Staunton, June 26 – Since independence, Ukraine has renamed 52,000 streets, dropping Soviet-imposed ones in favor of names drawn from Ukrainian history or entirely apolitical sources. But two recent cases have reversed street name changes in Kyiv and Kharkiv, an indication that toponymy is again becoming a place of political struggle.
A Kyiv district court this week overruled a decision by the Kyiv city council two years ago and restored the names Moscow and Vatutin, a Soviet general, to streets that now bear the names of Stepan Banderea and Roman Shukhevich, two leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during World War II. An appeal is pending.
Last week, the Kharkiv city council restored the name of Georgy Zhukov to a street there. Two years ago, the same council dropped the Soviet officer’s name and gave the street the name of Petro Grigorenko, also a Soviet general but a man who fought for the rights of the Crimean Tatars and other minorities.
These changes have triggered discussions both about the past these various figures represent and about who and what is behind the current efforts to reverse earlier renaming, with some suggesting that pro-Russian forces are behind it and are exploiting the lack of clarity in the position of the new Ukrainian president on this point to act now.
Whatever the exact facts turn out to be, Moscow commentators are celebrating those who have pressed for these changes as human rights activists and saying that the restoration of the Soviet names in place of Ukrainian nationalist ones represents a triumph of “historical justice” (e.g., vz.ru/world/2019/6/26/984277.html