Decommunization in Ukraine

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Destroyed statue of Lenin in Zhytomyr on 21 February 2014 during the Euromaidan protests

In April 2015, a formal decommunization process started in Ukraine after laws were approved which, among other acts, outlawed communist symbols.[1]

On 15 May 2015, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed a set of laws that started a six-month period for the removal of communist monuments (excluding World War II monuments) and renaming of public places named after communist-related themes.[2][3] At the time, this meant that 22 cities and 44 villages were set to get a new name.[4] Until 21 November 2015, municipal governments had the authority to implement this;[5] if they failed to do so, the provincial authorities had until 21 May 2016 to change the names.[5] If after that date the settlement had retained its old name, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine would wield authority to assign a new name to the settlement.[5] In 2016, 51,493 streets and 987 cities and villages were renamed, and 1,320 Lenin monuments and 1,069 monuments to other communist figures removed.[6]

Violation of the law carries a penalty of a potential media ban and prison sentences to five years.[7][8]

On 24 July 2015, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry stripped the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed) and the Communist Party of Workers and Peasants of their right to participate in elections and stated it was continuing the court actions that started in July 2014 to end the registration of Ukraine's communist parties.[9] By 16 December 2015, these three parties were banned in Ukraine; however, the Communist Party of Ukraine has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to have this overturned. This appeal was still pending as of December 2016, and the ECHR has not reached a decision.[10][11][12]


In March 2014 the "Lenin Square" in Dnipro was renamed "Heroes of Maidan Square" in honor of the people killed during Euromaidan and the statue was removed. Two years later, in May 2016, the city of Dnipropetrovsk was renamed Dnipro.

Decommunization laws were drafted in the Ukrainian parliament in 2002, 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013, but they all failed to materialize.[13] Ukraine's first president after the country's 1991 independence from the Soviet Union, Leonid Kravchuk, had also issued orders aimed at "de-sovietisation" in the early 1990s.[14] The following years, although at a slow rate, historical monuments to Soviet leaders were removed in Ukraine.[14] But this process went on much further in the Ukrainian-speaking western regions than in the industrialised, largely Russian-speaking eastern regions.[14]

During and after Euromaidan, starting with the fall of the monument to Lenin in Kiev on 8 December 2013, several Lenin monuments and statues were removed/destroyed by protesters.[3]

In April 2014, a year before the formal, nationwide decommunization process in Ukraine local authorities removed and altered communist symbols and place names, in for example Dnipro[15][16][17] (see photo).

On 9 April 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation on decommunization.[18] It was submitted by the Second Yatsenyuk Government, banning the promotion of symbols of "Communist and National Socialist totalitarian regimes".[19][20] One of the main provisions of the bill was the recognition of the Soviet Union was "criminal" and one that it "pursued a state terror policy".[20] The legislation prohibits the use of Communist symbols and propaganda and also bans all symbols and propaganda of national-socialism and its values and any activities of Nazi or fascist groups in Ukraine.[20] The ban applies to monuments, place and street names.[3] The ban does not apply to World War II monuments and when symbols are located in a cemetery.[3][7] Expressing pro-communist views was not made illegal.[1] The ban on communist symbols did result in the removement of hundreds of statues, the replacement of millions of street signs and the renaming of populated places including some of Ukraine's biggest cities like Dnipro.[3] The city administration of Dnipro estimated in June 2015 that 80 streets, embankments, squares, and boulevards would have to be renamed.[21] Maxim Eristavi of Hromadske.TV estimated late April 2015 that the nationwide renaming would cost around $1.5 billion (€1.38 billion).[13] The legislation also granted special legal status to veterans of the "struggle for Ukrainian independence" from 1917 to 1991 (the lifespan of the Soviet Union).[19] The same day, the parliament also passed a law that replaced the term "Great Patriotic War" in the national lexicon with "World War II" from 1939 to 1945,[19][22] a change of great significance since during the initial part of World War II the USSR was in a pact with Germany and invaded six countries in coordination with its Nazi co-aggressor.[23]

On 15 May 2015 President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed the Decommunisation Laws.[2] This started a six-month period for the removal of communist monuments and renaming of public places named after communist-related themes.[2]

The laws Poroshenko signed on 15 May 2015 include four acts:

  • "About condemnation of Communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and ban on propaganda of their symbols"[2]
  • "About access to archives of repressive agencies of the Communist totalitarian regime 1917–1991"[2]
  • "About perpetuation of victory over the Nazism in the World War II 1939–1945"[2]
  • "About legal status and honoring the memory of fighter for independence of Ukraine in the 20th century"[2]
Symbols of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (flag and emblem).

