Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
09.12.2000 | V. Dzereviago, Kharkov

What is our memory?


I live and work in Kharkov that, during the entire course of its history, was an outstanding center of the Ukrainian culture. Many brilliant personalities: scientists, artists, writers, actors linked their lives with Kharkov. These people, not always in blood, but in their mentality were genuine sons and daughters of Ukraine. In spite of the frantic resistance of the empire they created the Ukrainian culture of the top quality. I shall mention only such writers as O. Gonchar, I. Bagrytskiy, G. Tiutiunnik, such linguists as B. Grynchenko and O. Potebnia, such poets as P. Tychyna and V. Sosiura, such producer as L. Kurbas, such historian as D. Bagaliy, such architect as V. Krychevskiy, such painter as S. Vasylkivskiy, such a maecenas as Alchevskiy. Not a smaller constellation we have among natural sciences. Imperial and post-imperial leaders of ours tried to wipe out the memory of the listed personalities. So Kharkovites have many people to recollect in order to restore the historical justice and their self-esteem. Yet, we understand that now, under the existing economic conditions, it is not the proper time to erect monuments to our outstanding compatriots or hang numerous memorial plates on the notorious KGB headquarters to commemorate people who had been tortured in this building. We agree to wait until the economic conditions improve.

Meanwhile, our local power, which always refers to the shortage of the budget, wastes money to commemorate those who never had relations with our city or did not like the Ukrainian people. An example is granted by marshal Zhukov, whose signature was put under the order of 1944 to deport from Ukraine all Ukrainians who happened to be under the German occupation. Fortunately this order appeared to be unrealizable because of the lack of railway trucks. Nonetheless, a monument to marshal Zhukov was erected already on the timers of the independent Ukraine, and a subway station was renamed in his honor. The authorities found finances for this and for a new caprice — erection of the monument to… Lomonosov.

Well, this ‘self-made scientist’ learned in Ukraine, but in Kyiv, not in Kharkov. Why shall we waste our money? It would be much more reasonable and cheaper to put memorial plates on the walls of Kharkov National University and Kharkov Polytechnic University to commemorate outstanding professionals. The same should be done on the ‘Writers’ House’. But there is no money for this in the city budget.

Analyzing monumental-memorial sympathies of the Kharkov authorities one easily comes to the sad conclusion: the selection of candidates for commemorating is done according to their belonging to imperial structures and the Russian culture. Why? The answer may be single: either to feed in Kharkovites the complex of provinciality or to make them remember about the ‘single and inseparable Russia’. The goal is not noble and not safe since it creates in a part of the society the illusion of being able to get back under the imperial yoke. The other part of the public will never agree with such a destiny, so we may leave the state of the public piece of which we are proud today.

I believe that the public of our city must require from the authorities to stop wasting money and erect monuments in honor of the persons and events unconnected with our city. When the city budget, after fulfilling other, more acute, demands, will enable us to spend money for commemorating, then the objects of commemoration should be selected first of all among persons and events connected with Kharkov. And in no case those who acted to the detriment of Ukraine should become the objects.

PL commentary. How well it were if the Kharkov authorities commemorated only Lomonosov! In spite of all talks about multiple deficits in the city budget the authorities decided (‘by the request of labor collectives’, which, by the way, do not get wages for several months) to rename the subway station ‘Industrialnaya’ (‘Industrial’) in honor of Grigoriy Vashchenko, the first secretary of the communist party of Kharkov in the 70s.

Fancy that in the modern Germany a subway station were called by the name of Goering or some local gauleiter. Meanwhile, because of the deficit of the local budget the medical aid to psychic cases is reduced and the patients are dispersed to their homes.

Until our deputies and authorities live mentally in the red past, the hopes for future are vain.

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