Authors: Uladzimir Matskevich, Ihar Rakhanski


In this chapter we’ll discuss the contents of the notion “Heritage” and the meaning of our work with it


  1. Heritage as a process
  2. Time needed to apperceive the value
  3. Evolution of the notion “value”
  4. Paradoxes and irony of valorizing an object
  5. The subjective in the contents of heritage
  6. An object of heritage – an object of action
  7. Heterogeneity of the social subjective attitude towards heritage
  8. Relations of ownership concerning heritage
  9. Social conflicts in the field of heritage
  10. A monument as the key notion of heritage
  11. A cycle of life of a monument is a story of receiving its value
  12. The past, the present, and the future


It is difficult to define heritage with the help of a historical formation or an event only. On the contrary – heritage is a process during which people use the past as a «discursive construct» with material consequences[1]. Therefore, as a characteristic of society, it is ubiquitous, part of the dynamics of power, and connected closely with the construction of identity at both societal and personal levels.

Within the framework of the project «CHOICE: Cultural Heritage – Opportunity for Civic Engagement», there was a certain evolution of the understanding (perceptions) of the notion “heritage” among both participants and organizers. During the joint work and two-year communication, all of us have walked a difficult mental activity-oriented way:

  • from heritage as a sum of properties of a concrete monument;
  • through heritage formed by the territory of a significant site;
  • through heritage used as a product for tourism;
  • to the promotion of heritage so as local communities could appropriate it;
  • to the implementation of complex socio-cultural projects in concrete cities and settlements;
  • and, at last, to the process of mediation of the cultural policy in our countries.

On this way, we have changed the focus of our attention from narrow-subject and disciplinary forms and perceptions of heritage to “interdisciplinarity”, and then – from the protection of “monuments” and “significant sites” to the interpretation of “elements” and “connections” of heritage[2].

We have tried to broaden the time range of perceptions of heritage in the post-communist countries by supplementing the well-known and obvious practices in the field of heritage in the present, the historical experience of treating heritage in the past, and the comprehension of heritage as a resource for the future[3].

We hope that the deeper understanding of heritage will allow us to leave the perception of it as a simple set of problems that need to be solved here and now. It will serve as a tool for future discussions on national identity, power and authority in society, not only at the level of our countries, but also on European communication platforms.

«Heritage is not a thing; it does not exist of its own accord». It is difficult (or impossible at all) to define heritage with the help of categories of academic disciplines. The exact scientific data, historical chronologies, correct formulations of events, and direct citations have little in common even with collective memory, let alone the influence of this knowledge on social behavior and social relations. Both are regulated by culture, and culture is based in many respects on «fundamental values».

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People appreciate the new and the old in different ways. The new rejoices us; we take care of it; we protect and increase it. Then, when the novelty has worn off, our interest fades away – something that is not new anymore loses its value in our eyes – but only until it becomes old. After a certain period of time, the «mold of time» and «patina of time» provide things and phenomena with new values. “Antiques”, “rarities”, “retro”, “vintage” – the abundance of specific definitions in different languages attests a particular interest in subjects that became old. In some enigmatic way, they receive new values in the eyes of people. Moreover, this added value is absolutely not necessarily connected with utilitarian properties of new objects!

Time is successive and continuous, but an imprint of time on things and phenomena creates a chronological gap in their perception. All things and phenomena in the world have three absolutely different conditions – new, old, and intermediate. We appreciate new and old, although in different ways, but we do not quite often notice betwixt and between. This very intermediate period of things and phenomena in our eyes and in our attitude is the reason why something new, which has become old, frequently becomes useless as well. “Useless” in the sense that it cannot be used in the utilitarian way any longer to perform the functions it is supposed to, i.e. it is not able to independently exist without our care and protection. With no care and protection, it not just becomes old, but deteriorates and disappears.

Still, values per se – in their ideal modus of existence – are not influenced by time. Time, entropy, ageing, decay, and disappearance threaten not values, but the material or informational embodiments of values.

We appreciate beauty, but beautiful things crumble away and the beautiful body withers. We appreciate wisdom, but books where it is written dilapidate; texts and even languages that pronounce it become forgotten. Values are imperishable, while embodiments of values, on the contrary, are short-lived.

Therefore, analytically, we have to treat separately values that define our behavior, life, and activity, and separately the material and informational carriers – the embodiments of these values.

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We basically sip contemporary knowledge of values from the philosophy of Neo-Kantianism of the 19th century. There is a special philosophical discipline which subject is values – axiology. Still, values were discussed by ancient philosophers, too.

The Cynics in ancient Athens liked to use Diogenes’ metaphor of “recoinage”.

