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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Monument to Catherine the Great Polarizes Ukraine

Odesa, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, on Saturday paid tribute to its official founder, Russian empress Catherine the Great, Korespondent reports.

The restoration of a tsarist-era monument has again highlighted Ukraine’s bipolar identity, a product of centuries-long Russian colonialism.

For most Odesites — their city being a hotbed of pro-Russian sentiment — the German-born empress indeed holds greatness. She, along with Peter the Great, belongs in the pantheon of Russian patriotism, and symbolizes Russia’s naval might and geopolitical glory.

To historically-minded Ukrainians, however, she represents the icon of Russian imperialism and oppression. Catherine the Great crushed the Zaporizhian Sich and further breached the Pereyaslav Treaty of 1654, thus eroding Ukraine’s autonomy.
This makes her something of a red cloth in the eyes of Ukrainian Cossacks, Ukrainian nationalists, and Ukrainian Orthodox clergy.

Unfortunately, some of these people decided that the best way to demonstrate the anti-Ukrainianism of the empress’s historical footprint would be to obstruct the event by engaging in a little pushy action. The opening ceremony, attended by a few thousand people, featured skirmishes between monument opponents and police.

Local proponents included
Party of Regions activists, Russian Orthodox clergy, and pro-Russian Cossacks, obviously unmoved by the heavy toll Catherine the Great had exacted on their Ukrainian counterparts.

The issue of political solidarity in the former Soviet Union can be noted for its bizarre proportions. In the roaring 90s, communists and monarchists held joint opposition rallies in Moscow, waving red banners and carrying portraits of Nicholas II.

These carnivals flew in the face of the well-publicized fact that the Bolsheviks had massacred the Russian royal family, not sparing even the tsar’s children, whom they stabbed with bayonets.



elmer said...

Who funded this?

Any idea of cost?

Maybe someone should put up a statue of the Welshman, Hughes, in Donetsk.

Taras said...

I have no idea, Elmer.

Maybe we should ask the local chapter of the Party of Regions. And yes, a monument to John Hughes would be a more accurate way for the Regionalists to give credit where it’s due.

After all, the riches accumulated by the Regionalists can be more directly traced to John Hughes rather than to Catherine the Great.

elmer said...

They did not teach this in Ukraine, and my cousin did not know this until I pointed it out the other day.

Catherine the Great =

Sophie Augusta Frederica

Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, nicknamed "Figchen") a minor German princess in Stettin.

Catherine's father, Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, held the rank of a Prussian general in his capacity as Governor of the city of Stettin (now Szczecin in Poland) in the name of the king of Prussia. Though born as Sophie Augusta Frederica (Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, nicknamed "Figchen") a minor German princess in Stettin, Catherine did have very remote Russian ancestry, and two of her first cousins became Kings of Sweden: Gustav III and Charles XIII. In accordance with the custom then prevailing amongst German nobility, she received her education chiefly from a French governess and from tutors.

Taras said...

As far as I remember, Soviet history textbooks did not conceal Figchen's German origin.

What they did conceal was Lenin's relations with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Stalin's relations with Hitler. And that's the most important part.

Anonymous said...

Love the title esp. as she is been entered into hx and common knowledge around the world as Catherine the Great ... of course to some the Great and for others ... the Bane. (Luida)

Catherine the Bane

by Editorial , Kyiv Post
Oct 31 2007, 21:33

“Webster’s Dictionary” defines the word “bane” as deadly harm, ruin, death, distress, or the cause thereof.

For Ukrainians, Catherine the so-called “Great,” the Prussian-born empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796, was just that – a bane that wrought deadly harm, ruin, death, distress, extermination and destruction throughout the Russian Empire’s “Little Russian” (Ukrainian) lands, as well as its other foreign holdings to destroy peoples and their cultures; entire nations, in fact. Her goal was to incorporate what was left under a uniform and undifferentiated Russian continuum – a prison of nations, as many historians refer to the Catherine-era Russian Empire.

It is this monster, who many find no difficulty in likening to Lenin, Stalin and Hitler, that the local authorities of the great Ukrainian port city of Odesa have found worthy of elevating to the level of heroine of Ukraine, by erecting a monument to her on Saturday, Oct. 27.

By erecting a monument, a nation tells the world who it finds worthy of honor and praise, typically for contributing to the building or development of that nation.

The Odesa authorities’ act of erecting the Catherine monument now tells the world that Ukraine thanks, praises and pays homage to a villain for having been among Ukrainians’ greatest decimators, torturers and executioners.

Catherine the Curse stands behind the abolition of the Ukrainian Hetmanate and the liquidation of the Zaporizhian Sich, home to the Zaporizhian Cossacks, with both institutions largely regarded as the cradle of the Ukrainian democratic tradition. Following her destruction of the Hetmanate and Cossacks, this formerly minor Prussian princess imposed serfdom, turning Ukrainians into slaves.

