The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee Wednesday voted 6-1 with 14 abstentions to name the historic center of Odesa, Ukraine a World Heritage Site and a World Heritage in Danger site. The endangered site list includes 55 properties like the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan and the Old City of Jerusalem.
Russia repeatedly tried to delay the vote, alleging that Odesa was under threat by the Ukrainian government itself. Under the terms of the World Heritage Convention, parties cannot deliberately damage the site and have to assist in its protection. Odesa’s inclusion as a World Heritage Site in Danger opens up avenues of financial and technical assistance by the international community. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he was grateful for the protection accorded to the city.
UNESCO has assisted in repairing the Odesa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odesa Museum of Modern Art since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. It also aided in the digitization of art stored in the Odesa State Archives. These measures are part of its $18 million plan to preserve science, education, culture, and civil liberties in Ukraine.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay hailed the decision, saying:
Odesa, a free city, a world city, a legendary port that has left its mark on cinema, literature and the arts, is thus placed under the reinforced protection of the international community. While the war continues, this inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always surmounted global upheavals, is preserved from further destruction
Odesa was founded as a naval harbor by the Russian Empress Catherine II. The city grew to become the fourth-largest in the Russian Empire. It was recognized for its influence on cinema, literature, and the arts.