Pechersk Lavra museums under threat of Eviction

Irina Sandul

If you want to catch a glimpse of some of Kyiv’s most prominent art museums at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, you may have to hurry.

This summer, the Russian Orthodox Church says it’s going to replace them with, among other things, a hotel for well-off pilgrims.

The Museums of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art and the Museum of Theatric, Musical and Cinematographic Art are under threat of eviction from the Lavra complex. They may need to find new locations or, in the worst-case scenario, be forced to close.

The church, which will control the Lavra with the Ukrainian government’s blessing, says it is returning the territory to religious use.

“What was there on the territory of Lavra first, a monastery or museums?” said Archbishop Pavel from the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, who heads the monastery. “What do you think? Should we let a cinema and a museum of atheism stay here?”

Removing the two museums will allow for construction of a hotel, a residence for Moscow Patriarch Kirill and for monks’ cells. Three other museums, which feature some ecclesiastic collections, including a jewelry museum, will apparently stay open.

Workers for the threatened museums say that new premises haven’t been found and worry that the collections might soon be just packed into boxes.

Art and theatre critics agree that national state museums with no religious background will be better off outside the Lavra. What they fear is that as soon as the museums leave their present housing, the state authorities will soon forget about them.

“Ten years ago authorities evicted the Museum of Kyiv’s History from the Klovsky Palace that now is the seat of the Supreme Court of Ukraine,” said Kira Petoyeva-Leader, a professor from the theater department at Kyiv’s Karpenko-Karogo National University of Theatre, Cinema and Television. “The moving of the museum ended up with its disappearance.”

Here is what you can see while there’s still time:

Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

If you ignore the usual run-down state of the museum, you’ll enjoy a fascinating and unique collection of authentic folk clothes from the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.

The museum also houses a collection of oil paintings by Ukrainian folk artist Kateryna Bilokur. When Pablo Picasso saw three of her paintings at an exhibition in Paris, he is reputed to have said: “Such self-taught geniuses are only born once in 1,000 years. If this woman were our compatriot, we would have made the world talk about her.”

Of the three paintings presented in Paris, two were stolen while crossing the border. Only one, “Kolkhoz Field,” painted in 1948-1949, is still with the museum’s collection.

Another item of great interest is the collection of artist Maria Prymachenko, another famous village folk art painter and a representative of naive art.

The Museum of Theatric, Musical and Cinematographic Art

This museum has been located in the premises of a former monks’ hospital and has been located on the territory of the Lavra since 1927. A must-see is the authentic puppet show booth that dates back to 1770.

Other attention-grabbers are a coffee-maker made in the shape of a steam train and a 19th-century motion-picture projector.

For lovers of Ukrainian folk music instruments, there is a hall with old banduras, Ukrainian string instruments, kozobases, bowed and percussive instruments and trembitas, the Ukrainian alpine horns made of wood.

Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Tuesday.
Tickets: Hr 15.