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Google Built a Sweeping Online Hub to Preserve Ukraine's Rich Culture

"Our culture is not only ours. This is the legacy of the entire civilized world," first lady Olena Zelenska says of the project from Google Arts & Culture.

Saint Sophia's Cathedral, in the center of Kyiv. According to legend, Ukrainian princes Yaroslav the Wise, Vsevolod I Yaroslavich and Volodymyr Monomakh are buried here. 
Ukraine Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

The ongoing war in Ukraine has made it difficult, and in many cases dangerous, to experience the country's abundant cultural offerings. Museums, historical buildings, monuments, religious sites and libraries have been destroyed or damaged, and tourism is pretty much out of the question. 

That's what makes an extensive new online showcase of Ukrainian art, culture and heritage all the more significant. The Ukraine Is Here initiative from Google Arts & Culture lets anyone, anywhere, immerse themselves in the country's rich culture. 

Ukraine Is Here lets you explore in stunning detail the swirls of color in paintings like Victor Palmov's The Beach.  

Ukraine Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

The collection brings to vivid life -- in one place -- Ukraine's art, architecture, music, theater, historical landmarks and national parks through video, virtual galleries, immersive 360-degree augmented-reality tours, 3D models and Street View images collected before the war. 

You can, for example, head to Kyiv for a tour of the House with Chimeras, a unique, Art Nouveau-style mansion that hosts official presidential and diplomatic ceremonies. You can visit Unesco World Heritage sites like Saint Sophia's Cathedral, an 11th-century monument of Byzantine and Ukrainian Baroque architecture, as well as painting and mosaic. (Fortunately, no Unesco World Heritage sites appear to have been damaged in the war yet, according to the United Nations organization.) 

Outside the capital city, you can get a sweeping bird's-eye view of the ancient and primeval beech forests of the Eastern Carpathians, also home to the biggest, oldest oak trees in Ukraine. Or climb to the top of one of the tallest peaks around Yaremche to take in the picturesque mountain landscapes. 

Uzhansky National Park in the Eastern Carpathians. Ukraine is home to more than 600,000 square kilometers of national parks and biosphere reserves. 

Ukraine Ministry of Culture and Information Policy

Virtual exhibitions highlighting traditional and avant-garde art let you scroll around exquisitely detailed, high-resolution images of paintings like David Burliuk's richly allegorical early 20th-century creation The Time, in which a passenger on a train that goes off its rails personifies a country in chaos. It's housed at the Dnipropetrovsk Art Museum in Oblast.  

And you can learn all about Ukrainian folk dress and jewelry and listen to soul-stirring Ukrainian folk music sung by a group of babushkas. There's an added poignancy to their jagged harmonies given the tumult and displacement that's gripped the Eastern European country since Russia invaded it in February. 

Partners in Ukraine Is Here include Ukraine's Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, the National Art Museum of Ukraine and the Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema of Ukraine. First lady Olena Zelenska has also lent her support. 

"Our culture is not only ours. This is the legacy of the entire civilized world," the president's wife said in a statement.  "When one country loses its cultural values, the whole world loses. So let's preserve, multiply, watch, admire, Google Ukrainian culture and thus enrich the world." 

Google Arts & Culture broadens the reach of international culture by digitizing art, artifacts and cultural heritage sites from around the globe. The Google Arts & Culture app is free and available on the web, iOS and Android