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former Soviet Union

Author evilweevil
#1 | Posted: 12 Sep 2011 09:16 
I played around a bit with adding up all sites in the former USSR, and it comes to a total of 51 complete sites (as well as parts of 4 others - Bialowieza, Carpathian Beech Forests, Struve Arc, Uvs Nuur). If it were one country today, it would have the most WHS in the world (Italy has 44 complete and 3 shared sites). Maybe add a "Located in the former USSR" connection?

- Armenia: 3
- Azerbaijan: 2
- Belarus: 2
- Estonia: 1
- Georgia: 3
- Kazakhstan: 3
- Kyrgyzstan: 1
- Latvia: 1
- Lithuania: 2.5
- Russia: 21.5
- Tajikistan: 1
- Turkmenistan: 3
- Ukraine: 3
- Uzbekistan: 4

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 12 Sep 2011 16:44 | Edited by: Solivagant 
It could be interesting to ruminate on how many (and which!) of these might have gained inscription if the USSR had continued. It didn't ratify the convention until 12 Oct 1988. Note that the Ukrainian and Belarussian SSRs ALSO ratified the convention then, reflecting the fact that they were both regarded by UN as full "States Parties" SEPARATE from USSR this "fiction" being a sop to Stalin to get him to accept the creation of the UN! Although none of them was at the Dec 1988 WHC, the 13th WHC in Dec 1989 had "observers " from USSR, Ukraine and Belarus SSRs present.

The first relevant nominations are dated (all 1989)
Kiev 30 May. So, first off the mark was the "Ukrainian SSR"!!
Leningrad 17 Oct
Kizhi 17 Oct
Itchan Kala 17 Oct
Kremlin/Red Sq 24 Oct. The AB eval notes that no nominations were possible before a States Party ratifies the convention and commented that "The proposal to include the Kremlin and Red Square, submitted on 24 October 1989 by the Soviet ambassador to UNESCO, allows us to fill in one of the most notable gaps.".

All were inscribed in Dec 1990 4 for USSR and 1 for Ukrainian SSR!

At the 1991 WHC in Carthage 9/13 Dec, there was no-one present from the "SSRs". They obviously had other matters on their mind!! Estonia/Lithuania and Latvia had "escaped" in Sept 1991 and the USSR was dissolved on Dec 25 after a secret agreement 3 days earlier by ..... the Presidents of the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian SSRs. However there were 2 nominations before the WHC for Novgorod and Bukhara!! The minutes merely state that the nominations were not considered because "the Bureau had decided to defer their examination"! In fact the Bureau meeting in Paris 17-22 June notes the nomination by USSR of Samarkand and Riga as well as Bukhara and Novgorod. It isn't clear how these other 2 "disappeared" from the agenda between the June Bureau and the Dec WHC but, looking at the history of all 4 :-
The AB evaluation for its re-nomination in 1992 is a revamp of that deferred in 1991 and states "In 1991 the ... Bureau followed ICOMOS in recommending inscription of this property, but requested a reformulation of the title of the nomination. It was felt that "Historic Monuments of Novgorod" would be preferable to "Historic Centre of Novgorod". A topographical plan ..... was also requested." These were both provided on Oct 11 but this still didn't prevent the deferral. The Bureau meeting papers a year later in July 1992 also indicate a further "deferral" but that issue seems to have been resolved by the time of the 1992 WHC
The AB evaluation of this site for its successful nomination by independent Uzbekistan in Dec 1993 recommending inscription is dated "Oct 1993" by ICOMOS but commences with a date of 4 Oct 1990 and includes a conclusion dated 1991, left over from that earlier nomination by USSR "Even if the monuments of Bukhara are not among the most famous of this geo-cultural area, the old town bears strong witness to the urbanism and architecture of the Cheibanide period, despite some recent deterioration in the integrity of its historic fabric due to overly rapid modernization". This, by a John Warren , "ICOMOS professional and lifelong conservation consultant in the lslamic world, (who) undertook this mission in the period between November 20-28, 1991." It certainly looks therefore as if ICOMOS were ready to recommend inscription for 1991
The AB evaluation for its later re-nomination by Uzbekistan in 2001 states "The site of Uzbekistan was first proposed for nomination in 1990, but it was deferred because some major monuments had not been included in the proposal. The site was again proposed in 1991, and the Bureau again deferred consideration, proposing that only Muslim monuments be included in the proposal." It would very be interesting to know which "non Muslim" monuments were present in that earlier nomination!! Perhaps the Soviet opera house or statues of Lenin?
The AB evaluation for its successful nomination by Latvia in 1997 makes absolutely no mention of its earlier nomination by USSR in 1990.

At the 1992 WHC in Santa Fe between 7th and 14th Dec, Russia alone was present but the following nominations were inscribed for
Solovetsky Islands
Vladimir and Suzdal
Belovezhskaya Pushcha State National Park - inscribed as an extension to the Polish section originally inscribed in 1979
Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve - rejected
Mir Castle - deferred.

