Cultural Destruction in Ukraine Now

Recording of presentations by Ihor Poshyvailo, Director of National Museum of Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv; and Damian Koropeckyj, Senior Analyst at the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab, Virginia during "War on Culture/War on Memory: Ukraine, Bosnia and the Global Defense of Heritage" symposium in Los Angeles on December 2, 2022

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Despite international legal sanctions, we are currently witnessing widespread systematic attacks on cultural heritage in armed conflict, including the brute destruction of buildings and cultural sites (from graves to libraries to museums, to archaeological sites, public monuments, artworks and books); the theft of material heritage or its distortion and abuse in propaganda; the use of media/TV campaigns to rewrite history; and the detention or killing of cultural actors/activists.

On December 2, 2022 UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies organized War on Culture/War on Memory: Ukraine, Bosnia and the Global Defense of Heritage symposium to present a clear account of the toll of cultural destruction in the current war in Ukraine, and multilateral efforts at documentation and preservation, and to broaden our understanding of destruction and preservation by reflecting on the catastrophic experience of Bosnia during the war of 1992-1995, and its long term impact.

You can watch the recording of Panel Discussion A: Cultural Destruction in Ukraine Now here on our website. Recording of the entire symposium is available on the CERS YouTube Channel. Certain slides were blurred to respect copyright.

Panel Discussion A: Cultural Destruction in Ukraine Now

  • Opening Remarks
    • Laurie Kain Hart, Director, UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies; Professor, UCLA Anthropology
    • Roman Koropeckyj, Professor, UCLA Department of Slavic, East European & Eurasian Languages & Cultures
  • War in Ukraine: Battle for Freedom, Identity, Future
    • Ihor Poshyvailo, Director, National Museum of Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv
  • Cultural Heritage and Modern Conflict: Ukraine 2014-Present
    •  Damian Koropeckyj, Senior Analyst, Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab, Virginia

  • Moderator: Vadim Schneyder, Associate Professor, UCLA Department of Slavic, East European & Eurasian Languages & Cultures

This symposium was organized by UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies (CERS) and co-sponsored by President’s International Council, J. Paul Getty Trust, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Creative Activities, the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES), the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European & Eurasian Languages & Cultures, and the South East European Film Festival.

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Duration: 00:57:07



Good morning, everybody.

And on behalf of the Center

for European and Russian Studies

and my co-organizer Roman Koropeckyj,

I want to welcome you to our symposium

War on Memory/War on Culture:

Ukraine, Bosnia and the

Global Defense of Heritage.

Really glad to see you all.

My name is Laurie Kain Hart,

and I'm professor of anthropology

and global studies at UCLA

and Director of the Center.

I'd like to start, as is our custom

at UCLA, with an acknowledgment.

As a land grant institution,

UCLA pays respect to the

Gabrielino/Tongva peoples

who are the traditional land

caretakers of the unceded territory

of the Los Angeles basin

and the South Channel Islands.

This acknowledgment of conquest

and occupation is especially humbling

in a symposium such as this,

on the attack on cultural heritage

in Ukraine and Bosnia.

I thank

UCLA's Vice Chancellor for Research

and Creative Engagement,

Roger Wakimoto, for his

very generous support, and the

J. Paul Getty Trust for the gift

of this spectacular venue for the day.

I also thank

the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies,

and the Department of Slavic,

East European and Eurasian

Languages and Cultures,

and the South East European Film Festival

for their co-sponsorship.

Above all, I thank the

amazing staff at our Center,

Liana Grancea, Executive Director,

and Lenka Unge, Program Director,

for the energy they've devoted

to organizing this event.

And they're both here today

somewhere in this room.

And lastly, we are very

grateful to our partner

at the Getty Center, events manager

Shannon Arakaki and her team.

We have a very packed program

of international superstars

here today, so I'll be brief.

The impetus for this symposium

came from our staff and faculty's

commitment to engage in programing

that would enable us

to understand the impacts

of Putin's horrendous war in Ukraine.

Above all, we wanted witnesses to testify

to what is occurring on the ground

in the war and to provide

informed contextual analysis.

The parallels

with Bosnia and the early 1990s

conflict in the former Yugoslavia

were immediately clear

and more than metaphorical.

Putin's current ties with

Milorad Dodik, leader

of the separatist ethnic Serb enclave

in Bosnia and Herzegovina,

continue to inflame the

fragile status quo in Bosnia.

And above all, as we

began to see in Ukraine,

massive campaigns of cultural

and human destruction,

conforming to the terms of genocide

with massive displacements of populations,

massive purposeful distortions of history

and identity, and the

wholesale destruction of cities,

we called on those who had survived

the Bosnian years for insight.

