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.