It's back to the USSR as Russia tries to destroy Ukrainian identity on occupied territory
The occupation ‘authorities’ in Melitopol (Zaporizhzhia oblast) have announced a mass renaming of streets in the city. They claim, bizarrely, to be eradicating “Ukrainian Nazi ideology” by, for example, changing ‘Jewish Street’ to the name of Aron Dagin, a Bolshevik leader active in establishing Soviet power in the city. Russia’s efforts are essentially part of their genocidal plan to eradicate all that is connected with Ukrainian identity and have already been seen in occupied Mariupol.
After relentlessly bombing Mariupol and destroying around 90% of its infrastructure in order to gain control of the city, the Russian invaders immediately demonstrated their priorities. Rather than setting about rebuilding what they had destroyed, the Russians prioritized propaganda measures aimed at brainwashing the remaining population, especially children, and changing the main sign for Mariupol to replace the Ukrainian ‘I’ with the Russian letter. ‘News of Donbas’ reported back in November 2022 that the invaders had also set about Sovietising the names of streets. Some had recently been changed as part of Ukraine’s decommunization, but it was by no means only streets like that commemorating Heroes of Ukraine that irritated the invaders. The latter were also not having Freedom Avenue (changed to ‘Leningradsky Prospekt’), nor Ukrainian Cossacks Street, which they renamed after Soviet communist politician Sergo Ordzhonikidze.
Russia, which used the false claim that Russian speakers were facing persecution to justify its invasion of Crimea and Donbas, has begun eliminating the Ukrainian language and anything Ukrainian as soon as it gains control of an area. Even the avenue commemorating Victory over Nazi Germany was Russified from the correct Ukrainian Prospekt Peremohy.
Melitopol is now too being dragged by the Russian invaders and local collaborators back into Soviet times. It was local collaborator Halyna Danylenko who announced the changes on 30 January, claiming that streets, avenues, etc. in the city were being “returned their historical names”. She further asserted that the streets had been renamed during Ukraine’s decommunization “after Ukrainian Nazi ideologues”, with it having purportedly being then that “they tried to erase our historical names.” Now, she claimed, “Zaporizhzhia oblast has become part of a great country” and that this is “re-establishing historical justice”.
Russia under President Vladimir Putin has been re-instating more and more aspects of the Soviet regime over the past 20 years, and it is often among those Ukrainians in occupied parts of Ukraine who also regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union that Russia’s expansionist policies gained support. Since 2014, both occupied Crimea and Donbas have seen the same ‘rehabilitation’ of bloody dictator Joseph Stalin, as in Russia. The names that are claimed by Danylenko to be ‘historical’ were very often imposed over earlier names by the Soviet regime. The words about “Ukrainian Nazi ideologues” would be comical, were they not part of the lies Moscow is using to justify a genocidal war. As well as restoring a Soviet name for ‘Jewish Street’, the invaders have also tried to rename the street named after the great Crimean Tatar fighter pilot and WWII hero, Amet-khan Sultan.
This, in short, is on a par, in terms of logic with Russia’s attempts to justify invading Ukraine, bombing, torturing and killing Ukrainians because “we are the same people”.