A Tale of One City

Published May 3, 2022

Shelling Ukrainian cities, the Russians cause damage not only to military facilities and residential buildings, but also to historical sites.

Shelling Ukrainian cities, the Russians cause damage not only to military facilities and residential buildings, but also to historical sites. According to estimates of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine more than 255 objects of cultural and historical heritage have been affected. A special resource has been created for fixing war crimes and destruction caused by the Russian army.

Photos and information collected on the website can be used as evidence for criminal prosecution of those involved in crimes in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation in the International Criminal Court in The Hague and a special tribunal after its creation.

The destruction of monuments on the territory of Ukraine can be also tracked on an interactive map. It was using these resources that a list of destructions in Chernihiv, which was shelled by the Russian army from the first days of the war, was compiled.

But before moving on to describing the losses, it would be appropriate to provide a little historical context for a broader understanding of the importance of this city not only for the historical heritage of Ukraine, but also for Europe as a whole.

In chronicles, Chernihiv was first mentioned in 907 and is rightly considered one of the oldest cities in Ukraine. In the 11–13th centuries Chernihiv was the capital of one of the largest old Rus principalities, playing a prominent role in the formation and development of the Old Rus state, its political status, defense capability and culture.

The Tatar attack interrupted the development of Chernigov for a long time. In about 1353 Chernihiv fell under the rule of Lithuania, from 1503 under the rule of Moscow. Chernihiv was repeatedly destroyed by the Tatars (in particular in 1482 and 1497). In 1623, the city received the Magdeburg Law. In 1646, the archimandrite of the Yeletsky Monastery Kirill Stavrovetsky built the first printing house in Chernihiv.

At this time, the cultural life of Chernihiv flourished; the city became one of the first cultural centers of Ukraine. The creation of the Chernihiv Collegium in 1700, which became one of the main centers of education and science of the Hetmanate, was of particular importance. After the liquidation of the Cossack-Hetman state Chernihiv became the center of the Chernihiv governorate in 1782 and the Chernihiv province in 1808. In the nineteenth century, a circle of Ukrainian “noble patriots,” who defended the autonomous rights of Ukraine and demanded the recognition of noble rights for the Cossack state, rallied in Chernihiv. They studied the history of Ukraine, collected historical documents and chronicles and used them to study the history and rights of Ukrainian nobility, which were distributed throughout the left-bank of Ukraine.

Many historical monuments from the old times have been preserved in Chernihiv to this day. In 2020, a nomination dossier “Cultural Landscape of Chernihiv” was submitted to the UNESCO by Chernihiv, which included three main cultural and landscape complexes, located on the right bank of the Desna River: 1. The complex of the historical center with the former Prince’s Child with unique monuments of architecture and archeology of national importance; the main building of the Chernihiv principality, A monument of old Russian architecture; the hall of the temple is perhaps the best in Ukraine for the sound of voice, its acoustic characteristics are impressive and unsurpassed. 2. Borisoglebsky Cathedral – a well-known architectural monument of the city of Chernigov from the pre-Mongolian era. Now the temple of Boris and Gleb has been transformed into a museum of the National Architectural and Historical Reserve “Ancient Chernihiv.” In addition, the cathedral also became the House of Choral Heritage, where concerts of spiritual music are held. The building is interesting both for its architectural and spatial composition, sculptural décor, layout, and history of construction. 3. Yeletska Mountain with the ensemble of the Yeletsky monastery (includes the monastery itself and the mound from the tenth century, Boldina mountain with the burial mound from the tenth century, and the complex of the Trinity-Illinsky monastery (consisting of the medieval Illinsky cave monastery and the Trinity monastery of the early modern era).

In addition to the places indicated in the dossier, Chernihiv also has attractions from the eleventh to the twentieth century and has always been one of the tourist attractions of Ukraine.

On the night of February 28, the Russians shelled the historic part of the city. They hit a children’s clinic, a residential building, and a library. The continuous shelling led to damage, partial of full destruction of the historical and cultural sites located in the city.

Destroyed or partially damaged sites:

  • The house of the former noble and peasant bank of 1910–13 which now houses the V. G. Korolenko Chernihiv Regional Universal Scientific Library. The library was damaged as a result of the shelling. The facades and windows were damaged, as well as the roof which caused the partial destruction of the monument of history.
  • The architectural ensemble of the Yeletsky monastery includes the Assumption Cathedral, the tomb church of Yakov Kindratovich Lyzohub (1689), the bell tower (1670–75) – the oldest high-rise building in Chernihiv, Petropavlovsk Church of the seventeenth century over the Yeletsky caves (1069), ancient cells, stone fence, the oldest wooden building of the Left Bank of Ukraine – the house of Archimandrite Theodosius Uglitsky (1688). The shell hit a house near the monastery. As a result of the shelling, the facades of the monastery walls and gates with the bell tower of the seventeenth century were damaged, as well as the drums of the domes of the Assumption Cathedral of the twelfth–seventeenth centuries.

  • As a result of shelling completely destroyed the old building of the park gazebo on Boldina Mountain, built in 1911.

  • As a result of shelling, the northern facade and the windows of the architectural monument – Catherine’s Church, 1710–15, were damaged

  • As a result of the bombardment of the city, the building of the former V. V. Tarnovsky Museum of Ukrainian Antiquities was damaged. This building, the architecture of which tends to “historicism,” was built at the end of the nineteenth century: at different times it housed artisan classes for orphans, the Museum of Antiquities with a unique collection of works of art, the exposition of the Chernihiv Historical Museum, and from the eighties of the twentieth century – a library for youth.

In 2024, the Chernihiv region will celebrate an important historical event – the 1000th anniversary of the Chernihiv principality. A lot of work has to be done before this date and while Ukraine is at war with Russia it is important to save the historical and cultural sites, which remained.

If you want to help with the restauration and preservation the historical sites of Ukraine you can do it through the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine