Attacking museums as an attempt to destroy Ukrainian identity
15-02-2023 (11:03)

From the first day of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into the territory of Ukraine, the objects of Russian aggression are not only the Ukrainian military, the civilian population, or critical infrastructure, but also the objects of the country’s cultural heritage. Russian bombs and missiles destroy libraries and museums, churches and mosques, universities and theatres.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine1, as of December 25, 2022, 1,189 objects of cultural infrastructure, excluding monuments of cultural heritage, were damaged due to Russian aggression. Of these, 446 objects have been completely destroyed. Cultural infrastructure suffered the greatest losses and damages in Donetsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Sumy and Kherson oblasts.

The main goal of the Russian occupiers’ attack on the objects of cultural heritage of Ukraine is to destroy Ukrainian identity. Museums, libraries, monuments are archives of memory, designed to preserve cultural values and memories of the past. No Ukrainian heritage means no Ukrainian memory, no Ukrainian identity. When the memory of a people disappears, the future existence of this people is threatened.

As of December 25, 2022, 63 museums and galleries were damaged by Russian artillery, missile, and air strikes, of which 22 were destroyed and 41 were damaged. Donetsk (37%) and Kharkiv (11%) oblasts account for the majority.

In addition to the physical damage/destruction of museums by Russian shelling, there is a huge problem of Russian theft of museum collections in the occupied territories. The collections of the Kherson Regional Art Museum, named after Oleksii Shovkunenko, the Kherson Regional Museum of Local Lore, and the Albin Havdzynskyi Art Gallery in Nova Kakhovka were looted. The Russians are not only looting Ukrainian museum collections, but also kidnapping employees of the institutions. On 10 March 2022, Leila Ibrahimova, director of the Melitopol local history museum, was kidnapped. After a few hours, she was released and later was able to leave the occupied territory. On April 30, another employee of the same museum was kidnapped – the main custodian of funds, 60-year-old Halyna Kucher. Also in April, Oleh Budiak, director of the Melitopol local history museum in the village of Osypenko, Zaporizhzhia oblast, was kidnapped.

This publication, prepared by the Luhansk Regional Human Rights Centre “Alternative,” presents the consequences of shelling of seventeen museums in the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernihiv oblasts and the city of Kyiv during the Russian-Ukrainian war in the period from February 24, 2022 until January 25, 2023. The publication is available in Ukrainian and English versions:



LRHRC "Альтернатива" site: