This fall, the Ukrainian society renewed discussion on the expediency of spending budget funds on cultural heritage repairs. Let’s analyze the amount that has been allocated for this and ask experts about the need to do that.

In late October, the network was roused by the news about the order on the restoration of the roof and domes of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. The public was mostly outraged by the cost – UAH 79 million.

This amount includes the repair of the wooden structures of the roof and domes, the restoration of the rhipidion, the drainage system and the domes coating, the installation of crosses, the strengthening of the wooden structures of the roof and domes, the renewal of the gilding on the domes and other elements, as well as the installation of the lightning arrester.

Following wide media coverage, Sophia Kyivska National Reserve, which ordered the restoration, published the tender justification. In particular, the administration noted that the current roof condition threatens the landmark and that the amount is calculated for 5 years of restoration. At that, gilding and other works are to be performed after the end of martial law.

Moreover, the Reserve published photos of the current condition of the domes, cupolas, and roof.

However, this information was partially available in the tender documents even before Sophia Kyivska Reserve published its comments. Thus, the description includes a deadline for the completion of the works – until December 31, 2028. The same term is included in the agreement signed with the contractor. It also states that the funding amount for 2023 is UAH 2 million.

The calendar schedule presented in Annex 7 to the agreement proves that these UAH 2 million are intended for the installation of crosses. According to the Reserve, they were made at the expense of patrons. This replacement is crucial as during the last renovation held in the 70s, the restorers made a mistake and used paints and metal that could not be combined. This resulted in the current damaged condition of the elements.

The interior decoration of St. Sophia’s Cathedral is also subject to constant decay. The leaking roof results in washing away the valuable paintings on the ceiling and walls. Cathedral workers showed the consequences to journalists from 1+1.

That is, roofing works will add to the building’s preservation from further destruction. That very building, which is a cultural heritage, historical, and artistic monument, and which is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

What other landmarks are being repaired?

DOZORRO got interested in the situation and decided to check on the other monuments repaired and restored in Ukraine this year. For this, we have reviewed only purchases announced from January 1, 2023, and related to assets that are national monuments.

Reference. According to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers, national monuments include assets with preserved authenticity (form (mostly), material and technical structure, historical and cultural layers), that have a significant impact on the country’s cultural development, are directly related to historical events, beliefs, livelihood, and activities of people who made a significant contribution to the national culture development, are a masterpiece of creative genius, milestone works of outstanding architects or other artists, belong to a vanished civilization or artistic style. The Ministry of Culture approves the list of monuments.

Historical monuments can be included in the UNESCO list if their value is unique beyond national borders and constitutes a common value for present and future generations.

Thus, according to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, there are 1,380 national monuments of cultural heritage in Ukraine. They all are included to the State Register of Immovable Monuments.

Region/City Number of monuments
Vinnytsia region 28
Volyn region 23
Dnipropetrovsk region 24
Donetsk region 14
Zhytomyr region 16
Zakarpattia region 54
Zaporizhzhia region 12
Ivano-Frankivsk region 31
Kyiv region 38
Kirovohrad region 6
Luhansk region 19
Lviv region 39
Mykolaiv region 30
Odesa region 26
Poltava region 34
Rivne region 17
Sumy region 37
Ternopil region 5
Kharkiv region 35
Kherson region 34
Khmelnytskyi region 22
Cherkasy region 61
Chernivtsi region 188
Chernihiv region 80
Kyiv City 238
Sevastopol City 34
Autonomous Republic of Crimea 235
Total 1,380


At that, according to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, 835 assets of cultural heritage were destroyed or damaged in the period from February 24, 2022, to September 25, 2023. Of them, 118 are nationally significant, 653 are locally significant, and 64 are newly discovered monuments. The largest number of such monuments is in Kharkiv region, 207.

According to BI Prozorro, this year, tenders related to national monuments were carried out in Kyiv, as well as in Poltava, Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovohrad, Lviv, Mykolaiv, and Kharkiv regions. That is, only in a third of the regions.

In general, the institutions with monuments on their balance announced tenders totaling UAH 178 million. Most of this amount is announced in Kyiv – UAH 127 million. More than half of it is funds for St. Sophia Cathedral restoration, almost UAH 80 million.