There are, of course, contrasts

between the two cases, beginning

with the total refusal of military support

from the West to Bosnia,

the siege of the capital Sarajevo

by Bosnian-Serb forces

from April 5th, 1992,

to February 29th, 1996

was the longest siege

in modern European history.

The Dayton Peace Accord was enforced

only through belated NATO

airstrikes after nearly

four years of isolated hell,

global abandonment and starvation.

Alongside the devastating

murder of civilians in Ukraine, the scale

of which is only just emerging,

we are witnessing a

systematic attempt to rewrite history

and to deform or annihilate

Ukrainian material culture

and essential survival infrastructure.

Culture and memory

cling to material things

and are also embodied in

the diaspora in tangible ways.

Attacks on private houses,

public buildings and infrastructure

aimed to solve the earth and erase history

and de-legitimate even the memory

that belongs to the diaspora

expelled by the war.

This is a quintessential

weapon of war in our times.

Our symposium today is

aimed at tracking this ongoing

frontal attack on the rights of culture

and memory, and recording

it's long,

it's traumatic, long-term

and generationally

continuous effects, whether

on exiles or survivors at home.

In the film screening, that concludes the day,

we expand our focus beyond Ukraine

and Bosnia to take in the

global nature of these attacks.

Our speakers today are

those who embody the powerful

counteracting work of documentation

and the conservation of memory.

I want to thank all of our speakers

for making the long trip to L.A.

to share their knowledge.

Still no doubt in jet lag,

Ihor Poshyvailo came directly from Kyiv.

Damian Koropeckyj, Alexandar Hemon and

Tim Slade from the East Coast

and Amila Buturovic from Canada.

Our three moderators from UCLA will now

introduce the speakers in more detail.

So I'd like to turn the mic

over to my co-organizer

Professor of Slavic, East European

and Eurasian Languages and Cultures,

Roman Koropeckyj.

Thank you.


This is introduction

squared and there will be

introduction cubed within a minute.

I'll be very brief then.

Before coming here today, what

I did was I looked up at the indictment

for Radovan Karadzic in 1991.

He was indicted, as we well know,


genocide, war crimes and other crimes

connected with the war in the

former Yugoslavia and in Bosnia.

And in the third amended indictment

from October 1991,

the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal

for the former Yugoslavia, pursuant

to his authority under Article 18

of the Statute of International Criminal Tribunal

for the former Yugoslavia,

he charged Radovan Karadzic

with several counts.

One of them was the count of persecution.

And under paragraph 60,

acts of persecution carried out by members

of the Serb forces and Bosnian-Serb

political and governmental organs

pursuant to one or more of the joint

criminal enterprises included

the destruction

of private property,

including homes and businesses

and business premises

and public property, including

cultural monuments and sacred

sites listed in schedule D,

among which were mosques,

churches, archives, museums and places

not just in Sarajevo, but all over Bosnia.

I always tell my students that

the war criminals are usually

tracked down relentlessly and sometimes

will take five years, sometimes ten years.

But sooner or later, all human

rights organizations, as well as tribunals,

such as the United Nations

tribunals, finally get their man or woman.

They did that with Radovan Karadzic,

with Slobodan Milosevic,

with Ratko Mladic.

And one hopes

that this will also

that people who are pursued,

people who pursue violators of human rights,

people who engage in genocide and want

destruction of cultural and

religious property

In Russia right now

will also, sooner or later, sometime

in the future

face tribunals for what they did.

And now I shall introduce

my colleague, Vadim Schneyder,

who will be introducing our speakers.

Vadim is associate professor of Slavic languages

and literatures at Department of Slavic,

East European and Eurasian

Languages and Cultures.

His specialty is Russian literature,

and this is one of his early

steps in decolonization.

Vadim, please.

So with that,

I would like to introduce

the first of our distinguished

speakers today.

This is Ihor Poshyvailo,

who is Director General

of the Maidan Museum.

He is also a cultural activist, ethnologist,

musicologist, cultural

manager and art curator.

He holds a Ph.D.

in history and has held posts at or worked

with an impressive list of institutions,

including the Smithsonian Institution,

the DeVos Institute of Arts Management

at the Kennedy Center

for the Performing Arts,

and the International Center for the Study

of the Preservation and Restoration

of Cultural Property. Following the Russian

invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,

he became the initiator, co-founder

and coordinator

of the Heritage

Emergency Response Initiative

and a member of the National Council

for the Recovery of Ukraine from the War.

With that, please.

Good morning, everyone.

It is a big pleasure and honor

to be here with you today

and to present

briefly, of course, because

the scale of damage and

the scale of challenges

and the needed response is huge.