As for her “founding” of cities on Ukrainian territory, according to Taras Chukhlib, a historian, and director of the Cossack Research Center at the Institute of History of Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, this is nothing but a myth. This myth is perpetuated by interested parties who want to pull Ukraine back into the Muscovite fold by convincing Ukrainians that all the cities in eastern and southern Ukraine, as well as Crimea, were founded by the St. Petersburg government. No mention is ever made that long before their “founding,” there were Ukrainian Cossack settlements on the territories of Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Nykopil. Moreover, present-day Sevastopil and Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky have an ancient history that spans thousands of years, not 200.

Meanwhile, earlier hisotrical sources indicate that in 1415, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas, founded a fortress town on the site of present-day Odesa and named it Kachybei (Kochubeiv in Ukrainian).

Because the Catherine monument speaks on a national scale, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko must decree that the statue be removed. Otherwise, Ukrainians and the history of their ancestors who perished at the tentacles of the Bane will suffer disgrace and humiliation in their own country at the whim of political and geopolitical interests who would like to see nothing better than Ukraine lose its language, history and statehood and come back under the yoke of Russia.

Anonymous said...

The following I guess could be placed in the Catherine the Great or Catherine the Banal category. What's next? Duelling monuments - perhaps a Bandera monument needs to be placed next to the C the II monolith, which actually makes sense as one of the tests imho of a 'great' society is its protection of the rights of its minorities and in that area at this time, pro-Banderites are a minority.


Angry Reaction to Catherine

Last weekend saw another chapter written in the story of Ukraine’s struggle with its complicated national identity as nationalists violently protested the erection of a monument to Catherine the Great down in Odessa. Actually, it was a re−erection. The city − which is heavily non−Ukrainian ethnically, has deep cultural and histori− cal ties to Mother Russia, and votes solidly blue and white along with the rest of the Russian−speaking south and east – put back a monument to the Russian empress that the Soviets had taken down eighty years ago. News reports say the protests led to minor clashes with the police, who are typically a patiently stone−faced presence at events such as this. The protestors describe themselves as the spiritual heirs of the Cossacks, and say that a monument to Catherine, who conquered southern Ukraine for the Russian Empire, is an insult to the idea of Ukrainian nation− hood.

One nationalist leader, Ihor Vardanets, was quoted as calling the legendary Russian ruler “a woman who en− slaved the Ukrainian people” and who “made our coun− try into a minor part of Russia and turned Ukrainians into serfs.” While there’s value in pointing out the depredations that successive versions of Russian imperialism visited on Ukraine, it’s possible that the gentleman is simplifying things a little too much. It’s not as if Catherine invaded a sovereign Ukrainian nation when her armies took the south. Rather, she won it from its former rulers, the Ottomans, in the Russo−Turkish War. Meanwhile, Odessa’s Russian−leaning residents are appar− ently all for the statue, which of course is why it’s going up in the first place. The leader of another group of Cossacks, anti−nationalist this time, called the protesters hooligans who “broke fences” and “washed their shoes in the fountain at the Pushkin monument.” (Insulting Pushkin is a particu− larly obnoxious crime in the codex of Russian national pride.) The issue speaks to the ethnic and ideological divisions that inform life in Ukraine at this point. The fact is that people in Ukraine’s nationalist west despise Ukraine’s imperial legacy, people in the south and east mostly like it, and masses of other people are deeply ambivalent about it, while probably trending more and more toward the negative as they outgrow the Soviet era. The understandable result is a country that, in general, still hasn’t figured out what it wants to be. That’s to be expected in such a young state with such a complicated history, but it still occasionally creates peculiar situations like this one, in which the citizens of a sovereign country are actually putting up monuments to the controversial ruler of another country. It’s somewhat as if contemporary Dublin put up a monument to Henry VIII, who conquered Ireland for England, or as if Boston put up a monument to British King George III. Where will it end? Probably in the way such contretemps seem to end in a country that, unlike Russia, doesn’t seem to have a taste for letting political differences end in violence. The issue will peter out and the monument will stand, with nationalists occasionally scrawling graffiti on it to register their discontent. They’ll compensate by putting up more memorials to Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists leader Stepan Bandera in Ukraine’s west, just like the one that went up recently in Lviv to the screaming of Red Army veterans and their anti−Ukrainian−nationhood advocates. Life in Odessa, which has a history of multi−ethnic tolerance and a famously ironic and humourous outlook on life, will go on, as it will in Ukraine.

Richard Caldwell

Taras said...

Thank you for these torrential updates, Luida!:)

I like the pro-Ukrainian spirit of the Kyiv Post editorial, as opposed to the somewhat Russocentric perspective offered by What’s On.

The What’s On article contains inaccurate claims and exhibits a selective grasp of Ukrainian history. For a Kyiv-based publication, it gives Ukrainian culture too short a shrift.

1. Odesa is heavily Russified rather than “heavily non-Ukrainian ethnically.” According to the 2001 Census, Ukrainians make up 62.8 % of the oblast population; Russians, 20.7 %. We shouldn’t confuse Odesa with the ethnically cleansed Crimea, from which Stalin deported Tatars and replaced them with Russians.

