Motherland Monument at a Glance
What is the Motherland Monument, and where is it located?
The Motherland Monument is a 335-foot (102 m) tall sculpture in Kyiv, Ukraine. It is located on the property of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, on land alongside the Dnipro River.
Who designed and built the Motherland Monument, and when was it completed?
The monument was originally designed by Yevgeny Vuchetich, a Soviet artist. However, it was completed by Vasyl Borodai, a Ukrainian sculptor, after Vuchetich’s death in 1974. The construction of this steel structure took more than a year, and the monument was opened to the public on May 9, 1981.
What are the differences between the Motherland Monument and the Motherland Calls?
The Motherland Monument and the Motherland Calls are two sculptures of a woman warrior located in Ukraine and Russia, respectively. Both sculptures depict a woman warrior, but there are differences in their designs. The Motherland Calls takes on a more aggressive stance with a body posture that suggests an attacking position, while the Motherland Monument holds its shield upright, positioning its body like an impenetrable wall in a more passive stance. The Motherland Calls also slightly faces Ukraine rather than Europe, which is most likely a coincidence.
What is the current status of the Motherland Monument, and what changes are planned for it?
In response to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Soviet coat of arms on the monument’s shield will be decommunized by 2024 at the latest. This will be done either by completely removing it or covering it up with a new one, which will most likely be Ukraine’s coat of arms, a blue shield with a gold trident. The monument has undergone a restoration project since 2009 after a young man fell from the observation deck and was injured.
The Motherland Monument is the name of a massive sculpture located in Kyiv, Ukraine. This 335-foot (102 m) tall monument is located on land alongside the Dnipro River. The area is on the property of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War. On May 9, 1981, the Motherland Monument opened to the public, which would go on to become a new emblem of Kyiv. It is still the tallest statue in Europe. The construction of this steel structure took more than a year.
The Origin of the Statue
In the 1950s, a proposal to construct approximately 660 ft (200 m) tall monuments to Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin on the site of the existing statue gained traction. This, however, did not occur. A group of Communist Party officials and the Soviet artist Yevgeny Vuchetich supposedly gazed out over the hills near the Lavra in the 1970s and concluded the view warranted a war monument.
The monument was originally drawn by Yevgeny Vuchetich. He is credited with creating the first model of the statue. Also designed by Vuchetich, the Motherland Monument’s height surpasses Russia’s Motherland Calls (1967).
The monument was later completed by the sculptor Vasyl Borodai who was awarded the title “People’s Artist of the USSR.”
Although the monument was designed to honor the German Instrument of Surrender in 1945, rather than the motherland at first, the romantic term came to be associated with the statue almost immediately after its completion. This is probably because both Motherland Calls (Russia) and the Motherland Monument (Ukraine) were designed by the same sculptor.
The Motherland Monument vs. The Motherland Calls
Both monuments originate from the defense of their respective countries against aggression, and both face Europe, which is seen as the imminent source of such aggression. However, there are differences in their designs:
The Motherland Calls takes on a more aggressive stance with a body posture that suggests an attacking position, while the Motherland Monument holds its shield upright, positioning its body like an impenetrable wall in a more passive stance.
The Motherland Calls also slightly face Ukraine rather than Europe, which is most likely a coincidence. Both statues depict a woman warrior, but it is safe to say that the Motherland Monument’s face is aesthetically more pleasing while the Motherland Calls’ design is technically more complicated.
The History of the Monument
Sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich created the original concept for the Motherland Monument in the 1970s, but the actual building didn’t start until decades later.
The Ukrainian sculptor Vasyl Borodai took up the project following Vuchetich’s (also Ukrainian) untimely death in 1974, making modifications to the sculpture’s design and starting construction.
At first, the pedestal was supposed to be topped by a bronze and gilded statue of a woman standing at a height of 295 feet (90 m). A waterfall, 98 feet (30 m) in height, was designed to cascade from the monument into the Dnipro River, on which many native troops once battled.
Ukraine’s Borzna town native and sculptor Halyna Kalchenko served as the model for the Motherland Monument.
Kyiv was hit by a devastating hurricane in 1987, yet the monument was intact. Tourists were first given access to the 302 ft (92 m) and 118 ft (36 m) platforms in the summer of 2002.
After a young man fell from the observation deck and was luckily injured in April 2003, the visitors were once again sent away from the platforms. The statue’s restoration project began in 2009.
The Motherland Monument Will Be Decommunized
In reaction to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Soviet coat of arms on the monument’s shield will be decommunized in one of two ways: It will either be completely removed or covered up with a new one.
By 2024 at the latest, the Soviet emblem will be replaced with a trident, Ukraine’s coat of arms (a blue shield with a gold trident).
Ukraine’s Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, has said that copyright supervision, along with other legal concerns, must be addressed simultaneously while solving the coat of arms problem.
The Motherland Monument in Numbers
When including the pedestal, the Motherland Monument is 335 feet (102 m) tall in total. However, the female statue itself is actually 203 feet (62 m) tall, from the foot to the end of the sword. This leaves 131 feet (40 m) for the pedestal.
For comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet (93 m) tall; however, the female figure stands on a pedestal (154 ft; 47m) that is longer than the statue. UNESCO considers the monument to be among the world’s most beautiful examples of human creativity.
