Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, 151 facilities of cultural property have been damaged, including 12 museums.
In the list of destroyed and damaged facilities, compiled by UNESCO, as of June 20 includes:
- 66 religious sites;
- 12 museums;
- 28 historical buildings;
- 18 cultural institutions;
- 15 monuments;
- 7 libraries.
Among those damaged: the Military History Museum in Chernihiv, Chernihiv Regional Art Museum named after Hryhorii Galagan, Art Museum in Ivankiv, Local Lore Museum of Borodianka Region, Art Museum in Kharkiv, Hryhorii Skovoroda Literary Memorial Museum, Historical and Architectural Museum "Popov's Estate" in Zaporizhzhia, Mariupol Museum of Local Lore, Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol, the Museum of Local Lore in Akhtyrka, and the main building of the museum in Trostianets.
The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine has launched a website where eyewitnesses post evidence of the destruction of cultural property. As of June 21, 392 entries have been made there.
A smaller part of the 53,000 exhibits of the Museum of Local Lore in Mariupol has survived. About 2,000 items were taken to the Donetsk Regional Museum of Local Lore, Russian media report.
The museum was housed in the building of the Yekaterinoslav provincial zemstvo learning and handicraft shelter house for disabled soldiers, built in 1916. The centerpiece of its exposition was the antiquities of the Azov region.
Polovtsian stone sculptures of the 12th-13th centuries, as well as two smooth-bore guns from the first half of the 19th century and anchors from the Oryol barge that sank in 1932, were installed in front of the museum entrance.
During World War II, the museum lost part of its collection. By 1980, the museum managed to replenish it. The museum exposition in 2021 was the richest one for the entire time of its existence.
Museum in Mariupol: Before and after
Among the most valuable exhibits now taken to Donetsk are the works of Ivan Aivazovsky and three paintings by a local native Arkhip Kuindzhi. The following exhibits were stolen as well: medals of the artist Yukhym Kharabet and his student Yurii Sheviakov, a Torah scroll, icons, household items and national costumes of different peoples, and a collection of old books.
The "operation" to export items from the museum was led by Sergeant Yuri Bukharev, who was a researcher at the Donetsk State Museum of Local Lore before mobilization. The exhibits were taken out by trucks.
Branch of the Museum of Local Lore — Kuindzhi Art Museum is completely destroyed. Its exposition included three works by Kuindzhi, his letters, works by Shishkin and Vereshchagin, as well as paintings by artists of the 20th century: Yablonska, Kotska, and Hlushko.
The fate of the exhibits of this museum is not yet known. It is hoped that at least some of them were hidden before the destruction of the museum building.
The Local Lore Museum of Melitopol had a very diverse collection. In the three-story mansion of 1911, according to data as of 2017, 50,000 exhibits from the archaeological, numismatic, ethnographic, geological, paleontological, biological, zoological, and artistic sections were exhibited in 17 halls.
Scythian gold from the Melitopol burial mound dated to the 4th century BC was one of the most valuable exhibits. The Scythian mound in Melitopol was discovered by accident in 1954. Scientific excavations of this royal tomb were the first in the history of Soviet archeology. A warrior and a noble woman were buried there along with servants, and a horse was also buried nearby. Already in ancient times, the graves were robbed, but about 4,000 gold items with a total weight of 3.5 kg remained there.
After the excavations, about 200 items from the mound remained in the Local Lore Museum of Melitopol. According to Russian sources, after the city was occupied, the Scythian gold and other exhibits were stolen and then returned to the museum.
Museum of Local History in Ivankiv Kyiv Oblast, where the works of the Ukrainian primitive artist Maria Prymachenko were exhibited, burned down. However, local residents managed to take out 8 or 12 paintings by the artist and some other exhibits from the burning building. In total, the museum had about 20 works by Prymachenko.
In early May, Prymachenko’s painting Flowers Grew Near the Fourth Power Unit was sold at auction for $500,000. All proceeds from its sale will be transferred to a charitable foundation to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine
Museum in Ivankiv: Before and after