“Cleaning” of the ancient buildings of Chersonese from “historical dirt”


On March 21, 2022, the state historical museum-reserve “Khersones Tavriyskyi” in occupied Sevastopol reported that emergency work was being carried out in the building, which, in addition to the office of the “director” and other premises, houses the permanent Byzantine exposition of the “museum” dedicated to the history of Chersonesus in the medieval era: it houses more than three thousand unique exhibits. The “administration of the institution” reported that during bad weather in the summer of 2021, the roof, which was already in an emergency condition at that time, began to leak, which put not only museum exhibits and employees at risk, but also electrical equipment. After the building was examined by “museum specialists”, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation provided appropriate funds for “anti-emergency works”, which were soon approved by “Rosderzhekspertiza” – the All-Russian State Center for Expertise and Certification in the Field of Protection and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Monuments.

The building in question is non-intersecting. It was built in the early 60s of the 19th century, and it is currently known as the “bishop’s house” because it housed the abbot’s building of the Chersonese monastery. The building was first renovated in 1899. After the Bolshevik occupation of Crimea, in 1921 a house for people with disabilities was built in the building, and in 1924 it was transferred to the balance of the archaeological museum. In 1925, an urgent overhaul was carried out, during which the roof, windows and doors were restored, and the exhibition of the Museum of Byzantine History of Chersonesus Tavriyskyi, a library and administrative offices were arranged on the second floor. In 1928, the roof was repaired, new windows were installed, and the walls were whitewashed. In 1933, another roof was repaired, and in 1938, the facade was overhauled with cleaning of the walls from dirt and plaque, furnaces and chimneys, and library windows were repaired. After World War II, the damaged building was restored, but its overhaul with the replacement of all damaged structures was completed only after the entry of the Crimean region into the Ukrainian SSR in 1956, after which ongoing repair work was periodically carried out: the walls were painted with different colors and types. In 1970, there was a fire in the “bishop’s house”, as a result of which the building was declared emergency: by 1979, the roof was restored, the ceiling, water supply system, electrical wiring and all windows were replaced. In general, small repair works were carried out annually, major repairs – every decade.

After Ukraine regained its independence, until 2012, current repairs of the historical building were carried out, the layout of the premises was changed with the installation of new internal floors. “Deputy director of the museum for museification and protection of cultural heritage objects” Tetyana Sarapulkina assures that “during Ukrainian times” most of the windows on the first and second floors were replaced with plastic ones, and the facade was partially painted; at the same time, the roof was not repaired at all. Currently, the building is undergoing “anti-emergency works”, which are being monitored by “museum specialists”. Sarapulkina emphasizes: neither before nor after the Russian occupation of Crimea, the ancient building had the status of an object of cultural heritage – therefore, you can do anything with it.

According to the “chief engineer of the museum” Ivan Kaplii, in some places the drainage system from the roof of the “bishop’s house” was assembled unsuccessfully – the water just flowed down the facade of the building, due to which the stone turned green and became covered with mold. In order to prevent the destruction of the walls, all affected areas must be cleaned, after which the stone should be covered with a hydrophobic solution to protect it from wind, moisture and fungus. At the same time, the repairmen promise to preserve all the historically significant elements on the facade of the building – in particular, traces of bullets and inscriptions left during the defense of Sevastopol in the 1940s. The damaged roof is repaired and covered to eliminate leaks. It is also planned to replace the old panes installed during the restoration of the building in 1956: they say, their wood has rotted for a long time and is being destroyed by fireflies, which interferes with ensuring the necessary temperature and humidity regime required for the exhibits. Ventilating the premises became simply dangerous, as the stamped hinges of the Soviet era rusted and failed. Therefore, the contractor installs identical single-pane windows, which resemble wood in color and are similar to the previously installed plastic frames on the first floor of the building. It is planned to complete all works by the summer.

The “deputy head of the Sevastopol branch of the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments” Stepan Samoshyn reacted to the actions and intentions of the “reserve museum” regarding the “repair” of one of the oldest buildings in Sevastopol, which may threaten its walls. According to him, the “bishop’s house”, without which it is difficult to imagine the Byzantine courtyard of the “Khersones Tavriskyi” reserve, has a special charm and color due to the ancient walls with a noble patina, which adds an atmosphere of antiquity and romance. In December 2021, Samoshyn submitted an application to include the former building of the abbot’s building of the Chersonese monastery in the list of identified cultural heritage sites: this step would significantly increase the complexity and cost of repair work and oblige the “administration” of Chersonese to take care of the authentic appearance of the building. However, the occupation “officials” did not react to the initiative. After some time, the walls of the building began to be brutally cleaned mechanically, due to which they began to whiten: according to Samoshyn, this currently looks wild not only purely aesthetically, but also threatening, because after removing the protective layer formed over a century and a half, the unprocessed unique Krymbal stone can again be affected by mold and decay. The historian also drew attention to the fact that banal plastic double-glazed windows were replaced not by the Soviet era, but by the “pre-revolutionary” era, which had brass handles: the building has several dozen panes and windows, some of them survived during World War II, some were reproduced after it – so carefully that it is impossible to distinguish them from the original ones. Currently, he insists on an immediate stoppage of work, finding out the fate of the dismantled windows, their restoration or at least reconstruction, and the development of a project to restore the building. Samoshyn also assures that the rest of the attributes are also under threat – ancient doors, ventilation grilles, stucco, and insists that all parts of the historic building must be historic.

