Oct 27, 2021
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“Stolen by Ukraine”. Will Russia be able to return “Scythian gold”?

Fragment of a golden comb depicting a battle scene.  Scythian culture.  End of V - beginning of IV centuries BC.

The Amsterdam court called the exhibits of the Crimean museums “part of the heritage of Ukraine” and decided to transfer them to Kiev. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky thanked the court for the “fair decision” and promised to return the Crimea after that. Russia is preparing a cassation appeal against the decision of the court of appeal.

What did the Dutch court decide?

More than 2 thousand exhibits taken out from four Crimean museums for an exhibition in Germany and the Netherlands in July 2013 “are part of the cultural heritage of Ukraine” and “are part of the state part of the museum fund of Ukraine”. And therefore, should be transferred to Kiev, says the decision of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. At the same time, the court stressed that “the possible transfer of gold to the Crimean museums will not mean recognition of the annexation of the peninsula to Russia at the state level.”

The collection, which received the name “Scythian gold” in the media, strictly speaking, refers not only to the cultural heritage of the Scythians. It consists of objects discovered at different times during archaeological excavations in the Crimea. There are not only samples of Scythian gold jewelry, such as a golden helmet and jewelry, but also Chinese lacquer boxes, ceramic vessels, figurines and much more. In the Allard Pearson Museum in Amsterdam, they were exhibited at an exhibition entitled Crimea – Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea.

After the referendum on the peninsula, Ukraine turned to the museum with a demand to give the exhibits to Kiev. Four Crimean museums objected that the collections belonged to them, were brought from Crimea, and therefore should return home. After that, the litigation began, which lasts almost 8 years. In 2016, the Amsterdam District Court made the first decision to return the exhibits to Ukraine, but the Russian side appealed. Now she’s lost too.

“We always give ourselves back what belongs to us. After the “Scythian gold” we will return the Crimea, “- said in joy President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky… In Kiev, they are already coming up with places where the collection could be exhibited. Even St. Sophia Cathedral is called.

At the same time, Ukrainian politicians are trying to figure out which of them tried more to get the “Scythian gold”. Former President Petro Poroshenko I am sure that he did the most. He recalled his numerous negotiations with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rugge, in which he persuaded to transfer the collection to Ukraine. Thus, Poroshenko actually made it clear that the court’s decision was politicized.

What do they say in Russia?

In Russia, the decision of the Amsterdam court is going through hard, although, according to experts, it was expected. “Although we were ready for this development of events, this is a vile and disgusting decision, which not only violates all kinds of rights, but also simply crosses out elementary common sense: Holland gives the treasures of the Russian people to a neighboring state,” says director of one of the affected museums, the Central Museum of Taurida, Andrey Malygin

Head of Crimea Sergey Aksenov called the verdict a “raider takeover.” “Scythian gold was found in the Crimean land, where it lay for many hundreds of years, these values ​​are an integral part of the historical and cultural heritage of Crimea, the property of all Crimeans. They should be returned to the funds of the Crimean museums, ”he said.

The story with the “Scythian gold” “well reveals the subconsciousness of the Ukrainian authorities,” says Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev: “If the Ukrainian authorities really believed in the possibility of returning Crimea, they would allow the collection to be returned to the peninsula. However, instead, they are trying to get their hands on everything that went wrong. “

Information Policy Advisor to the Head of Crimea Oleg Kryuchkov offered to place signs on every empty showcase in Crimean museums: “Stolen by Ukraine in Amsterdam”. He compared the actions of the Ukrainian authorities with the behavior of the Nazis during the Great Patriotic War: “They took out paintings and antiques from Crimea, and now the Ukrainian authorities are following in their footsteps.”

Scythian gold.
Scythian gold. Photo: Wikimedia commons

Can Russia return the collection?

The domestic authorities, however, are not going to surrender. After the decision of the court of appeal, the artifacts will remain in the Dutch backrooms for at least another 3 months. During this period, you can file a cassation appeal against the court decision. In Russia, they made it clear that this would be done. Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation Andrei Klishas called for exhaustive measures to return historical artifacts. The case is being followed in the Kremlin, he told reporters Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov.

The problem for Crimean museums in a legal dispute is that in Russia and Ukraine, historical values ​​as an owner are assigned to the state, says partner of FBK-Legal Alexander Ermolenko… Accordingly, if the agreement on sending the collection to Germany and the Netherlands was concluded with the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture, the Crimean museums initially had little chance of returning the artifacts to themselves, the lawyer notes. Russia as a state did not participate in the proceedings.

The decision of the Court of Appeal can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. If he also decides not in favor of the Crimean museums, they will only have to apply to international authorities.

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