It is not the total amount, by the way. Reserve paid another UAH 100,000 to Ukrekspertiza Group LLC for a comprehensive examination of the working design developed in November 2022 for UAH 3.5 million. Moreover, they plan UAH 308.7 thousand to be spent on the designer’s field supervision over the restoration by UkrNDIproektrestavratsia Institute.

In fact, conservation work should also be carried out in two buildings of Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Art at 15 and 17, Tereshchenkivska Str. For this purpose, the museum entered into two agreements with Kyiv-based Klasyka Komfortu LLC. Under one of these – worth UAH 13.7 million – there was a tender, and for another – worth UAH 12.9 million – the electronic system was not used as two tenders announced in July had no applications filed. In both cases, the agreements stipulate for the restoration of the roof, covering, and part of the facade.

By the way, the contractor has already received UAH 8 million as advance payment: UAH 4.1 million and UAH 3.9 million. Moreover, another UAH 2.8 million will be paid for related services: scientific and project documentation, technical examination, inspections, permit issuance, and technical and designer’s field supervision.

Yet another UAH 6.2 million is planned to be spent on landslide control measures in Nyvky Park, which is partially a national monument as an ancient Rus settlement was there. So far, Kyivzelenbud has announced its intention to enter into an agreement with the successful tenderer.

The same Klasyka Komfortu LLC will get another UAH 4.8 million for the partial restoration of the composer Mykola Lysenko’s house on Saksagansky Str., which was damaged during the shelling. The amount includes foundation strengthening, injection of cracks in walls and ceilings on the first floor, floor covering repair, scaffolding installation, wall reinforcement, and repair of facades.

Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University transferred almost UAH 2 million to IE Ihor Oleksandrovych Hrushevsky for the current repair of the library doors at Volodymyrska Str., which were damaged during russian shelling.

Moreover, the university paid UAH 1.1 million to Vitabud 23 LLC for the office repair in the main (red) building on Volodymyrska Str.

Other works held on 9 facilities were assessed at less than UAH 1 million. Namely, these include:

Works and services worth almost UAH 10 million were ordered in Poltava region, most of them were related to Vasyl Krychevsky’s Local Lore Museum restoration:

Apart from that, there were orders for:

  • boiler repair in Kotliarevsky Estate on Cathedral Square worth UAH 12.5 thousand;
  • accounting documentation for V. H. Korolenko’s estate, his sculpture bust, his and his family’s grave worth UAH 100 thousand;
  • accounting documentation for Reserve “The Field of the Battle of Poltava” worth UAH 475 thousand;
  • accounting documentation for the stone Church of the Nativity in Verhuny village and the grave of the poet and fabulist L. I. Borovykovsky in Melyushki village worth UAH 30 thousand.

In total, works worth UAH 9.4 million were planned in Kharkiv region. Most of this amount, UAH 8.5 million, is allocated for emergency and conservation works in the house where Hryhoriy Skovoroda lived and died. Currently, the agreement has not yet been signed, and the only tenderer’s bid was rejected. The rest of the orders are related to:

The major repair of the ceiling of Rock Church in Busha village, Vinnytsia region, was estimated at UAH 218.7 thousand. The work is performed by IE Petro Ivanovych Kovach.

In Mykolaiv, works were ordered for another UAH 188 thousand. There, repairing the roofs of the cemetery with several crypts that have the status of national monuments is planned. In particular, of the composer and ethnographer M. M. Arkas, Mykolaiv shipyard founder M. L. Faleiev, as well as of a scientist, inventor, and public figure V. N. Karazin.

In Dnipropetrovsk region, UAH 80 thousand is allocated to:

Moreover, UAH 417.8 thousand was spent in Lviv to correct the restoration and renovation project of facilities of Archcathedral Cathedral of St. George, as well as its inspection. On November 28, Department of Capital Construction, Lviv Regional Military Administration, announced a repeat tender for the actual restoration and renovation (revaluation) according to the corrected project worth UAH 31.7 million. The list of works includes, in particular, the arrangement of the territory of the upper and lower courtyard, restoration of the bell tower, gates, and fences, completion of Metropolitan Chambers restoration, and bypass arrangement around the northern and western buildings of the chapter house.

