Decommunization in Ukraine

Process of decommunization in Ukraine

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

Decommunization in Ukraine started during and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.[1] With the success of the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, the Ukrainian government approved laws that outlawed communist symbols.[2]

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.[3][4] At the time, this meant that 22 cities and 44 villages were set to get new names.[5] Until 21 November 2015, municipal governments had the authority to implement this;[6] if they failed to do so, the Oblasts of Ukraine had until 21 May 2016 to change the names.[6] 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.[6] 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.[7] Violation of the law carries a penalty of a potential media ban and prison sentences of up to five years.[8][9]

On 24 July 2015, the Ministry of the Interior 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 communist parties in Ukraine.[10] By 16 December 2015, these three parties had been banned in Ukraine; however, the Communist Party of Ukraine appealed the ban, meaning the court's decision to ban the party did not come into force.[citation needed] The April 2015 decommunization law contains a norm that allows the Ministry of Justice to prohibit the party from participating in elections.[citation needed]


In March 2014 Lenin Square in Dnipropetrovsk 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 was renamed Dnipro.
Pulling down the statue of Lenin in Kharkiv on 28 September 2014.

An unofficial decommunization process started in Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the following independence of Ukraine in 1991.[1] Decommunization was carried out much more ruthlessly and visibly in the former Soviet Union's Baltic states and Warsaw Pact countries outside the Soviet Union.[11] 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.[1] The following years, although at a slow rate, historical monuments to Soviet leaders were removed in Ukraine;[1] this process went on much further in the Ukrainian-speaking western regions than in the industrialised, largely Russian-speaking eastern regions.[1] Decommunization laws were drafted in the Ukrainian parliament in 2002, 2005, 2009, 2011, and 2013, but they all failed to materialize.[12]

During and after Euromaidan, starting with the fall of the monument to Lenin in Kyiv on 8 December 2013, several Lenin monuments and statues were removed or destroyed by protesters.[4]

In April 2014, a year before the formal, nationwide decommunization process in Ukraine local authorities removed and altered communist symbols and place names, as in Dnipropetrovsk.[13][14][15]

On 9 April 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation on decommunization.[16] It was submitted by the Second Yatsenyuk Government, banning the promotion of symbols of "Communist and National Socialist totalitarian regimes".[17][18] 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".[18] 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.[18] The ban applies to monuments, place and street names.[4] The ban does not apply to World War II monuments and when symbols are located in a cemetery.[4][8] Expressing pro-communist views was not made illegal.[2] The ban on communist symbols did result in the removal 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.[4] The city administration of Dnipro estimated in June 2015 that 80 streets, embankments, squares, and boulevards would have to be renamed.[19] Maxim Eristavi of Hromadske.TV estimated late April 2015 that the nationwide renaming would cost around $1.5 billion.[12] 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).[17] 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,[17][20] a change of great significance.[21]

On 15 May 2015, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed the Decommunisation Laws.[3] This started a six-month period for the removal of communist monuments and renaming of public places named after communist-related themes.[3]

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.[22]

On 3 June 2015, the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory published a list of 22 cities and 44 villages subject to renaming.[5] By far most of these places were in the Donbass region in East Ukraine; the others were situated in Central Ukraine and South Ukraine.[5] Under the Decommunisation Laws the municipal governments had until 21 November 2015 to change the name of the settlement they govern.[6] For settlements that failed to rename, the provincial authorities had until 21 May 2016 to change the name.[6] If after that date the settlement still retained its old name the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine renamed the settlement.[6]

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.[10][23]

On 30 September 2015, the District Administrative Court in Kyiv banned the parties Communist Party of Workers and Peasants and Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed); they both did not appeal.[24][25]

In October 2015, a statue of Lenin in Odessa was converted into a statue of Star Wars villain Darth Vader.[26]

On 16 December 2015, the Kyiv District Administrative Court validated the claim of the Ministry of Justice in full, banning the activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine.[27][28] The party appealed this ban at the European Court of Human Rights.[29]

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 20 May 2016.[33][34]

The Ukrainian parliament declared in July 2016 that the new names of places in Crimea[nb 4], 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]

In May 2017, 46 Ukrainian MPs, mainly from the Opposition Bloc faction, appealed to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to declare the 2015 decommunization laws unconstitutional.[39]

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".[40] Although according to him the city of Kyiv was lagging behind.[40]

In February 2019, the Central Election Commission of Ukraine refused to register the candidacy of (leader of Communist Party) Petro Symonenko for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election due to the fact that the statute, name and symbolism of the Communist Party of Ukraine did not comply with the 2015 decommunization laws.[41] Symonenko appealed the decision, but the court of appeal confirmed decision of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine. During the same month of February, it was announced that the oblast of Dnipropetrovsk would be renamed to "Sicheslav" in the future.[citation needed]

On 16 July 2019, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine upheld the 2015 Ukrainian decommunization laws.[39]

On 7 November 2020 in the village Mala Rohan, a coat of arms of the USSR was dismantled from the facade of a school.[42]

On 27 April 2022 (during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine), the 27-foot Soviet-era bronze statue under the People's Friendship Arch in Kyiv, representing Russian–Ukrainian friendship, was removed by order of Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko.[43]


The Ukrainian SSR emblem seen in top of the city hall in Kharkiv, which was never removed before the laws took effect. There are a number of Soviet symbols still installed on buildings throughout Ukraine excluding the occupied territories.