This metaphor means that values can change. People can appreciate this or that, and the purpose of philosophizing can be a search for and detection of something that can and should be valued and something that can and should be depreciated. Thus, for naive consciousness, riches are an unconditional value, but the Cynics taught that health and happiness cannot be replaced with riches and that the values of health and happiness cannot be bought. They taught that water and wine are equally tasty (or equally insipid) irrespective of whether you drink them from gold plate or from a wooden cup.

Biblical texts say that the main values are faith, hope, and love, adding wisdom to them later.

Feudal or tribal societies are based on the values of valor and honor.

Christian theologians practiced for a long time the dualistic perception of values and of the axiological structure of consciousness, both individual and public – it is possible to serve either God, or the devil. It is possible to appreciate the spiritual, the divine, the heavenly, and it is possible to worship Mammon (riches and carnal pleasures).

To complete the picture, it is possible to recall the doctrines of the Stoics, the Cyrenaics-hedonists, as well as skeptics who preached “apatheia” and “ataraxia” – such an attitude to the world that excludes any attachment to values as such, because when one loses values he/she suffers. However, the Stoics considered apathy (equanimity) and ataraxy (the absence of passions) to be values.

It is possible to consider for a long time the values in Oriental religions, philosophies, and types of world outlook. It is usually thought that Oriental cultures are more traditional and conservative than the European one. Probably, they are indeed, but all cultures are changeful. Traditional societies appreciate the old in a greater degree. An open society is open to the new in a greater degree. Still, innovations and inventions were created in Oriental cultures not less often than in European culture, e.g. gunpowder, compass, paper and paper print invented in China, Arabian mathematics… The fact that Europe picked up the Oriental inventions and started to use them widely can be an argument proving the Western civilization’s orientation on the values of the new. However, this orientation is not absolute and not unconditional. Japan in the early 20th century and today’s China demonstrate their high susceptibility to innovations and use the European inventions sometimes more effectively than the Europeans themselves.

During different epochs, cultures treat the new and the old in different ways. Each culture and civilization has periods of “renovations” and “conservations” – orientations to progress and orientations to preserve and cultivate traditions. In his theory of ethnogenesis, Lev Gumilyov[4] specificates various stages of passionarity. During the first stage, an active, aggressive, and creative generation refuses the past, the traditions and habits of ancestors, performs exploits, creates, and acts heroically. During the following stage, they are replaced with a quieter generation that does not act heroically, but honors the predecessors’ heroism; their activity reveals not in conquests, social revolutions, but in culture, cultural creativity, which immortalizes the achievements of their aggressive and active forefathers. When the passionarity potential becomes depleted, there comes a generations that is not able at all to make revolutions; they have lost not only their bellicosity, but also their creative enthusiasm. They are only eager to preserve the memory of the “heroic” and “creative” generations.

It is not necessary to apply Gumilyov’s theory to all historical epochs and all cultures and civilizations. Still, it is impossible to ignore the contradistinctions and oppositely directed positions of public consciousness and tenets during various epochs.

Time comes, and some peoples and civilizations start to categorically repudiate the past: “We shall build our own new world!” The building material for the construction of the “new world” can only be the things accumulated by previous generations. However, these accumulated things lose their value in the eyes of builders who construct something new. At best, the old is simply forgotten and disregarded; in the worst case scenario – it is destroyed in order to make room for something new.

It was done by the triumphing Christians who destroyed heathen temples and sacred sites, reconstructed them at their own convenience, annihilated the idols of old religions and together with them – numerous works of art of ancient civilizations. People did it not only with material heritage, but also with myths, legends, rituals, and national traditions. The former gods became demons. The former values were depreciated, turned into something sinful, or filled with new meanings.

The “progressors” of the Great French Revolution behaved in the same way. In a greater degree – the Bolsheviks after 1917. According to the Bolsheviks, in order to build socialism, it was necessary to demolish everything that had to do with the past: “We shall renounce the old world; we shall shake off its ashes from our feet”. Temples and palaces, rituals, songs, and even children’s traditional names became ashes. All those had to be “shaken off from feet” because “We shall build our own new world!”

It is possible to attribute such periods to the ideology of the Bolsheviks or the radical Jacobins, but many other nations had such periods in their history. It is necessary to remember the catastrophe of China’s “Cultural revolution” and it is possible to recall the globalist crush on disposables and short-lived buildings in the 20th century.

Epochs of progressors’ “Sturm und Drang” were replaced with a crush on olden times. The Romanticists of the 18th century opened for themselves the Gothic style considered barbarous architecture during Classicism. They started to collect legends and folklore, having found out beauty in them, and made the things their predecessors had considered “low genres” valuable. The periods of revolutions are replaced with the restoration periods. Restoration – in the widest meaning of this word. Not only old social relations and order, but also the material heritage of former times, are restored. Together with the restoration of social relations and material objects, there comes «revalorization» – revaluation of values.

