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Netherlands hands over Crimean Scythian artifacts to Ukraine

After a decade of legal proceedings, the Dutch museum transferred 600 artefacts from four occupied Crimean museums to Ukraine for safekeeping until the de-occupation of Crimea.
Crimean Scythian artifacts presented at the exhibition Crimea: Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea. Credit: National Museum of History of Ukraine
Netherlands hands over Crimean Scythian artifacts to Ukraine

After almost 10 years of legal proceedings, the Allard Pierson Museum transferred artefacts from four Crimean museums to Ukraine, the National Museum of Ukrainian History reported on 27 November.

Ukraine’s Customs Service brought the 2,694 kilograms of artifacts to the Treasury of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine on the territory of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. These are about 565 items, including ancient sculptures, Scythian and Sarmatian jewelry, and Chinese lacquer boxes that are two thousand years old.

Credit: National Museum of History of Ukraine
Credit: National Museum of History of Ukraine

According to the statement, they will be stored in the National Museum of Ukrainian History until the de-occupation of Crimea.

The exhibition featuring items from the National Museum of Ukrainian History and four Crimean museums was held at the Allard Pierson Museum from February to August 2014.

After Russia’s occupation of Crimea began in February 2014, the artifacts from the Ukrainian museum returned to Kyiv, but it became impossible to return the valuables from the Crimean museums to territory not controlled by Ukraine.

Credit: National Museum of History of Ukraine

In December 2016, an Amsterdam court ruled to transfer the Crimean treasures to Ukraine under the Heritage Act. The Amsterdam Court of Appeal also decided to grant Ukraine’s claim for the transfer of the Crimean artifacts, but under Ukraine’s Museum Act and a March 2014 order from the Ministry of Culture giving the Minister the authority to decide on the transfer of museum exhibits if they are at risk of destruction, loss or damage.

The Crimean museums appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision. On 9 June 2023 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, leaving the lower court’s decision in place. Therefore, the artifacts were handed over to Ukraine rather than the occupied Crimean museums. By order of the Ministry of Culture, the collections are to be transferred to the National Museum of Ukrainian History for safekeeping.

Under the Supreme Court’s final ruling, Ukraine was ordered to pay the Allard Pierson Museum 111,689 euros ($122 000) plus interest for storing the artifacts over this period.

Later, the Allard Pearson Museum refused to pay the court-ordered payment in its favor. In November 2023, the items from the Crimean museums were independently inspected and transported to Kyiv. Now experts are examining the condition of these things.

“As the museum designated for keeping the Crimean collections, we will  preserve them and allow Ukrainians and guests to see them. However, as the collection gained international political prominence, its condition and future will now be scrutinized by the world, placing responsibility on all those behind the political decision to return it to a country at war,” National Museum’s director Fedir Androshchuk said.

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