The National Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War is a memorial complex commemorating the German-Soviet War located in the southern outskirts of the Pechersk district of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on the picturesque hills on the right-bank of the Dnieper River. The museum has moved two times before ending up in the current location where it was ceremonially opened on May 9 (the Victory Day), 1981, by the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. On June 21, 1996, the museum was accorded its current status of the National Museum. It is one of the largest museums in Ukraine, centered around the famous 62-meter tall Motherland statue, which has become a recognized landmarks of Kiev.
The memorial complex covers the area of 10 hectares on the hill, overlooking the Dnieper River. One of the museums also displays the armaments used by the Soviet army post World War II. The sculptures in the alley depict the courageous defence of the Soviet border from the 1941 German invasion, terrors of the Nazi occupation, partisan struggle, devoted work on the home front, and the 1943 Battle of the Dnieper.
The Motherland Monument
The monumental sculpture of the "Motherland" built by Yevgeny Vuchetich stands 62 meters tall upon the museum building with the overall structure measuring 102 m and weighing 530 tons. The sword in the statue's right hand is 16 m long weighing 9 tons, with the left hand holding up a 13 m by 8 m shield with the Coat of arms of the Soviet Union. The Memorial hall of the Museum displays marble plaques with carved names of more than 11,600 soldiers and over 200 workers of the home-front honored during the war with the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Hero of Socialist Labor. On the hill beneath the museum, the traditional flower shows are held.
The Motherland Monument is perhaps the most enduring symbol of Kiev. Made entirely of stainless steel, it’s usually seen glittering from afar on sunnier days. It remains as controversial as any other Soviet era monument in the Ukraine: On its shield, the state emblem of the Soviet Union is still visible, stirring emotions. Its flame is apparently consuming an inordinate amount of natural gas, and these days it is usually found extinguished due to shortages – another stark reminder of Ukraine’s uneasy dependency on Russian natural resources. Despite the indigestion surrounding it, the Motherland Monument has so far escaped the effects of Decommunisation. But it also carries certain redeeming qualities: Its sword has been shortened so it wouldn’t exceed the spires of Pechersk Lavra - an architectural clue pertaining to relative height, of one authority succumbing to another. Interestingly, the face of the monument was modelled after Nina Danyleiko, a Ukrainian folk painter. This should be a welcome link to contemporary Ukrainian folk lore. The statue is facing menacingly towards Moscow. Can such new symbolism be allowed to steer the statue’s powerful imagery away from the negative connotations it invokes for many Ukraininans?