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Kyiv Renames 'Moscow Avenue' After Contentious Nationalist Hero

  • Claire Bigg

Along with Moscow Avenue, the Kyiv city council also voted to rename three other Kyiv streets honoring famous Russians -- a street and a lane named after Mikhail Kutuzov, a renowned field marshal of the Russian Empire; and a street named after 18th-century Russian military leader Aleksandr Suvorov.

Along with Moscow Avenue, the Kyiv city council also voted to rename three other Kyiv streets honoring famous Russians -- a street and a lane named after Mikhail Kutuzov, a renowned field marshal of the Russian Empire; and a street named after 18th-century Russian military leader Aleksandr Suvorov.

The frenzy in Ukraine of renaming streets and landmarks shows no sign of abating, with one of Kyiv's main thoroughfares about to lose its name, Moskovskiy Prospekt, or Moscow Avenue.

Instead, the street will be named after Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist resistance leader who fought both Soviet and Nazi forces during World War II but is particularly revered by right-wing extremists and reviled by many Poles and Jews over bloody campaigns carried out in his name.

The renaming was supported by 87 of the Kyiv city council's 97 members. A comment published on Facebook shortly after the vote by Yuriy Syrotyuk, the head of the Freedom (Svoboda) party's faction at the council, suggested that the remaining 10 members had abstained rather than voted against the proposal.

The move is a snub of Moscow; While hailed by many Ukrainians as a hero, authorities in Russia have branded Bandera a Nazi collaborator and have sought to portray pro-democracy Ukrainian protesters as his followers.

The renaming is part of a massive "decommunization" campaign to rid Ukraine of Soviet-era symbols in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support of pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.

Under legislation adopted in May 2015, Ukraine formally categorizes the communist government that ruled between 1917 and 1991 as a criminal regime.

Street interviews conducted by RFE/RL in Kyiv back in March, when the initiative was first aired, showed that many residents welcomed the proposal. Others suggested that Ukraine should instead devote its time and money to more important tasks.

Along with Moscow Avenue, the Kyiv city council also voted to rename three other Kyiv streets honoring famous Russians -- a street and a lane named after Mikhail Kutuzov, a renowned field marshal of the Russian Empire; and a street named after 18th-century Russian military leader Aleksandr Suvorov.

The council agreed to name the streets after Oleksa Almazov, a general of the Ukrainian People's Army; Ukrainian writer, journalist, and poet Yevhen Hutsalo; and Mykhaylo Omelyanovych-Pavlenko, supreme commander of the Ukrainian Galician Army.

The resolution must now be approved by Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who appears likely to give it the green light.

Klitschko himself has suggested renaming the street hosting the Russian Embassy in Ukraine after slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin.

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    Claire Bigg

    Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


     

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