Regional Co-operation for Cultural Heritage Development
რეგიონალური თანამშრომლობა კულტურული მემკვიდრეობის განვითარებისათვის
Տարածաշրջանային համագործակցություն հանուն մշակութային ժառանգության զարգացման
Національна політика щодо культурної спадщини
Mədəni irsin inkişaf Etdimilməsi üçün regional əməkdaşlıq
Рэгіянальнае супрацоўніцтва ў мэтах развіцця культурнай спадчыны
E- Journal №2
Cultural Heritage Policy
Problems of Formulation of a National Policy on Cultural Heritage in Ukraine

Prof. Olena Oliynyk
Ukrainian National Aviation University
Arkhitektura i prestige LLC


It is axiomatic that a nation’s attitude to its historical monuments indicates the level of its development and the cultural maturity of its citizens. Heritage protection is defined as a priority area of national cultural policy.

Heritage conservation concepts are shaped by many political, ideological, economic, social and ethnological factors. The theoretical foundations of heritage conservation primarily comprised defining the criteria of selection, classification, systematization and periodization of monuments, as well as terms and conditions under which a site may be classified as a monument. Whereas historically heritage conservation began as efforts to preserve individual, the most valuable sites, the accelerating ruination and destruction of cultural objects in recent times has made it imperative to develop long-term systemic programmes, which call for considerable funding and the participation of experts with the highest qualifications.

Normally, two stages of the development of the conceptual groundwork of heritage conservation are distinguished. The first of them (the mid-19th to the early 20th century) was characterized by efforts to safeguard a limited number of the most prized archaeological, architectural and artistic sites and objects in Europe and some historical and natural monuments in the United States and Canada. The second stage – from the mid-1930s to our time – is distinguished for new approaches towards cultural heritage protection and the preservation of the cultural identity of every country. The “uptrend” in heritage conservation became evident in the early 1960s, when Western powers set their priorities on peaceful development.

ICOMOS documents have played a definitive role in shaping the present heritage conservation system, becoming part and package of the international and national legal frameworks in the field. While they are not mandatory, these rules exert significant ethical and educational influence. The Council of Europe also has a whole number of recommendations for the preservation of architectural, archaeological, tangible and intangible heritage, but its activity in this area (except for its political and economic aspects) is little known in Ukraine. As a result, a large body of these CoE recommendations is not included in the national academic process. True that they regulate narrow, applied aspects of heritage conservation and are not binding on Ukrainian authorities. However, these documents make up the foundation on which European relationships in the sphere of heritage conservation rest.

The development of Ukraine’s state system of heritage conservation has been a long and complicated process. In the first half of the 20th century, heritage conservation was governed by individual regulations, and the adoption of a direct effect law was continuously postponed. In the mid-1950s, Ukraine became a member of UNESCO. Soon after its independence, it became a member of the Council of Europe (1995). Its ratification in 1988 of the 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was the first to distinguish between monuments and groups of buildings and define cultural heritage as immovable objects of universal historical, artistic, aesthetic, ethnological and anthropological value, testified to the attention of the government to heritage issues. In 1990, the St. Sophia Cathedral and the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra were included on the World Heritage List, to be followed by the historic core of the city of Lviv (1999) and the residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian metropolitans (2011).

Today, Ukraine as a member of these international institutions, is responsible to the international community for the integrity of such monuments. The main document which defines the government’s policy in this sphere is the Law of Ukraine On the Protection of Cultural Heritage of 2000, which sets forth a whole government policy, establishes the special responsibility of the State for the identification, recording, study, restoration and protection of cultural heritage objects and sites, prohibits the sale of the most valuable of them, and guarantees their accessibility.

Legislation is an important factor of the efficiency of heritage conservation efforts. In addition to the international doctrines, each country has its own heritage protection system complete with its own concepts, legal framework, organizational structures, funding mechanism, and methods of use.

In developed countries, a system of legislative acts is in place, creating an optimal mechanism of heritage conservation. It is reinforced by the clearly formulated approaches to historic and cultural objects in private ownership and regulations on the ratio of publicly and privately owned cultural objects. A national heritage law is typically am umbrella legislative act in these countries.