The Ukrainian decommunization law applies, but is not limited to:

The laws were published in Holos Ukrayiny on 20 May 2015; this made them come into force officially the next day.[24]

On 3 June 2015 the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory published a list of 22 cities and 44 villages subject to renaming.[4] By far most of these places were in the Donbass region in East Ukraine; the others were situated in Central Ukraine and South Ukraine.[4] Under the Decommunisation Laws the municipal governments had until 21 November 2015 to change the name of the settlement they govern.[5] For settlements that failed to rename, the provincial authorities had until 21 May 2016 to change the name.[5] If after that date the settlement still retained its old name the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine renamed the settlement.[5]

In a 24 July 2015 decree based on the decommunization laws, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry stripped the Communist Party of Ukraine, Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed) and Communist Party of Workers and Peasants of their right to participate in elections and it stated it was continuing the court actions (that started in July 2014) to end the registration of Ukraine's communist parties.[9][25]

On 30 September 2015 the District Administrative Court in Kiev banned the parties Communist Party of Workers and Peasants and Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed); they both did not appeal.[10][26]

In October 2015, a statue of Lenin in Odessa was converted into a statue of Star Wars villain Darth Vader.[27]

On 16 December 2015, the Kiev District Administrative Court validated the claim of the Ministry of Justice in full, banning the activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine.[28][29] The party appealed this ban at the European Court of Human Rights.[11]

The City Hall of Mykolaiv in 2006 (left) and 2017 (right). The star, reminiscent of the Soviet era Red star still visible in the 2006 picture, was replaced on November 2016 by the coat of arms of Ukraine.[30]

In March 2016, statues of Lenin, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Sergey Kirov and a Komsomol monument were removed or taken down in the eastern city of Zaporizhia.[31] The statue overlooking the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station (formerly named Lenin Dam) was the largest remaining Lenin statue in Ukraine.[31]

On 19 May 2016, the Ukrainian parliament voted to rename Ukraine's fourth-largest city Dnipropetrovsk to "Dnipro".[32] The renaming of various locations was signed into the law on May 20, 2016.[33][34]

The Ukrainian parliament declared in July 2016 that the new names of places in Crimea[nb 2], under full Russian control since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, "will enter force with the return of temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol under the general jurisdiction of Ukraine."[38]

Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance Volodymyr Viatrovych stated in February 2018 that "De-communism in the context of depriving the symbols of the totalitarian regime has actually been completed".[39] Although according to him the city of Kiev was lagging behind.[39]


On 18 May 2015 the OSCE expressed concern that the laws could negatively impact the freedom of the press in Ukraine.[8] The OSCE also regretted what it perceived as a lack of opportunity of civil society to participate in public discussions about the laws.[8]

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group stated (in May 2015) the laws "(one of which) effectively criminalizes public expression of views held by many Ukrainians".[22][40]

Russian lawmakers have claimed (in April 2015) it was "cynical" to put on a par Communist and Nazi symbols, and the pro-Russian rebels of the War in Donbass (a region in eastern Ukraine) condemned the new law.[7] The head of the rebels Donetsk People's Republic Alexander Zakharchenko stated late February 2016 that when renamed cities "will return under our jurisdiction" they would be renamed to its pre-decommunizated name.[41]

In May 2015 President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski stated that the punishment for discussing the role of Ukrainian nationalistic organizations Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Ukrainian Insurgent Army would be harmful to Polish-Ukrainian relations.[42]

On 18 December 2015 the Venice Commission stated that Ukraine's Decommunization Laws did not comply with European legislative standards.[43] It was in particular critical about the banning of Communist parties.[43]


Former Soviet-era bas-reliefs at the Ukrainian House in Kiev; removed in August 2016 (to comply with decommunization laws) and transferred to the Museum of Totalitarianism[44]

Since 16 December 2015 three communist parties are banned in Ukraine (the Communist Party of Ukraine, Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed) and Communist Party of Workers and Peasants).[10][11] The only party that appealed this ban was the Communist Party of Ukraine; since December 2015 their appeal is pending at the European Court of Human Rights.[10][11]