2. In writing about the “anti-nationalist Cossacks,” the author does not mention Catherine’s 1775 terrorist attack on the Zaporizhian Sich, the fortress of the Ukrainian Cossacks — and the last line of defense for Ukrainian statehood.

3. “It’s not as if Catherine invaded a sovereign Ukrainian nation when her armies took the south.” Under the terms of the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav, Ukraine was granted autonomy. In breach of the above agreement, Russia gradually destroyed Ukraine’s autonomy.

In summary, the article conspicuously avoids the issue of Ukraine’s Russification, and downplays the policy continuity between the tsarist and communist regimes.

Perhaps the author doesn’t mind if Ukraine follows the cultural path of Ireland, a post-colonial country that "eschews" her native language? If so, he’s out of line. Ukraine’s relative tolerance should not be seen as the green light to soft-pedal her oppressed identity and to trample her blood-soaked history.

elmer said...

OK, it looks like there were 3 "patrons," or at least the one from the Vitrenko bloc, who might have paid for the statute.

No members of the city council showed up for the unveiling. Do people get to put up whatever monuments they want in Odessa?

Apparently these people think they live in tsarist Russia, and not in 21st century Ukraine.

В Одесі затримали противників імператриці Катерини Другої ^
27 жовтня в Одесі відкрили пам'ятник засновникам міста, центральна фігура якого російська імператриця Катерина друга.

Гасло противників пам'ятника
У церемонії відкриття брали участь меценат відновлення пам'ятника, депутат Одеської міської ради Руслан Тарпан (обраний за списками блоку Наталії Вітренко «Народна опозиція»), депутат Верховної Ради України 5 кликання Дмитро Волошенков (Партія регіонів) та настоятельниця Свято Архангело-Михайлівського жіночого монастиря, матушка Серафіма (УПЦ МП). Не прийшов жоден високо посадовець Одеської міської Ради.

Катерининську площу Одеси, яку зайняли активісти Партії регіонів, проросійської організації «Єдіноє отєчєство», російського козацтва, оточили сотні працівники правоохоронних органів та спец загону «Беркут».

Російські козаки співали «Боже царя бережи» та ображали противників відкриття пам'ятника.

Міліція встановивши кілька рядів залізних парканів перешкодила проходженню на площу близько чотирьохсот активістів Українського козацтва, Всеукраїнського об'єднання «Свобода», Народний Союз «Наша Україна», Української Народної Партії, Конгресу Українських Націоналістів, Всеукраїнського об'єднання «Тризуб». Вони виступили з протестом проти відкриття «кату українського народу». Між прихильниками та противниками заходу виникли кілька сутичок.

Представники проросійської організації «Єдіноє отєчєство» вигукували образи на адресу противників та провокували бійки.

Вчинений напад на активістів НСНУ. У них з рук вирвали партійні помаранчеві прапори, кинули їх на землю і почали топтати ногами.

Представник НСНУ Тарас Прокопечко засудив нападників і висловив подив з приводу «повної бездіяльності з боку правоохоронних органів.

Представниця товариства «Просвіта», вчитель української мови Олеся Чайківська переконана, що пам'ятник із зображенням імператриці Катерини другої став ще одним символом поділу України. «Дуже дивно, що державна влада України не реагує на такі прояви. Сьогодні в Одесі порушили наше право на висловлення власної політичної позиції. На Катерининській площі панує нездорова атмосфера»

Учасники акції протесту

Невідомі молодики влаштували бійку і з представниками об'єднання «Свобода» і намагалися пошматувати партійну символіку. Працівники міліції одразу після сутички затримали кількох «свободівців» обвинувативши їх у організації протистояння.

Серед постраждалих була і активістка об'єднання «Свобода» Віра Попандополо. Вона розповідає: «Я побігла у двір дому коли побачила як там працівники міліції викручують руки і б'ють нашого активіста. Полковник міліції на мою вимогу представитися сильно штовхнув мене об стіну».

Противники відкриття пам'ятника тримали гасла «Катерині – Ні». «Нащадки козаків проти пам'ятника катам України», «Пам'ятник Катерині другій – державний злочин» та інші.

Вони пройшли ходою протесту і до будинку міської Ради скандуючи на адресу депутатів «Ганьба».

Відкритий пам'ятник засновникам Одеси
Одразу після завершення акцій протесту працівники міліції затримали десятьох активістів різноманітних політичних партій (ВО «Свобода», КУН, ВО «Тризуб»). Серед них Андрій Висоцький, Павло Гречаний, Ігор Борисенко, Ігор Загородній, Віктор Лобан, Володимир Мусяк.

Затриманих дотепер утримують у Шевченківському та Порто-Франківському відділках Приморського району Одеси. Працівники міліції повідомили, що затриманих обвинувачують у «порушенні громадського спокою».

Ігор Столяров

Taras said...

Thank you for the update, Elmer!

It’s no surprise. In my election vids post, you can find a “flasher” Vitrenko Bloc ad that prominently displays the Kremlin Bell Tower.