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It would be an illusion to think that revalorization is a restoration of values. Even when conservatives proclaim a return to former values, they change these values and fill them with other meanings. More often do they simply apply a value to something that was usual, ordinary, and not appreciated earlier. “Adventures” of values in the processes of revalorization are very interesting and diverse. Every concrete case can become a plot for a work of art or a topic for scientific research. We will illustrate it on the examples of sacralization of ordinary things that were turned into Christian relics.

Hardly did Roman legionaries, while making a cross for the execution of a group of criminals, think that these usual logs would ever be looked for by the mother of the emperor and that their flinders would become sacred relics.

And those who were buying a canvas for a dead man’s shroud bargained for it as it was just a usual canvas and did not care of the safety of the Turin Shroud. Even if these relics were specially made by falsifiers of improvised materials, they were the embodiments of values that already existed in human imagination.

When Christ’s pupils, who came to the Last Supper, searched for a cup to drink some wine together with the Teacher, they sought for a usual cup they would easily forget after the Last Supper. The pupils could forget. The cup could get lost somewhere in Jerusalem. After the lapse of centuries, archeologists could dig it out and present it in a museum. In this case, the cup will possess some value as a museum piece. But quite another thing is the Holy Grail. It is the same cup, but now it is a legendary cup with the ultra-value. Lots of different fakes were presented as the Holy Grail. But if these fakes are accompanied by a certain fascinating legend, they keep their value even when the legend is discredited and falsifications are proved. And if splinters of the real cup Jesus and his pupils used are found by someone and not identified as the Holy Grail, nobody will ever know about it, while the Holy Grail remains valuable regardless of the fact that its material embodiment is not found, that it has been looked for during many centuries and will be searched for in the future.

The Holy Grail is the value that has no material embodiment and none of material objects can be declared to be the real Grail. And vice versa – there can be material objects that are not declared values.

It happens to many museum pieces and monuments. During some moment of their existence, they are declared to be values and society starts to treat them differently. There happens valorization of an object.

Does it mean that before that this object had no value status? Yes, it may be, but it is necessary to determine it in each specific case.

For this purpose, it is necessary to understand the structure of values in their ontological life and genesis, i.e. in the course of their existence, during different periods and stages of their existence in the status of values or in any other status.

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The value of a material object is a dependent characteristic – it requires the presence of a concrete person or a collective subject that provides this object with the axiological contents. An object can become valuable in the eyes of a person, in his/her consciousness. Therefore, the value as a subject matter of analysis, as an object human activity is aimed at, has double nature:

A material component of the value: a natural phenomenon or an object, a thing, an artifact, a trace, a text, etc. The basis of objects of non-material heritage is information: songs, myths, wise thoughts of classics, precepts, recipes, and know- how;
An imaginary component of the value: people’s attitude towards material and informational objects.

This duality of the value can be considered as a unity of contrasts: objective and subjective. Still, where there is a unity of contrasts, there is their struggle, or contradictions, too, – contradictions between the objective part of values and their subjective part and contradictions inside the objective and subjective parts.

Fig. 1. Thing and Imagination

Objects of dual nature (such objects are sometimes called centaurs-objects) are always difficult to analyze. Frequently, during their analysis, there appear false problems and paradoxes. E.g. the «problem of antecedence» (what is primary in values – their material or imaginary?). The fallaciousness of this problem has been proved many times – this question can have no answer if it is asked in this way. The psychologism error in the analysis of centaurs-objects is less obvious. The imaginary part of values is identified with certain mental phenomena and processes; one tries to search for correlates of material things in mental phenomena.

The subjective part of values per se has difficult nature. Everything that we can see, hear, or perceive in the world around by other sense organs is treated by us in two ways – a priori and a posteriori.

Any act of perception is regulated by mindsets and presuppositions. This is what defines our perception prior to the act itself. Thus, different colors, figures, sounds, and smells have their aprioristic values. In different cultures, the color of mourning and grief can differ from other cultures – somewhere the color of mourning is white and somewhere – black. The Soviet and Chinese children have a positive attitude towards the red color, whereas in other cultures this color can be perceived as a bad omen.

When we go to a museum, we are ready for special perception of exhibits, usual things, which we would not pay any attention to in other situations, – the violin used by the fictitious Sherlock Holmes or a goose-quill taken out from a bird one year ago, which now is on Schiller’s table.

The aprioristic part of the subjective part of values is set by culture, i.e. semiotics and semantics of signs, which was taught to people and which formed their memory, imagination, tenets of perception, and thinking. There is nothing in the world, for perception of which we would not be ready to a greater or lesser degree. We are prepared thanks to our education, the books we have read, and our previous experience. However, this circumstance also has the reverse side – there is no object, monument, or artifact, for perception of which it is not necessary to prepare a person.

Everybody has seen ill-bred children’s behavior in museums. Well, children are children. Another thing is the attitude of adults and active people towards monuments. Recently, in Belarus, we have two vivid examples.