But at least to give you some information

and some emotions from the situation

in Ukraine concerning our battle

for freedom, identity and future.

I will provide my talk

according to four directions: attack,


response, and resilience.

I'll use some pictures from

the recently opened exhibition

by the Maidan Museum and HERI

in Kyiv concerning

identity and war,

the power of cultural resilience.

It's quite clear.

Previous speakers just briefly told

about the real situation and the

main reasons for this war.

American historian Timothy Snyder clearly

put it, at least in this quotation,

about the plans of Kremlin

to physically destroy Ukrainian nation.

And the war started not only in 2014.

This started centuries ago,

especially in 1917-1921,

when there was Ukrainian revolution

and the Ukrainian statehood

was declared several times,

but unfortunately,


Soviet Bolsheviks and Russian Bolsheviks,

it was not easy to maintain.

So we regained our independence in 1991.

So the war, the large-scale,

started on the 24th of February this year.

And as mentioned before, the attack

was not only on military facilities.

And you can see some very symbolic

picture on the left from Hostomel airport

when Russia's army destroyed not only

the critical infrastructure and military

positions, but also symbolic

objects, like the biggest

in the world, cargo airplane.

Mriya, a dream,

which is translated 'a dream'.

Of course, a big damage is given

to civilian infrastructure.

Maybe you've seen already

dramatic pictures of the damage.

Destroyed Ukrainian cities, towns...

But of course, it became

quite clear that cultural heritage

is one of the main targets.

I mean, our cultural identity.

And you can see some pictures

from the cultural destruction

in Ukraine for this short

period of nine months.

Interesting that American diplomat

Lisa Carty just also clearly


Moscow's aggression

against Ukraine,

starting so massively

since annexation of Crimea in 2014,

and the conflict in Eastern regions,

of Donbas and Luhansk regions.

And here some very


not comprehensive statistics of destruction

which is kept by Ukrainian Minister of Culture.

Over 500 objects

destroyed or damaged

for the last nine months all over

Ukraine, in 15 regions.

And you can see that the most damaged

objects are historical buildings.

For example in Kharkiv,

the center

was completely destroyed.

Also churches, cathedrals, synagogues

and even mosques are also

damaged or destroyed.

Over three dozen museums,

also monuments, of course,

libraries, theaters, cultural centers.

In general,

about 7% of cultural institutions

are on the temporary occupied territories.

And this is,

this means that

the damage can be much more severe.

And we can learn about this only after

liberation, the occupation of these territories.

And, of course, one of the impact

of this destruction of cultural heritage is, of course,

the human resources of the cultural

heritage professionals who had to leave

their workplaces, their own towns,

cities and even the country.

The statistic is quite...

not comprehensive,

because we don't have access

to occupied territories

or to the territories where

there is heavy battles and the front line.

But with the help of

international partners,

including the Cultural Heritage

Monitoring Lab in Virginia,

we got some information

which is very useful for us.

And I'm happy that we will

have, we will learn more

about the activities of this lab

and how instrumental this information

monitoring about 30,000

cultural objects in Ukraine

is for Ukrainian government

and for cultural activists.

Here's some examples of cultural heritage losses

in this full-scale aggression stage.

You can see one of the first

churches, wooden churches, damaged in

the region of Zhytomyr.

This church, which is on the National Heritage List,

dated second part of the 19th century.

Very close to the border was Belarus.

And this list is much,

much more... includes

much more other churches

destroyed, especially wooden ones,

which are the most endangered.

Here's another example.

The museum in the city of Okhtyrka.

This is Sumy region.

Also damaged.

Another example,

and the most dramatic, I think,

maybe you've heard about Mariupol Drama Theater,

which was not only a

very important cultural center

for local community,

but during the occupation

and battles for Mariupol, local people

tried to use it as a shelter.

And it is reported that from 500 to 1,000 people

were hidden in the building,

and there were a lot of inscriptions around it

for aircrafts, for Russian aircrafts.

Inscriptions like: children are here,

or civilian people are here.

But unfortunately, it did not help them.

And due to Russian air bombing,

the theater was damaged and

including children. Another damage

to Ukrainian cultural heritage

is not only air bombing, shelling or destruction

during the military action,

but also looting.

Some example, the Russian

publication Izvestiya in October

published information that their

so-called museum depository

enlarged with 44,000

art objects, even valued in

at least four art museums in Donetsk, Kherson,

Luhansk and Berdiansk.

And here in the pictures,

on the right you can see

some paintings which were recently identified

as being looted from Kherson Art Museum

and found at the Central Tavrida Museum

in Simferopol.