A look at the 6-9 July 1992 Bureau papers however identifies that nominations were also made for
The Historic Monuments of Suzdal and Kideksha
The Architectural, Archaeological and Natural Complex of Kolomenskoye

Again looking at the documentation for each (other than those reviewed above under 1991)
Solovetsky Islands
The AB evaluation shows the date of the nomination as Oct 1991 ie. Before the demise of the USSR
Vladimir and Suzdal
Again this nomination had been put together by Oct 1991. At the Bureau meeting it was just identified as "The White Monuments of Suzdal" and it appears that the Bureau asked for a new proposal with the monuments of Suzdal and Vladimir to be considered as "an ensemble" wisely Russia did this!
Mir Castle
The original nomination document and AB review isn't available, but the AB evaluation for the successful nomination in 2000 is dated 1 Oct 1991 - i.e a "Soviet-era" nomination made by the Belarussian SSR. There appears however to have been some sort of spat between the newly created Belarussian government which didn't agree with the ICOMOS conclusion that Mir didn't have adequate OUV and had doubtful authenticity! Although the nomination is recorded in the section "The Bureau did not recommend" it appears that Belarus must somehow have got it recorded as a deferral rather than a rejection! As an independent country Belarus possibly got an "assist" from UNESCO on Mir when it successfully re-nominated it?
Berzhinsky Biosphere Reserve
Recorded as not meeting the criteria for inscription. It hasn't been heard of since and isn't on the Belarus T List
The AB evaluation for the successful nomination in 1994 states "The original nomination of the entire Kolomenskoye estate was evaluated by ICOMOS in 1992. ....It was not judged necessary to send an evaluation mission for the revised nomination in 1994". So this also was initially a "Soviet era" nomination prepared for the 1992 WHC but withdrawn for a revamp which significantly cut down the scope to the Church of the Ascension alone.

So, despite a late start on "World Heritage" at end 1988, it appears that the USSR, Ukrainian SSR and Belarus SSR had made quite a lot of progress by the time of their respective demises in Dec 1991 with activity on 14 sites (of which only Berzhinsky has failed completely!) Though a number of the sites which had been worked up by that time had to wait a few more years for the resolution of issues holding up inscription, they were still, at heart, "Soviet" nominations.
Activity extended to Uzbekistan on the form of Itchan Kala, Bukhara and Samarkand but not apparently to any of the other Asian SSRs which have since had success as independent countries. It would certainly seem unlikely that the Stans would have got as many inscriptions as part of the USSR, both because they wouldn't have had help from the UNESCO desire to represent as many countries as possible but also because the USSR would probably not have pushed non-iconic Islamic sites like Sulamain or potentially "nationalist" sites like Shakhrisyabz. On the other hand, the USSR would surely have pursued the same policy of trying to get at least 1 inscription for each of its "SSRs" as Spain etc do for their provinces and is unlikely to have been less "agressive" than China in pushing for as many sites as possible within what UNESCO would allow? But the Caucasus states perhaps wouldn't have got all those different churches in Armenia/Georgia? In the 3 Baltic SSRs, the USSR had made a start on nominating Riga but those states now have 8 inscribed sites between them. One can't imagine that the USSR wouldn't also have developed a fair number of these but whether UNESCO would have been prepared to inscribed each of the capitals..... I suspect not! Ukraine and Belarus have perhaps each gained at least 1 site which they might not have as part of USSR despite their supposed "independence" (Mir or Nesvizh and the Metropolitans?). A bigger constraint on inscriptions might have been the "2 nominations pa" rule introduced in 2006 - but Ukraine/Belarus were outside this of course and in no year since has the "Former USSR" exceeded that number of inscriptions - though , possibly, for Nominations.

And, as for Russia itself??? Well it has inscribed a further 17 sites beyond those started in Soviet times but few of these are at the "weak" end and there is little reason to think that they wouldn't/couldn't also have been nominated by USSR? But would a "Soviet" government really have chosen the same sites? It is interesting that the Solovetsky Islands were chosen in the latter days of the Soviet Union despite (or even because of??) their Gulag history. Possibly a Soviet government might have chosen to push ahead with some of "Soviet" architecture and planning eg Minsk and maybe even the Moscow Metro (a couple of stations??) or the Bratsk Dam(!!!). Possibly it might even have tried the "Mother Russia memorial in "Stalingrad" after all if USA can have the statue of Liberty and Independence Hall? But, in the end, doing a review like this just makes one realise just how much the World has changed since 1991, and the difficulty of imagining what it might have been like if the USSR had continued

Author evilweevil
#3 | Posted: 18 Sep 2011 06:26 
Thanks for replying, this is very interesting. I just find it fascinating to see how immense this country actually was and many regions and cultures it encompassed - from the Hanseatic cities in the Baltics to the Silk Road, the Arctic Circle, and the Pacific. But yes, of course we don't know which sites would have been nominated by a central Soviet government in the past 20 years.

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