The first example is the Kurapaty memorial in Minsk. This is a place (a forest) where victims of Stalin’s repressions were killed and buried. A huge part of society, in which memory the events of 1937 are not put and which attitude towards the repressions is not formed, simply cannot treat this place as a memorial, a monument. For the other part of society, on the contrary, this place is filled with almost a sacral sense. Therefore, one part without any ulterior motive utilizes this unique place (inhabitants of the neighboring areas try to organize picnics in this wood; officials give building licenses); the others painfully perceive even innocent approaches of extraneous people to the memorial.

The other example is quite ironic. In the center of Minsk, there is a sculpture of a conditional policeman, a usual city sculpture of a purely decorative value; there are a lot of such small architectural forms in any modern city. But this very sculpture is near the Ministry of Internal Affairs – therefore, police officers suddenly began to treat it as if a sacral symbol and a usual easy attitude of townspeople towards this object is now perceived by policemen as defilement of honor and pride of the police.

The second example illustrates one more paradox of values –

the status of value can be received by any object a priori, simply due to the fact that it is said to be having the value.

Thus, a priori, all works of recognized artists and masters are considered valuable, irrespective of what their creators themselves think about them. It is especially vivid in the attitude towards children’s creativity. In days of old, all children’s drawings were just scribbles of no value. Humanistic pedagogics aimed at liberating abilities, as it believes that they are initially inherent in the child, has changed the attitude to children’s drawings. Nowadays, any drawing of a one-year-old child can be presented during an exhibition; parents and teachers keep all children’s sheets of paper soiled by pencils and paints. It is amusing that this attitude towards children’s drawings cannot be transferred to children’s music-making. It is possible to present children’s scribbles on a sheet of paper as a creative act, but it is impossible to do so with a kid’s artless tweedle or cheerful knocking on piano keys, although the manifestations of children’s temperament and thirst for self-expression in both cases are of the same origin.

The a posteriori part of the subjective attitude consists of the impressions caused by a person’s meeting with objects of culture, values, and artifacts, on the one hand, and of the results of his/her research work and critical attitude towards these objects, on the other hand.

A person’s impression of his/her meeting with a monument or an object of a cultural value is always composite. It is formed not only and not so much by an object he/she sees, but also by the context, the people who are near at this moment, the situation prior to this meeting, and many other factors, including his/her physiological condition and weather conditions. Still, this impression remains in his/her memory and makes a basis of the person’s individual attitude towards the object.

The research and critical attitude towards an object of culture is the domain of, first of all, professionals, but sometimes they can influence the attitude of the public, people’s perception. Authenticity, distinctions of originals, copies, and fakes, discrepancies between legends and myths and historical facts, and difficulties of historical interpretations are important for professionals. Critics’ results of research work, investigations and studies make direct and indirect impacts on values and people’s attitudes towards their material embodiments. Therefore, besides the value structure as such, it is necessary to analyze the activity-oriented attitude, the work and manipulations with values.

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Values are a subject of the activity-oriented attitudes. There are things that can be done with them, and something cannot be done.

Let’s consider in the most general terms the activity-oriented attitude towards values. The elementary perceptions of it are the following: a person’s action aimed at a certain material (or informational) object is defined by the way this person treats this material object, his/her memory, imagination, and thinking.

Still, such perceptions of it are not full as they do not reflect the actual work with values and ignore the subjective part of the structure of the value.

Fig. 2 From the imagination to a material value carrier: the intentionality of values

To receive the complete understanding of the activity-oriented attitude, one has to consider not only the work with the material aspect of values, but also with the subjective part, imagination, human and social attitude towards material objects, the value itself. Then, the object of the activity-oriented attitude towards values is:

  • Person / people;
  • Consciousness, memory, imagination;
  • Actions and acts of people in relation to material or informational embodiments of values;
  • Material and informational objects themselves.

It does not mean at all that it is necessary to get inside a person’s consciousness or mentality. The activity-oriented attitude towards people means a selection of personnel, work with stakeholders, beneficiaries, local and professional communities.

While working with consciousness and imagination, we speak about the creation of images and meanings that can be perceived and acquired by people, literary and art works that form people’s attitude towards something, and their tenets and basic beliefs (presuppositions) that cause their reactions and are fixed in the memory of communities and generations.

While working with actions and acts of people, we speak about the standards and specifications of professional work, the rules and norms of exhibiting (possible or impossible to touch), and legal acts.

