A monument to the eighteenth-century empress Catherine the Great was removed from public display in Odesa overnight as part of Ukraine’s efforts to cleanse its public spaces of vestiges of Russia’s influence.
The statue was originally erected in 1900, a century after Catherine died, but only restored to its current site in 2007 by the city authorities. It had been in storage since 1920 when it was taken down by the Soviets.
When an online poll on the future of the statue was held in October, 50.2% of Odesa residents wanted it destroyed completely, 36.12% thought it should stay with a historical explanation, 8.3% voted for it to stay unchanged, while 4.2% wanted it removed to a museum.
Although the issue of the statue’s disposal has divided residents, Ukraine’s government’s drive to de-Russify the country comes after 10 months of destruction at the hands of the invading forces.
Ukraine wants to rebuild and rename its streets and public spaces to reflect its own artists, poets, soldiers and independence fighters including heroes of this year’s war.