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The St. Sophia Cathedral and 6 other landmarks in Ukraine that are at risk

While no building nor monument is above human lives, there’s no doubt that the cultural and historical assets of Ukraine at risk of being destroyed.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has escalated to a scenario where human lives and cultural heritage are at peril. While no building nor monument is above human lives, there’s no doubt that the cultural and historical assets at risk of being destroyed are always high in every single war conflict.

As humanity, we’ve lost so much since the dawn of time to ambition and the hunger for power. Entire records of ancient civilizations have been lost forever, and even when in some cases the decimation of material and cultural assets is plain collateral damage, in many more cases it’s become part of the war strategy to erase people’s history.

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So, as it has happened before, this current military strike has put important monuments and landmarks at risk of being destroyed or damaged. Scholars have deemed this situation as an “unfolding cultural catastrophe.” Ukraine has been the setting of several key moments in history, and thus its heritage isn’t only a matter of a nation’s cultural wealth, but a vast catalog of different cultures throughout time.

So far, protocols to prevent the damage of art pieces and monuments have been made to the limits each landmark and museum has, but there’s no doubt that it won’t be enough. Here are some of Ukraine’s landmarks that could be facing a great risk in the upcoming days.

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St. Sophia Cathedral - Kyiv

Built around the year 1010, the St. Sophia Cathedral is the oldest building in the country. It’s been added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage along with six other Ukrainian landmarks not only for its stunning facade in green and gold tones that date back to the Byzantine Empire. It was made as a response to a cathedral with the same name in Istanbul.

Next to St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv, is the Cave Monastery complex, also the oldest monastery in Ukraine and one of the most important religious centers of the Orthodox faith in Eastern Europe. With its iconic red domes, the monastery is a treasure in itself. It has labyrinthine caves and catacombs made at a time when the Orthodox faith was clandestine, and later on became the center of the education, art, and medicine development of the region.

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National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet - Odessa

Built during the second half of the 19th century, the National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet in Odessa isn’t only the venue of some of the most beautiful artistic performances, but a piece of art itself. With a capacity of over 1,600 spectators and sublime Baroque-influenced details and decorations, the theater is one of the most opulent buildings in Ukraine. It went under a full renovation in 2007.

Historical center - Lviv

The historical center of the city of Lviv, dates back to Medieval times, though through the passing of time has managed to become one of the most important religious and commercial centers in Eastern Europe. Also included in the World Heritage lists of UNESCO, the main square is a beautiful fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of Eastern Europe. Even after all these centuries, the historical center of Lviv has focused on preserving the original medieval topography while merging and including the diverse traditions that have settled in the city including a vast population of Armenian, German, Polish, Italian, Austrian, and, naturally, Ukrainian inhabitants. The historical site managed to survive, almost intact, the horrors of WWII.

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Vozdvyzhenka - Kyiv

Known popularly as the rainbow neighborhood, the set of colorful pastel buildings that conform Vozdvyzhenka in Kyiv contrasts with the architectural history of the country under the rule of the USSR which was characterized by toned down squared buildings. The neighborhood went under full restoration in the early 2000s becoming one of the most popular landmarks in the country.

Wooden Tserkvas - Carpathian Region

Also on the UNESCO list, these unique sets of 16 tserkvas, or small wooden churches were built between the 16th and 19th centuries. Made entirely with logs, these were used by Orthodox and Greek Catholics. Some of them were kept intact to function as museums but some of them are still used as centers of faith. Some of the tserkvas even keep the dates and names of the carpenters that built it, making them a unique register of religious faith and livelihoods of Ukrainian folk in history.

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House with Chimaeras - Kyiv

Often compared to Antoni Gaudi’s unique work in Barcelona, the Gorodetsky House, commonly known as the House with Chimaeras, is one of the very few Art-Nouveau edifications in the country. Built around the 1900s as an apartment set, the house was used until very recently by Ukraine’s executive office’s meeting space and guest housing for diplomats. Which sadly puts it at a bigger risk.

Chersonesus colony - Crimean Peninsula

As one of the most important archaeological sites in Ukraine, this ancient city, or what’s left of it, is evidence of the Greek influence and settlement in the region. Founded around the 5th century BC, the Chersonesus colony is on the northern coast of the Black Sea, in the Crimean Peninsula. Inscribed in the World Heritage list in 2013, what stands the most about the site is the hundreds of plots known as “chôra.” These were used as vineyards making the colony an important trading center for the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine empires. The colony had another blossoming in the 15th century, and the site still has Christian monuments and artifacts, and edifications from the Stone and Bronze Age.

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