The reaction to the intervention in the form of a “bishop’s house” was also on the part of representatives of the “authorities” of the occupied city. In particular, the “restoration” of the building “chairman of the Sevastopol legislative assembly’s standing committee on architecture and urban planning” Vyacheslav Gorelov called it an “absolutely outrageous event” and noted that as a result of such unqualified renewal, not only the historical appearance of the former abbot’s building of the Chersonese monastery may be irretrievably lost, as well as the very atmosphere of the iconic location for the townspeople. According to Gorelov, if the 150-year-old building really needed renovation, then for its implementation it was necessary to invite specialists in stone architecture and carpentry, who would be able to update the building while preserving its authentic appearance. The “deputy” called on all employees of the “reserve museum” to keep the removed windows so that new ones could be made based on their model, and also decided to contact the city “prosecutor’s office” to find out all the details related to the building and to develop a further plan for it salvation As for the replacement of the unique wooden windows of the “bishop’s house” with the latest plastic double-glazed windows of low quality – Gorelov mentioned that this is not the first case with a historical building in Sevastopol after the “Russian Spring”: yes, in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the barbaric replacement of windows fundamentally changed perception of an ancient building. It should be noted that similar approaches to the “reconstruction” of historical buildings are a common occurrence for the occupied city: for example, in 2017, near the monument to Admiral Senyavin, the “ugly gray” (that is, with an ancient layer) parapet made of Krymbal stone was replaced with a “beautiful white one” , which soon began to crumble, as a result of which it became necessary to replace it.

“Alarm bells” regarding the “bishop’s house” in Chersonesos sounded as early as December 2021 – almost simultaneously with an attempt to include it in the list of discovered cultural heritage sites. Thus, on December 6, 2021, the State Historical and Archaeological Museum-Reserve “Khersones Tavriyskyi” placed on the Russian public procurement website two applications for restoration work to eliminate the consequences of a dangerous natural phenomenon – capital repair of buildings of museums of ancient and medieval history: the total cost of both procurements amounted to more than 9 million rubles.

By the way, the ancient hall, located in the historical building of the refectory of the Khersonessky monastery (1914–1916), was opened in August 2017 after a major renovation that began back in 2005. In the building, the roof and floor were completely redone, and the ceiling between the basement floor, where the funds are located, and the hall, where the exhibits were to be located, was replaced. In addition to the government of Ukraine, significant financial assistance to the museum was provided by the Cypriot charity fund A.H. Leventis. By 2014, the concept of the hall was ready, for which special showcases were ordered in Kyiv: after the “Russian Spring” in Crimea, they were “smuggled” with the help of “personal connections” and taken to the already occupied Sevastopol as “private furniture” – and this case, like many others like it, deserves an investigation with appropriate consequences.

During the Russian occupation of Crimea, the employees of the “reserve museum”, which received the status of “federal”, “with heroic efforts overcame difficulties” with the incompetence of suppliers, difficulties of communication with the occupying state and other “banal Crimean realities”. In 2017, the renovation of the antique exposition building was completed as part of the “federal target program for the development of Crimea”: at the same time, the marble sculpture of a Roman lion was “restored”. On the eve of the “official” opening of the hall, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmytro Medvedev and Bishop Yehorevsky (now the Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov) of the Russian Orthodox Church Tikhon (Shevkunov) visited – all three in one way or another are involved in illegal barbaric activities aimed at on the destruction and change of the historical appearance of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “The Ancient City of Chersonese Tavri and its Choir”. During a meeting with the scientific and creative public, the head of the occupying state declared Chersonese “the Russian Mecca”. His personal clergyman, Bishop Tikhon, who presented his program for the “development” of Chersonese, expressed his willingness to help Putin in this.

It should be noted that in 2015, Serhii Khalyuta, a deacon of the Sevastopol District of the UOC MP, briefly became the “director of the museum-reserve” for unknown reasons – and literally within a week he left the “position”, the appointment to which caused a stormy public outcry. From 2016 until at least 2020, Khalyuta repeatedly tried to “squeeze” the historical buildings of the former Kherson monastery in favor of the Sevastopol deaconry of the UOC MP – not without the support of now Metropolitan Tikhon.

As of the end of 2021, it was planned to replace the roof, clean the facade, repair the stonework and install a fire escape in the ancient hall. Similar measures were planned to be carried out in the “bishop’s house”, in which the museum of ancient history is located – in addition, with the dismantling of 50 wooden window blocks and their replacement with plastic ones like Rehau Grazio or of no worse quality. Regarding both buildings, the “expertise” provided positive conclusions as early as November 25, 2021. In response to journalists’ inquiries, the “museum-reserve” stated that the buildings, which needed repair after the consequences of the bad weather that occurred in the summer of 2021, “are not objects of cultural heritage” – despite their respectable age and historical value.

We have yet another case of how “institutions”, which should be responsible for cultural heritage, barbarically destroy it in annexed Crimea – as befits the occupiers.


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