“We are in a crazy situation,” says the director of the Allard Persson Museum in Amsterdam, where the 2014 exhibition “Crimea. Gold and the Secrets of the Black Sea” was held. During the exhibition, Russia annexed Crimea, and the Dutch faced the question of who is the legal owner of the valuables: Ukraine Or the Russian Crimea?
The “Skarby Krymu” movie you’ll see at the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Festival, It shows the scenes of a fascinating court battle that lasted several years, in which former museologists played one of the main roles.
“What’s next with Scythian gold?” – asks desperate Valentina Mordvinseva, archaeologist and curator of the Crimean Museum in Bakhchisarai. In February 2014, four museums of Crimea and the Museum of Precious History of Ukraine in Kyiv borrowed a total of more than 2000. Exhibits for the exhibition “Crimea. Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea” at the Dutch Allard Persson Museum. It is the heritage of the Scythians, a nomadic people who lived between the 8th and 4th centuries BC on the northern shores of the Black and Caspian Seas. The exhibition showing the most important exhibits unearthed in the wheelbarrows (including a kilogram gold helmet and neck ornament, Han Dynasty Chinese lacquer boxes, brocade brooches, jewelry, and a gold sword sheath) was to end in September 2014, but soon after the materials arrived To Amsterdam, Russia annexed the Crimea. Wim Huberitz, director of the Allard Pearson Museum, faced the question: To whom should I return some of my valuables in September? There were indeed “green men” in Crimea, but the situation of the peninsula was not yet clear when Valentina Mordvinsev wrote to him asking if he would definitely give the pieces to a museum in Crimea. “We found ourselves in a crazy situation,” says Wim Hupperetz in Oek Hoogendijk.
The golden deer is one of the most famous elements of the Scythian period
Photo: Heritage Images/Getty Images
7 years of legal battle
The Ukrainians, in addition to the exhibits borrowed from the Museum of Precious Historical Acquisitions of Ukraine, wanted to transfer all the artifacts to Kyiv. Representatives of the Crimean museums, who made their valuable collections available to the Netherlands, believe that the items should be returned to the place from which they were borrowed. Thus began the 7-year judicial battle, in which the parties were Kyiv and the Russian Crimea, and, on a personal level, former colleagues: Lyudmila Strukova, Kyiv actress, and Valentina Mordvinseva, archaeologist, curator, who with her husband sent many objects to Amsterdam, She extracted it from the soil of the Crimea with her own hands. It also persuaded the Crimean Museums (Central Museum of Taurida, Kerch Historical and Cultural Reserve, Taurika Chersonese National Reserve and Bakhchisaray Historical and Cultural Reserve) to participate in the project. “Some items are not well described yet, there are only photos and descriptions in the catalogs. This is a disaster for us” – Valentina says to the camera.
“It is better to send questions to Putin”
On March 18, 2014, Crimea and the city of Sevastopol were annexed, and the peninsula became part of the Russian Federation. The West did not recognize this fact. Meanwhile, the Crimean Museums declared themselves Russian immediately after the annexation, and the staff received Russian citizenship. Returning museum items would mean donating Scythian gold to the Russians. Ukraine expressed strong opposition.
“I understand them,” says Ukrainian museologist Lyudmila Strukova. “I don’t understand that they betrayed Ukraine,” he adds. “It is better that Valentina directs his questions to Putin, and not to us,” she adds, upset about her ex-girlfriend’s position.
Who is the owner of the varieties: Ukraine or Crimea?
The Dutch museum authorities did not want to decide for themselves who to give the “stuffed gold”. “Who is the legal owner of the valuables: Ukraine or Crimea? We could not decide on this ourselves,” the director of the Allard Persson Museum in Amsterdam recalls in the film. The question was not easy, because things were lying in graves in the Crimean land hundreds of years ago. So who is the owner? Those who live on the peninsula and find things in the land or in a country from which the peninsula was illegally uprooted. The museum in the Netherlands could not have imagined making this decision. The case was taken to court.
The line of the Ukrainian side was that the Netherlands did not recognize the annexation of Crimea, and therefore could not hand over the treasury to the occupier. The Crimean side and Russia argued that giving Scythian gold to Ukraine would be tantamount to stealing artifacts belonging to the peninsula. “There would be no doubt if Russia did not annex Crimea. How can you say that Ukraine is a thief if you actively support the invaders?” The Ukrainians responded. Meanwhile, the people of Crimea insist that the gold and tombstones must be returned to their place. Most of the people in the film express their contempt for Ukraine, but there are also characters for whom the political situation in the country causes internal dilemmas.
The director of “Crimea Treasures” skillfully shows the desperation of the two sides, who for political reasons found themselves in opposing positions. It tells the story of years of court battle, where many tricks are allowed and different arguments can determine who will eventually be able to offer valuable discoveries. For museum workers Ludmila Strokowa and Valentina Mordvinseva, it is more than just a battle for valuables, it is a battle for identity.
This story continues. In February 2022, the Russians attacked Ukraine. Ukrainian media and government sources have reported that in recent weeks there has been widespread looting of valuable artworks in Ukraine, including items stolen from the Scythian period. Our sedge gold has been taken by the orcs, Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov told local media.
19. Millennium Docs Against Gravity
The Millennium Documents Festival Against Gravity will be held from May 12-22 in eight cities – Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdynia, Pozna, Katowice, Lublin, Bydgoszcz, and for the first time in لودód! From May 24 to June 5, the online segment will be held at mdag.pl.