Fig. 3 Value as a humanitarian object: work with a double nature of value

The variety of actions concerning values can be schematized, standardized, and normalized; something can be forbidden; something can be allowed; regulated; the freedom of creativity and self-expression can be allowed. Still, first of all, it is necessary to just list, at least, the basic part of what it is possible to do with values:

  • To keep, accumulate, hide, protect;
  • To exchange for other values, to sell, buy, convert;
  • To capitalize, restore, update;
  • To forge, simulate, feign etc.;
  • To “pile up” the value, to make sacral, overestimate, reconsider, reinterpret;
  • To exhibit, to be proud of, admire;
  • To destroy, modernize, profane, diabolize, desecrate;
  • To broadcast in upbringing and education, duplicate, copy, multiply, to create secondary values on the basis of samples and prototypes;
  • To forget, depreciate.

People do all of this with values. Therefore, values are dynamic – they never remain the same; they change in time, in space, and in the way of action.

Here, there are both positive and negative actions. Someone keeps material and informational embodiments of values, and someone squanders and destroys them. That is, the activity-oriented attitude towards values per se can be considered from the position of values. Actions and acts have an axiological expression. Some actions are more axiological than others; something is absolutely not axiological, and something can have a negative value.

It would be very good if it were possible – by means of laws or ethical and moral standards – to allow creative actions and acts and to forbid the destructive ones. But it is impossible because values are involved in economics; they are an integral part of people’s life area and the life cycle of objects of heritage, which do not always coincide.

Let’s imagine that the honoring of ancestors and everything that is connected with them is so valuable and significant that any destruction of monuments to ancestors is forbidden. How much space on civilized territories would be covered by cemeteries? In many places the dead are buried by breaking older burial places. Thus, not only the dead are buried, but burial places as well.

Burial places, recycling, destruction are indispensable companions of creation. Culture, manufacture, creativity are inconceivable without the recycling and burying of the obsolete. Not everything that is created has an unconditional value, and not everything that has to be buried and destructed loses its value.

Different people can absolutely differently provide both material and informational embodiments and creative and destructive actions with values. Such is the inconsistent nature of values and, first of all, the subjective part of values.

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One of the main contradictions of the subjective part of values is the presence in society of many consciousnesses with different attitudes towards values.

The subjective attitude towards values is defined by the fact who possesses the value or what exactly these or those subjects appreciate in material carriers. If something is needed by the subject as it is the value, his/her subjective attitude is of one kind and if something is considered the value by the OTHER – the subjective attitude towards the value is already defined by his/her attitude towards this OTHER.

Thus, the things appreciated by the enemy can be defiled or destructed in case the material object is owned by the subject. It explains the acts of vandalism or defilement of relics of other religions or heretics. Such is the destiny of the Buddhistic sculptures in Afghanistan and monuments in Palmira.

If something that is appreciated by the subject is owned by the Other, it can cause not only a desire to buy or exchange, but also the feeling of envy, enmity, and aggression. Jerusalem with its centuries-long wars, or Kosovo – the sacral value for the Serbs, can be typical examples of such an attitude.

For this very reason, it is impossible to consider the variety of attitudes towards values without the variety of relations of ownership, possession, use, appropriation, alienation, and communization.

Relations of ownership require specifications of categories of consciousness, the subject, and subjectness.

If in the beginning we understand consciousness as the consciousness of an individual subject, then – while considering the relations of ownership – the subject acts as a participant of the relation. Participants of the relations of ownership can be people (carriers of individual consciousness) and legal entities (collective owners – carriers of public consciousness). Strictly speaking, in the relations of ownership, physical persons are only a subvariety of legal entities (carriers of collective or public consciousness). Therefore, hereinafter, we shall treat all notions and categories connected with consciousness, subjectivity, imagination, and the activity-oriented attitude in this way – as belonging to legal entities, collectives, and communities, but not to a person. More precisely, they belong not so much to a person, but rather to the subject that has the status of judicial personality, that owns property in this or that kind, and that makes these or those actions concerning values.

Whatever the subject is, individual or collective, it has the subjective attitude to the world and, accordingly, to values.

“Subjective” in this case means not just opposition to the objective, but first of all the unilateral (the more so as the attitude is always subjective; objective is the being of the thing in relation to which an attitude appears). As subjectness presupposes the presence of always more than one subject, all in the world, including values, is given to any subject from one side that differs from what is given to another subject from its side.

The subjective approach (various subjects’ view on the same thing from different positions) to values generates a lot of axiological problems, tensions, difficulties, and conflicts. The most part of these conflicts is in the field of property, possession, and the use of values. Relations of ownership are defined by the law – they have a legal basis.

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The proprietary right can be primary or unconditional and secondary, conditioned by certain legal actions and procedures.

How does the primary proprietary right appear? We can admit that in today’s world it is almost impossible to define the primary proprietary right; almost any property in the contemporary world is either secondary, or distributed between subjects of different levels. The exception is only the author’s property, or the property of the founder and the creator. Still, it is only until the author’s work is recognized the public value. Also, the author’s property is often distributed between the founder-creator and the orderer, the investor or the institution. Copyrights can be alienated and transferred. In the areas where we deal with values, we, as a rule, face the property conditioned by various circumstances, specifications, and conventions. Besides the fact that the property on values is distributed between various subjects, it is also distributed in time. The property passes from hand to hand, and the cycle of life of values is longer than the life and existence of owners, both people and organizations and institutions. Therefore, in today’s world, the most part of property comes into the hands of subjects as a result of inheriting.