As a result, the activity of government bodies as guarantors of law enforcement is of great importance in the sphere of heritage protection. At present, the heritage concept effective in Ukraine, in comparison with other post-Soviet countries, relatively meets international standards. As a whole, however, the heritage protection sector in Ukraine is in a critical condition. The current object and site listing system is unsatisfactory. Many monuments are not even properly acknowledged, which is inadmissible by international practice standards. The flawed system of funding and the lack of fiscal privileges also contribute to the deterioration of many cultural objects. The country’s heritage is embodied in 130 thousand immovable historical and cultural monuments, of which only 35% are in satisfactory condition.

The Ukrainian heritage protection system is still in the making but is already ridden with bureaucracy. The collapse of the Soviet planned economy, of which it was a part, revealed that the heritage protection sector was totally unprepared to exist without government control and administrative and financial support. While the main legislative acts generally meet the requirements of international law, the declarative character of individual provisions and the lack of an effective system of supervision of their enforcement make it absolutely necessary to improve the heritage legislation.

The State Service for National Heritage Issues (set up as the State Service for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in 2000) is responsible for the record keeping, protection, proper maintenance and use, conservation, restoration, and “museumification” of all types and categories of monuments. Also, one of its main functions is to ensure international cooperation in this sphere.

The current situation with heritage protection in Ukraine may be regarded as a transitional one: the old model is changing under the impact of new economic and political realities, and the newly created system is still functioning with great difficulty. The permanent economic crisis coupled with erratic government policies make it necessary to combine the efforts and resources of central, regional and local governments with those of NGOs, and to make extensive use of international experience.

The international community is paying special attention to improving the sector’s funding. Its principal sources include public and municipal funds and corporate and private citizens’ contributions. Differing in size, these revenues are allocated for the implementation of several types of programmes: public (large-scale national level projects), local (preservation of monuments of regional significance), and private (maintenance and supervision of a group of sites or individual objects). Funding is a key issue in the heritage protection sector of any country. For example, the United States introduced additional privileges for historical, cultural and natural sites back in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. EU countries and Canada fund their heritage networks through subsidies and grants provided for by the law.

The current situation with heritage protection in Ukraine reflects the country’s general economic malaise. Oriented at funding from the budget, the system is receiving it “on a residual basis.” Heritage protection requires not only regulatory and organizational but also fiscal and logistic measures on the part of government bodies within their competence. However, problems exist in important areas, such as record keeping, ruination and damage prevention, and supervision over site conservation, maintenance, use, and restoration.

Although cultural heritage conservation is a government function, it cannot do without community support. In the United States and Canada, national trusts have custody over historical, cultural and natural heritage sites. They enjoy special privileges from Congress and the Parliament, as well as property tax and commercial activity exemptions and incentives.

As they maintain close contact with the public through the media and the academic circles, NGOs, community associations and foundations have influence on the formulation of a country’s cultural policy in general and its heritage policies in particular. The state is supposed to support charitable activities and exempt charity contributions from tax. Real estate given by the owner in trust to a charity is relieved from the inheritance tax.

The most authoritative Ukrainian nongovernment organization in this sphere is the Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture, set up in 1966. The national architects, artists, writers and journalists unions also have certain authority with the public opinion. Community organizations make a significant contribution to the identification, study, protection and preservation of monuments, but they are effectively deprived of government support, and their legal status does not give them sufficient leverage on issues arising in the sphere of heritage protection. One of their chief objectives at the current stage is to draw the public attention to the dire state of Ukraine’s cultural heritage as a whole.

A comprehensive approach to the popularization of the national heritage includes a broad spectrum of methods and activities: publications in the media, mass actions and protests, awareness-raising campaigns, and thematic exhibitions. Ukraine has to step up its image-building efforts and strengthen its international authority, in order to play a more active role in global and European processes and get known as a country with a rich culture.

The main task, however, remains to foster a culture-oriented mentality in Ukrainian society, raise the public awareness about the need to protect the nation’s heritage, and combat vandalism in all of its forms. Government policy should make education on heritage issues one of the key elements of the national development strategy.

The process of integration into the world community of nations and the accelerating exposure of national systems to international influence made it necessary to unify the national legislation. More effective governance and control over the implementation of the policy on heritage conservation are the two main factors of improving the situation with heritage protection in Ukraine. At the same time, excessive openness to international market and globalization processes may prove detrimental to national culture. Heritage protection is a national priority and so it requires careful adaptation of international standards with due respect to national traditions, rather than formal accession to international legal instruments. It is necessary to create proper conditions for the combination of individual components of international and national cultural heritage protection activities into a relatively consistent whole. In doing this, active international cooperation will help transform and improve the national heritage protection system into one that will fit the formula “conservation through development and development through conservation.”



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