As soon as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, all museums were immediately closed. When four days after the first attack, the small regional museum in Ivankiv, near kyiv, in which paintings by the painter Maria Primachenko (1909-1997), highly revered in Ukraine, were hung, only a few of which could be saved by the population, For the directors of the country’s museums, this was the signal that cultural property would not be saved.
The country’s largest museum, the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv, founded in 1905 as a church museum, mobilized volunteers and staff to pack up and secure the 12,000 permanent exhibits. He had not expected for a moment that the works of art could actually be in danger, quotes the director of the Dutch museum “NRC”, Ihor Kohzan.
You used everything you could find, he says. A thousand-year-old Bible ended up in a supermarket banana box along with ancient manuscripts. The photos show how the sculptures are packed, the paintings are removed and the display cases are covered. Parts of the baroque collection were packed in boxes, as if they were being moved.
Required Conservation Supplies
A two million dollar donation from ALIPH (International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Property in Conflict Zones) could now help, as the French magazine “Le Point” reports. The money will be used primarily to pay for packaging material, documentation and transportation. The London Institute of Conservation has now published a list of the most urgently needed conservation supplies and is asking for donations (contact: icon.org.uk).
On Wednesday, the monument protection organization “World Heritage Watch” in Berlin asked museums, exhibition centers and galleries to donate packaging materials. They are in contact with an initiative in Lviv that could distribute donations, as long as the cities can still be reached.
The Guardian reports that the director of the National Historical Museum of Ukraine in Kyiv, Fedir Androshchuk, said in an email to a Swedish colleague that four museums, in Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Sumy and Chernihiv, had managed to dismantle and protect their most important ones. exhibits “In Vinnytsia, the museum building is now partially used for internally displaced people.
So far I have not heard of any of the mentioned museums being looted or attacked,” writes Androshchuk, but also warns of possible looting in case of occupation by Russian troops: “There is no guarantee that the Ukrainian cultural heritage not be looted. and transferred to Russian museums as kyiv occupies a special place in Putin’s interpretation of Russian history and its roots. Many finds made in Ukraine around 1800 and early 1900 are now in the two best Russian museums. And there is also evidence that the objects from the archaeological excavations in the Crimea were sent to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.”
Burning wooden churches, destroyed places of worship
Androshchuk is also concerned about three major churches near his museum, as the Ukrainian security service and border troops are also in the neighborhood as possible targets of Russian attacks.
Burning wooden churches, destroyed churches with golden domes, these photos can also be found on social media, haunting photos of villages around cities in the north and east. But there are also photos showing Ukrainian soldiers planting several fire extinguishers inside ornate churches, a modest precaution against impending Russian firepower.
An attack on churches in a religious country is also an attack on the soul of the nation, as well as the national cultural heritage.
Preventive protection, where it is still possible, is therefore the order of the day. Even before the Ukraine was bombed, Hayden Basset, an archaeologist and director of the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Laboratory at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in the US, surveyed museums across the country and ancient graves in steppe areas.
This inventory of Ukrainian cultural property would allow better protection measures to be taken in the event of war, such as marking them with the “Blue Shield” in accordance with the “1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”. “. Unesco says that the first Blue Shields have been installed. We are in contact with the local authorities.
Blue Shield Germany, an association founded in 2017 that is dedicated to the protection of cultural heritage, especially in conflict, disaster and emergency situations and forms the German national committee of Blue Shield International, also collects information about Ukraine from all available sources and coordinate Help. The main concern here is the special packaging material, which also allows long-term storage of artifacts in rooms without air conditioning. They also work together with international museum associations, Alexander Gatzsche of Blue Shield Germany told the Tagesspiegel.
It is important that museums are also officially marked with the Unesco Blue Shield, so that in case of attack it can also be classified as a war crime. Gatzsche reminds that the Blue Shield is equivalent to the Red Cross and guarantees international protection.
[Alle aktuellen Entwicklungen im Ukraine-Krieg können Sie hier in unserem Newsblog verfolgen.]
In the face of the intense bombing of Ukrainian cities, the architecture of the cities also raises concerns about the immeasurable suffering of the civilian population. Parts of this architecture belong to the world cultural heritage, such as the Old Town of Lviv, as well as the Saint Sophia Cathedral and the Lavra Pechersk Cave Monastery in kyiv. When German occupiers blew up the famous Uspenski Cathedral in 1941, which was rebuilt in all its splendor between 1998 and 2000, the Reich Commissioner at the time, Erich Koch, said, true to Nazi doctrine, that places of worship that establish the identity of subjugated peoples must be eliminated. It remains to be seen whether Putin, who denies Ukraine’s right to statehood, will play this card. One would not like to imagine a similarly destructive shelling of Kyiv and Odessa as in Mariupol and Kharkiv.
With the help of satellite images, the Paris-based UNESCO wants to monitor the damage to cultural property in Ukraine. The UN cultural organization also confirmed that it wanted to support cultural workers in Ukraine. The European Union’s culture ministers also promised help for Ukrainian journalists and artists. Institutions that are willing to host these professional groups will be supported so that they can continue to be active.
Help for refugee artists
Museums and research institutions in Germany are receiving requests for help from Ukraine and Russia. Johannes Vogel, director general of the Berlin Natural History Museum, told the Tagesspiegel about a colleague who took important parts of the museum’s collection from him when he fled and was left with no personal luggage. The museum will also provide job opportunities for refugees, Vogel said.
According to Frankfurt-based Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung spokeswoman Judith Jördens, “Senckenberg am Meer” in Wilhelmshaven and “Senckenberg Natural History Collections” in Dresden have “close contacts” with Ukrainian scientists.
“Unfortunately, men fit for military service are not allowed to leave the country at the moment, so most of the women scientists and their children are on the run,” says Jördens. They would be offered guest rooms and the use of laboratories and the like. At a private level, there are also efforts to support the compañeras who are fleeing. Also, as part of the Leibniz Association, you offer “support in the form of matching-funded scholarships to outgoing students and scientists.” (with dpa; epd; rif)