A new statue of a Ukrainian nationalist who is blamed for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews during the Russian Revolution, was unveiled Saturday in Vinnitsa, in an area of the city once known as Yerusalimka (Jerusalem), just some 200 meters (600 feet) from a small, functioning synagogue.
The city, located 260 kilometers (160 miles) southwest of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, already has a street named for Symon Petliura.
Soldiers of Petliura’s Ukrainian People’s Republic were responsible for 493 out of the recorded 1,236 pogroms and other violent incidents against Jews in 524 Ukrainian towns during the Russian Revolution, from 1918 to 1921, although Petliura’s actual role remains unclear.
Erection of the statue is part of an ongoing move by Ukrainian authorities to replace Russian street names and monuments with Ukrainian ones as a reaction to the ongoing war against Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Ukrainian areas of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Last year, Ukraine observed a minute of silence for Petliura on the 90th anniversary of his assassination in Paris.
A French court acquitted Sholom Schwartzbard, a Russia-born Jew, of the murder, even though he admitted to it after the court found that Petliura had been involved in or knew of pogroms by members of his militia. Fifteen of Schwartzbard’s relatives perished in the pogroms.
In the city of Uman — a major pilgrimage site for Breslov Hasidic Jews, a new monument recently appeared to commemorate Ivan Gonta, an 18th century Cossack involved in a massacre of Jews, Poles and Eastern Catholics.
Vinnitsa’s pre-war Jewish population estimated at 28,000 was murdered by the Nazis and was immortalized in the iconic photograph The Last Jew of Vinnitsa. The photograph, found in an album belonging to a German soldier, shows a member of Einsatzgruppe D about to execute a Jewish man who kneels before a mass grave.
Ukraine’s prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, is Jewish on his father’s side.