Statue of Russian empress vandalized in city she founded
A monument to Russian Empress Catherine the Great in the Ukrainian city of Odessa was defaced on Wednesday by unidentified perpetrators. This comes amid a campaign by the Ukrainian authorities targeting Soviet and Russian-related monuments, as well as the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.
According to photos posted on social media, the vandals splashed red paint over the statue. They also placed a red hood on the head and a hangman’s noose in the hand, apparently to portray the empress, who founded the city in the late 18th century, as an executioner.
Following the incident, Sergey Gutsalyuk, who heads the southern branch of Ukraine’s Institute of National Memory, described the stunt as “an eloquent installation.”
“Is this a noose for occupiers or collaborationists from the city council?” he asked on Facebook, without elaborating on who he was referring to.
This is not the first time the monument has come under attack from vandals. Last week, unknown actors wrote on the memorial: “demolition is coming, Gena won’t help.” This was apparently in reference to Mayor Gennady Trukhanov, who has publicly opposed what he called “a monument war,” arguing that attempting to rewrite history could polarize the country.
In July, a petition calling on Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to replace the monument with a statue of American porn actor Billy Herrington passed the threshold of 25,000 votes required for consideration.
At the time, the petition described the empress as a “controversial historical figure whose actions caused great damage to Ukrainian statehood and culture.” In early August, the Ukrainian leader submitted the petition to the city council for consideration. The local authorities have yet to deliver a ruling on the initiative.
The Ukrainian authorities and activists have repeatedly targeted historical monuments since Kiev passed a ‘decommunization’ law in 2015. While the stated aim was to help Ukraine break with its communist past, in practice, it has also been applied to landmarks that can be linked to Russia.
Moscow has repeatedly criticized Kiev for what it considers to be “forceful Ukrainization and de-Russification” aimed at suppressing the rights of around a fourth of the country’s population.