A defaced plaque on a picturesque Kyiv street has become the latest sign of the culture war simmering in Ukraine as the country battles Russia's invasion.

The monument to Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov, author of the classic novel "The Master and Margarita", was recently sprayed with red paint.

The plaque is on the facade of the 19th-century house in Kyiv where Bulgakov grew up, which became a museum in the early 1990s.

The museum's director, Lyudmyla Gubianuri, told AFP there was no plan to remove the red paint from the plaque.

"We aren't taking it off because for us, this is also a kind of communication," she said.

"The fact that they threw paint on it, for us it's also a sign that we as a museum haven't done enough work."

She has drawn up a sign to hang under the defaced plaque, saying: "history should be studied, not rejected".


She also linked the protest to the war.

"It's all of course connected with the war with Russia. It's absolutely obvious and clear why it happened."

"It's a very difficult time for the country, and people in wartime now think in the categories 'black and white'".

- 'Decolonization' movement -

The museum had recently changed the inscription on the plaque.

Originally, it was written in Russian and called Bulgakov a "Russian, Soviet writer".

A new inscription was put up last month calling him simply a "prominent Kyiv resident, doctor and writer".

Bulgakov was born in Kyiv in 1891 when it was part of the Russian empire. He wrote in Russian and spent the last two decades of his life in Soviet-era Moscow, writing novels, plays and newspaper columns.

In his work, he made disparaging comments about Ukraine's language and culture and its struggle for independence.

The start of full-scale war last year has led to new laws and dismantling of more and more monuments linked to Russian culture.

As part of this movement, Ukraine in April passed a law on "decolonization" of street signs, monuments, memorials and inscriptions.

- 'Hater of Ukraine' -

A schoolboy, Mykhailo Soboliev, 16, later told AFP he was the one who had sprayed on the paint as "an act of public protest" with the goal of "de-Russification and decolonization of Kyiv".


He and his parents consented to the publication of his name.

Soboliev said that he had taken part in protest actions over other Soviet-era monuments in the city, including a graffiti-covered statue of Russian national poet, Alexander Pushkin.

In September, protesters sprayed slogans on the Pushkin statue calling for its demolition.

Soboliev accused the Bulgakov museum of a kind of "manipulation" to get round decolonization rules, by removing the inscription saying that Bulgakov was a Russian writer.

Bulgakov saw Kyiv as a "province of Moscow," he said.

"We believe that the problem is that Bulgakov was against Ukrainian statehood. He was against the Ukrainian language. He ridiculed people who changed their surname in the Ukrainian way."

"I don't understand why the Bulgakov Museum is in Kyiv," Soboliev said.

The National Union of Writers of Ukraine has also urged the museum's closure.

In a statement, it called Bulgakov a "hater of sovereign Ukraine".

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Comments ( 1)

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This action is understandable. Of course, to be reminded that admirers of Russia despised Ukraine is intolerable, especially now. But in the long run, I would say “Don’t do it.” Such monuments are part of Kyiv’s rich history. It is evidence of how some people thought, & shows why Ukrainian independence was both difficult to establish, & necessary. Perhaps these plaques & statues could be collected & set aside in a special museum, so future generations could see them, & not forget what it was like to be subjugated. It is harder to eradicate imperialism if you have no evidence about how & why it happened, or how such ideas were internalised by Ukrainians.