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Catherine the Great statue, Odesa, Ukraine
Photograph: Venn-Photo /

Ukraine is ‘decolonising’ streets named after figures like Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky

Officials are working to rename areas after Ukrainian historical figures

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson

When Russia first invaded Ukraine, the world responded by renaming everyday items related to the crisis. We had chicken kyivs on the shelves, Ukrainian Mules at bars and poutine taken off the menu in Quebec. And now, in its own embattled urban spaces, Ukraine is following suit. 

Officials are working to rid the country’s cities of streets named after Russian historical figures like Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy or Catherine the Great. A ‘decolonisation’ committee is reviewing more than 1,000 road names and subway stops in a move that echoes actions taken after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

‘We are defending our country, also on the cultural front lines,’ Andriy Moskalenko, the deputy mayor of Lviv, told The New York Times. ‘And we don’t want to have anything in common with the killers.’ Residents of Odesa are now debating the removal of a monument to Catherine the Great. In Kyiv, the Leo Tolstoy subway stop is likely to be renamed after Vasyl Stus, a Ukrainian poet and dissident. And the ‘Minsk’ stop may soon be rechristened as ‘Warsaw’, reflecting Poland’s support for Ukraine and the fact that Belarus has stood by Moscow

The fight for Ukrainian identity is in direct opposition to the Kremlin’s idea of the ‘Russian-speaking world’, often used to defend the invasion. But it’s not quite as clear-cut as switching out place names, as some figures, like Tchaikovsky, had family roots in modern-day Ukraine. Whether or not the name of that particular cultural icon is removed, it seems extremely likely that the maps of Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa will change significantly very soon. 

Now discover how one tiny Russian neighbour is fighting to save its tourism industry.

Plus: here are 23 ways you can help the people of Ukraine right now

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