The largest art museum in Finland recognized Ilya Repin as a Ukrainian, not a Russian artist

6 february, 2024

The Finnish Art Museum Ateneum changed the nationality of the painter Ilya Repin from Russian to Ukrainian. This became possible thanks to the international campaign by Ukrainians to rid Russian colonial influence in art, writes Suomen Kuvalehti.

Ilya Repin's work, in which he is referred to as Ukrainian. Source: suomenkuvalehti.fi Author: Nadiya Fedorova.
Half a year before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, Ateneum held an exhibition jointly with the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum. Repin was labeled as a Russian in it. This made a scandal among the Ukrainian community, which had been calling on the museum to change the artist's nationality since then.

One of the most active in this process was journalist Anna Lodygina, who conducted an exhaustive investigation into the Ukrainian origin of the artist. In 2023, she wrote a letter to the Finnish exhibition curator Timo Huusko. He referred to a document indicating that Repin's parents were born in the Moscow region. However, Lodygina was able to prove that they were born in Ukraine.

"I contacted Olga Shevchenko, deputy director for research at the Repin Museum in Chuhuiv, to send copies from Metric books of the artist’s family, as proof that his roots are Ukrainian, not Russian," Anna Lodygina told Kyiv Post.

The decision of the Finnish museum, which took two years, is part of the trend of reclaiming Ukraine's heritage, which was previously considered Russian. In February 2023, the Metropolitan Museum in New York reclassified Ilya Repin and Ivan Aivazovsky as Ukrainian instead of Russian artists. Following suit, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, known for its vast collection of abstract artists like Kazymyr Malevych, adjusted Malevych's nationality a month later.

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