Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of cultural and historic sites are under threat of complete destruction across the country. Many Ukrainians believe that the Russian army is specifically targeting historical and cultural monuments such as museums and churches in order to “erase” Ukraine from the map.
While the numbers from UNESCO differ, the Ukrainian government says that as of April 1, 2022, more than 150 monuments and cultural objects were partially damaged or completely destroyed.
The government began a map on its website detailing where the major destruction has taken place, and asked witnesses of any attacks on cultural sites around the country to send evidence to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, through an online resource. The Ukrainian government also detailed its criteria for loss or damage of a cultural artifact or monument:
“Destroyed” – those that require construction work, new design of the building, reconstruction of the institution in another area, on the basis of another building.
“Partially destroyed” – those that require major repairs, restoration of the facade, roofing.
“Damaged” – those that continue to function, fleetingly eliminating damage; preserved the integral appearance and internal filling; in need of restoration, cosmetic repairs.
Independently, UNESCO reported that it verified damage to at least 53 cultural sites in Ukraine. One of these is the Menorah memorial outside Kharkiv, which is part of the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial. The Mariupol Drama Theater was turned to rubble in March as hundreds of people were said to be sheltering in it.
Curators and artists have been fighting to protect and save Ukraine’s cultural heritage, evacuating, packing, and hiding valuable cultural items across the country.
Frayer, Lauren, and Claire Harbage. “Ukraine Scrambles to Protect Artifacts and Monuments from Russian Attack.” NPR, 15 Mar. 2022. https://www.npr.org/sections/pictureshow/2022/03/15/1086444607/ukraine-cultural-heritage-russia-war. Accessed 7 Apr. 2022.
“Map of Cultural Losses.” Ukraine. Culture. Creativity, https://uaculture.org/culture-loss/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2022.
Shivaram, Deepa. “UNESCO Says 53 Cultural Sites in Ukraine Have Been Damaged since the Russian Invasion.” NPR, 2 Apr. 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/04/02/1090475172/unesco-ukraine-cultural-sites-damage. Accessed 7 Apr. 2022.
“Some Ukrainians Believe Russia Is Targeting Landmarks to Erase Country from the Map.” NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/russia-intentionally-targeting-ukraines-cultural-landmarks-rcna21604. Accessed 7 Apr. 2022.
“Ukraine Rushes to Save Cultural Heritage from Destruction.” DW.COM, 17 Mar. 2022. https://www.dw.com/en/ukraine-rushes-to-save-cultural-heritage-from-destruction/a-61158291. Accessed 7 Apr. 2022.