As a result of the transfer of exhibits to the state of Ukraine, Crimean museums are deprived of artifacts of varying degrees of significance. They lose part of their collections, and some of them were constantly on display. Moreover, for some of them they are just symbols of cities, for example, like the Serpentine Goddess, which was kept in Kerch. It is a symbol of the city, it is on stamps, postcards.
Items in the collection of the so-called “Scythian gold” were discovered at different times, starting from the 19th century. Some – in Soviet times. Most come from the newest excavations, after 1991. Many of the scientists who unearthed these things are still alive. Some of the complexes have not been published and investigated in full. Publishing is one thing, but generalizing is another. All this is done mainly by scientists from Crimea and those who are exploring Crimea.
And most of them are in Crimea. This means that, in principle, it will be more difficult for them to access these collections. Now, because of the covid, all these movements are difficult.
In turn, the museums of Ukraine will receive things, many of which will be without a passport. As for things excavated in recent times, I think that not all reports are in Kiev. The cards that are drawn up in the museum for each item – I have a feeling that they will not be provided. That is, many of the things will become passportless. It’s like with random finds. We understand what kind of thing it is, but for science a thing without context loses more than half of its meaning. I think that they will be immediately exhibited somewhere like the Mystetsky Arsenal (the largest exhibition area in Kiev). I do not exclude the possibility that it could be some kind of permanent exhibition.
In general, if you ask a person on the street in Germany or Holland, to whom should the collection be given, they will answer: “Of course, to Ukraine”. At the same time, we must not forget that this is a legal case. This is the first time that, after the conclusion of direct agreements between museums, objects were not returned door to door due to changed political circumstances.
In the world there is not only the problem of Ukraine with the Crimea, there is the problem of Barcelona-Madrid and a bunch of others. The item is returned to the country, the territory of which they belonged to. This is a precedent that will further mean that many museums in some territories will seriously consider donating their exhibits. This will limit cultural exchange at a minimum.
Basically there are two legislation that could equally be applied to this case: one legislation is based on a UNESCO article. This applies to items that have entered the territory of a certain state illegally. The task of the lawyers from the Ukrainian side would be to prove or assert that things are in Amsterdam illegally.
Another option, as a result of which one of the courts was won – it was argued there that things are in the country legally, because there are direct agreements between museums. And then they relied on museum legislation. There are several types of international legislation – museum and UNESCO article.
According to museum legislation, things must be returned to the place where the cultural region of origin of things is located. Most museum legislation in different countries is based on this position. Because of this, many countries such as Egypt and Iraq are demanding the return of the cultural values of Mesopotamia.
Here, preference was given to the article of the UNESCO law on objects illegally located on the territory of a certain state. They must be returned to the territory of the state of origin, in this case to Ukraine.
I even had ideas in moments of despondency that it would be nice if the exhibition wandered around until the political issue was resolved, like the Tillya-tepe treasure from Afghanistan, and raised money for museums. Thus, the political issue would be postponed. Perhaps that would be the perfect solution to the situation.
This exhibition generally turned out due to the fact that I was looking for a way to restore unique Chinese caskets originating from the Ust-Alma burial ground in the southwestern Crimea. For a long time we have been looking for people to whom we can give them for restoration. As a result, we were introduced in Cologne to Masako Shono, a museum worker of Japanese origin. We organized a Japanese grant, took organic residues there, from which we made exhibits of an international level in four years. The Japanese gave us back and cried – “Please, arrange climatic showcases for them.” How to organize this?
At first we planned an exhibition in Japan, but there was a tsunami, and it became impossible. I had contacts in Germany, and through them I started organizing the exhibition. The idea of the exhibition was formulated for these boxes. Imagine where is Crimea and where is China? Crimea, as the Germans say, is Drehscheibe, the intersection of worlds. Crimea is the most northeastern part of the Mediterranean basin and the western end of the Eurasian steppe belt. A variety of trade and cultural routes crossed there. Here is the idea for the exhibition. She was limited in time and space.
Crimea, although small, but very roomy, a bunch of different cultural groups, in particular the Greeks, represented through the policy of Chersonesos in the west and the Bosporus kingdom in the east. Among them are various barbarians. And all this loudly ends with the great migration of peoples. Here is an oil painting. We showed all this through concrete complexes with contexts, and this was new. Crimea, in such a volume, has never been presented at foreign exhibitions.
The exhibition was envisaged for display in two museums – in the Museum of the state of Rhine-Westphalia in Bonn and in the Allard-Pearson Museum in Amsterdam. Everything went brilliantly in Bonn, the catalog was sold out and was very popular. In Amsterdam, we opened in February 2014, the Maidan was in full swing, and soon the events began. In the spring of 2014, it became known that Ukraine had declared its rights to the items of the exhibition. The Crimean museums did the same.
The Allard-Pearson Museum in Amsterdam faced a difficult choice – the state guarantee of the Netherlands to the state of Ukraine assumed the transfer of things to Kiev. At the same time, direct agreements were concluded between him and the Crimean museums. To resolve this dispute, it was decided to go to court, which, according to the agreements, was supposed to judge in accordance with Ukrainian law. Since then, the Allard-Pearson Museum has paid insurance for these items every day. By the way, Chinese boxes are stored in excellent climatic conditions.
In the Netherlands, a documentary was filmed about this process, which will be shown on November 20, 2021 at the documentary film festival in Amsterdam. The interest in this process is not accidental. The case with the exhibition is a mirror of what is happening in the world right now. From this point of view, he will never be forgotten.