Ukraine had 5,500 Lenin monuments in 1991, declining to 1,300 by December 2015.[45] More than 700 Lenin monuments were removed and/or destroyed from February 2014 (when 376 came down) to December 2015.[45] On 16 January 2017 the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance announced that 1,320 Lenin monuments were dismantled during decommunization.[46]

On 16 January 2017 the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance stated that 51,493 streets, squares and "other facilities" had been renamed due to decommunization.[46] By June 2016 there were renamed 19 raions, 27 urban districts, 29 cities, 48 urban-type settlements, 119 rural settlements and 711 villages. In the second-largest city of Ukraine,[47] Kharkiv, more than 200 streets, 5 administrative raions, 4 parks and 1 metro station had been renamed by early February 2016.[48] In all of 2016 51,493 streets and 987 cities and villages were renamed, 25 raions were renamed and 1,320 Lenin monuments and 1,069 monuments to other communist figures removed.[6] In some villages Lenin statues were remade into "non-communist historical figures" to save money.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ While this doesn't affect the Anthems of Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and formerly, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. They all retained their Soviet era melody with new lyrics written in its place.
  2. ^ Since the 2014 Crimean crisis, the status of the Crimea and of the city of Sevastopol is under dispute between Russia and Ukraine; Ukraine and the majority of the international community considers the Crimea and Sevastopol an integral part of Ukraine, while Russia, on the other hand, considers the Crimea and Sevastopol an integral part of Russia, with Sevastopol functioning as a federal city within the Crimean Federal District.[35][36][37]


