The bronze statue underneath the “People’s Friendship Arch” (photo by Jennifer Boyer via Flickr)

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 gifted 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 holding up the Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples, a medal the Russian government awarded to individuals and groups for strengthening ties between ethnic and geographic groups within the USSR (a version still exists today). City officials first tore down one of the bronze heads, and then the entire monument was removed with a crane.

A screenshot of a tweet by @StratcomCentre (screenshot Elaine Velie/Hyperallergic)

Now only the boots of the two men remain. According to Reuters, a crowd of around 100 people cheered “Glory to Ukraine” when the statue was toppled.

The third part of the Soviet gift was a granite steel statue depicting the 1654 Pereyaslav Council, in which the Cossack army submitted to the Russian tsar in central Ukraine. The symbol suggests the unification of the two countries.

The granite steel statue depicts the 1654 Pereyaslav Council. (via Wikimedia Commons)

In a statement, Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said the People’s Friendship Arch will remain. After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, activists painted a black stripe on the arch meant to depict a crack, symbolizing a rupture between the two nations. Now, the city will change the monument’s name from “People’s Friendship Arch” to “Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People” and add the colors of the Ukrainian flag to the arch. The enormous landmark, situated at a scenic viewpoint over the Dnieper River in a historic district, was a popular tourist destination and photo spot in Kyiv.

The arch will be colored with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag (photo Jennifer Boyer via Flickr)

“We now see what this ‘friendship’ is — [the] destruction of Ukrainian cities … killing tens of thousands of peaceful people,” Mayor Klitschko told Reuters. “I am convinced such a monument has an entirely different meaning now.” More than 11 million people have evacuated Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and 5,939 civilian casualties have been recorded.

The city of Kyiv also plans to rename 467 other locations that are currently named after Russians, including a square and a street named for writers Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin, respectively.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.