Kiev plans Soviet 'occupation of Ukraine' museum

GMT 18:41 2015 Thursday ,23 July

Arab Today, arab today Kiev plans Soviet 'occupation of Ukraine' museum

WWII shows the Motherland Monument
Kiev - AFP

Kiev risked drawing further Moscow fury on Thursday by approving the construction of an open-air museum devoted to seven decades of Soviet "occupation" of Ukraine.

The city council instructed the Ukrainian capital's authorities to agree on a single location that could display all remaining communist-era symbols and monuments -- now officially banned -- after being converted into a public park.

A top Ukrainian culture ministry official had earlier said the controversial exhibit would help various generations remember and learn about "the crimes committed by the totalitarian Soviet regime in Ukraine".

The Kiev council voted in May to remove all remnants of its Soviet past from across the city of 2.8 million by August 24.

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union from the communist state's inception in 1922 to its collapse under the dual pressures of economic depression and regional separatism in 1991.

Kiev's close ties with Moscow began to unravel during a first pro-democracy revolution in Ukraine in 2004 that was repeated again in much more tragic circumstances two years ago.

Over a hundred people died in the protests that led to the Moscow-backed regime's February 2014 ouster -- most of them in a three-day spree of violence in which police opened fire on civilians.

The nation of about 40 million has been riven by a bloody insurgency since ex-president Viktor Yanukovych's administration was replaced by a pro-Western government seeking membership of the European Union and NATO.

The Kremlin denies playing part in the 15-month conflict and condemns Kiev for alleged persecuting ethnic Russians, both in Kiev and the war-torn east.

There was no immediate official reaction to Kiev's decision from Moscow.

- 'Geopolitical catastrophe' -

The Ukrainian capital already has a tiny "Soviet occupation" museum that was opened in a two-room apartment by the Moscow-based Memorial human rights organisation nearly a decade ago.
Much larger memorials to the former superpower's atrocities have also popped up across the ex-Soviet nations and other eastern European countries that suffered under Kremlin rule during the Cold War.

Russia has however experienced a surge in patriotism and Soviet nostalgia since President Vladimir Putin's rise to power in 1999.

Putin has famously called the Soviet Union's demise "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century and worked hard to rebuild political and economic bonds with the states it used to control.

Moscow is further debating whether to return monuments of once-reviled figures like Bolshevik security agency founder Felix Dzerzhinsky -- his iron statue was dramatically toppled outside KGB headquarters in August 1991 -- back to their pedestals.

Ukraine's decision in April to ban both Nazi and communist insignia outraged Moscow because it was seen as being aimed directly at remnants of Kremlin rule.
Russia accuses Ukraine's leadership and military of colluding with "fascist" volunteer fighters that glorify a brief period during World War II, when some saw Nazi soldiers as "liberators" from Joseph Stalin's dictatorial rule.

One of the co-authors of the Kiev legislation said the reminders of Ukraine's recent past should not be destroyed outright because they played an important educational role.

"Our children should also be able to study history through these monuments," he said in a statement published on the city council's website.

"Those who do not remember their history have no future," he added.


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