The solemn installation of a memorial board in George (Yurii) Shevelov’s honor in Kharkiv, which was scheduled to take place on September 5, was almost disrupted by an unexpected interference of the city authorities and was forcedly carried out in the evening of September 3 with the community’s efforts.
The scientific and cultural circles of Kharkiv have been preparing to honor the memory of the globally known scholar, linguist, and former Kharkiv resident Shevelov for two years. They raised money and had a memorial board made. But on September 3, unexpected news appeared about the extraordinary sitting of the Commission on Toponyms, which was going to cancel the permission to install the board.
“On September 3, at 6 p.m., during the talk on George Shevelov delivered by Professor Ihor Muromtsev at the Prosvita meeting, MP Oleh Yatsyna received a phone call; he was warned that the city mayor issued an order to cancel the permission for the installation. That is why we decided to install the board, which was already finished, before the appointed time,” explains ethnographer and one of the initiators of the board installation Viktoria Skliarova. About 50 public activists gathered near the Salamander Building on Sumska Street, who eventually installed the board. Representatives of NGOs, MPs Ivan Varchenko and Oleh Yatsyna, poet Serhii Zhadan spoke at the urgent, improvised opening ceremony. Since public activists received phone calls with threats to destroy the board in case it was installed, it was decided to organize round-the-clock watch of caring Kharkiv dwellers near the board.
And on September 4, at 11 a.m., an extraordinary sitting of the Toponyms Commission started. The Commission deliberated the cancellation of the permit to install the memorial board. The wording included accusation of Shevelov being a fascist, which was based on the fact that he left Ukraine with German occupants in 1943. Activists and community representatives, who attended the sitting, could not restrain their emotions in reply to such a boldfaced act of Ukrainophobia. “You are robbing the Kharkiv community, people who gathered money for this board all by themselves!” Kostiantyn Cheremsky resents. “The city authorities want to bury Shevelov for the second time!” said Mykola Zubkov scientist of the Karazin National University. After taking the community’s reaction into consideration, the commission did not cancel the previously granted permission for the installation, but passed a decision to gather additional information on Shevelov’s contribution and carry out an “expert examination” of the scholar’s persona by “expert organs,” among which commission members named the Security Service of Ukraine, historical institutions, and international organizations.
“So far, there is no ruling to dismantle the board,” assured Oleksii Khoroshkuvaty, deputy head of the oblast commission on toponyms, after the sitting was over. “This can be considered a victory,” says one of the activists Dmytro Pylypets, who spread the information about the conflict via social networks. “We know that mayor Hennadii Kernes personally gave an order to dismantle the board. Perhaps, this is due to the publicity which this case caused.” “If the board is dismantled, it would be a slap in the face of the whole Kharkiv community,” according to Zubkov.