At the Latvian Song Festival jubilee, commitments made to help Ukraine protect its cultural heritage


2023 07 10


On Sunday (9 July), Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys attended the 150-year-old Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Riga, where he also met with the ministers of culture of Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine.

Minister Kairys congratulated the Latvians on the occasion, which is an outstanding example of a cultural tradition important to the Baltic countries which survived two world wars and Sovietisation, and which more than three decades ago laid the foundation for the Singing Revolution (1987–1991).

“Today we meet freely in Riga to celebrate this time-honoured Latvian cultural tradition, which together with the Estonian and Lithuanian song and dance festivals has been inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, to make the intangible cultural heritage more visible and encourage dialogue honouring cultural diversity,” Minister Kairys said at the meeting of the ministers. “But a persistent threat to Ukraine’s culture and cultural heritage has arisen, so we have to concentrate international, European and national efforts and instruments to restore, preserve and protect that culture and cultural heritage. Ukraine’s culture and cultural heritage are a part of Europe, the world, and all humanity. Each lost work of Ukrainian culture is a loss for all of us.”

According to Minister Kairys, culture must be included in the mechanisms of support for Ukraine at the level of the European Union, and such support must be better adapted to Ukraine’s needs and become more systematic. Assistance programmes must be easily accessible and understandable to Ukrainians. That will not only help to restore Ukraine, but also strengthen its readiness to join the EU family.

Minister Kairys also suggested implementing an idea that has already been maturing for some time: to make a joint nomination of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine regarding inscription of the celebration of Christmas Eve dinner on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

After their meeting, the ministers of culture of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine signed a joint declaration, once again expressing their common will to restore Ukraine and help preserve its cultural heritage in a coordinated way, taking into consideration the needs set by Ukraine itself and with its participation. The ministers also confirmed the countries’ readiness to continue providing uninterrupted targeted support according to the direct needs identified by Ukraine, to cooperate with Ukraine’s governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as the private sector. In the declaration, a commitment was made to ensure a safe and favourable environment for the communities of Ukrainians who have sought refuge in the Baltic countries and Poland, to enable those communities to protect, use and pass on their intangible cultural heritage. It was also proposed to make joint efforts to establish and finance a European fund for the protection of Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

Photograph courtesy of Oskars Artūrs Upenieks / Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia