Decolonizing Museums in Ukraine

The presentation is aimed to provide a general overview of state of affairs in Ukraine in dealing with colonial Soviet heritage in museums, public space, and cultural institutions. The presentation tends to provide an understanding of the controversies of the local processes and acknowledgment of the audience with the main actors of the local cultural scene. In the case of dealing with colonial heritage in Ukraine, it is rather hard to limit ourselves to museums, as long as public and media space (printed media, radio, television, and cinema) were as much important for Soviet propaganda, as actually museums in their classical form. What raises discussion today is mainly solid – it is either monuments or architecture that through the shape and its decoration still manifests former Soviet statements. Social realist paintings almost fall out attention, they are just placed in a context of overall historical narrative.

Decommunization was launched officially in May 2015, when President Poroshenko signed four laws on the subject. In 2017 Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance informed that 1320 monuments to Lenin had been removed. Due to privatization that took place after the Soviet Union breakdown, many buildings that carried ideological meaning in terms of their architectural form and decoration with mosaics, murals, and stained glass currently are in private property and owners renovate them according to own taste - Soviet symbols also vanish in capitalistic competition by its own.

As long as there is no state intention to museificate Soviet heritage, “decommunization” is criticized by some of the local artists, art critics, curators and activists that allocate themselves “on the left” and initiate projects, on contrary aimed at the preservation of decommunized objects, however many of such projects are reminiscent and nostalgic rather than present objective scientific analysis of former Soviet that should be historicized as any other colonial artifact.

Scroll to Top