Impacts to Cultural Heritage in Ukraine, 1 July through 31 August 2022

In partnership with Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab (CHML) and written by Damian Koropeckyj, Kate Harrell, Kaitlyn Fitzgerald, Abigail Maher, Hayden Bassett, Madeleine Gunter-Bassett, and William Welsh
Latest
207
Confirmed Heritage Site Impacts
Impact
Damage to Ukrainian Heritage Infrastructure
Published
Sep 15
2022
2 months, 2 weeks
Overview

This report summarizes confirmed impacts to cultural heritage sites due to the conflict in Ukraine between July and August 2022 by the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab (CHML). The methodology for the confirmation process relies on analysis of high-resolution commercial satellite imagery which has been supplied by CHML's partnership with NGA. In total, CHML analysts confirmed conflict-related impacts to 99 cultural sites between 1 July 2022 and 31 August 2022, totaling 207 since 24 February 2022.

The Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab, a partnership between the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, has monitored and recorded impacts to cultural property across Ukraine throughout the ongoing conflict. CHML has utilized the best available technology, practices, and expertise to create a comprehensive cultural database of Ukraine including a vast array of structures, monuments, landscapes, and places of cultural importance.

Activity

When Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, CHML was poised to begin real-time or near real-time monitoring. CHML has adopted two categories, leads and potential impacts, for geolocating open source leads and the exploitation of remote sensing data for identifying potential impacts on heritage sites. Reporting on the potential impact levels can be conducted solely through the use of publicly accessible data, allowing for rapid dissemination of potential impacts to CHML's stakeholders and the wider public. With commercial satellite imagery, potential impacts are then reviewed to determine if they can be confirmed. There is a time lag inherent in the confirmation process due to satellite periodicity, but this lag is a matter of hours or a few days, meaning CHML can typically report confirmed impacts within 72 hours of a kinetic event.

Definitions

Lead: A lead designates an unconfirmed, open source report that a heritage site has been damaged, and is therefore utilized as a starting place rather than as a confirmation. Common leads include social media posts, single-source interviews, and unconfirmed news reports.

Potential Impact: A potential impact is a classification used to designate cultural heritage with possible damage. Sites are classified as “potential impacts” when they are determined to have a moderate-to-high probability of having sustained damage due to direct overlap with, or proximity to, remotely-sensed kinetic activity. Both leads and potential impacts are used as tips for queuing further investigation via satellite imagery (i.e., “tip and queue”).

Confirmed Impact: Leads and potential impacts are re-classified as confirmed impacts when additional, independent lines of intelligence confirm that a site has indeed been impacted. Most impacts are confirmed through the identification of damage in satellite imagery. Other confirmations come from multi-sourced news, social media, or Russian news reports, such as reporting on Russia's seizure of artifacts in the Melitopol Museum.

Methodology

This report is the second in a series of confirmed impact analyses. The data presented here represents analytical confirmations between 1 July and 31 August 2022, and not necessarily the dates of impact. To be clear, the July-August window does not imply that the impacts occurred between these dates, merely that CHML analysts confirmed an impact to a site during this time. All impacts occurred from 24 February 2022 onwards. The figure of 207 confirmed impacts adds the more recent 99 confirmed impacts to the last report's 108 confirmed impacts.

The basis of this research is a 28,000-site GIS database maintained at CHML. CHML is housed at the Virginia Museum of Natural History and monitors cultural heritage destruction around the world in partnership with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. The development of the Ukrainian dataset was initiated in April 2021 in order to identify cultural heritage destruction in eastern Ukraine and Crimea after the Russian annexation of the peninsula in 2014. Initially, the inventory consisted of 26,000 sites, but additional data scrapes and contributions by researchers in the field have contributed to a current inventory of over 28,000 sites. CHML’s geographical dataset recognizes Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders, and thus includes heritage sites in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The research methodology did not include an analysis of damage attribution, and thus the results may include damage caused by either Russian or Ukrainian Armed Forces. This data does not include monuments that were removed by the Ukrainian government, for example, portions of the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People, which were dismantled on 26 April 2022.

CHML's cultural heritage inventory was developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. The categories of historical and cultural spaces that qualify as cultural heritage sites were taken from the Cultural Heritage Site List (CHSL) data standards, developed by the Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) at the University of Pennsylvania Museum (National Science Foundation Grant #1439549). The geographic dataset was derived from open sources, academic publications, gray literature, and the contributions of professional colleagues. New sites are regularly added to the dataset. Nevertheless, there are some notable omissions. CHML's inventory of 28,000 sites does not fully account for all of the cultural heritage sites in Ukraine—in particular, the great number of governmental and educational buildings that are also historic structures. There are also hundreds (if not thousands) of new burial and mass burial sites (from 24 February 2022 onwards) in Ukraine and these have not been added to the inventory.

From February to August 2022, CHML analysts monitored over 28,000 cultural heritage sites in Ukraine using open source research, remote sensing, and high-resolution commercial satellite imagery. The inventory is maintained and visualized in the GIS, with monitoring activities providing inputs to a “site status” field. Monitoring occurred every 48 hours, with the status for each cultural site remaining or shifting between “no impact detected,” “potential impact,” or “confirmed impact.”

