Monument to Russian empress who founded Ukrainian city is set for demolition
City residents supported the idea in an online vote, and it will now be considered by Odessa’s authorities
The demolition of a monument to Russia’s Empress Catherine the Great will be considered during the next meeting of the city’s council, Mayor Gennady Trukhanov announced Saturday, after an online poll on the matter concluded. The official had vowed on Facebook to personally vote for the removal of the statue and for its relocation into a proposed “park of Imperial and Soviet past.”
“The majority of Odessa residents who voted supported the idea of dismantling the monument from Ekaterininskaya Square. Despite the war that is going on in our country, we have managed to follow a legitimate democratic procedure,” Trukhanov wrote, expressing his gratitude to “every inhabitant of Odessa who took part in the voting.”
The poll on the fate of the monument to the empress, who founded the city in the late 18th century, ran on a local “Socially active citizen” platform over the past month. While the mayor hailed this “democratic procedure,” the voting actually appeared to be less than representative. Less than 8,000 of Odessa’s nearly one million inhabitants took part in it, with some 3,900 supporting its complete demolition and 2,800 voting to leave it in its place while providing additional information about Catherine the Great.
The vote among those users having “confirmed” status, i.e. those who provided proof they actually live in the city, showed an even smaller gap, with 2,900 voting for demolition and some 2,250 supporting the second most popular option. Other suggestions, such as removing “imperial” symbols from the monument, leaving it as is, moving it to a museum, and so on, received only marginal support.
On Sunday, the monument was fenced off by construction workers, with a notice on the fencing stating the works were in preparation for “demolition and moving” of the monument, as imagery circulating online shows. The city’s authorities, however, have not made any official statements on the ongoing works yet.
The monument to Catherine the Great has been repeatedly targeted by unknown vandals during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, amid repeated calls to demolish it. 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 needed for legal consideration.
Zelensky ultimately submitted the petition, which described the empress as a “controversial historical figure whose actions caused great damage to Ukrainian statehood and culture,” to local authorities for consideration. While the city’s authorities remained silent on the prospects of erecting a monument to commemorate the late gachimuchi star, they already attempted to move the statue of Catherine the Great to a museum. However, that motion, considered in late September, failed to get enough votes.
In post-Maidan Ukraine, authorities and activists alike have repeatedly targeted historical monuments, with the process accelerating since Kiev passed a ‘decommunization’ law in 2015. While the proclaimed goal was to help Ukraine break with its “communist past,” in practice such activities targeted any landmarks that could somehow be linked to Russia.