THE TROUBLE WITH MONUMENTS
Reports suggest that the city council of Kyiv, capital of
At this spot, over a period of two days in September 1941, over 33,000 Ukrainians Jews were lined up along the ravine of
Later, the Soviet government resisted calls for the establishment of a memorial to the dead and when one was finally erected in 1976 there was no mention that the majority of those murdered were Jewish.
The past, to some, may be another country, but for good or ill it is there to be exploited, commercialised, reconstructed, swathes of fact omitted, cut-and-pasted and, in all sorts of ways, faked. Nevertheless, what breaths through the record is human memory carried forward through recollection, so long as that recollection can be captured and preserved in time.
Do monuments and sacred spaces serve the aim of true remembrance? Does it matter if the Ryurik Regency, the Grand Cossack, the Shevchenko Imperial, the Pushkin Astoria, the
Questions of identity
The issue is not whether we should acknowledge history in case we repeat its mistakes; rather it concerns how we see ourselves in the light of history. The name
To compromise the sacredness of memory in the interests of international finance, tourism and sport certainly suggests a kind of progress, with a guarantee thrown in of shared affluence for Kyiv, the state and its people. But it may put at risk an advance of another sort, that of the national identity of a country emerging from the strictures of Soviet hegemony.
It will also be a constant reminder of the contradictions between publicity and reality; a £17 million statement not about equality but elitism. And talking of reminders, it can be argued that the memory of
However, as far as
PS: Within days, the leader of Kyiv Council put a block on such plans.
Recommended reading Ukraine’s Forbidden History by Tim Smith, Rob Perks and Graham Smith (UK: Dewi-LewisPublishing in association with the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit, the British Library Sound Archive and the University of Sheffield, 1998).