As Russian forces continue to ravage Ukraine, the city of kyiv dismantled a 30-foot-tall statue dedicated to “Soviet friendship” on April 26. The Soviet government donated the three-part sculpture – consisting of a titanium arch, a bronze statue, and a granite steel statue – to the Ukrainian capital in 1982.
The statue depicts a Ukrainian worker and a Russian worker brandishing the Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples, a medal the Russian government awarded to individuals and groups for strengthening ties between ethnic and geographical groups within of the USSR (a version still exists today). City officials first demolished one of the bronze heads, then the entire monument was removed with a crane.
Only the two men’s boots remain. According to Reuters, a crowd of around 100 cheered “Glory to Ukraine” as the statue was toppled.
The third part of the Soviet gift was a granite steel statue depicting the Pereyaslav Council of 1654, in which the Cossack army submitted to the Russian Tsar in central Ukraine. The symbol suggests the unification of the two countries.
In a statement, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the Arch of Friendship of Peoples would remain. After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, activists painted a black stripe on the arch signified a crack, symbolizing a break between the two nations. From now on, the city will change the name of the monument from the “Arch of Friendship of Peoples” to “Ark of Freedom of the Ukrainian People” and add the colors of the Ukrainian flag to the arch. The huge landmark, located at a scenic vantage point over the Dnieper River in a historic district, was a popular tourist destination and photo spot in Kyiv.
“Now we see what this ‘friendship’ is – [the] destruction of Ukrainian cities…killing tens of thousands of peaceful people,” Mayor Klitschko told Reuters. “I am convinced that such a monument now has a completely different meaning.” Over 11 million people have evacuated Ukraine since the Russian invasion and 5,939 civilian casualties have been recorded.
The city of kyiv too plans to rename 467 other places currently named after Russians, including a square and a street named after writers Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin respectively.