Destruction of Ukrainian Cultural Heritage - Call for Public ICOM Statement
Since the beginning of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the list of damaged and destroyed cultural sites has grown longer and longer. As of 8 August, UNESCO has verified damage to 175 cultural sites such as churches, museums, historical buildings, monuments, libraries, and other cultural buildings. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher; the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture counts more than 430 incidents to date.
The NC’s of ICOM France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, and Czech Republic have participated in the protection of cultural property in Ukraine through a variety of aid activities, as have numerous actors in the international community. Among many other initiatives, donation accounts have been set up and transports organised. The suffering of the museum professionals affected is just as much a concern as the protection and rescue of the cultural property.
In the light of the facts, it must be stated that the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which Russia is a signatory, is not being respected. With this international treaty, Russia undertook to protect cultural property from damage, destruction, theft, looting and unlawful seizure during war or armed conflict.
If there was no evidence of deliberate destruction of cultural property at the beginning of the war, it now can no longer be dismissed. This is exemplified by the methodical bombing of the historical centre of Kharkiv or the museum of Hryhorii Skovorda destroyed in a Russian missile attack. In their joint declaration of 27 June 2022, the G7 state that the deliberate damage to Ukrainian cultural sites is judged and condemned as an attempt to erase Ukraine's history and cultural identity.
Since 24 February, the solidarity of the international community has been strong, including that of the undersigned, who are actively engaged in the protection of cultural property in Ukraine. However, it does not suffice to support this commitment without taking a clear public position beyond that. The international cultural community must make it unequivocally and clearly understood that the continued deliberate destruction of cultural property is intolerable. This war is happening in the middle of Europe, but it threatens the whole world: politically, economically, socially, ethically, and culturally. Our worldwide community of museums needs to be united in times of conflicts, especially in its attitudes, actions and supports. We ask our members to support this initiative and we therefore urge ICOM International to clarify its position and release a public statement. The General Conference in Prague
offers the appropriate format to discuss and agree with ICOM members on the possible consequences of such a position.