Destroyed buildings and villages - for instance as the result of war


Knowing that this is a sensible issue, I will try to be as general as possible.

Based on the general rule that we map what is on the surface, we would normally not map buildings or complete villages which were completely destroyed, so that nothing has remained at all. But at least if there are remainings like walls (ruins) of buildings this is what we definetely should map. But how do we do?

One variant discussed here in the forum years ago would be historic=building, ruins=yes or even historic=village, ruins=yes
But based on the OSM Wikipedia “historic” should only be used for buildings which have a certain, specific historical “importance”. In my exes this would be the case for all buildings which were destroyed in a war. I understand that there are other opinions about the meaning of the tag “historic”.
And - at least theoretically there is a question if we really know in all cases that a certain building was destroyed in a war or just in a stage of toal decay. That`s why the “opinion free” tag historic=building/village, ruins=yes might reflect in the best way what we find on the ground.

A second possibility would be to use a life cycle tag. But which one?
building=yes, abandoned=yes might look like a good idea, but we are definetely not talking about about the stage of decay, but about structures and complete settlements which were indeed actively removed (and there is good evidence about these activities in a lot, but surely not in all cases).
building=yes, demolished=yes seems to look a bit better, but OSM Wiki says this tag is for “features that have been demolished, without any traces left”. Well, that`s exactely not the fact in the cases I am taking about. My point in this thread are structures which still can be seens on the ground.
Any other lifecyle ideas?

What about landuse tags, at least for villages which are completeley in ruins and obviously left by their former residents?

P.S.: I am talking for instance about destroyed villages in DR Congo (Kivu and other areas), in Syria or in the Karabakh region - as a result of the 1992-1993 war. But I am afraid that the list of regions in which we can find intentionally destroyed (burnt down, bombed, etc.) buildings and villages is very long.

I look forward to all kinds of hints and help.
I definetely do not want to open a political discussion here.
It is very much ok if you have a political opinion concerning the remaings of certain cinflicts/wars, but that`s not my issue here. Right here my only intention is to map what exists on the ground and to do it in a correct way. Even more, I am hoping for a kind of standard tagging for these destroyed structures.

Kind regards


This recent thread may be relevant:

Thank you, hadw!

Yes, I read that thread, but I am neither convinced that “abandoned:building=yes” would be correct in the cases I tried to describe nor that a simple “ruins=yes” would be suitable.

May be abandoned is indeed the best way to tag these destroyed buildings and villages, but my impression is that this lifecycle tag is used and understood in a different way, exately in the way as described in the English OSM Wiki - as a stage of decay in clear contracy to structures which were removed, demaged or destroyed intentionally.


Can you tell the difference without knowing the history?

Well, the answer is clearly: “No”!

But this is the fact for the differences between all these “stages of decay” (like abandoned) and “intentionally removed” (like demolished) lifecyle tags, isn´t it? If I see a pub which is in a very poor condition with walls partly destroyed, how do I know if it was just left behind by the (former) owner or intentionally removed/destroyed? I once lived very close to such a pub. I would have tagged “abandoned”, but getting in contact with the locals, I had to learn that this pub collapsed after somebody set fire on it. There is court evidence = historical evidence for this case. So how do I tag? still abandoned?

The cases in (former) war zones are often much better documented and it is often possible to get clear evidence about the destruction. In a lot of the cases even with the week or day when it happened. Yes, thats history that you might not see at the ground. But source-based information about the structures which we see on the ground should have its right and place in OSM. Thats at least my opinion and thats how we handle a lot of other tags. On the ground you are not able to see the exact height of a church tower, the international or english name of a town in Amhara, Ethiopia or even the FGKZ (“Fliessgewaesserkennzahl”) a code which is used for all rivers and a great number of streams in Germany.


I would say the “on the ground” rules says, if you can’t tell a difference, there is no difference.

I suspect demolished:building is more correct than abandoned:building.

There is an open historical map project which can encode, on a separate map, information about when historical changes occurred. It wasn’t working when I tried, and I don’t know if there are attributes available to indicate the cause of the change.

On OSM proper, you would only want to encode this information if it was some sort of official memorial.

Thank you, hadw for all your answers and suggestions.

I know that there is an open historical map project. That`s a great and important project, indeed.

But my case us not a historical one. It is about actual things which exist on the ground today.
In most of the cases there are wall of (thousands of) former houses.
What everyone - without any knowledge about the history - can see are these walls.
And it is clear for everybody that these are the remainings of former buildings.

Any other ideas and opions?
abandoned:building, demolished:building, ruins=yes or may be just barrier=wall
And what about complete (former) villages/residential areas?

I would love to have a kind of standard tagging for this (and would be happy it it would be rendered, but that`s a different topic). At the moment - after a bit of thinking and reading, comparing the tagging in different regions and by different mappers - I would prefer building= ruins

The German Wikipedia text for this tag seems to describe exactely what I want to tag:
And the French, Spanish, Czech, Polish and Russian wikipedia text seem to agree to this usage of building= ruins, without adding such a detailed description and definition as the German text. It seems as if this tag has indeed been used by a number of mappers in different conflict zones and former conflict zones of the world.

The problem is that the English Wikipedia has a totally different definition:

Thank you, lutz for the link the “historic place” map. This is very interesting and another meritious project.

But in fact it seemes as if my original question mainly ended in missunderstandings.
My point for this question was neither “historic places” with a certain national or international historical/heritage importance nor structures for a historical map like buildings which do not exist any more at all.

I have tried to talk and to find a solution for:

  • ruins of buildings without a bigger historical/heritage meaning
  • structures which clearly exist at the ground today

In a number of regions of this world (like some parts of DR Congo or Nagory Karabakh or Syria) we can find complete former settlements with dozends or even hundreds of ruins. I think that this is something that we should me if we “run into” it.

As explained in my last posting i will prefer building= ruins in this case
added by abandoned:landuse=residental and abandoned:place=village
if there are complete former villages which were left or “wiped out”.

Please look here:

Personally, I would only use ruins for something historical (meaningful) …

Greetings from Lutz