11:57 27 Sep 2023

Russia has damaged 617 Ukrainian libraries during invasion: 98 are obliterated

Since the start of the full-scale war, Russia has damaged 617 Ukrainian libraries. 

98 of them were completely destroyed, Rubryka reports.

What is the problem?

Since 2014, Russia has been consistently ruining Ukrainian infrastructure, cultural sites, and monuments. The destruction became much more intense and vividly visible with the large-scale invasion in 2022.

Libraries are important to the Ukrainian communities. With the onset of a large-scale invasion, the libraries became humanitarian aid points, administrative service centers, and other institutions important to citizens, meanwhile continuing their primary activities. Even in the de-occupied territories, libraries immediately opened their doors to visitors. They allowed them to read the fresh press, books that survived the Russian occupation or were donated to the library to restore the stock.

What is the solution?

With the support of the Renaissance International Foundation, the NGO Anti-Corruption Headquarters is following a road map to support the recovery of the Ukrainian libraries damaged in the war.

The activists believe that restoring cultural sites, including libraries, should be prioritized because they are the bearers of material heritage, historical artifacts, and knowledge about the history and authenticity of the Ukrainian people, which are often the targets for the Russians to attack.

"During martial law and active military operations, unfortunately, the development of libraries is not a priority of state policy. We will not be able to count on the 2024 state budget to finance the development," says Serhii Mytkalyk, Chair of the Board of the Anti-Corruption Headquarters. "However, we must focus our efforts on digitizing and documenting all crimes committed by Russia. This is a chance to receive reparations in the future for the damage caused and to try to prove the cultural genocide committed by the Russians." 

How does it work?

As part of this project to record losses, experts calculated what damage the Russians caused to the Ukrainian libraries. The evaluations include the destruction of buildings without losses of library property.

According to the Ukrainian Culture Ministry data, 14,351 libraries operated in Ukraine before the full-scale invasion. As of the end of June 2023, their number decreased by 2,560 and currently stands at 11,791.

The "temporary closure" or termination of library activities occurs not only in territories that have been de-occupied or are currently under daily Russian shelling that destroys libraries but also in territories that do not belong to the zone of hostilities.

Experts see a significant reduction in the number of functioning libraries in Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, Lviv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi, Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia, Ternopil regions due to the cuts in financing.

No public library currently operates in 13 communities of the Donetsk region, nine communities in the Kherson region, 11 communities of the Kharkiv region, six communities in the Chernivtsi region, one community each in Dnipropetrovsk, Zakarpattia, Odesa, and Sumy regions.

As of June, 617 libraries in Ukraine were damaged by the Russian forces. Of them, 98 cannot be recovered, 259 need capital repair or reconstruction, and 260 need light repair.

Analyzing the affected libraries, experts found that the largest number of completely destroyed libraries as of the end of June 2023 was in the Donetsk region — 38.

The destroyed libraries have been recorded in war-torn Kharkiv and Kherson regions — 22 each. Another six were destroyed in Mykolaiv, four in Chernihiv, three in Zaporizhzhia, two in Kyiv, and one in Zhytomyr.

Almost no libraries are being repaired. The reasons may be the possibility of shelling, lack of funding, and different priorities determined by the local authorities.

Ukraine has 20 libraries where you can not only read modern books about health but also measure blood pressure and blood sugar, exercise on massage mats, and raise awareness about a healthy lifestyle.

Rubryka explains how the solution works: Healthy Libraries connect books and public health.


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