The inheriting of property with the status of value does not exclude all the things it is possible to do with property: to sell or buy, to exchange, alienate, divide, etc.

Of course, the inheriting is regulated by the law, and to perform certain procedures is required in order to have the right to inherit. It is also possible to refuse the right to inherit. These procedures are needed to protect property so that it would not be challenged by other subjects.

The very notion “inheriting”, although it is the basis of the unconditional property (because an heir can be a casual subject who did nothing to inherit this property), it presupposes that something with a potential value can belong to nobody or to belong to nobody, at least, during a certain period of time.

Without plunging into questions of the law of succession, its legal side, and remaining within the framework of our topic, we should distinguish between, at least, three notions: legacy (in Russian наследство), heritage (in Russian наследие), and inheritance (in Russian достояние).

Legacy is the property that passes from one owner to another (a person or a legal entity) in conformity with the accepted procedure.

Heritage is the property distributed between several owners in different proportions, with different rights to use, possess, and manage. Moreover, the category “heritage” presupposes that amorphous owners, who have no status of a person or a legal entity and no judicial personality, can apply to use, possess, and manage, e.g., communities of fans of olden times, groups of interests, artists, researchers. Typical examples of heritage are public places: parks, castles, monuments, architectural ensembles… up to facades of houses where windows and balconies belong to private people who live in apartments, but the whole appearance of houses is an element of public space, which is regulated by other users.

Inheritance (public, national, corporate, etc.) can become any property (private, collective, state, or municipal) valuable for a wider range of subjects and communities than for its direct owners or those who would like to use, possess, and manage it. Thus, owners of buildings, e.g. church communities, establishments, private persons are limited in their possibilities to use the property if the building is declared a monument or if society considers this building public property

The law of succession is indifferent to the value of what is an inheritance subject. Any property can be inherited – from unnecessary stuff to works of art, historical monuments, and religious relics. Something that became private property as a result of inheritance belongs to the owner until it is declared inheritance of a wider circle of interested people. Thus, many castles in Western Europe, which are private property of hereditary aristocracy, can be visited several days per week. At the same time, artifacts, e.g. paintings of the highest art value, can remain in the full possession of private collectors.

The situation becomes complicated when owners are changed as a result of sales or expropriation. The terms of sale can be interfered with by other subjects interested in national inheritance, and the property with rights of using, possessing, and managing can be limited by a number of conditions.

The basic problem with heritage is that the objects, things, and monuments recognized as heritage of several subjects (persons, legal entities, or communities) are to some extent socialized. They can be nationalized completely, become municipal property or collective property of several legal entities.

The right to manage heritage is given to state structures (the Ministry of Culture) or public structures (NGOs, expert structures, research or scientific institutions). The right to use can be given to professional groups (archivists, art critics, historians, archeologists), contract organizations of builders or restorers, and, in case of exhibiting, tourists and the general public.

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The difficult and intricate relations of ownership on objects valuable for various subjects and social groups lead inevitably to misunderstanding, problems, and conflicts.

Conflicts can be as follows:

– The conflict of ownership and possession:

Various subjects and communities can claim their proprietary rights to an object. Thus, the land can be owned by one subject and the buildings on it – by another one. An object, which is private property, can be taken under protection by the state.

– The conflict of interests:

An object, which is in private, municipal, or state ownership, can be of exclusive interest for another subject who has no proprietary rights. E.g. former religious buildings, icons, sources that are of interest for the church, for different religious groups. A building site of a private builder can be of interest for archeologists. A person’s archive can be of interest for the police or a professional community.

– The conflict of values:

One and the same monument with a long history, in different periods of time, can be of interest for various professional, religious, or national communities. Thus, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or the Calvinistic Cathedral in Zasłaŭje (given to the Orthodox Church) together with a change of the owner received new axiological fillings.

– The conflict of esthetic perceptions and tastes:

It takes place quite often in the stylization during restorations and in the exhibiting of monuments. It can also take place in authors’ disagreements during the carrying-out of tenders and competitions.

– The conflict of techniques, methods, and ways of carrying out these or those works (e.g. restoration).

Disagreements between customers, contractors, scientific curators and artists are usual on issues of different standards, traditional or modern materials, which generates a gap in terms of work and estimated cost, not to mention the preservation of authenticity.

– The conflict of public priorities:

Environmental, scientific, cultural, national, religious, and local communities can have absolutely different views on the same object.

– The conflict of fashion and tendencies:

During different epochs and periods of history, society differently builds its hierarchy of values. During one epoch, the values of progress, innovations, and changes are preferred; during other times, there are values of preservation, antiquity, and conservation.

