How memorials influence Kryvyi Rih, an industrial city of 600,000 people, which of the city’s gems welcome its visitors, and whether women and men are equally represented among local monuments.
The Revolution of Dignity was marked by a wave of tearing down Soviet memorials. As the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance points out, the decommunisation of 2017 resulted in the demolition of 1320 monuments to the “leader of the proletariat”. Such a number of demolished monuments and the process itself motivates us to think about why this cultural layer was given so much attention at the time of rapid changes and re-examination of values for the sake of reconstruction of the future.
To explain why it happened, let’s have a look at the definition of a monument. A monument is a construction, a memorial to a person or event, a commemoration, something that surrounds a person, shapes a person's perception of reality, and, to a certain extent, also shapes social values (Wikipedia). To narrow the context to a regional one, let’s have a look at the official web portal of the city, the Kryvyi Rih Resource Centre (hereafter KRC), moderated by the executive committee of Kryvyi Rih City Council.
It notes that it is the only register of monuments of history and culture, monuments, memorial signs of a city and almost literally repeats the Wikipedia interpretation, “by embodying experience, life and aesthetic ideals of various generations, objects of a cultural heritage represent a real encyclopedia of knowledge of the past and present, have a dramatic impact on the shaping of principles, norms, and rules of behavior of people, and education of the younger generation”.
As a response to an information request concerning documents that regulate the installation of the memorial signs (monuments, memorial plaques) and criteria and procedure of including historical and cultural memorials, monuments, memorial signs into KRC, we received a reply signed by the head of the Department of Culture: the new objects are installed in accordance with the Regulations on storage, maintenance and installation of memorial signs in Kryvyi Rih, approved by the decision of the City Council dated 09.10.2017 №2043.
According to the Regulations of functioning of the official web portal of the Kryvyi Rih “Kryvyi Rih resource centre”, approved by the decision of the Executive Committee of the City Council dated 10.04.2019 №209, as amended, the department, according to the granted powers, publishes and maintains the information in its sections up to date.
The mentioned Regulations on storage, maintenance and installation of memorial signs in Kryvyi Rih state that a project of a monument goes through several stages at the highest city level. It is reviewed by the City Commission on preservation, maintenance and installation of memorial signs in Kryvyi Rih and by the city's Architecture and Urban Planning Council. If the project is approved, the executive committee of the city council makes a corresponding decision. A request to install a monument can be submitted by enterprises, institutions, organisations and public associations by justifying the relevance of immortalising a remarkable event in the history of the city, Ukraine, outstanding personalities, given their social and political, cultural, or historical significance and great personal contribution to the development of the city and country.
Again, a separate paragraph in the document states that installing memorials is a way to immortalise and commemorate prominent individuals and outstanding historical events which took place in the city.
Our article explores what objects conform to these conditions and therefore affect the industrial city with the population of 600,000 people as a non-verbal narrative, what landmarks surround local residents, what gems welcome the city’s visitors, and how equally women and men are represented in the city’s memorials.
According to the description of objects made by the KRC, there are 146 objects of cultural heritage in Kryvyi Rih. All of them are a subject matter of the analysis. The criterium is gender representation based on a simplified model of distribution of professional and social roles between groups of female and male images, focusing purely on visual aspects, with no regard to biographies.
Therefore 5 groups were identified:
1. separate female images;
2. separate male images;
3. a mixed group (includes both female and male images);
4. children and teenagers;
5. inanimate objects.
All groups were ranged according to the following social topics: militarism (including human casualties within the civilian population), profession/education, religion, parenthood, Cossackhood/regional ethnography, politics, and art. We would like to point out that the topics of sports, attitude to nature and animals are not presented at all.
We can find female images in six monuments, three of them located on the collective grave of soldiers who died in battle during the liberation of Kryvyi Rih. All three objects were installed in Soviet times and represent the image of ‘Sorrowful Mother’, says Wikipedia.
