Arts and Heritage in Ukraine Under Attack

Since Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine in February 2022, it is estimated that over 1,600 cultural heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed due to Russian action. Tatiana Fokina of NGO Save the Spot explains how the international community can help

Since Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine in February 2022, it is estimated that over 1,600 cultural heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed due to Russian action. Some of these venues housed artworks which may never be recovered, erasing some of Ukraine’s rich and varied cultural heritage.

This tragic fact underscores the responsibility we have to protect the many cultural assets targeted by Putin as part of his assault on Ukrainian identity. Non-profits like Save the Spot can provide an innovative way to help, allowing individuals to donate directly to a number of institutions suffering during this devastating war.


The protection and preservation of Ukrainian culture holds tremendous significance, serving as a timeless thread that connects a nation’s past, present, and future. Ukrainian cultural heritage acts as a vital fulcrum, anchoring the collective memory and shared experiences of the Ukrainian people. It embodies the historical legacy, artistic expressions, linguistic traditions, and customs that have evolved over centuries, shaping the identity and sense of belonging for individuals and communities.

However, Ukraine’s cultural heritage faces significant threats, particularly in the wake of Russian attacks. These attacks on Ukrainian territory not only result in loss of life and destruction of infrastructure but also pose a grave danger to the cultural fabric of the nation. Cultural sites, monuments, museums, libraries, and archives are at risk of destruction or plundering, erasing invaluable historical and artistic treasures that represent the collective memory of the Ukrainian people.

Some of these sites have suffered significant losses since the war began, such as the Irpin House of Culture. The institution is located in the city of Irpin in the Kyiv region, one of the most picturesque and culturally rich locations in the country. The architecturally significant Irpin House of Culture itself hosted 60 events attended by more than 10,000 people in 2021 alone. Attacks by Russian shelling destroyed most of the building, leaving only parts of the frontal façade intact. The estimated cost of saving this beautiful edifice is estimated to be around 15m Euros.


In light of these challenges, it is imperative for the international community to take a resolute stand and extend support to Ukraine’s efforts to safeguard its cultural identity. Recognising the vital role of cultural heritage in shaping national and global identities, it becomes essential to raise awareness about the importance of preserving and protecting cultural legacies.

International organisations play a critical role in this endeavour, by providing resources, expertise, and coordination mechanisms to monitor, assess, and mitigate the damage caused by Russian attacks on Ukraine’s cultural heritage. One such organisation is the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab, a partnership between the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. Monitoring damage to cultural assets around the world, and publishing detailed reports on the extent of the destruction, the CHML does vital work in tracking where help is needed most. Organisations such as Save the Spot can then do their bit in mobilising funds to support the reconstruction efforts.

By actively supporting Ukraine’s quest to protect its cultural heritage, the international community sends a powerful message about the value we place on diversity, history, and the fundamental principles of peace and respect. The preservation of Ukrainian culture transcends geographical boundaries, reminding us of our shared humanity and the universal significance of cultural heritage. Upholding these values not only safeguards the identity of a nation but also ensures that future generations inherit a world enriched by the beauty, wisdom, and diversity of cultural expressions.


One of the sites targeted by the Russian war machine tells a fascinating story. Located in Chernihiv, a city in Northern Ukraine – not far from the Belarussian border – the Chernihiv Historical Museum stands as a physical embodiment of resistance against oppression.

Chernihiv itself was designated as one of ten Ukrainian Hero Cities, due to its resistance to Russian forces which besieged Chernihiv in the early days of the war. During the siege, the city suffered tragic destruction, with its Historical Museum having to dismantle its collection in order to protect some of its valuable artworks.

The museum’s staff exhibited immense bravery in putting their own lives in danger to save the collection, showing the sector’s dedication to do whatever it takes to salvage Ukrainian heritage in the face of considerable peril. Now, with an unwavering commitment to preserving Ukraine’s cultural legacy, the team is embarking on an inspiring new project. Through the development of a new museum dedicated to the war with Russia and the heroism of Chernihiv’s people, they are writing a new chapter in the museum’s history.

One of Chernihiv’s most precious possessions is the 17th century portrait of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. This historical figure is considered a national hero in Ukraine and is often portrayed as a symbol of Ukrainian independence and resistance against foreign domination. His role in the uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th century is seen as a crucial step towards the formation of a Ukrainian national identity, making the portrait a fitting symbol for Ukraine’s resistance against Russia.

The value of artworks like Khmelnytsky’s portrait is manifold. Not only do historically important artefacts remind us of a country’s past, they can also act as an anchor for communities and nations to project a vision for their future. Part of Russia’s war aim is to remove these cultural anchor points and deny the individual identity of Ukraine. Preserving Khmelnytsky’s portrait is a small but significant act for the preservation of Ukrainian cultural confidence.


The protection and promotion of Ukraine’s cultural heritage can serve as a powerful symbol of international solidarity. By supporting initiatives such as Save the Spot, individuals and organizations from around the world can demonstrate their commitment to preserving not only Ukraine’s heritage but also the shared human heritage that transcends borders.

Through Save the Spot, we provide a unique approach to supporting Ukraine. We allow people to purchase “unused tickets” for Ukrainian cultural entities through an online platform. This money goes straight to our partner organisations in Ukraine and helps protect and rebuild the wonderful institutions in endangered communities across the country.

It is of utmost importance to recognise the value of preserving and supporting cultural heritage during times of crisis. Organisations like Save the Spot play a critical role in raising awareness and providing much-needed assistance to the cultural sector. By prioritising the protection of a nation’s culture, we can help ensure that its identity, history, and spirit endure for generations to come.

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