There are different ways of solving such conflicts:

  1. The existing social hierarchy takes up the decision-making function concerning points at issue. The higher level dictates its decision to the subordinate.
  2. The solution of conflicts by means of laws and courts.
  3. The market way based on the priority of private property over any other kinds and types of property; in separate cases, it presupposes sales of artifacts or objects to a subject who is ready to pay for them as they are more valuable for him/her.
  4. Public dialogue, mediation, advocacy, public relations, campaigning, lobbying, education.

The fourth way is the most universal: through public dialogues and their versions it is possible to change socially-hierarchical relations, laws and statutory acts, to switch on and off market mechanisms.

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Until now we have considered a generalized notion of values. In order to pass to the following topic, we concretize perceptions of values. Wise thoughts, formulas, signs and symbols, books, ruins, and natural objects can be values. All variety of values requires a special attitude. Wise thoughts can be quoted, but deformed while citing. However, frequently, re-interpretations do not spoil them. The same is with symbols and texts, which can be copied. The meaning of the text remains without changes in a hand-written kind, in printing, and in a digitized form. The text can be embodied in an original manuscript or in a book, which per se are values. These material carriers of the text decay; they need to be preserved and restored. Songs and music need to be performed. Natural objects need to be protected. Architectural constructions need to be reconstructed and restored.

Therefore, hereinafter, we shall speak not about values in general, but about monuments. Not every value is a monument, but each monument is valuable for some public group. Monuments are not only images and buildings, but also books, drawings, music, i.e. everything that can be perceived or imagined as a monument of an epoch, event, person, etc., and that is embodied in material or information.

That is, a monument is a value, which:

  • is embodied in material or information;
  • is owned by a subject or several subjects;
  • acts as a source or stimulus of the subjective active attitude (memory, imagination, contemplation, execution, transformation, protection, restoration, etc.).

A monument can pass from hand to hand, change owners, and act as a source of different active attitudes of different subjects. The semantic charge of a monument changes in the course of its existence; forms of subjective activity-oriented attitudes towards it change as well.

Actually, the perception of a certain object as a monument is the subjective activity-oriented attitude towards it. In this sense, the material object and the monument are not the same.

A certain material object can exist for a period of time without its monument status simply as a thing, a building, a place in a landscape. A thing or a construction becomes a monument due to a number of reasons, or they are declared monuments for some purposes.

Thus, architectural constructions can become monuments after a certain term of their operation, e.g. in 50 years. It is not an absolute norm, although it is present in legislations of many countries.

Some things become monuments by chance – only because they once belonged to cultural heroes, saints, or simply well-known people. Works of art can be called monuments almost right after their creation.

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At the first stage of the existence of the future monument (when it is not perceived yet as a monument and is not declared to be it), a thing or a construction has some practical or utilitarian value. At this stage, one works with it, takes care of it, but not as of a monument, but as of a useful and necessary thing. Thus, a castle for a magnate is a “fortress”, “residence”, “house”. People used to sing songs and took part in ceremonies, trying to influence the world around them by means of sacral actions. Even works of art, which are declared monuments right after their creation, were simply materials of artists’ work. We call this level of perception «historical utilitarian steady».

Then, with the loss of their utility and utilitarian functions, something happens to the future monument. Here, it is important to distinguish between people’s purposeful activity and occurring natural processes such as atmospheric erosion, ageing, rotting, as well as people’s not purposeful behavior towards things, constructions, and places, which are needed by nobody, belong to nobody. Scheme 4 puts these events in vertical layers.

First, it is a cultural catastrophe. Cultural catastrophe is not always natural hazards or military operations leading to the destruction of the future monument and the loss of its utilitarian function. It can be just a change of the owner, when the heir has no idea of what to do with the received heirdom. Cultural catastrophes can include fashion changes (not only in clothes, but also in architectural styles), changes of a technological way (steam locomotives, record players, etc.), changes of the population on this or that territory (the Barbarians’ conquests, Shtetlekh in the Pale of Settlement), and changes of dominating religions.

Second, irrespective of the reasons of a cultural catastrophe that led to the loss of utilitarian functions, in a cycle of life of a monument, there comes a semiotic pause. Despite its quiet name, this stage in the life of a monument can be much more destructive than a cultural catastrophe. Castles and fortresses of the Middle Ages, which lost its defending and military value as a result of widespread fire-arms, could be completely destroyed or simply abandoned. In this unkempt desolation, they would deteriorate for centuries, during this prolonged semiotic pause.

The semiotic pause can sometimes last for thousand years (a typical example is the manuscripts of apocryphal gospels from the library of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula, which were rescued by miracle from being burnt in the furnace). In certain cases, the semiotic pause can be limited to days and hours.