Brian Daniels, an American

anthropologist and director

at the University of Pennsylvania Museum

and very close partner to our HERI initiative,

he provided some information about

the existence of so-called

treasure hunters groups in Ukraine,

which try to identify

different kinds of art,

concerning from the different points of view,

from its historical value, art value,

political value.

Because a lot of

paintings of the disputed

Russian artists were looted

and also maybe you've heard about the Scythian

gold looted in Melitopol

Local History and Culture Museum.

The director, Leila Ibrahimova,

was kidnapped the first day

and the team, the museum team

was taken to an interrogation.

They wanted to find the most

precious collection in this museum.

And it's a detective story.

Maybe for Hollywood film, maybe one

day, about the men in this situation.

But the most

valued part of collection

was hidden by the museum staff,

and it is said that they

did not let Russians know.

But some people came,

maybe equipped with special techniques,

and they have found in the basement

the Scythian gold and archeological,

the most important collection

found in the basement of the museum.

And this collection disappeared

from that museum.

And we have a lot

of information about this.

More than 15,000 art

objects were taken from Kherson Art Museum,

including Ivan Aivazovsky paintings.

Also, the Kuindzhi Art Museum was damaged in

Mariupol and a lot of other

museums. Smaller, bigger.

There is even one funny story,

one in Vasylivka, Zaporizhzhia region,

there is a historical mansion

named after Popov and it was looted.

Its collection was looted in 1917

by Bolsheviks. And one of the objects looted,

there was a basin for toilet made

of marble and it was returned later

back to this museum's historical

building, but looted again

by Russian soldiers

in the spring of this year.

So the situation, of course, needed

some response, some resistance.

And cultural sector in Ukraine

is quite big comparatively.

Over 40,000 institutions,

mostly governmental or municipal,

but of course, there are

some independent sector.

And you can see how many

cultural centers, institutions,

so-called palaces of culture, museums,

libraries, archives, theaters, cinemas

are endangered

in Ukraine because of

this full-scale aggression.

According to Ministry of Culture

and Information Policy

over 200,000 people work in cultural sphere.

It's official, but much

more people are engaged.

I mean volunteers,

local people.

And of course,

Ukrainian cultural heritage,

which has been rediscovered and reopened

to many people since regaining

Ukraine's independence in 1991,

became a very important part

of community's life.

And you can see here a collage

of paintings by famous Ukrainian

naive artist, Maria Prymachenko,

whose art was

highly appreciated by Pablo Picasso. And UNESCO

a few years ago declared

a year devoted to Maria

Prymachenko. On the right upper image,

you can see what is left from

then Museum of Local History

and Culture in the city of Ivankiv

which hosted the collection

of Maria Prymachenko.

Luckily, most of the

collection was saved,

but a lot of other objects

and other collection was

just destroyed by the missile,

Russian missile, and the Cultural Heritage

Lab in Virginia proved

that this attack was intentional.

No other objects,

no military infrastructure around.

And it was important for us

because later I will tell a bit

about our expeditions and collecting

documents concerning cultural crimes.

And at the bottom picture, you

can see another destroyed museum,

very important for Ukrainian cultural identity.

The museum, named after Hryhorii

Skovoroda, this is a very prominent

Ukrainian philosopher of the 18th century.

In the village of Skovorodynivka

close to Kharkiv, and it was also damaged

intentionally in May by a Russian missile.

And of course, this situation

needed some actions, especially in

creating in Ukraine an emergency

response system, creating a network,

developing capacities and infrastructure.

Because Ukraine, speaking

frankly, was not ready to protect

cultural heritage in such situation,

in the full-scale aggression.

Of course, we need documentation,

and museficaiton, and memorialization

even of cultural losses and crimes.

And very important for us, even during

this active military actions,

is preparation

for stabilization,

for recovery, renovation

and of course, modernization

of Ukrainian cultural heritage.

It's interesting that despite

this unstable situation

in the cultural heritage sector,

on the governmental level,

president of Ukraine many times said that

we should not only rebuild

what was damaged,

but we should use this unique chance

to modernize Ukrainian culture

and to make it open and accessible

to the rest of the world.

So we can see also some

examples of the response

of the grassroots initiatives.

A lot of people in Ukraine

self-organized on a horizontal level,

because it depended upon

them to protect cultural heritage.

And you can see how monuments

have been protected and

we had special

teams of volunteers who took debris

at the damaged cultural objects.

And also local people are so

happy when

some signs of taking care

of their local culture are displayed.

And in the image on

the right, you can see

how a local person, a lady

in the village of Lukashivka,

very close Chernihiv,

also fantastic church,

which was built in the late

two World Wars, first and second,

but did not survive Russian occupation.

