Preserving cultural and historical heritage is vital for every nation willing to preserve its identity. However, many questions remain unanswered after the Day of the Government parliamentary hearings on the situation in the sphere of culture held in Verkhovna Rada in early November. Deputies spoke about the need to lift VAT for works of art returning to the country; about the deplorable condition of the cultural monuments of the national level, like Chyhyryn and Khortytsia, the Cossack cradle; about the shortcomings of many laws; about hampering the recent revival of book publishing.
However, there are some changes that make one view the future with optimism. For example, President Kuchma recently issued a decree, On Measures to Create Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s Residence Historical and Architectural Complex (as part of the Chyhyryn National Historical and Cultural Preserve). Under the decree, a program on the development of the complex for the years 2004-2010 is to be drafted and adopted budget funds allocated for its reconstruction. A year ago, Vasyl POLTAVETS, who has been managing the Hetman’s capital for the past twenty years, visited our newspaper. Our correspondent took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Mr. Poltavets in Kyiv one of these days.
“Would you comment on the dynamics of changes in the Ukrainians’ national consciousness and the attitude of the state, on the one hand, and citizens, on the other, toward preserving cultural heritage?”
“The Chyhyryn National Preserve has finally felt the state’s attention. However, from the very first days of Ukraine’s independence, this place has been drawing people from across Ukraine along with Ukrainian diaspora from the West and East. Chyhyryn is a litmus paper in a sense, revealing an average Ukrainian’s interest in history. They are trying to teach us history from Moscow, Warsaw, or even Istanbul. The preserve is a reflection of this national interest. While in the early 1990s we had 10,000 visitors per year at most, now we can hardly handle the influx of tourists. Also reassuring is the fact that young people, school or university students, come to Chyhyryn on bikes or on foot. Even high officials visit us. We hold annual seminars on historiography, ethnography, archeology; international expeditions are constantly working at the preserve (recently a Ukrainian-German one finished its work, now Poles have come from the Jagellon University along with experts from the Archeology Institute at the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine).”
“In your last year’s interview you said that the preserve ‘has come to a standstill, since it receives only 20% of the funding it needs’.’ Are there any changes?”
“Since 2002 the preserve has been funded in a timely fashion. We have cleared all our debts. The Day’s round table was a big help, as well as Minister Marchuk who talked to then Premier Kinakh. The presidential decree to create the Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s Residence Historical and Architectural Complex is the state’s second step. The first one was made when the State Service to Protect Cultural Heritage was created. Now we have legislative protection in conflict situations arising on both local and oblast level. Previously the situation was rather uncertain, since a number of different departments were in charge of this sphere. Now there is a state service vested with major powers and accountable to Verkhovna Rada.”
“But Chyhyryn is not only about Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s residence and history of the National Revolution of the seventeenth century, is it?”
“The land of Chyhyryn also boasts Late Stone Age sites and Scythian settlements. There are few such monuments in Europe. The state had existed in our lands over one thousand years before Kyiv Rus’. Maybe in the future it will be presented not simply as the Great Bohdan’s capital but also as a land where vast historical cultural layers are interlaced, which we only start to discover.”