Camilla Gironi


History is the basis of our identity, but it sometimes represents a trap. As well explained by Keith Lowe, monuments are representative of our values, and every society deludes itself that its values will be everlasting. However, in a world changing at an unprecedented pace while we move on, urban furnishment such as monuments or streets’ names remain frozen in time. Statues and toponyms that were erected and chosen a long time ago may no longer be representative of the values we now treasure. While Russia’s aggression is still raging, a lot has been written on the potential implications of the war in Ukraine in several fields such as global economy, energy and food security. Still, at a time in which the relationship between memory and politics is coming to the fore in the field of IR, an in-depth study of the consequences of the war on Ukraine’s politics of memory appears to be virtually essential. To close this gap, this paper aims at providing an overview of how the war has influenced Ukraine’s politics of memory, especially by focusing on urban spaces such as monuments and topography. Drawing from the theoretical background on collective memory, first, the concepts of “memory” and “place” will be investigated by specifically looking at memory sites and building on Langenbacher and Yossi’s idea of “infrastructure of memory”. Second, we analyze the changing environment triggered by Russia’s aggression and actions such as the removal of Catherine the Great’s monument in Odesa or the renaming of the former Victory Square in Kyiv. Russia’s war on Ukraine has in fact accelerated a process of decolonization of memory which had begun with the post-Communist transition. Ukraine is now determined to revive its national identity which has long been subjugated. Third, we draw conclusions by reflecting on which turn Ukraine’s memory politics may take by analyzing hints provided by high-profile officials such as Zelensky or Klitschko. For instance, a reinterpretation of periods such as the Cossack Hetmanate, Kievan Rus’ and Ukraine People’s Republic or episodes linked to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army may be implemented with the emergence of new monuments or street names.