She's so happy when international

mission ICCROM and ICOM come

to document the damage

and they're so, so proud

and happy of such attention.

And, of course, challenges

a lot of challenges which we had

to meet and had to respond to.

We need immediate action.

And you might have heard that it

was very unexpected to all of us,

to some extent, of course,

because we had a lot of

warnings, especially

our American colleagues

warned us: be ready

to evacuate collections,

at least from left bank Ukraine.

Be ready, prepare.

But of course, government

did not pay much attention to this

because it was not

the possibility of the,

such large-scale aggression was not

so vivid to the government and therefore

the preparation for evacuation

of the collections, coordination

of activities on different levels,

municipal, governmental,

cultural, cultural field was not done at all.

But still we had to respond.

And there were some very important steps

done in this situation.

And of course, among the main challenges,

we did not have enough safe

solutions, not only for evacuation,

but in general, how to behave.

We don't have

a cultural emergency management system

and therefore it was

something new for us.

Of course, coordination is needed

not only in actions

but in policies

nationally and internationally.

We needed crisis management leadership,

and of course, we needed

the military to be our partners

in protecting cultural heritage.

And we are on the way of creating

units within our military

to be much more efficient

in protecting cultural heritage,

especially in those regions

which are recently de-occupied.

And about response.

You can see the picture.

We got so many


in providing packaging materials,

protection equipment from so many

international organizations,

institutions, individuals.

And as one of our responses,

we are creating HERI,

the Heritage Emergency Response Initiative.

It was

just immediate response to the situation

because we needed coordination

on different levels and we founded it.

And we coordinate our activities

on national and international level

with our Ministry of Culture.

with our government, and NGO sector.

And you can see some nice

examples of the partnerships in action.

One of the main direction

of our activity is, of course,

getting packaging materials and

protection equipment to evacuate

collections within the buildings,

outside the buildings.

And you can see here, very emotional for us,

display of labels, which we got

on that humanitarian cargo.

Even one,

one here,

inscription: Good luck!

We are with you, Louvre team.

And so for us this display of solidarity

was also a very important

kind of support,

not only protection materials and equipment.

We launched quite active activities

in finance in providing

financial support on the ground

because a lot of institutions,

especially in the United States, Global

Heritage Fund, World Monument Fund,

ALIPH Foundation, for example,

they wanted to provide financial support

to individuals, to a cultural heritage sector.

And a few months

after aggression,

we founded together with the EU,

Europa Nostra, ALIPH, Global Heritage Fund,

a solidarity scholar fellowship for Ukraine,

which provided some individual support

to hundreds of Ukrainian cultural heritage


One of the main activities, and

one of the important responses

is monitoring and documenting

crimes against culture.

Together with Smithsonian Cultural

Rescue Initiative, Monitoring Lab,

Ministry of Culture of Ukraine,

General Prosecution Office in Ukraine,

we launched a lot of field

trips to different regions,

collecting objects, collecting data,

collecting oral stories, evidence

from people, making 3D

models, laser scanning of the buildings.

And of course, in this

collection, our field trips,

we tried to make them,

how to say it, universal, or how to say it,

so that we come

not only with one mission,

but we tried to do several

very important things,

especially on conditions

when the mission is

not always open

to the occupied cities and towns, because

it is still undermined, or a lot of danger

because of the destructed


And so we provide also damage

and risk assessment.

It is very important for us.

This process was initiated by ICCROM

and together with ICOMOS,

we launched the demolition

risk assessment processes.

It is very important for us

because we prepare for not

only stabilization and recovery,

but also for recovery planning,

which was initiated by the government,

which developed so-called National Council

for Reconstruction, and

the plan for reconstruction

was presented somewhere

in Lugano, Switzerland.

Also, what is important

for us is capacity building.

Individual, institutional...

because this cultural protection

is something new for Ukraine.

Ukraine, for the case after the Second

World War, was a peaceful country,

and we don't have a lot of disasters, maybe

besides nuclear power Chernobyl disaster.

But in general, we don't have this cultural

emergency management system in Ukraine,

and therefore training is very important

and providing a lot of guidelines.

And we developed our own guidelines,

and translated, adopted

and adjusted a lot of international

from UNESCO, from ICCROM.

Also what is

important in our mission

is control of legal trafficking

and ICOM has already produced

the Red List for Ukraine.

It is very important for us, because

this information goes to Interpol,

to customs, to border services,

to auction houses,

because the scale of illicit trafficking is huge,

especially in archeology.

It was before the large-scale war,

because in Eastern Ukraine,

a lot of archeological sites,

and Russia was all,

always hunting for those

archeological findings.

And you can see some images

from our field trips.

