The Odesa city council has unanimously agreed to dismantle a controversial monument to Russian Empress Catherine II, Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Honcharenko wrote.
“Finally! The Russian world has no place in Odesa,” he stated, adding that the monument will be transferred to a museum.
Apart from approving the removal of the monument to the XVIII-ct Russian empress, the council also voted in favor of dismantling and relocating the monument to her close associate, Russian imperial general Aleksandr Suvorov. The Odesa city council informed that they will be temporarily relocated to the Odesa art museum.
Battles around the monument to Catherine II have been underway in Odesa for many months as Russia’s invasion prompted Ukrainians to confront symbols of Russian imperialism still present in the public space. At the same time, many Odesites believed that she was part of Odesa’s historical landscape and that the monument, however controversial, should stay. The monument was regularly paint-bombed red and eventually, public opinion shifted toward taking the statue down.
Catherine II is considered to have founded Odesa in 1794; however, the Turkish town of Hadzhybei had stood here for at least 400 years before the Osman Empire lost territory on the north Black Sea coast to the expanding Russian empire in a series of wars. Reflecting these wars is the flag of the Osman Empire, which Catherine II tramples in the statue.
The fact that she is referred to as the founder of Odesa is no more than “Russian imperial propaganda,” writes the Ukrainian historical portal Istorychna Pravda: it would mean kicking off the history of the region from the moment it was occupied by Russian troops, kicking out centuries of Greek, Scythian, Crimean Tatar, Cossack, Osman history.
The 18th century is also known as the time when Ukraine ultimately lost the remains of its statehood.
In 1775, Catherine II issued the edict “On the eradication of Zaporizhzhia Sich,” destroying the militarized proto-state of the Zaporizhzhia Cossacks a little over a century after the Cossacks pledged allegiance to the Russian Tsar amid their uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Seen as part of the Tsarist destruction of Ukrainian statehood, it predated two centuries of Russia’s destruction of Ukrainian nationhood both in the Russian empire and the USSR.
In the same year, she introduced serfdom in Ukraine, essentially enslaving millions of Ukrainian peasants in the Russian empire.