The Space Museum Inside a Church

About 80 km outside of Kyiv, in the small Ukrainian town of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyy, there is a large complex of museums dedicated to preserving the history, culture and architecture of Ukrainian people. The National Historical and Ethnographic Reserve contains around 30 thematic museums on different profile—history, archaeology, literacy, ethnography, technology, etc. Among these, the museum dedicated to Space Exploration is the most curious, because it is housed inside a 130-year-old wooden church.

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

The Church of Saint Paraskeva was built in 1891 and originally stood in the village of V’yunishche in Kyiv region. In the 1960s, the construction of a new reservoir threatened to drown V’yunishche and its church, and in order to save the church, the villagers dismantled the building and moved it to Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyy where it now houses the space museum.

Among the hundreds of soviet-era space exhibits crammed inside the tiny building is a scarlet training parachute belonging to Yuri Gagarin, a spacesuit worn by cosmonaut Vyacheslav Zudov for a spacewalk in 1976, scale models of a different rockets, a model of an artificial satellite, a model of a mobile lunar laboratory, canned food cosmonauts ate in space, and lots of other stuff.

The museum was founded in the 1970s at a time when space flights were wildly popular.

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

“It was a time of intense centralized propaganda and that’s why people didn’t question it”, said Sergiy Volkodav, the 37-year-old curator of the museum.

“When the Space Museum was created, the question of whether it was appropriate to place it in the church was not there at all,” said Vovkodav. During Soviet Times, museums of atheism and science were created in churches all over the country Union.

Mykhailo Sikorsky, the man behind the Pereyaslav Historical and Ethnographic Reserve, wanted to show the development of mankind—from mammoth hunting to artificial satellites. Cosmonaut Georgy Beregovy, who headed the astronaut training center near Moscow helped Sikorsky procure many of the exhibits for the museum. Sikorsky also got a lot of exhibits from the Moscow Exhibition of Economic Achievements.

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

Forty years later, the museum is a little worse for wear with the blue paint peeling off the walls. The interior has not been repaired since the 1970s.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, some people demanded that the church be returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Others fear that if the museum is moved to another place, the church building will be taken over by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, that broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in 2018. Against the backdrop of the ongoing tension between Russia and Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church wouldn’t want the Pereyaslav church to fall into Ukraine’s hand, which is most likely if property is vacated.

Volkodav resolutely opposes moving the space exhibition to another location.

“This is the only space museum in a church in the whole world… it’s unique,” he claimed.

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

Pereyaslav space museum

Photo: Danilo Pavlov

References:
# Neil Bowdler, A Temple To Space In A Ukrainian Church, RFERL.org
# To divinity and beyond: Questions over Ukraine space church’s future, The Straits Time
# Eugene Frolov, St. Paraskeva Space Museum, Reporters
# Wikipedia