Remote fires sensing data released by NASA FIRMS is pulled and overlaid on the cultural inventory GIS layer. Sites in the geographic areas overlapping FIRMS locations are marked as potential impacts. From there, CHML analysts review each potential impact with commercial satellite imagery to identify whether there was any visible damage to the site. Simultaneous research on the open source provides additional reporting of potential impacts via social media and news media. These leads are geolocated so that they can also be queued for confirmation via commercial satellite imagery. Open source leads in particular may document damage to a site that is not visible in commercial satellite imagery, so many of these impacts remain unconfirmed. The conservative nature of CHML’s approach means that confirmations should be taken as a minimum number of actual impacts.

Operational Security Note

Highly detailed and precisely geolocated heritage site data is not included in this study for operational security purposes. However, abstracted and aggregated analyses have value to show broad trends and categories.

New and Updated Total Findings with Charts and Heat Map Visualization

Trends

This new tranche of confirmations generally follows the same patterns observed in the first report of confirmed impacts, with the notable addition of impacts to the Conservatory/Concert Hall category. Thanks to open source reporting concerning impacts to these sites, it was recognized that musical venues were not in CHML’s inventory of heritage sites.

Like the conclusion made in CHML’s first report, analysis of Table 1 suggests that there are inherent resolution problems in the satellite imagery confirmation process. The impacts likely overrepresent larger sites and structures and underrepresent smaller sites, such as memorials and monuments. Damage to sites with a smaller or less visible footprint is less likely to be recognized as such in satellite imagery. The sites will require the use of additional confirmation methods to determine if damage has occurred.

  • Aug. 31, 2022

    Confirmed 207 (Total) Impacts to Cultural Heritage Sites in Ukraine

    From February to August 2022, CHML analysts monitored over 28,000 cultural heritage sites in Ukraine. By 31 August, CHML had confirmed impacts to 207 cultural sites. The conservative nature of CHML’s approach means that confirmations should be taken as a minimum number of actual impacts.
    Source(s):

  • June 30, 2022

    Confirmed 108 Impacts to Cultural Heritage Sites in Ukraine

    From February to June 2022, CHML analysts monitored over 28,000 cultural heritage sites in Ukraine. By 30 June, CHML had confirmed impacts to 108 cultural sites. The conservative nature of CHML’s approach means that confirmations should be taken as a minimum number of actual impacts.
    Source(s):

  • Feb. 24, 2022

    Russia Invades Ukraine

    Russian President Putin announces "special military operation" in Ukraine and Russian military units enter Ukraine from multiple directions.
    Source(s): CNN

Total Confirmed Impacts to Cultural Heritage in Ukraine up to 31 August 2022

Site Type Number of Sites % of Confirmed Impacts
Place of Worship 98 47.3%
Arts Center 26 12.6%
Historic Structure 23 11.1%
Library 17 8.2%
Museum 16 7.7%
Memorial 12 5.8%
Conservatory/Concert Hall 5 2.4%
Monument 5 2.4%
Theater 3 1.4%
Archaeological Site 1 0.5%
Cemetery 1 0.5%
TOTAL: 207 100.0%

Report 1 + Report 2 = 207 (total to date)

Source: CHML

Confirmed Impacts to Cultural Heritage Sites in Ukraine

Updated heat map of confirmed impacts to cultural heritage sites in Ukraine up to 31 August 2022. Please note the new clusters around Odesa, Mykolaiv, Vinnytsia, and Lozova.

Source: CHML

Confirmed Impacts to Cultural Heritage in Ukraine, 1 July to 31 August 2022

Site Type Number of Sites % of Confirmed Impacts
Place of Worship 53 53.5%
Arts Center 14 14.1%
Historic Structure 11 11.1%
Memorial 6 6.1%
Library 6 6.1%
Conservatory/Concert Hall 5 5.1%
Monument 2 2.0%
Museum 2 2.0%
TOTAL: 99 100.0%

New and updated report numbers.

Source: CHML

Confirmed Impacts to Cultural Heritage in Ukraine up to 30 June 2022

Site Type Number of Sites % of Confirmed Impacts
Place of Worship 45 41.7%
Museum 14 13.0%
Historic Structure 12 11.1%
Arts Center 12 11.1%
Library 11 10.2%
Memorial 6 5.6%
Theater 3 2.8%
Monument 3 2.8%
Archaeological Site 1 0.9%
Cemetery 1 0.9%
TOTAL: 108 100.0%

Last (older) Tearline report chart for reference.

Source: CHML

About The Authors

Damian Koropeckyj

CHML, Senior Analyst

Kate Harrell

CHML, Senior Research Associate

Kaitlyn Fitzgerald

CHML, Analyst

Abigail Maher

CHML, Analyst

Hayden Bassett

CHML, Director and Principal Investigator

Madeleine Gunter-Bassett

CHML, Senior Analyst

William Welsh

CHML, Director of Operations

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Methodologies Reviewed by NGA

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