The Motherland Monument
Without a doubt, the Motherland monument or Batkivshchyna Maty is one of the most important monuments in Ukraine. The grand statue is a part of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the World War II, located on the hills of Pechersk. The statue measures 102 meters and is one of the highest constructions in the world. To give an idea, it is higher than the Statue of Liberty (93 meters) and Christ the Redeemer in Rio (38 meters).
The monument is unique not only in its size but also materials and construction — the figure of the woman with the shield and sword is made from stainless steel sheets welded together. The initial project featured covering the monument with gold leaf but the idea wasn’t further approved. The Motherland monument was engineered by leading architects and welders of the USSR; and it can stand through a 9.0 magnitude earthquake.
Naturally, such large construction can’t exist without urban legends surrounding it. According to one of them, church officials have negotiated with the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine to make sure that the statue’s sword doesn’t soar higher than the high bell tower of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. That’s why the tip of the sword was made 12 meters shorter than the initial plan. However, it’s merely an urban legend — in fact, the sword was shortened to reach the architectural balance of the area.
The spot has two observation decks: at the bottom level of the statue, equipped with binoculars, and in the shield. Here any spot of Kyiv becomes merely a small dot on the map. Moreover, there’s an opportunity to reach the top of the 102-meter monument on the special elevators.
The Independence monument
One of the most famous national monuments in Ukraine and Kyiv’s ever-present symbols, the monument of Independence was constructed surprisingly late — in 2001 as the present to the city for the 10th anniversary of the country’s independence. The 61-meter statue represents elements of the Ukrainian baroque and style Empire: the column is lined with white Italian marble and the pedestal is built in the shape of a Christian church.
The woman at the top of the monument is Berehynia — an image from the old Slavic pagan traditions. Berehynia means ‘the one that protects’, so the monument represents the protector of the country and all its citizens. The woman holds a viburnum (kalyna) branch, which is another Ukrainian symbol.
It’s interesting that Berehynia statue is somewhat similar to the Motherland Monument: both can withstand earthquakes and even hurricanes. In 2014, the Independence monument appeared in numerous media around the world when it became one of the centers of the Revolution of Dignity. The monument has been restored since the events and is surrounded by a permanent exhibition depicting heroes of the revolution.
Bohdan Khmelnytskyi monument
The horse rider on Sofiiska Square is perhaps one of the most photographed historical monuments in Ukraine. The statue of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi was installed on the site in 1888 to commemorate the 900th anniversary of Kyiv Rus. The location wasn’t accidental — Sofiiska Square was the exact place where Khmelnytskyi was met by Kyivans after his victory in the Polish-Ukrainian war of 1648. Another important historical event that took place on this site is the 1919 proclamation of Unity of Ukraine. The holiday is celebrated on Sofiiska Square ever since.
The idea to build the monument belonged to the historian Mykola Kostomarov, who first mentioned it in the 1840s. Unfortunately, it took more than 40 years to reach an agreement about the design and find the funding for the apparent Ukraine-glorifying statue under the reign of Ukraine-phobic government. The statue was cast of bronze in Saint Petersburg and the Kyiv Fortress presented stones for the pedestal.
The monument didn’t escape the urban legends — according to one of them, the horse’s back was initially facing the Saint Michael’s Church, which could be potentially offensive. That’s why the monument was moved to the side and never pointed in the direction of Poland and Russia.
Statue of Taras Shevchenko in Lviv
The statue of the famous Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko located in Lviv is well-known thanks to its unique composition. The monument placed in the downtown on Svobody Avenue consists of two parts — the monument of Shevchenko itself and the 12-meter ‘wave of the national revival’.
The construction in the form of a wave depicts the history of Ukraine throughout its existence from the times of the Kyivan Rus to the beginning of the 20th century. Notable historical personas depicted on the monument include writers Ivan Franko, Lesia Ukrainka, historian Mykhailo Drahomanov and hetman Petro Sahaidachnyi.
Sure enough, not all famous monuments in Ukraine are necessarily ancient ones. For instance, “Thanks, Steve” monument in Odesa was established in the 2010s in the memory of Steve Jobs. The creation of the monument was initiated by students and administration of State Academy of Technical Regulation and Quality. Sculptor and artist Kirill Maksimenko, who specializes in art items made of metal structures, started working on the sculpture in November 2011. The unveiling ceremony was held on 5th October 2012 in the first anniversary of Jobs` death.
