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WhatdoestheMotherlandmonumentinKyivrepresent?

The Motherland monument is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Ukrainian capital. However, not the most unambiguous one: though the meaning of the statue remains relevant, the Soviet past sparked discussion amidst the decommunization movement. Now, Ukraine is reclaiming the monument by renaming it and changing the Soviet hammer and sickle on the shield to the Ukrainian coat of arms.

What is the Motherland monument height?

The Motherland monument is one of the highest statues in Europe. The sculpture itself is 62 meters (203 feet) high, and with the pedestal, it rises to 102 meters (335 feet).

Photo: Konstantin Brizhnichenko

It is also the world’s first monument made of steel using the continuous welding method. The structure had three layers: the main steel frame, the auxiliary frame with cladding, and the cladding itself, made of stainless steel. It was built to withstand a nine-point earthquake, and strong winds can’t harm the statue either. A special device installed inside the sword dampens the oscillations of the wind load and prevents the sculpture from swinging too much. 

The beauty and scale of the Motherland monument can be appreciated not only from the outside but also from the inside. Two elevators have been installed for technical maintenance and for moving people inside the structure: a vertical elevator and an inclined elevator. The first one can take visitors to a circular observation platform near the sculpture’s base at a height of 36,6 meters. The inclined elevator goes even higher, up to chest level. From there, visitors can ascend stairs to the upper edge of the shield at a height of 91 meters. An incredible view of Kyiv opens up from this vantage point!

The Motherland monument meaning

The monument is a part of the museum complex dedicated to the history of Ukraine in World War II. It was built according to the design of Ukrainian architect Vasyl Borodai, and the solemn opening took place on May 9, 1981.

The statue symbolizes the resilience of Ukrainians, who helped defeat Nazi Germany at the cost of millions of lives in World War II. In one hand, the female warrior holds a 16-meter sword, and in the other, a shield. 

The Motherland monument is also considered to be the guardian of Ukraine. The sculpture stands in a confident triumphal pose, holding the sword and shield above her head, which may be interpreted as a warning: she defends Ukraine with the shield but is also ready to strike with the sword against anyone who seeks to attack the country.

Moreover, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Motherland monument acquired a new symbolic meaning for Ukrainians. After all, the Ukrainian female warrior faces Russia and is ready to defend her country against another threat.

Reclaiming the cultural heritage

Decomunization, or the process of rethinking the legacy of the communist regime and removing Soviet symbols and monuments from public spaces, began in 1991 but became systematic after the adoption of the relevant law in 2015.

Many monuments have been dismantled since, but the future of some, including the Motherland monument, became a subject of broad public debate, both due to their cultural significance and high demolition costs. 

In July 2022, after Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, a survey was conducted among Ukrainians regarding the replacement of Soviet symbolics on the shield of the Motherland monument with a Ukrainian coat of arms. 85% of Ukrainian citizens supported this historic decision, as reported by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. 

The dismantling of the Soviet symbolics, which had been on the shield for 40 years, began on July 30, 2023. The Soviet emblem with the hammer and sickle shield was replaced with the 7,5 meter-high tryzub. All installation work was completed by Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24, 2023. The monument is expected to be renamed “Mother Ukraine.”

The trident, Ukraine’s coat of arms, has replaced a Soviet emblem with a hammer
and sickle on the shield of the Motherland monument in Kyiv. August 7, 2023.
Photo: Kostiantyn Liberov & Vlada Liberova

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