“This document demonstrates our collective commitment to save a city that is overcoming global challenges,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement after a special meeting of the agency’s World Heritage Committee. in Paris. Azoulay calls Odessa “a world city that has left its mark on cinema, literature and art.”
While Odesa has been spared attacks on the scale that have devastated other Ukrainian communities, fears for the city’s heritage prompted UNESCO to fast-track the application, which was officially submitted in October. Over the summer, fighting damaged parts of the city’s more than a century-old art museum.
The city’s rich history dates back to when it was the crown jewel of Imperial Russia. Today, UNESCO calls it a “unique example of a city” in Ukraine that combines “diverse cultural traditions and harmonious architectural polyphony.”
At one time it was considered one of the most suitable cities for Russia, but attitudes have changed. As Russian attacks on the city increased last year, Ukrainian forces and volunteers rushed to reinforce the city’s high-rise buildings – many built in the Italian Baroque style – including the famous opera and ballet theater, which is one of Ukraine’s oldest.
Monuments were covered with sandbags, and barricades were erected in the city. In December, local authorities removed a statue of Russia’s Empress Catherine the Great – often seen as the city’s founder – in an effort to remove signs of historic Russian influence in Ukraine.
Odessa’s popular opera house plays a role in the wartime drama
The city’s inclusion on the list was finally approved by the 21-member committee despite repeated attempts by Russian representatives on the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to block a vote on Wednesday. Archaeological sites Yemen And fair in Lebanon It has also been added as a World Heritage Site.
Wednesday’s decision to list Odesa underscored how Ukrainians mourn not only the loss of life, but also the destruction of their country’s cultural heritage. According to UNESCO, at least 236 cultural sites have been damaged in Ukraine since the Russian invasion nearly a year ago.
Monuments, books and historic buildings were among the sites damaged, Krista Picat, director of the agency’s Cultural and Emergencies Institute, said in a December interview with the Post. The height represents “the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
Fighting last year in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv damaged an opera and ballet theater, and in Maripol, southeastern Ukraine, Russian attacks destroyed the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater, which had sheltered hundreds of people.
I always dreamed of visiting my ancestral home of Odessa. But it’s not like that.
The historic center of Odessa is the eighth UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ukraine, joining the Saint Sophia Cathedral in the capital Kyiv and the historic center of Lviv in western Ukraine. All are considered by the United Nations to be of “highest humanitarian value.”
When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky formalized the candidacy in Odesa in October, he called on the UN agency to “show a clear signal that it does not turn a blind eye to the loss of our common history.” Russia is a state party to the 1972 UNESCO Convention that obliges it to “not take any deliberate action likely to damage World Heritage Sites.”
But Zelensky suggested in a speech in October that Odesa’s World Heritage designation might not be enough on its own to prevent Russian attacks, citing the narrowly missed attack on the Hagia Sophia cathedral that month.