Art critics: Modern museum projects of Donbas are intended to dispel the myth about Soviet industrialization of the region


Kyiv, July 7, 2016. More than two years have elapsed since the beginning of hostilities in Donbas. Currently, we have managed to restore most of the destroyed houses, local infrastructure and partially solve the problem of internally displaced persons. Now, according to art critics and experts, we should focus on building cultural spaces and museums in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. However, to implement this initiative, first of all, it is necessary to dispel the myths that still exist in the minds of both Ukrainian and international community. “It is considered that the Soviet Union made it possible to develop cultural and economic life of the region. However, this is a big mistake. The project implemented by us together with UCMC – Belgium Investments in Ukraine – is intended to inform about the role of modern European countries like Belgium in the development of Donbas,” emphasized Deputy Ambassador of Belgium to Ukraine Jean de Lannoy during the discussion on reorganization and creation of museums in the front-line area conducted at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Slovyansk museum became the first who agreed to overshadow the history of the Soviet Union as part of the reorganization of the museum space. “Currently we have four exhibition halls that present nature, old, new and modern history. 26 thousand original copies are on show. However, we want to create another hall – the hall of arts that will showcase the works of local ceramist Natalia Maksymchenko and artist Petro Konchalovsky,” noted Lyudmyla Zander, director of the Slovyansk Local History Museum. She informed that the idea of ​​reorganizing the museum space has been supported by the local authorities, but currently the city is out of money for restructuring the museum. “I am sure that sooner or later we will manage to change the items on display and to create the hall of arts. We expect grants. However, international organizations are slow to support museums. It is precisely our museum that can revitalize tourists’ interest in our city and make internally displaced persons come back to Slovyansk,” noted Lyudmyla Zander. According to her, the cultural community of Slovyansk is not going to confine itself to reorganizing the museum. They also plan to reconstruct fortress Tor and to create the Center of pottery and folk crafts.

The young researchers and artists have become responsible for the development of the methodology for making the new museum interesting for a wider range of visitors. They have created the Museum of Contemporary History of Donbas. “The project was initiated in autumn 2015 by a group of former employees of the Luhansk Local History Museum, artists and activists in response to the infrastructure crisis in the museum sector caused by military conflict,” said researcher and artist Larion Lozovyy. According to him, the project is aimed at building a new kind of museum – a participatory museum. “We wanted to expand the understanding of the museum as a place for public debate. It is assumed that functions of the museum are to collect, preserve and display. Here the fourth function is concealed: to establish relationships and mediate. A modern museum should avoid presenting objective truths (as it was in Soviet times – UCMC), and a museum worker should reflect his status as the author of a narrative and representative of a particular ideological position,” said Larion Lozovoy. According to him, the image that inspired them was the museum as a place of collective reflection and joint creation of meanings. It should be a discussion of visitors with museum workers and each other surrounded by showcases and exhibits, and a discussion aimed at getting a collective understanding of the events of modern history and developing possible forms of its representation.

Project “Luhansk’s Arts & Facts,” in which artist and researcher Anton Lapov developed virtual archives, has become a new look at the old museum. “Our project aims at gathering and representing cultural events in the life of Luhansk from 2004 to 2013, and thus at dialoging on the reconsolidation of Ukrainian art space and creating a base for researchers not only from Ukraine, but also from around the world,” Anton Lapov presented his project. According to him, the archive will consist of private collections of events, famous places of Luhansk, cultural and public figures, artists, as well as social movements in Luhansk in that period. “Artifacts include books, texts, pictures and photos,” explained Anton Lapov.

The presentation of “Svitlograd” (the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center art initiative) has become a global virtual project. “During our first stay in Severodonetsk we visited the museum at “Azot” plant and learned about such a tradition as building of new cities that dates back to the early Soviet history. This was most probably due to the fact that the Soviet system at first could not overcome all Ukrainian and European, which was in the East of the country. The same is also true for Luhansk, Donetsk and actually Severodonetsk,” informed Leonid Maruschak, curator of Ukrainian Crisis Media Center art initiative. “Svitlograd” (it’s the name of the city that in Soviet times would have united Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Rubizhne – (UCMC)) is primarily a communicative platform for these three cities to develop strategies for a common vision of the development (association of communities without association of cities). “First of all, we plan that experts and artists will explore the history of modern cities to form a base of sources, on which the development of humanitarian policy of the community, authorities and museum community will be founded,” noted Leonid Maruschak. At the first stage, “Svitlograd” will be a virtual museum about the history and study of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk and Rubizhne. Besides, some educational programs for local experts, cultural figures and the public, as well as creation of the art cluster based on Belgian heritage in Luhansk region will be provided. “We would like to form the image of the existing museum institutions, to popularize the museum achievements among the local people, to establish communication between the institution and the community, and to create public spaces based on the museum, in which every citizen can study history, conduct their own research or implement the project,” Leonid Maruschak shared his plans. In the near future our joint efforts and community initiative will make it possible to turn “Svetlograd” into a real modern museum of new type in Luhansk region.