On March 13th, Russian soldiers looted the History and Architecture Museum and Reserve in Vasylivka, also known as the Popov Manor House. It wasn’t the first time the museum had drawn the invaders’ attention. On March 7th, the manor house was shelled, and the stables were severely damaged.
The Popov Estate is located near the village of Vasylivka in the Zaporizhia region. It consists of lands granted in the mid-Eighteenth Century by Catherine the Great to General Vasiliy Popov, who established the village of Vasylivka. Nearly a century later, the general’s grandson (and namesake) built the Manor House. Construction started in 1864 and continued until 1898. The identity of the architect is unknown, but some historians believe it was Nikolai Benois, a well-known St. Petersburg architect. The Manor House itself is modeled after a medieval castle. Other buildings on the estate showcase a mixture of styles dominated by Gothic Revival and Neo-Renaissance, but not limited to them.
The Manor House was looted by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution and severely damaged; it suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Germans during World War Two. The main house was restored in the early 1990s and renovated into a museum.
According to Hanna Holovko, the museum’s current director, the Russian “liberators” smashed all the doors and windows in the building and carried away everything they could lift. They also destroyed equipment necessary for the operation of the museum. A marble toilet seat belonging to the estate’s previous owner attracted particular interest. The looters carted it off.
There’s a certain irony here. The pillaged lavatory seat was only recently returned to the Manor House. Stolen during the Bolsheviks’ ransacking of the estate, the seat was returned to the museum by one of the looters’ embarrassed descendants. Now it is gone again, perhaps to be returned in a hundred years by a penitent great-great-grandchild.
The method of shipping such an ungainly war trophy back to the Motherland remains unclear.