  1. ^ a b Motyl, Alexander J. (28 April 2015). "Decommunizing Ukraine". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Poroshenko signed the laws about decomunization. Ukrayinska Pravda. 15 May 2015
    Poroshenko signs laws on denouncing Communist, Nazi regimes, Interfax-Ukraine. 15 May 2015
  3. ^ a b c d e Shevchenko, Vitaly (14 April 2015). "Goodbye, Lenin: Ukraine moves to ban communist symbols". BBC News. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c (in Ukrainian) In Ukraine rename 22 cities and 44 villages, Ukrayinska Pravda (4 June 2015)
  5. ^ a b c d e f (in Ukrainian) Komsomolsk in any case be renamed, (1 October 2015)
  6. ^ a b Decommunization reform: 25 districts and 987 populated areas in Ukraine renamed in 2016, Ukrinform (27 December 2016)
  7. ^ a b c Ukraine lawmakers ban 'Communist and Nazi propaganda', Deutsche Welle (9 April 2015)
  8. ^ a b c New laws in Ukraine potential threat to free expression and free media, OSCE Representative says, OSCE, (18 May 2015)
  9. ^ a b "Ukraine's Justice Ministry outlaws Communists from elections". Kyiv Post. 24 July 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d "The court banned the two Communist parties". Ukrayinska Pravda (in Ukrainian). 1 October 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Kiev has a nasty case of anti-communist hysteria". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  12. ^ "ECHR Takes For Consideration Lawsuit From Communist Party of Ukraine Regarding Ban On Participation In Elections". ukranews_com. Retrieved 2018-06-22. 
  13. ^ a b Ukrainian PM leads charge to erase Soviet history, Politico (27 April 2015)
  14. ^ a b c Rostyslav Khotin (27 November 2009). "Ukraine tears down controversial statue". BBC News. Retrieved 17 October 2017. 
  15. ^ Gedmin, Jeffrey (10 March 2014). "Ukraine: the Day After". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Rudenko, Olga (14 March 2014). "In East Ukraine, fear of Putin, anger at Kiev". USA Today. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Пам'ятник Леніну у Дніпропетровську остаточно перетворили в купу каміння [Monument to Lenin in Dnipro finally turned into a pile of stones]. (in Ukrainian). 19 August 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  18. ^ Hyde, Lily (20 April 2015). "Ukraine to rewrite Soviet history with controversial 'decommunisation' laws". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 16 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  19. ^ a b c Peterson, Nolan (10 April 2015). "Ukraine Purges Symbols of Its Communist Past". Newsweek. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  20. ^ a b c "Rada bans Communist, Nazi propaganda in Ukraine". Interfax-Ukraine. 9 April 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  21. ^ Ukraine's Dnipro Digs In To Complex Decommunization Process, Radio Free Europe (11 June 2015)
  22. ^ a b "Ukraine's plans to discard Soviet symbols are seen as divisive, ill-timed". Los Angeles Times. 13 May 2015. 
  23. ^ Davies, Norman (2006). "Phase 1, 1939–1941: the era of the Nazi-Soviet pact". Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory. London: Macmillan. pp. 153–155. ISBN 9780333692851. OCLC 70401618. 
  24. ^ "Laws discommunization and status OUN and UPA published in "Holos Ukrayiny"". Ukrayinska Pravda (in Ukrainian). 20 May 2015. 
  25. ^ "Justice Ministry bans three communist parties from taking part in election process as they violate Ukrainian law - minister". Interfax-Ukraine. 24 July 2015. 
  26. ^ "Kyiv's Court terminates two Communist parties". Ukrinform. 1 October 2015. 
  27. ^ Worland, Justin (25 October 2015). "Ukrainian Lenin Statue Turned Into Darth Vader". TIME. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  28. ^ "Court rules complete ban of Communist Party of Ukraine : UNIAN news". Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  29. ^ "Ukraine bans Communist party for 'promoting separatism'". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  30. ^ (in Ukrainian) Mykolaiv City Council on buildings dismantled Soviet "star", Ukrayinska Pravda (12 November 2016)
  31. ^ a b Vitaly Shevchenko (1 Jun 2016), In pictures: Ukraine removes communist-era symbols, BBC News 
  32. ^ Service, RFE/RL's Ukrainian (2016-05-19). "Ukraine Renames Third-Largest City". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 2016-05-19. 
  33. ^ Проект Постанови про перейменування деяких населених пунктів
  34. ^ ПОСТАНОВА Верховної Ради України Про перейменування деяких населених пунктів
  35. ^ Gutterman, Steve. "Putin signs Crimea treaty, will not seize other Ukraine regions". Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  36. ^ "Ukraine crisis timeline". BBC News. 
  37. ^ UN General Assembly adopts resolution affirming Ukraine's territorial integrity, China Central Television (28 March 2014)
  38. ^ "Google turned the Soviet Crimea names on the map". Ukrayinska Pravda. 29 July 2015. 
  39. ^ a b (in Ukrainian) De-communism in Ukraine is actually completed - Vyatrovich, Ukrayinska Pravda (10 February 2018)
  40. ^ President signs dangerously flawed ‘decommunization’ laws, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (16 May 2015)
  41. ^ (in Ukrainian) Zakharchenko wants to capture and rename decommunizated cities of Donbass, Ukrayinska Pravda (25 February 2016)
  42. ^ Poroshenko vows to amend law on UPA, UNIAN (20 May 2015)
  43. ^ a b Ukraine's law on 'decommunisation' does not comply with EU standards – Venice Commission, OSCE/ODIHR, Interfax-Ukraine (19 December 2015)
  44. ^ Soviet bas-reliefs being dismantled from Ukrainian House façade, UNIAN (18 August 2016)
  45. ^ a b Out of Sight, The Ukrainian Week (28 December 2015)
  46. ^ a b (in Ukrainian) Dekomunizuvaly monuments to Lenin in 1320, Bandera set 4, Ukrayinska Pravda (16 January 2017)
    (in Ukrainian) WITH 50 THOUSAND RENAMED OBJECTS PLACE NAMES, ONLY 34 ARE NAMED AFTER BANDERA, Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance (16 January 2017)
  47. ^ Kharkiv "never had eastern-western conflicts", Euronews (23 October 2014)
  48. ^ (in Ukrainian) In Kharkiv "dekomunizuvaly" has 48 streets and 5 regions, Ukrayinska Pravda (3 February 2015)
    (in Russian) In Kharkiv was renamed three district, SQ (3 February 2015)
    (in Ukrainian) In Kharkov, decided not to rename October and Frunze district, (3 February 2015)
    (in Russian) In Kharkiv, it was decided not to rename the Oktyabrsky and the Frunze district, (3 February 2015)
    (in Russian) List of 170 renamed streets, SQ (20 November 2015)
    (in Ukrainian) Kharkiv city council renamed 173 streets, 4 parks and a metro station, RBC Ukraine (20 November 2015)
    (in Russian) In Kharkiv was renamed even 50 streets: list, SQ (3 February 2015)
  49. ^ (in Ukrainian) Decommunisation in Zaporizhzhya, from Lenin "fashioned" Orlyk, Ukrayinska Pravda (13 June 2017)

External links[edit]