December 2, 2023, 11:27

Should something be done with Pushkin: a discussion on the fate of the monument and street name took place in Odesa

On November 30, the Ukraine-Odesa Media Center held a round table on the topic “Odesa at war: questions to Pushkin” about the question “What should (if necessary) be done with the monument to the Russian poet in the center of Odessa.” We present the arguments of supporters and opponents of the monument’s demolition in alphabetical order.

Philologist, representative of the state language protection commissioner Yaroslav Vitko-Prysiazhniuk believes that imperial and Russian monuments should not be in the Ukrainian city of Odesa. In her opinion, they have long since become a myth, inflated by the empire and Soviet officials.

“One should not to consider Pushkin as a writer, as a historical figure, because he long ago grew from a poet and writer for Odessa and for Ukraine into an ideologue, a part of the myth of the Russian Empire. Many artists and writers lived in Odesa at different times, but so many “totems” are dedicated to Pushkin alone. This is a street in the center of the city, and monuments, there are several of them, and a lot of stories and legends. Adam Mickiewicz also lived here and wrote a lot about Odessa, but everyone talks about Pushkin. Lesya Ukrainka visited here every summer for ten years, was treated at Kuyalnik, but there is no monument to her,” the philologist noted.

According to lawyer Artem Kartashov, neither at the level of the parliament nor for many Ukrainians, the issue of “removing Russian monuments” is no longer an issue. The lawyer claims that by law they should be dismantled and sent to museums.

“Russian monuments, in particular to Alexander Pushkin, are weapons. Once the Russian Empire conquered these territories. In order to consolidate our lands and justify our presence here, a parallel story was created. The Pushkin monument is a marker erected by the Russian Empire. And this marker still works: some people still do not feel threatened by the fact that enemy monuments are everywhere. Unfortunately, many did not believe that the Russians would dare to invade Ukraine on a full scale, but when it happened, it was already too late. We experienced for ourselves how Russian weapons work,” the lawyer said.

Historian and tour guide Ihor Mozgovy partially agreed with Artem Kartashov that Russian and imperial monuments are markers of the “Russian world”. However, in his opinion, the dismantling of the monument will be an accompaniment to Russian propaganda.

“The fact that this monument is a marker is unquestionable. But we don’t know how much more we will have to endure because some moron sits in the Kremlin and says something all the time. I don’t think it’s necessary to rewrite my story. Pushkin in Odessa is not formalism. This is a person who was here and wrote. Even the Bolsheviks had the sense to demolish Catherine, but not to touch Pushkin and Vorontsov, because people’s money was collected for these monuments. Pushkin was not put on the clock, not on the anniversary, but on death. And this initiative came from the people of Odessa. This point should be taken into account. Pushkin in Odesa or Pushkin in Lviv or Kyiv are different situations,” Ihor Mostovy said.

According to journalist Leonid Shtekel, the very effort to demolish Pushkin or other similar symbols is a work in favour of Putin. Any restrictions in the cultural sphere are not acceptable, he said.

“Today one thing is forbidden, tomorrow another, this process cannot be stopped. I also want to point out that this process is also an old Soviet idea. It consists in the fact that a person is a kind of dummy. You can shave it in the right direction and get what you need. My opponents for some reason believe that propaganda can make anything out of a person. This is a terrible idea, the implementation of which leads to the death of ideology. This is exactly what happened in the USSR during the “stagnation”. Western civilization rests on an understanding of human privacy, whereas the USSR and then the Nazis destroyed that. And now, I also hear only about the implementation of “state” policy. Where is the private life of an individual? Shtekel emphasized.

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