A Kyiv monument traded a 42-year-old Soviet coat of arms for a modern trident Sunday, a swap that exemplifies the war-torn country’s fight against the 21st-century Russian army and the vestiges of Ukraine’s Soviet past.
The Motherland Monument, a 335-foot statue of a woman holding a sword and shield, has towered over Kyiv since 1981 as a symbol of the U.S.S.R.’s triumphs during World War II. Workers dismantled the part of the shield featuring the Soviet hammer-and-sickle and wheat beginning in late July; on Sunday they replaced it with the Ukrainian emblem.
Ukraine’s efforts to replace Soviet iconography date back almost a decade. Amid the pro-democracy Maidan Revolution, Ukraine’s parliament ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 and Ukrainian demonstrators pulled down statues of former ruler Vladimir Lenin and other Soviet symbols, which the country eventually outlawed.
The Motherland statue’s new shield marks yet another sign of the campaign Ukrainians have variously called “decolonization,” “de-communization” and “de-Russification.” The trident is featured on Ukraine’s coat of arms, a symbol it says dates back to the 10th century, when it was associated with Volodymyr the Great, the grand prince of Kyiv.
As in previous cases, Russian officials condemned the change. Leonid Slutsky, head of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, said on Telegram that remaking the statue does not erase Russia and Ukraine’s shared history. He said Ukraine is disrespectfully trying to claim Soviet victories as its own.