We document museum buildings,

historical buildings, churches,

and we collect some important

objects, because protection

and rescuing cultural heritage,

it's not about only

immovable, but movable objects.

And you can see here

quite important

objects in the Maidan Museum's

recent collection.

This is a ceramic rooster from

Kyiv region, majolica factory.

It was

taken from the wall of the flat

in Borodianka, famous town of

Borodianka, which was air bombed

by Russian aircrafts.

And can you imagine

that this ceramic object was

in the kitchen case and it survived?

The central part of this building

was destroyed, but this


part survived

and the ceramic rooster

was staying intact.

And it became very famous

in Ukraine and internationally,

because some journalists

posted pictures saying that

this is a sign of Ukrainian resilience.

And President Zelensky presented

a copy of this ceramic rooster

to Boris Johnson when he visited Borodianka

and Ukraine.

Also some examples of the results,

some of the results from our field trips.

These are the images from laser scanning

provided in particular by Emmanuel

Durand from France,

Miguel Bandera from Spain

and Serhiy Revenko from Ukraine.

And we try to use this laser scanning

not only for preparing recovery

processes, but also for

monitoring situation of the buildings,

because with time more damage is

being done because of climate,

rains and snow.


It's also very important for us.

And since 2014,

my museum, my team, we launched

a lot of workshops which were

based on our experience

we got from FAC First Aid

to Cultural Heritage trainings provided

by Smithsonian Institution, by ICCROM,

and we adopted UNESCO's, ICCROM's guidelines.

And you can see some

very important for us


in particular from United States,

emergency response.

And also we prepared

the pocket-size response plan,

very, very maybe simple things

for American practice,

but very important for us

in that period in 2014.

And we also provided the playing cards,

cultural protection playing cards

adopted from the UNESCO's Netherlands

example and

also disseminated since 2016 in Ukrainian army.

And this efforts resulted in the fact

that Ukrainian soldiers

have preserved many archeological

objects found in digging trenches

in the front line and passing them to

Ukrainian museum professionals.

And so you can see the mentioned already,

ICOM Red List for Ukraine,

it is something new for us.

It was

released a few weeks ago

and also as a result of all those efforts,

we are looking forward

to some strategical things,

not only tactical, operational,

but strategical.

We plan to develop cultural emergency

response and resilience system.

And here's just a draft example.

We are looking,

we just identified priorities

because we need coordination,


and everything to connect to our planning.

And we hope that earlier or later

we will create this system

which will help us to be

resilient and sustainable.

And as one of the

results, we look forward to integrate

this system into world cultural emergency


A lot of things is already done,

and of course should be done.

And among those important

actions, of course, still

we need much more and better

coordination, because sometimes

some initiatives in Ukraine

and outside duplicate.

Very important actions. And we

need much closer coordination,

and maybe creating some

separate platforms in different fields

in responding to crises.

We need developing much

stronger cultural policies

and we need to impose much stronger

cultural sanctions upon Russia.

Because maybe you've heard about

the army director statement,

which became quite a scandal,

when he said that

the Hermitage exhibition projects abroad

are really kind of a special operation

and Kremlin uses

very actively

culture as instrument for their policies.

So cultural sanctions are very important.

We are well aware it's not easy,

especially in international organizations

like UN and UNESCO,

but it should be discussed

and somehow change

the influence of Russia

in these domains.

Of course we need inventory and

digitalization of our cultural property.

And I'm so happy we took

about this in the Getty Center,

which has something to share

to us, and we will heard

about how it is done here later.

We need documenting crimes against culture,

because we hope that earlier or later

there will be international tribunals.

And it's not about reparation,

it's not about

taking funds, it's about

trying to find the effective tools

to implement the Hague Convention of 1954.

And its both protocols, because

it seems that we have quite nice

legislation and international

intergovernmental agreements,

but they did not work in reality.

And we have

some international

teams who work over the documentation

of crimes, including Blue Shield,

including some other, who work

with our general prosecution office,

our national police.

Also, I mentioned already that

national cultural management

system is very important to us

and we look forward to

harmonization of Ukrainian

and European cultural

legislation, because

a lot of processes launched

since 2014 when Ukraine clearly

had cleared its civilisational choice

going into European

Union, joining civilized nations.

So this is very important.

I hope my time is running out.

So it's just briefly.

You can find a lot of information

on our social media, and we

plan to open our website soon.

And we got a lot of international support

from US,

from European Union on

individual, institutional, and

inter-governmental levels.

And we look forward to use any chance

to make Ukrainian culture

much more resilient and to share

the lessons Ukraine

has today,

so that

on international level, cultural

heritage and cultural sector

can be much more resilient

in the emergency situations.

