Unlike Bulgaria, where the state has abandoned its former monuments, in Ukraine the state is busy bringing its memory up to date. This is a facelift of the Ukraininan-Russian friendship monument in Kiev through transforming the old concrete rainbow, into a colorful, lively, more real-looking rainbow by adding neon lights. And what a rainbow it is indeed! Little did they know that in the meantime the rainbow enjoys popularity as a symbol of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender movement. The message is already confusing but not enough yet. Liosha was giving me the context as his gay reading of this bit of Kiev unfolded.
Below the rainbow two male figures portrayed in socialist monumental style, strong muscular, handsome facing the world with determination, have joined hands in manifestation of eternal soviet friendship, inseparable like the hammer and sickle. These two men are not meant to look gay.
As the “fallen” letters below tell us these two men represent the union of Ukraine and Russia.
Unfortunately, Ukraine, like most post-socialist societies, is a very homophobic one. Maybe this is the reason no one saw a potential (mis)reading in the coloring of the rainbow. As if to convince us in this sad reality on the right side of the two young men stands a group of onlookers, who are there to represent the various social and ethnic groups comprising the Soviet Union.
They somehow look unhappy or at least not sharing the same emotion the two bronze men in the center celebrate. These onlooking stone people seem skeptical, critical, busy with something else and oddly united in their diversity somehow out of the way of the two males but as if ready to interrupt their élan. The unintended similarity with anti-gay protesters is striking.
In Bulgaria monuments are being brought “In Pace with the Times” not by the state but by “the people.” This is what happened to the Red Army monument in Sofia this August:
But who did it, nobody knows and the state cannot care less. No one has claimed to be the author of this “artistic expression.” No one has been convicted of this “vandalism.” There were even claims that whoever did it, despite the Bulgarian inscription at the bottom meaning in Pace with the Times, was not a Bulgarian acting as a political critic but a foreigner mocking the Bulgarians, exposing their naive belief that someone else will always come to their “liberation” or even worse, that someone else is always to blame for their “occupation.” The monument was cleaned three days later by the Sofia municipality in the dead of night while citizens were organizing to protest its restoration announced for the morning. The debates continue but they are within circles of likeminded individuals which do not cross each other’s orbits.
On my last night in Kiev we toasted to friendship among nations.
За дружбу народов!