The same image made in the relief technique is present in the Holodomor Victims Memorial. It is a monument installed in 2008. Another monument erected during the time of independent Ukraine is a sculptural composition ‘My Dear Teacher’, which is the only representation of women in the profession.
In 2018, the decommunised Lenin was replaced with a figure of a saint, the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Orans (one who is praying). This sculpture can be identified as related to both religion and Cossackhood.
It is one of the least numerous groups of our research.
Also, the inscription on the collective grave of 272 Soviet soldiers who died in battle during the liberation of Kryvyi Rih on February 22, 1944, and Komsomol members who were underground fighters, shot in September 1943, mentions women, “to the sons and daughters of all nations of our socialist fatherland, who defended and liberated our Soviet motherland.”
Male images are represented 7 times more often than the female ones. The KRC registry mentions 43 of them, most of them dedicated to military events (19):
- 12 — the Second World War (most of them erected in Soviet times);
- 3 — peacekeepers;
- 4 — ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) in the East of Ukraine (2015–2016).
We would like to point out that it was in 2014 when sculptures “to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan” and a garden sculpture “Soldier with an accordion” to commemorate “soldiers, partisans, including military accordionists who went through the Great Patriotic War” were installed. A monument to V. Margelov, a Soviet military commander and Hero of the Soviet Union, was installed in 2011.
Three sculptures are associated with the topic of religion: “Archbishop Onufrii and Bishop Porfyrii, Kryvyi Rih Holy Martyrs” (2013); Saint Nicholas (2016), the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles (2018). The second and the third ones were put in the place of the decommunised figures.
The topic of art is presented with five writers and one composer, nine memorials in total. Except for one monument to prominent Ukrainian poet Shevchenko, all monuments were erected in Soviet times: the one to М. Mussorgsky (1953), two monuments to T. Shevchenko (1954 and 2001), M. Lermontov portrait sculpture (1964) and L. Tolstoy portrait sculpture (1966), a monument to O. Pushkin (1987), two monuments to M. Gorky (1953 and 1958) and “Danko” monument put to commemorate M. Gorky (1965).
Cossackhood is another noticeable topic in Kryvyi Rih. It is presented by five sculptures and one memorial sign: two monuments to B. Khmelnitsky (1954), “Cossack Kryvyi Rih” (2011), Cossack Mamay (2016), a monument to P. Kalnyshevsky (2018), a memorial sign to Hryhorii Shram to commemorate the founder of Veseli Terny village (2001).
As for the topic of profession, we can see six memorials, all of them apart from the one commemorating killed miners installed after 1991 when Ukraine gained its independence:
● to Y. Vesnik, construction commander and first head of the Kryvorizhstal plant (1999);
● to O. Pol, ethnographer known for discovering a major iron ore region around Kryvyi Rih (1996);
● a portrait sculpture of L. Borodych, Colonel-General of the Militia, First Deputy Home Affairs Minister of Ukraine (2000);
● to Kryvyi Rih inhabitants, participants of Chornobyl nuclear disaster elimination (2008);
● to V. Byzov, head of Kryvyi Rih Technical University, Doctor of Technical Sciences, professor, President of Ukrainian Academy of Mining Engineering (2012);
● to miners of the Mine of Central Iron Ore Enrichment Works named ‘Central’ (1986).
60% of the monuments representing male figures mentioned by the KRC (26 out of 43) are personified, i.e. have a reference to a concrete historical figure.
13 of the monuments include both female and male images, three of them also include the images of children and teenagers. In this group we can find the only monument to parenthood, with no children represented, the title is “Always waiting for...”
The Stele to Heroes which commemorates 26 Heroes of the Soviet Union and 41 Heroes of Socialist Labor has an image of a man and woman with children in their arms. This is the only monument on a professional topic in this group. In total, the stele represents silhouettes of 11 women and 21 men.