A bit more than UAH 20 thousand will be spent in Kirovohrad region to develop accounting documentation for the Grave of Ivan Karpenko-Kary (Tobilevich).

Is it worth allocating funds to cultural monuments during wartime?

So, worth allocating funds to cultural monuments while the country is at war? The issue is still debatable but it mostly depends on the amount.

For example, even before Sophia Kyivska Reserve published its justification of the restoration with gilding, the State Audit Service received many appeals on the inexpediency of these expenses. For example, the Union of War Veterans claimed that funds should primarily be allocated to defense.

The cost of tenders for the national monuments preservation this year is UAH 178 million. Could these funds be allocated to the army? Yes. Should they?

We addressed a question about the expediency of cost allocation to preserve monuments during the war to Vladyslava Osmak, Kyiv researcher, the Head of the Center for Urban Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

“On the one hand, the country is constantly shelled and it may seem that the issue of monuments is not relevant. However, if we wait for the war to end, we may lose them. And if there are no such monuments as St. Sophia, how will we prove that we have existed indeed?

I believe that make hype of St. Sophia’s gilding is playing into the hands of the enemy. The reason for this attitude, unfortunately, is the ignorance and perception of reality at the level of headlines in the mass media and social networks. In particular, journalists rewriting the news without any analysis. After all, it is not only about gilding, but about urgent repair work, financing is divided into 5 years, and gilding of the domes will be done only after the major repair is completed”, explained Vladislava Osmak.

As an example, she mentions the story of the coat of arms replacement on the Motherland Monument:

“We often react to such information with too many emotions and superficially, with populism. The same happened with the trident on the Motherland Monument – the topic was also hype. However, the coat of arms was installed, which should have been done 30 years ago. The Motherland Monument has long become part of the Ukrainian cultural environment, and the issue is no longer “to demolish or not to demolish”.

The same applies to St. Sophia’s Cathedral, which is perhaps the most important symbol of our statehood, our resilience, our presence on this land, and our cultural traditions. It is our responsibility to preserve this monument then and now”.

Architect Daniil Sytnyk also believes that allocating funds to monuments is important even in wartime.

“The only type of work to be carried out with monuments is restoration, which can be divided into the following types:

  • conservation;
  • restoration;
  • renovation;
  • museification;
  • repair (restoration);
  • adjustment of monuments;
  • emergency and/or urgent conservation works.

There are many monuments in the open air, and their structural elements and foundations are in awful condition. Due to precipitation, loads, and non-integrity, they are decaying over time, therefore, the funds required for their restoration grow progressively. To start doing at least something, the law prescribes us to design scientific and project documentation, find funding, and get in a queue for development. At the same time, the pool of experts is quite limited.

Concerning St. Sophia Cathedral, apart from the UAH 79 million allocation, there is also the issue of the lack of continuous current repairs during these years. If it were held, there would not be such a terrible situation. Moreover, only UAH 2 million will be allocated from the state budget this year for the installation of crosses and the replacement of structural fastening systems on all domes.

Members of the Commission for the Cultural Heritage Protection, Kyiv City State Administration, proposed to introduce the option of developing a unified system of conservation works to save more assets without spending years on designing documentation for each of them. However, the proposal was not upheld”, said Daniil Sytnyk.

He also added that more than a year ago, the Ministry of Culture launched the Save Ukrainian Culture platform, where Ukrainian influencers became ambassadors. In particular, singer Wellboy, Cat Stepan, and singer Jerry Heil. Nowadays, the official website of the platform, designed to collect funds for the preservation and restoration of monuments, is not functioning.

At that, it is worth reminding about the expenses of the Ministry of Culture, which are not always quite relevant. Following the 2018-2022 audit, the Ministry did not ensure efficient management and use of UAH 4.2 billion. Of these, UAH 209 million were spent unproductively, ineffectively, and irrelevantly. Most of the funds (UAH 3.3 billion) are related to violations of budget legislation, not actual expenses.

The publication was prepared with the support of USAID / UK aid project Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services/ TAPAS