On 18 May 2015, the OSCE expressed concern that the laws could negatively impact the freedom of the press in Ukraine.[9] The OSCE also regretted what it perceived as a lack of opportunity of civil society to participate in public discussions about the laws.[9]

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".[20][44]

Russian lawmakers have argued (in April 2015) that it was "Cynical" to put communist and Nazi symbol on par with each other, and pro-Russian rebels in Donbas (a region in eastern Ukraine) have condemned the law.[8] The then head of the Donetsk People's Republic Alexander Zakharchenko stated in late February 2016 that when renamed cities "return under our jurisdiction", they would be renamed to their pre-decommunized name.[45]

On 18 December 2015, the Venice Commission stated that Ukraine's Decommunization Laws did not comply with European legislative standards.[46] It was in particular critical about the banning of communist parties.[46]

In February 2022, in connection with a presidential address of Russian president Vladimir Putin in the midst of the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, Putin addressed the Ukrainian legal process of decommunisation that had begun in Ukraine in 2015, and extended the traditional definition of decommunization in Ukraine and said, "You want decommunisation? That suits us fine. But don't stop halfway. We're ready to show Ukraine what real decommunisation means for Ukraine." During the same speech, Putin had stated that Ukraine was a creation of the Bolsheviks, specifically blaming Vladimir Lenin for "detaching Ukraine from Russia".[47][48]


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).[24][29] The only party that appealed this ban was the Communist Party of Ukraine; this resulted in the court's decision to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine did not come into force.[citation needed] However, the April 2015 decommunization law contains a norm that allows the Ministry of Justice to prohibit the Communist Party from participating in elections.[citation needed]

Ukraine had 5,500 Lenin monuments in 1991, declining to 1,300 by December 2015.[49] More than 700 Lenin monuments were removed and/or destroyed from February 2014 (when 376 came down) to December 2015.[49] On 16 January 2017 the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance announced that 1,320 Lenin monuments were dismantled during decommunization.[50]

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.[50] By June 2016 there were renamed 19 raions, 27 urban districts, 29 cities, 48 urban-type settlements, 119 rural settlements and 711 villages. The fourth largest city was renamed from Dnipropetrovsk to Dnipro. In the second-largest city of Ukraine,[51] Kharkiv, more than 200 streets, 5 administrative raions, 4 parks and 1 metro station had been renamed by early February 2016.[52] 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.[7] In some villages Lenin statues were remade into "non-communist historical figures" to save money.[53] One of the most prominent examples was Lenin monument in Odessa, which was remade into the monument to Darth Vader.[54]

In February 2019, The Guardian reported that the two Lenin statues in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone were the only two remaining statues of Lenin in Ukraine, if not taking into account occupied territories of Ukraine.[55] In January 2021 "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty" located three remaining Lenin statues in three (Ukrainian controlled) small villages.[56]

In January 2021, 24 Ukrainian streets were still named after former cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova (6 of them in parts of Ukrainian not under government control[nb 5]), according to the 2015 decommunization laws they should have been renamed.[57] The last Lenin statue in Ukraine (excluding territories currently annexed by Russia or occupied by separatists) was demolished in Stari Troyany, Izmail Raion, Odessa Oblast on 27 January 2021.[58]

The Motherland Monument in Kyiv, which still has the state emblem of the Soviet Union. The decommunization law does not apply to World War II monuments, as in this case, although there have been calls to replace the existing emblem in the statue with the coat of arms of Ukraine.

The director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance Volodymyr Viatrovych stated in February 2018 that the still existing Soviet hammer and sickle on the shield of the Motherland Monument in Kyiv should be removed to comply with the country's decommunization laws and replace it with the Ukrainian trident. As of 2022[update], however, the monument has not been modified.[59]


A November 2016 poll, found that 48% of respondents supported a ban on communist ideology in Ukraine, 36% were against it and 16% are undecided. It also found that 41% of respondents said they support the initiative to dismantle all monuments to Lenin in the country, whereas 48 percent are against this and 11% are undecided.[60]

As of 8 April 2022, according to a poll by the sociological group Rating, 76% of Ukrainians support the initiative to rename streets and other objects whose names are associated with Russia after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[61][62]

See also


  1. ^ This ban does not include the national flags of the People's Republic of China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Hungary, Laos, Poland and Vietnam. Mongolia removed the star from its flag in 1992. The self-declared republic in Transnistria, despite not a socialist state, uses the updated version of the Moldavian SSR flag.
  2. ^ The ban is not extended to the national emblems of Belarus, Cuba, Laos, North Macedonia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Poland reinstated the crown on its coat of arms in 1989 while Laos updated its emblem in 1991. The self-proclaimed unrecognized republic of Transnistria uses the modified emblem of the Moldavian SSR since it is not designated as a socialist state.
  3. ^ While this does not 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.
  4. ^ 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]
  5. ^ There were (also) Tereshkova streets in Lviv Oblast's Busk, Rivne Oblast's Radyvyliv and Sarny, Khmelnytskyi Oblast's Dunaivtsi and Cherkasy Oblast's Smila and in some other towns and villages.[57]


