The Ukrainian parliament has backed Kyiv urban activists and archaeologists in a conflict between them and the city administration and a shady investor, having on 5 July voted to grant the archaeological excavations on the Poshtova Ploshcha square in central Kyiv a national status and to create a museum on the spot. The bill stresses that the museum should be authentic and stand on the very spot where the archaeologists had unearthed the occupation earth of the XII ct.
The authors of the bill wrote in the explanatory note that “the main purpose of the museification of the objects being studied on Poshtova Ploshcha is their preservation ‘in situ.’ The state authorities must take care of the construction and future fate of the underground archaeological museum (created specifically on Poshtova Ploshcha). There is no doubt that such a museum, which should desirably occupy all the underground space, will become a place of pilgrimage of Kyivans and guests of the capital.”
According to the bill, the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers should take the necessary measures to ensure that the excavation spot becomes a museum, and the Kyiv city administration received recommendations to inform the public about the state of the museification of the objects to ensure that tensions don’t escalate.
This decision comes during the escalation of a conflict between the team of archaeologists and urban activists and the Kyiv city administration and Hensford-Ukraine, an investor who wants to build a shopping mall beneath the surface of the renovated Poshtova Ploshcha square.
The archaeological excavations conducted over 2014-2017 revealed a part of medieval Kyiv of the XII ct, complete with wooden buildings and what appears to be an ancient warehouse and customs office in the bustling Podil region of the city. Archaeologists and urban activists want to create a museum of ancient streets on this spot, similar to those which exist in Krakow, York, Sofia, and Lund.
If the archaeological excavations go into deeper, older levels, they might shed light on a theory that this very spot is the place where Prince Volodymyr baptised his medieval kingdom, the Kyivan Rus, in 988.
Hensford-Ukraine, an investor with connections to Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who fled the country during the Euromaidan Revolution, proposed a compromise solution where a part of one of the floors of the shopping mall it wants to build would be dedicated to the museum, and a fragment of the excavations would be visible through the glass floor. Activists opposed this option, insisting that the significance of the findings deserves a better solution.
While in April, the Kyiv city council agreed to create a museum, in June it rolled back on its decision and refused to terminate the contract with the investor. Activists launched a protest action which is still ongoing. Activist leader Anabella Morina camped out at the construction site and declared a hunger strike. The activists insist that the archaeological discoveries should not be sent to another place, but that a museum should be created at the excavation site.