Nearby there is a monument named ‘Victory’ which commemorates soldiers of the III Ukrainian Front who liberated Kryvyi Rih on February 22, 1994. Again we can see a woman and a man holding children in their arms, and teenagers. Also, there are 4 women and 7 men (one of them stands on the socle). Two images that resemble teenagers are present on the monument which commemorates jews of Kryvyi Rih region, victims of Nazi occupation of 1941–1945. Also, the silhouettes of four women and one man are engraved on the memorial.
Ten more monuments of the mixed group commemorate the events of the Second World War. For example:
- A collective grave of Soviet soldiers who died when liberating Kryvyi Rih in February 1944 (a woman and 13 men);
- A collective grave of five Komsomol underground fighters shot on September 17, 1943 (a girl and three boys);
- A monument to soldiers students and professors (a woman and seven men);
- A monument to 118 workers of Ore Administration named after Kirov, who died during the Great Patriotic War (two women: one stands separately and another is presented on the stele together with 18 men, including a personified portrait).
The total proportion of the female and male images in this group is 25 to 71 images respectively.
When reviewing the group of inanimate objects we will talk more specifically about the category of’ ‘profession’ which is the most gender-specific. Among the 17 monuments we can find:
− seven monuments which commemorate mining and metallurgical industry (to honour the construction of the 9th blast furnace; to honor the extraction of 150 million tons of the iron ore; to killed miners; to honour Southern Mining and Processing Plant; in honor of international friendship of Kryvyi Rih workers and Mansfeld Mining district of GDR, a house in which O. Pol lived in 1873–1881);
− five memorial signs to commemorate the management of the Chornobyl disaster;
− three memorials to law-enforcement officers (Monument in honor of police workers who died executing military duties; Monument in honor of police graduates who died executing military duties; A memorial to the employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine);
− two memorial signs to the anniversaries of educational institutions (the 60th anniversary of establishing Kryvyi Rih Professional College of National Aviation University and 55th anniversary of establishing Motor Transport Technical College of State Higher Education Institution ‘Kryvyi Rih National University’);
− ‘Steam Locomotive’ in honour of railway workers of Kryvyi Rih department of Cisdnieper Railway;
− A memorial sign in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Thermal Power Station.
In fact, all these professions are represented in the group of male images.
We would like to admit that six memorials in the group of inanimate objects are united within a very broad political and ethnographical criterium (a monument in honour of the 200th anniversary of Kryvyi Rih installed on the site of the city foundation; to a new postal route founded in 1775 which gave rise to the development of the settlement of Kryvyi Rih; two alleys of friendship with its twin city Nizhny Tagil; to celebrate the 7th anniversary of Ukrainian independence; the Dobrovolsky family house).
The table represents the total number of monuments—the majority of them refer to the topic of militarism: 92 monuments vs 54 on the topics of profession, education, art, and ethnography, not to mention parenthood (the only sculpture, while children are mostly represented in the monuments commemorating war tragedies).
From the gender analysis perspective, the fact that the images of men are presented 7 times more often than the ones of women demonstrate that the Kryvyi Rih community remains a traditional society predominantly assigning women roles in the private sphere while ‘forgetting’ to recognise domestic work at the cultural level.
In total, only 4% (6 out of 146) of the monuments represent female images. No monument of a poet or worker has a reference to his mother, wife, or another female character, who invested her time and efforts into making it possible for him to realise his potential in the public sphere. There are no examples of happy parenting or motherhood. Not to mention the lack of recognition of women's autonomy, of those who work in a factory, who once fought or keep fighting in wars—in addition to housework. The public space supports only the public spheres in which gender socialisation prepares mostly male children. Later economic and cultural factors contribute to this. As a result, decision-makers allocate resources that support this vicious cycle by establishing monuments to the discourse that gave them power.
By Olha Kostina, ecofeminist, co-founder of “Clean City KR” NGO, “Equal in Kryvyi” Initiative Group, PR manager on sustainability, writer on topics of natural resource management and public spaces.