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06 Mai. 2024

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Arch of Friendship of Peoples in Kyiv: history and modernity

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Arch of Friendship of Peoples in Kyiv: history and modernity

Disputes over the monument-arch in the center of Kyiv have been going on since the beginning of russian aggression in 2014. Currently, the monument is being dismantled under the arch, which was named "Friendship of Peoples" and popularly nicknamed "the yoke." Learn more about the history of the monument and what is happening to it now

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The popular name of one of Kyiv's most prominent sculptural compositions is quite eloquent: "Yoke". The Friendship of Peoples Arch has been one of the subjects of public discourse for many years as part of the decommunization process. Especially since the beginning of russia's overt military aggression, with the annexation of Crimea and the seizure of Donbas. 

What is the "monument" and how did it appear in the city, what cultural demonstrations were associated with it-read on.


Historical and cultural background


The Arch of Friendship of Peoples was built in 1982 in Kyiv's Khreshchatyi Park in "honor" of the unification of Ukraine with russia. The event was included in a series of events to celebrate the city's 1500th anniversary. 

In fact, it is a complex of structures: a titanium arch, with figures of a Ukrainian and a russian holding a ribbon with the Order of Friendship of Peoples (bronze) underneath, and then a multi-figure composition with Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Vasyl Buturlin (granite), signatories of the Pereyaslav Agreement (the agreement laid the foundation for the historical enslavement of Ukraine by russia). The monument is surrounded by an amphitheater. The sculptor was Oleksandr Skoblikov, and the architects were Serhiy Myrhorodskyi, Ihor Ivanov, and Kostiantyn Sydorov. The highest point of the arch is at 35 meters. It is visible from everywhere.


In the 70s of the last century, this place was home to the Summer Stage (moved to Mariinsky Park), a Ferris wheel, and a platform that offered a fascinating panorama of Kyiv. The platform, by the way, remained-it was just moved a little. Until then, in the 18th century, there was a budget equivalent of "water treatment" on the outskirts of the Palace Garden (now Mariinka), an artificial mine water facility. In 1880, the Kyiv Merchants' Assembly rented the area from the present-day European Square to the slopes, building the Merchants' Club (now the Philharmonic) and planting a garden around it, which was named Merchant's. The summer theater, which featured performances by Zankovetska, Kropyvnytskyi, and Sadovsky, appeared here at that time. Musicians played in the garden, there were lush flower beds, and a statue of Apollo.


The revolutionary maelstrom dematerialized the merchants, the theater, and Apollo. The park was renamed Proletarskyi, and later, in the 1930s, Pionerskyi, with the opening of the Pioneers' Palace in the Merchants' Club and the construction of pavilions around it: agricultural, technical, and military. The obligatory attributes of Soviet pioneering appeared: a bizarre fountain called "Children pouring water" and statues of teenagers with a pioneer salute and a bugle. There was also a real cult figure, the Elephant fountain. It was very funny, the hero of many movies that were filmed in Kyiv. The elephant didn't survive the 60s, and the park was redesigned.


Interesting facts about the monument and its present day


In addition to the "yoke," Kyiv residents, known to be fond of making fun on any occasion, called the Peoples' Friendship Arch a "rainbow," a "monument to a cyclist," and an "arc." In general, a favorite pastime of the townspeople was to tell the guests of Kyiv that it was actually a circle, not an arc, but that half of it was buried underground, and a trolley was moving inside, but that you could get there only with special passes... By the way, the bronze "workers" themselves got their share of abuse. Especially the "russian," because our "Ukrainian" was wearing an embroidered shirt, and the other one was wearing a jacket over his naked body because he had drunk his shirt...


After the war in the East broke out, the inscription in bronze letters was knocked down and painted over with paint, depicting the national flag and the slogan: "Glory to Ukraine." The granite neighbors also had trouble: Someone broke Buturlin's nose. So to speak, to keep him from sticking his nose in...


In 2017, during the Kyiv Eurovision Song Contest, the arch was painted in rainbow colors. This is a subtle trolling of russia, known for its homophobia. 



The painted arch in 2017, Gennadiy Kurochka / Facebook


And in 2018, human rights activists and artists opened the installation "The Crack of Friendship": an action of solidarity with Oleg Sentsov and other political prisoners of Ukrainian origin in russia, hostages of the kremlin. 




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What is happening to the Arch in Kyiv now?


At the beginning of the full-scale invasion in 2022, the Arch of Friendship was renamed the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People. In addition, on April 26 of the same year, the russian was promptly "removed," and the dismantling was marked by a very symbolic detail: his head fell off in the process... They say this is a good sign.



Dismantling of the monument to russian-Ukrainian friendship near the Arch: the russian's head fell off


However, the complete dismantling of the structure was debated for a long time and finally abandoned only in 2024. According to the Kyiv City State Administration, the meaning of the arch has been rethought, and the space near it will receive a new concept.


The implementation of these plans has already begun, as in late April, work began on dismantling the composition in honor of the Pereyaslav Council under the arch. This is, for a moment, 20 separate elements that together weigh about 6-7 tons.



Dismantling of sculptures, KCSA, Mykhailo Kryvolapov


After the work is completed, the monument will be kept at the Antonov State Aviation Museum of Ukraine. Kyiv residents and guests will find out what the renovated space will look like later.


We remind you!  Kyiv is a city with a rich history and an incredible number of places worth visiting for both Ukrainians and foreign guests. And we are sure that the capital of Ukraine can surprise even those who have lived here all their lives. Read where to spend a weekend in Kyiv and what to see when you think you've seen it all in our previous article.


Want to know more? Read the latest news and useful materials about Ukraine and the world in the News section.




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