  1. ^ a b c d e Rostyslav Khotin (27 November 2009). "Ukraine tears down controversial statue". BBC News. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b Motyl, Alexander J. (28 April 2015). "Decommunizing Ukraine". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Poroshenko signed the laws about decomunization. Ukrayinska Pravda. 15 May 2015
    Poroshenko signs laws on denouncing Communist, Nazi regimes, Interfax-Ukraine. 15 May 2015
  4. ^ a b c d e Shevchenko, Vitaly (14 April 2015). "Goodbye, Lenin: Ukraine moves to ban communist symbols". BBC News. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c (in Ukrainian) In Ukraine rename 22 cities and 44 villages, Ukrayinska Pravda (4 June 2015)
  6. ^ a b c d e f (in Ukrainian) "Komsomolsk in any case be renamed", (1 October 2015)
  7. ^ a b "Decommunization reform: 25 districts and 987 populated areas in Ukraine renamed in 2016", Ukrinform (27 December 2016)
  8. ^ a b c "Ukraine lawmakers ban 'Communist and Nazi propaganda'", Deutsche Welle (9 April 2015)
  9. ^ a b c "New laws in Ukraine potential threat to free expression and free media, OSCE Representative says", OSCE (18 May 2015)
  10. ^ a b "Ukraine's Justice Ministry outlaws Communists from elections". Kyiv Post. 24 July 2015.
  11. ^ Ukraine toppled communist statues but raised a bigger debate, The Washington Post (13 August 2015)
  12. ^ a b Ukrainian PM leads charge to erase Soviet history, Politico (27 April 2015)
  13. ^ Gedmin, Jeffrey (10 March 2014). "Ukraine: the Day After". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
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  15. ^ 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.
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  21. ^ 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.
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  23. ^ "Justice Ministry bans three communist parties from taking part in election process as they violate Ukrainian law - minister". Interfax-Ukraine. 24 July 2015.
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  31. ^ a b Vitaly Shevchenko (1 June 2016), "In pictures: Ukraine removes communist-era symbols", BBC News
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  33. ^ "Офіційний портал Верховної Ради України".
  34. ^ ПОСТАНОВА Верховної Ради України Про перейменування деяких населених пунктів
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    "Ukraine ultimately puts Nazis, Communists on equal footing". Belsat TV. 17 July 2019.
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  41. ^ (in Ukrainian) The CEC refused to register nearly fifty presidential candidates, Ukrayinska Pravda (8 February 2019)
  42. ^ (in Russian) Prohibited coat of arms removed from school in Mala Rohan, STATUS QUO (7 November 2020)
  43. ^ "Soviet-Era Statue Symbolic Of Russia-Ukraine Friendship Destroyed In Kyiv". NDTV. 27 April 2022.
  44. ^ President signs dangerously flawed 'decommunization' laws, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (16 May 2015)
  45. ^ (in Ukrainian) Zakharchenko wants to capture and rename decommunizated cities of Donbass, Ukrayinska Pravda (25 February 2016)
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  49. ^ a b Out of Sight, The Ukrainian Week (28 December 2015)
  50. ^ 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)
  51. ^ Kharkiv "never had eastern-western conflicts", Euronews (23 October 2014)
  52. ^ (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)
  53. ^ (in Ukrainian) Decommunisation in Zaporizhzhya, from Lenin "fashioned" Orlyk, Ukrayinska Pravda (13 June 2017)
  54. ^ Fiona Macdonald (23 October 2015). "The man who turned Lenin into Darth Vader". BBC. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  55. ^ Revisiting Chernobyl: 'It is a huge cemetery of dreams', The Guardian (28 February 2019)
  56. ^ Goodbye Lenin? Not In These Ukrainian Villages, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (19 January 2021)
  57. ^ a b (in Ukrainian) Where does Valentina Tereshkova Street lead?, (6 January 2021)
  58. ^ "На Украине снесли последний памятник Владимиру Ленину". (in Russian). 27 January 2021.
  59. ^ (in Ukrainian) De-communism in Ukraine is actually completed - Vyatrovich, Ukrayinska Pravda (10 February 2018)
  60. ^ "Almost half of residents of Ukraine want decommunization - Nov. 18, 2016". 18 November 2016.
  61. ^ "76% of Ukrainians support renaming streets and other objects related to Russia". Nikopol.City (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  62. ^ "Eighth National Poll: Ukraine in War Conditions (April 6, 2022)" (in Ukrainian).

External links

  • Interactive map of settlements that need to be renamed (in Ukrainian)
  • Results decommunisation in the Donetsk oblast 2015-2016, pdf (05/01/2016)[permanent dead link] (in Ukrainian)
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