The Stream

How is war destroying Ukraine’s cultural heritage?

On Tuesday, March 15 at 19:30 GMT:
Russia’s war on Ukraine has killed hundreds of people and displaced over a million more. And as Russian forces move further into the country they  are also destroying parts of Ukraine’s cultural heritage – tactics common to war.

Last week the UN cultural agency released a statement saying it is “gravely concerned” about the destruction of Ukrainian art and history. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said “we must safeguard the cultural heritage in Ukraine, as a testimony of the past but also as a catalyst for peace and cohesion for the future, which the international community has a duty to protect and preserve.”

Ukraine is home to seven sites on Unesco’s World Heritage List, including the 11th-century Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv and the historic city center of Lviv. The recently damaged cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv host some of the country’s greatest art collections. In early March, a Russian raid hit the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, which commemorates more than thirty thousand Jews killed by Nazis in a two-day period during World War II.

UNESCO is now working with Ukrainian authorities to mark cultural sites and monuments with the distinctive “Blue Shield” emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to avoid deliberate or accidental damage.

Since time immemorial, invading armies have looted in the pursuit of going home richer. It’s also been a way to eradicate culture – defeating people’s sense of place, identity and belonging. But in the sixth century BC, Sun Tzu wrote in ‘The Art of War’ that destroying the cultural heritage of your enemy is bad military practice as it invites eventual retaliation and often makes it harder for victors to govern a defeated population.

In this episode we’ll look at the efforts being made to protect Ukrainian cultural heritage threatened by Russian attack.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Iryna Vasylkova
Cultural Diplomacy Program Director, Ukrainian Art Center

Volo Bevza and Victoria Pidust

Eugene Bereznitsky
Founder, Kyiv Art Week, and Expert Advisor to Ministry of Culture