The sculpture depicts a human arm with an image of an apple on the front side and a heart on the backside. The arm is made on steel carcass with separate welded metal details: auto-, moto-, bicycle elements, brought to the master's studio by dwellers of the city. The composition is illuminated by white and blue neon lights in the night time. Naturally, the monument to the pioneer of computing has its unique feature: it shares free Wi-Fi. The front side of the monument has a plaque that says “Thanks, Steve” in Russian and in English. The overall weight of the sculpture is around 300 kg.
Panteleymon The Persian Cat
To move from the history, let’s look at one of the cutest monuments in Kyiv. Panteleymon The Persian Cat located right near the Zoloti Vorota metro station appeared on the site in the 1990s. The story behind is quite tragic: the famous Kyiv restaurateur Serhii Husovskyi, who opened Pantagruel restaurant, wanted to make the fine dining spot special compared to other city spots. That’s why the restaurant became home for Panteleymon – a grey Persian cat that quickly gained the love of the visitors.
Unfortunately, the cat died during the fire in the restaurant. The sculpture was constructed to commemorate Panteleymon. The initial sculpture composition also had a small bird but in the early 2000s, it was stolen. Locals and tourists believe that rubbing the cat’s tail brings luck, that’s why Panteleymon's tail is always shiny and attracts numerous visitors.
Monument to Artyom
This grand construction is a classic example of Soviet Constructivism monuments in Ukraine. The monument was designed by the famous Ukrainian sculptor, director and playwright Ivan Kavaleridze to commemorate a Soviet revolutionary Fyodor Sergeyev commonly known as Comrade Artyom.
The 27-meter construction is located in Sviatohirsk, Donetsk Oblast, and faces the Donets River. It is made of concrete with a pink hue that according to the author’s design was supposed to look like rose quartz. Back in 1927 when the monument was constructed, it was one of the most impressive sights of the region and still carries the same fame these days.
Monument of Smile
Lviv is full of historical landmarks, coffee shops and tiny sculptures — Monument of Smile is one of them. The statue is located on a quiet patio right in front of the Dzyga art-café and gallery. The statue we can see nowadays was installed in 2008, and before there was an even smaller smiling fish made by Ukrainian sculptor Oleh Dehrachov. The smiling fish has multiple hands instead of fins and smiles just like a human. The hands have become quite polished after the tourists’ visits — after all, Dzyga is one of the city’s most visited art galleries.
One of the most famous Ukrainian monuments located in Lviv is, in fact, quite tiny and located on the rooftop of the city’s famous restaurant. House of Legends has a unique concept: every room in this house opens stories of the Lviv legends from the abundance of lions to small but charming elements like cobblestone.
The highlight of the place is a terrace on the rooftop, where the statue is located. The tiny old man has all the equipment ready and it looks like has just finished the work. Guests often throw a coin into the hat of bronze chimney-sweeper — it is believed to make wishes come true.
Yaroslav the Wise monument
Another notable work by Ivan Kavaleridze, the monument of Yaroslav the Wise is a popular meeting spot of tourists that visit the Zoloti Vorota in Kyiv. Prince Yaroslav the Wise initiated construction of Zoloti Vorota (the Golden Gate), which protected the city from the Pechenegs and the Mongol invasion, so the monument’s location isn’t accidental.
It’s interesting that the smaller-sized copy of the monument stands in the patio of Ivan Kavaleridze museum on Andriivskyi Descent. Locals often call the statue “The man with the cake”, as the Saint Sophia Cathedral that Yaroslav holds in his hands reminds more of a cake.
These 10 monuments are one of the most famous in Ukraine and surely not the only — after all, the country is vast and so are numerous tiny yet beautiful sculptures present in many cities and villages.
The following list is the editor’s choice.
Photo sources: MaxxjaNe, MashimaraPhoto, Sun_Shine, RastoS, Ruslan Lytvyn, Rainer Lesniewski / Shutterstock.com, Vilaliy Milevich / livejournal.com. All images belong to their rightful authors.