Today, the sincere Orthodox do not find the presence of the monument offensive.
Some see the Soviet construction as an attempt to reinvent Archangel Michael – the official holy protector of Kyiv, into a new avatar. When the monument officially opened in 1981, people criticized its excessive expense – better put to use somewhere else. This is still a common claim today, however, arguing to tear down the statue at this point seems barbaric. There is still debate as to whether they should remove the Soviet symbols from the shield, which are potentially the most unsavory aspects of Ukraine’s history however authentic to the time of its construction.
The consensus of the majority is a respect for the Motherland Monument, the way it honors WWII history and inspires a love for the land. While WWII history is sometimes controversial in Ukraine, when it comes to decommunization policies, Soviet WWII monuments are immune since the Allied struggle transcends national history or identity and can be considered an objective for humanitarian good.