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A Soviet Monument Got A Rainbow Makeover And People Have Opinions

Ukraine's Friendship of Nations Arch got done up to highlight the theme of this year's Eurovision contest: "Celebrate Diversity."

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This is the Friendship of Nations Arch in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It was erected in 1982 during the Soviet era to celebrate the country's unification with Russia.

@enikiforov / Via instagram.com

The two people underneath the arch represent Russian and Ukrainian workers, joining hands to hold up the Order of Friendship of Peoples. (As you might guess, that message is a little less popular these days, as relations between Russia and Ukraine are pretty far from friendly, with Russia backing separatist groups in eastern Ukraine.)

Usually it's plain old gray, but the arch has been colored in like a rainbow for the Eurovision song contest, which starts May 9. This year Ukraine is hosting, and the official Eurovision slogan is "Celebrate Diversity."

@borischkevitch / Via instagram.com

According to the Ukrainian news site Vesti, the stripes are easily removable colored paper, not paint, so don't fret, art history nerds.

The monument is now an "Arch of Diversity... the largest man-made color rainbow ever," Gennadiy Kurochka, the founding partner of one of the companies contracted by the Ukrainian government to do PR for Eurovision, wrote on Facebook.

Facebook: gennadiy.kurochka

He assured people that the structure will go back to its usual state after Eurovision wraps up.

As it turns out, people in Kiev have a lot of opinions about rainbows, and keeping Soviet-era monuments around in independent Ukraine.

@aside_burn / Via instagram.com

The dynamic between the two countries is one where Russia's 2017 Eurovision contestant was banned from entering Ukraine because she previously performed in Russian-annexed Crimea.

Though Kurochka's announcement of the rainbow arch didn't mention LGBT rights, many people saw a connection — and not necessarily a positive one.

@sajiprelis / Via instagram.com

"Some LGBT people run the country, other LGBT people spoil what the other generations created. Pederasts, what to take from you," one person commented on Kurochka's post.

"Who discussed this with the citizens of Kiev? Who has the authority to make such decisions?" another wrote.

And not everyone liked how it looked.

"I'm not a fan of half hints. Either do this openly and honestly, or don't," one person commented, pointing out that the rainbow wasn't actually an LGBT pride flag. "And visually it reminds me of a matinee show at a kindergarten. I just really like the steel arch."

Others who commented on Kurochka's post were more concerned with the arch's history than its present. "Take that Soviet shit down with a bulldozer," one person wrote on Facebook.

(The authorities have debated and recently decided against demolishing it.)

Two days after the arch was first colored in, far-right nationalists turned up and shut down work on the rainbow, which a representative for the group Right Sector called "hidden LGBT propaganda."

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"We went there, blocked everything that was going on, called the police, wrote a statement to the police that there are illegal actions going on there. If the authorities want to decorate this Arch for Eurovision so badly, then let them color it with national ornaments or something else. And if this continues, then we will use the methods that are outlined in the constitution," Right Sector spokesman Artyom Skoropadsky told the Ukrainian website Inforesist.org.

The worker operating the machinery to apply the colors left the site, saying he would wait for the authorities to decide before proceeding, Censor.Net reported.

Right-wing activists have threatened LGBT events in Ukraine, and attacked the 2015 March for Equality in Kiev, where nine police officers were injured.

But a lot of people really dug the rainbow makeover.

http://@ta.volkov / Via instagram.com

"This is an ideal example of introducing new meanings," Ihor Zenich, a web developer, wrote on Facebook, using the hashtag #celebratediversity. "They should definitely leave the two men underneath the arch."

"I'm thrilled with this idea of the rainbow," Taras Volkov, a Kiev-based designer and art director, wrote on Instagram. "It's also cool to be renaming outdated cities and streets with Soviet roots for our time. The new reality and future that we want to build includes updating the meanings brought to us by the space in which we live."

"And whatever happens with this rainbow, for me it already was, is, and will be," he added, playing on the Soviet slogan, "Lenin was, is, and will be."

Ukrainian LGBT activist Zoryan Kis, a board member for KyivPride, hoped the rainbow could stay until the group holds its pride march on June 18.

Facebook: zoryan.kis

On May 4, Kiev's mayor Vitaly Klitschko announced what he called a "compromise" over the issue.

"The part that hasn't been completed will be covered with a Ukrainian decorative pattern," he said.

Susie Armitage is the Global Managing Editor and is based in New York.

Contact Susie Armitage at susie.armitage@buzzfeed.com.

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