And in conclusion,

I would like to share with you

my strong belief that

cultural heritage can change us,

can change the world around us,

if we can be united in minds

and actions in protection

of cultural heritage in damage and

and at risk and ensure its inevitable


Thank you so much.

Thank you so much, Ihor,

for that presentation.

Before I introduce the next presenter,

I'd like to invite all the members

of the audience to consult

their programs for more information

about all of our presenters,

because I think

it's the case with all

of them that their list of

accomplishments are too great

for those of us introducing

them to present you

with an exhaustive list.

I would like to introduce our second

distinguished presenter.

Damian Koropeckyj is a visiting scholar

at the Smithsonian Institution,

and senior analyst at the

Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab.

He holds an M.A.

in Greek and Eastern Mediterranean

archeology from the University of Athens

and has experience

as a field archeologist.

He has previously worked

with the Department of State

and the United States Embassy in Moscow.

His research on the exploitation

of cultural heritage in conflict

has been presented to the US Committee

of the Blue Shield in the Parliament

of the United Kingdom.

Thank you very much for that introduction,

and to my hosts today,

and to Dr. Poshyvailo

for an incredible presentation.

I want to follow up

on a lot of the things that he touched on

and kind of provide you

a chronological look at the research

that I've done at the lab, because

I think it will do a good job of

illustrating the all encompassing

threat the Ukrainian

cultural heritage faces

in the current conflict.

So when I came in April of 2021,

that was already seven years

into this conflict between Ukraine

and Russia since the annexation of Crimea.

And I wanted to take

a look at not only, you know,

all of the kinetic events

that were occurring

at that line of contact, but

also what was going on,

as Dr. Poshyvailo mentioned, in the occupied

territories in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

So just to give an example of the

kind of things that we were

first looking for.

You know, we had

these instances of monuments

being taken down in Crimea

and moving further,

we saw the Izolyatsia Foundation Art Center,

which was later used as a

separatist-led prison

camp in Eastern Ukraine.

Here we have an art installation

that was destroyed at that center.

But to keep track of all this,

you know, we first wanted to start

with building out a cultural heritage

inventory of Ukraine.

So we built a list of over 28,000

sites, that are geo located.

That includes libraries, archives,

museums, cemeteries,

and particularly lots of places of worship

throughout the country.

But as we started to investigate,

it actually turned out to be pretty easy

sometimes to understand what

was happening, because you had

the Russian state,

Russian state media

kind of openly admitting

to some of these destructive acts,

such as the archeological excavations

throughout Crimea, that led

to over a million artifacts,

again, that's the Russian claim,

of being taken back to Russia,

to the museums there.

But we also noticed something

was happening on top of that.

So on top of these destructive acts,

we started to see that

construction was happening.

So this is Savur-Mohyla.

It's a World War II memorial complex

built in the 1960s while Ukraine

was in the Soviet Union.

It was destroyed almost

completely during fighting in 2014.

It's a strategic site.

It was a site of fighting in World War II,

and that's why it became

a commemorative site in the 1960s.

And after it was destroyed, it was taken

up in separatist occupied territory.

And we started to see that

there were multiple points of new heritage

being constructed at this location.

So there was a church installed in 2017.

Separatist fighters were

actually buried on the site.

And you can see here in 2021,

that major construction activity started

to actually rebuild this

into a separatist-supported,

And then later, as you'll see,

a Russian-supported site

of cultural heritage.

And looking further,

this became a theme not only

in Eastern Ukraine, but in Crimea.

So these are monuments that

were installed with the president

of Russia present at these openings.

And these monuments

spoke to these Russian narratives

that were being played in other areas,

such as on the Internet, supporting

the Russian annexation of Crimea,

trying to portray Crimea

as Russian territory.

And you saw the same thing

happening in Eastern Ukraine.

So this is a monument

installed by the Night Wolves,

which is a known proxy

of the Russian state.

Again, the title's very long,

but I'll just note that there's

actually a poem at the

bottom of this monument

that speaks to the broken

pieces of Russian Empire

being returned.

So again, you're seeing not only in

Crimea, but you're seeing in Eastern Ukraine

these attempts

to put these narratives,

that you saw in the early years,

justifying the Russian invasion

in the physical space in these areas.

And so ultimately, that led to over

Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

That includes a monument

that was actually installed

in January of 2022

right before the invasion.

So that activity continued

right up until

the new Russian

offensive on February 24th.

And I'll just note that

care was taken in what

monuments were installed where.

That became evident and the

trends, for example, a monument

speaking to the Russian Empire

were predominantly installed in Crimea,

because it was easier

to form historical basis

for Russian narratives that

that land was historically Russian.

