Big Mama Motherland

One of the most impressive features of the Kiev skyline is the monumental, overwhelming, completely over-the-top Mother Motherland Statue overlooking the Dnieper River.  This statue sits atop a museum dedicated to the Great Patriotic War (World War II).  It stands 203 feet tall and is larger than the Statue of Liberty.  Gazing on this structure is a vivid reminder of the continuing influence of the former Soviet Union on Central and Eastern Europe.When Kongo visited this two days ago it was a gray, overcast, cold day.  The statue is made of stainless steel so getting good pictures that really showed this statue in its best light was difficult.  If you want to see some really great photography of the statue, including some views from the observation windows at the top (they are now closed to the public because tourists kept falling out) please visit this site.

The statue is part of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War.  If you’ve travelled to Moscow or other large cities in what used to be the Soviet Union you’re familiar with the historical importance of this conflict and the continuing influence it has on the Russian (and Ukrainian) people.  More than 25 million people died in this great struggle that affected every facet of the population.

Approaching the statue, Kongo passed through the “Alley of Heroes” that contained several larger than life reliefs depicting all elements of the people of the Soviet Union who fought the Nazis and drove the invaders from Mother Russia.

A Soviet soldier operates a machine gun in the Alley of Heroes. The people depicted in the reliefs are three times the size of a normal person.
The memorial honors all walks of life of those engaged in the epic struggle against the Nazi invasion. Here mothers, grandfathers, workers, and peasants are shown. Note the grim looks of determination on their faces.
Men and women, often in partisan units behind the lines, continually fought the enemy.
The entrance to the Alley of Heroes.
The Hammer and Sickle, symbol of the Soviet Union, adorns the shield held aloft by Mother Motherland

The statue sits on top of a three-story museum that houses thousands of artifacts from World War II.  When Kongo was there were only a few visitors.  It was touching to see old veterans walking about the grounds.  You couldn’t help but wonder what thoughts occupied them as they considered the sacrifices they made during the war years and all that has happened since then.  Today school children come in groups and run and laugh as they scamper about and pose for pictures in front of tanks painted with flowers.

The sword held aloft by Mother Motherland is 52 feet long. It was shortened after its original construction so that it would not be higher than the spires on nearby Pechersk Lavra monastery.
The statue dominates the night sky overlooking the Dnieper River.

There were two great battles fought at Kiev during World War II.  The first was in 1941 when the city was captured by the invading Nazi armies.  The second was fought in 1943 when counter-attacking Soviet armies liberated the city.  Around the base of the statue are giant blocks dedicated to twelve heroic cities of the Soviet Union that faced the Nazi invasion.  The names of over 16,000 Heroes of the Soviet Union are also inscribed.

Like most Soviet architecture and art, the works at the Motherland Memorial are massive, larger-than-life, and dominating.  They are designed to emphasize that the “Motherland” is far greater than any individual and that people are insignificant compared to the overarching dominance of the state.

This big girl is not feminine.  She is, as Kongo’s guide Oksana pointed out, “a true Soviet woman.”  Her unflattering face sits atop a massive and out of proportion neck.  Muscular arms hold aloft the sword and shield to protect the Motherland.  Her breasts seem to be afterthoughts and look more like pectorals developed in a gym rather than the natural curves of a woman.

Many of the local residents hate this statue.  Not only is it a reminder of the days when Ukraine was one of the Soviet republics, but many feel it is an architectural disaster.  While visitors may have some empathy with this position, none can deny that this is a truly impressive display.

When you visit Kiev you can’t help but see the statue.  As you come in from the airport, day or night, Mother Motherland will greet you in a way that you cannot overlook.  Take the time to visit it in person.

Travel safe.  Have fun.

English: Motherland in Kiev
Mother Motherland on a nice day.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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