A three-story building and a courtyard large enough for 3,000 people serve as the monument’s basis. Over 11,600 servicemen and 200 workers have their names inscribed on marble slabs that surround the monument.
The Motherland Monument has two weapons: a 53-foot (16 m) sword that weighs 9 tons and a shield (weighing 13 tons) that measures 43 by 26 feet (13 by 8 m) and bears the coat of arms of the USSR (which will be removed soon).
The monument weighs 450 tons (500 US tons), and it is put together without the use of any fasteners other than welds. The actual beginning of the statue’s frame is located 59 feet (18 m) below the statue, where the museum’s main entrance is located. A 112-foot (34 m)-wide concrete shaft goes all the way down to this height.
The Construction of the Motherland Monument
The metal framework was cast in Zaporizhzhia steel. A custom-built crane of 328 feet (100 m) was used to erect the sculpture. The stainless-steel sculpture, which weighed between 25 and 30 tons, was welded together in pieces at Kyiv’s Paris Commune Plant.
In order to not draw too much notice, the sculpture’s components were moved about at night. A while later, the crane used for the sculpture was also taken apart.
Although the welders of the Motherland Monument were paid a hefty wage (50 Soviet rubles per day), it was appropriate given the nature of the task. Because many of them suffered from severe eye injuries from staring at the welding for so long.
The engineers were not only happy with their regular pay but also with the knowledge that they were helping to construct one of “Kyiv’s wonders.”
The Motherland Monument’s assembly required welding that reached 18.5 miles (30 km) in length. Before the actual construction, a 33-foot (10 m) copy was tested for stability in Moscow, inside the biggest turbine in the USSR, to ensure the sculpture would hold up in high winds.
The monument’s height was lowered from 354 feet (108 m) to 334 feet (102 m) when it was built next to the religious Great Lavra Bell Tower of the Kyiv Cave Monastery, which stands at 317 feet (96.5 m). However, since the Great Lavra Bell Tower is perched on a hill, the Motherland Monument actually stands at a height of 39 feet (12 m) lower than Kyiv’s famous landmark.
The Motherland Monument was supposed to open on May 9, 1980, but it didn’t get going until the following year. The total cost of the building was 2,000,000 Soviet rubles ($82,000), which is around $300,000 as of today.
How Long Will the Motherland Monument Stand?
If yearly readings using geodetic instruments are accurate, the Motherland Monument will stand for at least another 150 years before toppling over. However, if the restorations keep being conducted, the lifetime of the statue is potentially endless. The estimates show that the monument can endure an earthquake of up to 9 on the Richter scale with no damage.
Fun Facts About the Motherland Monument
- Some Ukrainians call the Motherland Monument “Victory Monument” or “Victoria Petrovna.” This wordplay is based on the Latin word Victoria (“Victory”) and the former General Secretary of the CPSU Leonid Brezhnev’s wife (Viktoria Petrovna Brezhneva) who attended the opening of the statue in 1981.
- Lavrentiy Hill, upon which the massive sculpture stands, is well recognized as one of the city’s “geopathogenic” zones. It is called Black Hill” by the common people, and there are two more locations in Kyiv that share this moniker. Legend has it that animals and birds avoid this area entirely, and whenever people tried to live there, fires and landslides wiped out their houses. It is only to be hoped that the same won’t happen to the Motherland Monument.
- On May 8, 2015, a wreath of stylized red poppy flowers was placed on the artwork.
- A petition proposing transforming the monument into a statue of Archangel Michael was filed with the Kyiv City Council in November 2021. The petition’s creator had the opinion that the Soviet memorial ran counter to modern political and intellectual norms.
- There is a vast hall that can fit more than 400 people under the Motherland Monument.
In Popular Culture
- This monument serves as the background to a scene in the 2006 book World War Z by Max Brooks in which a Ukrainian tank commander and his soldiers flee the ruins of Kyiv on a tank.
- For their song “Get Out,” the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit filmed their clip in front of the monument.
- The landmark served as a pit stop for contestants on the 10th episode of the CBS television show The Amazing Race 10.
Visiting the Motherland Monument
The Motherland Monument’s main exhibit is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (10:00 to 18:00) while the ticket office is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm (10:00 to 17:30). Adults pay 40, students pay 20, and kids under 18 pay 10 Ukrainian hryvnias to get in. The “Ukraine. War. Own Memory” is a paid excursion that offers family tickets and an audio guide for an extra cost.
On weekdays, the observation decks are open from 10 am to 5:30 pm (10:00 to 17:30), while on weekends, they stay open until 6:30 pm (18:30).
There are two public viewing levels at the monument. At a height of 121 feet (37 m), this first viewing point (“Landscape”) appears on the statue’s foot. Military binoculars are stationed on the east and west edges to keep an eye on the city below. The second viewing point is called “Extreme,” and it’s 299 feet (91 m) above its foot.
The statue’s center houses two lifts: There is a nine-floor elevator that goes all the way to the top of the Motherland Monument, where there are platforms and hatches. The visitors can either reach all the way up to the left hand with the shield or to the right hand with the sword.
There is a lookout platform on the monument’s shield. A device designed to mitigate the effects of changing wind loads is mounted at the blade’s tip.
- Official website – Warmuseum.kyiv.ua: Національний музей історії України у Другій світовій війні
- Warmuseum.kyiv.ua – Collections: Музейні колекції