And in Eastern Ukraine,

you saw a lot more monuments

actually dedicated to the

conflict that began in 2014.

So monuments to the separatist fighters,

as well as monuments highlighting

potential acts of aggression

by the Ukrainian military

in fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

But then, of course, February 24th came

and the lab needed to pivot

and we needed to figure out how to

track a much larger area

in a far more violent conflict

and be able to provide information

to cultural heritage practitioners,

those first responders on the ground,

as well as trying to build out

any evidence for potential

accountability efforts in the future.

So within 24 hours,

it became pretty evident to me that

a NASA satellite constellation

of remote sensing satellites

that senses fires, it actually

started to pick up evidence

of the conflict.

So at the lab, we were

able to put together

this methodology

where we're tracking

this openly available information

of fire instances throughout Ukraine,

comparing that to that inventory

of over 28,000 sites that we have.

And we can start to build a proxy

of where that fighting is happening

and what monuments have

been potentially damaged.

And we want to be able to get that information

to the first responders on the ground,

as well as build out

a list of sites, that we

should be taking a look

at through the satellite

imagery that we use.

And so here are some examples.

This is Skovoroda Museum,

as you mentioned.

This is what it looked like from

the air after its destruction.

You'll see on the right that the

building was completely erased.

That's evident with the roof missing.

It's another instance of damage.

And I think some of

these really illustrate

the kind of impacts that we're seeing,

and the differences in those impacts,

as well as even some of the limitations

in satellite imagery sometimes.

You can see that this is

the Rubizhne Museum

that was impacted very early on.

So if you look to the upper

right corner in the later photo in March,

you see damage to the roof.

And then finally, this is a church

in Kamianka, in Hharkiv region.

Again, a very early impact

considering how long this conflict

has been going on now.

And you'll notice two things.

It's kind of difficult,

if you simply look at the object itself

to understand what the damage is.

But if you'll notice between the two,

the image on the right,

you have that very tall shadow

being broadcast by the sun.

And on the right, that shadow's gone.

This image was taken basically

at the same time with the same angle,

and that shadow is gone.

And that's how we kind of determine

some of these larger impacts.

And so in total,

the lab has confirmed now over 285 impacts

to cultural heritage throughout Ukraine.

This is a heat map showing broadly where

we've been able to confirm those impacts

using satellite imagery and these

methodologies that we have.

But on top of that, beyond all of the

kinetic actions that we're seeing in this,

you know, brutal conflict

throughout Ukraine, we're also

seeing some of those same

trends emerge.

So, again, Russian media is

advertising some of these acts, kind of

in what I would argue

was a performative way.

And you're also seeing

the construction of the monuments.

So this is again the

Savur-Mohyla complex.

So you can see it completely

destroyed on the left,

and on the right,

that's an actual photo of it now,

completely reconstructed

officially by the Russian military,

which now hosts a web page

for the memorial complex

on the Russian Ministry

of Defense website as well.

So this has become

a major site of

a veneration for the Russian military.

And then we have two examples

from Mariupol, and I'll just

focus on the left image.

That's actually,

I hate to use the word meme,

but it came out as a viral video

of a woman in Ukraine, who came

to greet the troops at her door

with a Soviet flag, understanding

that she was seeing Russian troops.

But it actually turned out to be Ukrainian

troops who were coming to her village.

But the Russians kind of

grasped onto that narrative

very quickly, and that's

become kind of a hero image.

this old woman with her Soviet flag.

This monument was installed

in May, in early May in Mariupol.

And I'll just note that

May 5th was actually before

the Russian military had

taken full control of Mariupol.

And so I think it is

very illustrative of where

heritage sits on the list of priorities

during these military operations,

because even before taking complete

control, they were already constructing

and renovating monuments in Mariupol.

And on the right, you have

a monument to Alexander Nevsky,

who is the patron saint to the Russian

military, to the Russian ground forces.

I can't show you the images today,

but that monument was actually built

on top of a Ukrainian

trident memorial, that was

destroyed in August of this year.

So directly on top of that,

a monument to the Russian

patron saint.

Rather than end it here

on Russian monuments,

before I can do that, I'll just show you.

This is a map of all the reported

construction since the new offensive

on February 24th.

And this includes not only new monuments

that have been planned or installed,

but actually some museum exhibits

that are allegedly being

re-curated by the occupation forces.

But finally, I just end it on,

rather than on Russian monuments

in the focus there, I'll just send it here

with an image of Ukrainian hope

and heritage, and recognize

the incredible work that

cultural heritage practitioners like

Dr. Poshyvailo are doing on the ground,

which is something that, you know,

I'm very, very proud to be able to support

in anyway.

So thank you.

Duration: 00:57:07