Only gradually, during several stages, the future monument will be filled again with the subjective meaning and given the status of the value, which needs special care. A recognized monument becomes an object of pilgrimage, a place of carrying out rituals, or – in the simplest variant – an object of contemplation for tourists, experts, and fans, i.e. it receives a new utilitarian use.

These stages on the scheme are designated by horizontal layers (levels).

Scheme 4. A cycle of life of a monument

The mythical-poetic level, where any ruin, any natural object, and any thing can already be considered a monument, usually passes spontaneously – it is projected and managed by nobody. Then, being inspired by an object of heritage, “creators” – painters, poets, writers, playwrights, and composers – create literary and artistic images. They not only professionally interpret the already available mythical-poetic images, but also add something «from themselves» (the artistic-imaginative level).

In some cases, the mythical-poetic stage of the life of a monument is substituted with an ideological one, while the ideology itself appears prior to this monument. Thus, the death camps of World War II became monuments after these territories had been liberated. Still, the similar Gulag camps are not monuments even now.

Therefore, special work should be organized and started so as to pass from the mythical-poetic or ideological stage to the moment of the real use of a monument. This work includes several stages and directions – from the elementary performative act of calling something a monument or an object of the cultural-historical value to the solemn opening: scientific researches, work with public opinion (PR), legal and standard registration (to provide it with a status), as well as project, restoration, and construction activities.

When certain actions in the field of working with valuables-monuments are planned and projected, it means, first of all, actions with material embodiments, with information carriers. Of course, these actions require to the greatest degree efforts, resources, organization and management. But it is bad when these actions do not presuppose anything else.

The subjective part of valuables-monuments requires not less attention – imagination, thinking, memory. The work of artists, historians, philosophers, and many other participants and interested subjects should be organized as well, provided with resources, and demonstrated to the general public for conceptualization and reflection.

Imagination is often understood as an individual mental process, spontaneous and self-sufficient. We consider imagination to be a social phenomenon that can be initiated and organized from the outside. Objects considered monuments by society can heat the imagination and amaze the observer. This is a specific ability of art – to amaze the observer, to cause catharsis and ecstasy. For the sake of achieving this effect, the numerous professionals are working – those who are occupied in the protection of heritage, restoration of monuments, designing of environment, exhibiting of values, education of new generations on the material of these values, and finally, the broadcasting of culture.

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One of the most important aspects of the social organization of the work with heritage, monuments, and values is the process of broadcasting values.

In the work aimed at broadcasting heritage, there is a regular methodological error caused by the domination of the historical approach to the work with heritage. The essence of this error is that all work with heritage is understood and treated as the work with the past, as culture of memory. But the contemporary approaches treat the work with heritage a little differently – as the work aimed at linking all three time modalities: the past, the present, and the future.

All work and activity-oriented structure of heritage is in the present. Only the material of heritage, things, objects, texts, and information is received by us from the past. Having received or inherited all this from the past, we turn it or not into the status of values in the present. In the present, we interpret and treat the past.

Interpretations and treatments cannot change the past as such, but they can provide the inherited past with values or deprive it of its value.

The very decision to treat something as values or to refuse something the value status leans not against the past as such, but the future. We accept axiological decisions (decisions on values) being based on the way we see (imagine) the future. The things we take into the future and preserve for the future are considered valuable, and on the contrary – the things we leave in the past or neglect in the present are considered not valuable.

Or, it is possible to formulate it in another way – the past, the present, and the future are connected by people’s activity. The things we value, appreciate, take care of and work with are present in the present, are the present. The things we neglect, do not work with, do not care of, and do not appreciate have no present – they slip from the past into the future without our participation, without our care.

Being left without human care, without people’s energy and will, objects evolve or dilapidate. Sometimes, we notice evolving objects at different stages of their destruction, but we do not provide them with the status of the present, we do not consider them in the modality of the present.

On the other hand, the creative processes implemented by all the social and professional positions, about which we speak when referring to the work with values, heritage, and monuments, expand the borders of the present. In the present, we work with the material of the past (we remember, we treat, we interpret) and with the material of the future (we project, we program, we broadcast).

Legacy and heritage are not only and not so much something that we receive from ancestors, that comes to us from the past, but also what we leave to our descendants and transfer into the future.

Heritage is something new that we make of the old. Working with it as with something that we broadcast into the future, we look at the past in a new fashion and we understand it in a new fashion. It may seem paradoxical, but the work with heritage can create innovations.



[1] Smith, L. 2006. Uses of Heritage, (London; Routledge).
Cultural Heritage and Politics of the Past: An Interview with Dacia Viejo-Rose (Interviewed by Sherman Teichman)
[3] Harvey, D.C. 2008. “The History of Heritage,” (in The Ashgate Companion to Heritage and Identity)
[4] Lev Gumilyov. Ethnogenesis and the biosphere of the Earth.


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