A statue of 18th century Russian empress Catherine the Great was removed overnight from public view in the port city of Odesa as part of Ukraine’s campaign to purge public spaces of monuments to Russia, Sky News reported.
The towering figure of Catherine, who founded Odesa in 1794, was originally erected in 1900, but only reinstalled by the city council to the central square in 2007. It had been in storage since 1920 when it was toppled by the Bolsheviks.
In late November, Odessa authorities agreed to remove the monument again after more than half of the city’s residents voted for its destruction in an online poll. Around 30 percent voted for it to stay with a new historical context and a slim percentage voted for it to stay unchanged.
The statue, which is titled the Monument to the Founders of Odesa and features the likeness of several figures from Russia’s Imperial past, will be relocated to the Odesa Fine Arts Museum from Ekaterininskaya Square.
Since the Russian military invaded the country in February, Ukrainians have undertaken a “de-Russification” of its cities. In Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, the names of famous Russian and Soviet figures have been removed from streets, metro stations, and landmarks, and replaced with names that reflect Ukrainian history. In Mykolaiv, a Pushkin memorial was removed while, in Kharkiv, officials have renamed several stations, including a stop honoring Leo Tolstoy. Some Ukrainians in the country’s Russian-backed western region, however, have resisted the campaign.
In an echo of the worldwide movement to topple monuments linked to periods of colonization, Russian statues have been defaced or taken down across Ukraine. In April, Kyiv officials dismantled a bronze sculpture of two workers holding a medal in the city’s central square gifted to Ukraine by the Soviet government. Another Soviet-era monument, a massive titanium rainbow-shaped arch, dubbed the People’s Friendship Arch, was also removed.
“We now have a unique possibility to resolve the matter of these streets and structures,” Volodymyr Bondarenko, the secretary of the Kyiv City Council, said in a statement in April. He added that “no one intends to take books of Russian classical authors down from library shelves or forbid people to attend concerts of Rachmaninoff. But the matter of street names and memorials needs to be brought to a close.”