Ukraine accuses Russian forces of looting museums, destroying cultural sites

Eminetra 9 October 2022
By Tom Tidgwell

Encrusted with jewels by skilled craftsmen some 1,500 years ago, the elaborate golden tiara was born from the bloody rule of Attila, the Huns who rampaged with their mounted warriors in the depths of Europe in the 5th century AD, the world. was one of the most valuable crafts in

The Hunnic tiara, also known as the crown, has now disappeared from the Ukrainian museum that housed it. Perhaps historians are forever afraid. Museum officials said Russian troops carried away the prized crown and other treasures after capturing the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in February.

Ukrainian officials say the Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in its eighth month, with industrial-scale demolition and looting of historic buildings and treasures.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Ukraine’s culture minister claimed that Russian soldiers had made artifacts themselves in about 40 Ukrainian museums. Hundreds of millions of euros were lost, he added.

“Russian attitudes towards Ukrainian cultural heritage are a war crime,” he said.

For now, the Ukrainian government and its Western arms suppliers are primarily focused on defeating Russia on the battlefield. But if peace returns, it is also essential to preserve Ukrainian collections of art, history and culture. So war survivors can start the next battle: rebuilding their lives.

“These are museums, historic buildings, churches. Everything that was built and created by generations of Ukrainians,” Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska said in September in New York. I told him when I visited the museum. “This is a war on our identities.”

When Russian troops stormed the southern city, workers at the Museum of Local History in Melitopol first tried to hide the Hun crown and hundreds of other treasures. However, after weeks of repeated searches, Russian soldiers eventually discovered a secret basement in the building where staff had been clearing away the museum’s most prized objects, including the Hun crown.

The worker, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said Ukrainians did not know where the Russian military had shipped the tiaras and about 1,700 other artifacts.

A 1,500-year-old golden tiara encrusted with jewels will be on display at the Melitopol Museum in November 2020. This is his one of the most valuable crafts in the world under the rule of Attila the Huns.

The crown unearthed from the burial chamber in 1948 is one of the few Hun crowns in the world. Museum workers say other treasures that disappeared with the Russian soldiers include a 2,400-year-old piece of gold from the time of the Scythians, nomadic peoples who migrated from Central Asia to southern Russia and Ukraine and built an empire in Crimea. Contains 198 pieces.

“These are ancient finds. These are works of art. “If culture disappears, it will be an irreparable disaster.”

Russia’s Ministry of Culture did not respond to questions about the Melitopol collection.

looted museum

Russian forces also looted a museum when they ransacked the Black Sea port of Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials who were forced out of the southern city, which was relentlessly attacked by Russian artillery fire. It came under full Moscow control only in May when the Ukrainian garrison finally surrendered.

The city council of exiled Mariupol said Russian troops had stolen more than 2,000 items from the city’s museums. Among the most valuable items were ancient religious idols, unique handwritten Torah scrolls, a 200-year-old Bible, and over 200 medals.

Also looted were works of art by Mariupol-born painter Arkhiep Quinzi and Crimean-born Ivan Aivazovsky, the deposed councilors said. They said they had transported the stolen bounty to the Russian-occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

On April 28, a museum dedicated to Russian landscape painter Arkhip Kuinzh was vandalized in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine.

The invasion also caused enormous damage and destruction to Ukrainian cultural heritage. The UN cultural agency continues to tally sites hit by missiles, bombs and artillery fire. Now, eight months into the war, officials say he has identified 199 victims in her 12 areas.

According to UNESCO, there are 84 churches and other religious institutions, 37 buildings of historical significance, 37 buildings for cultural activities, 18 monuments, 13 museums and 10 libraries.

The Ukrainian government’s tally is even higher, with officials saying at least 270 religious buildings destroyed and damaged alone.

“We were afraid of the Russian occupiers”

While invading forces searched for treasures to steal, Ukrainian museum officials did all they could to keep them out of Russian hands. Tens of thousands of items have been evacuated from front lines and combat areas.

In Kyiv, the director of the Museum of Ukrainian Historical Treasures lived in the building and guarded its relics during the first weeks of the invasion, when Russian troops attempted but failed to lay siege to the capital.

“We were afraid of the Russian occupiers, because they would destroy everything identifiable with Ukrainians,” recalled director Natalia Panchenko.

Fearing that the Russian army would storm the city, she tried to confuse them by tearing down the plaque at the entrance of the museum. She also dismantled exhibits and carefully boxed and evacuated artifacts.

One day, she hopes they’ll return to where they belong.

“These things were fragile and survived for hundreds of years,” she said. “I couldn’t bear the thought that they might be lost.”

Ukraine accuses Russian forces of looting museums, destroying cultural sites.
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