After almost 10 years of trials, artefacts from four Crimean museums that were presented at an exhibition in Amsterdam have returned to Ukraine, according to the website of the National Museum of History of Ukraine.
The Allard Pierson Museum handed them over to the museum, where they will be stored until the peninsula is de-occupied.
From February to August 2014, the Allard Pierson Museum hosted the exhibition "Crimea: Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea". It featured items from the collections of the National Museum of History of Ukraine and four museums in Crimea: National Reserve Chersonesos of Tavriya (Sevastopol), Central Museum of Tavryda (Simferopol), Bakhchysaray Historical and Cultural Reserve, and Kerch Historical and Archaeological Reserve.
In February 2014, Russia began its occupation of Crimea. Objects from the collection of the National Museum of History of Ukraine returned to Kyiv after the exhibition, but it became impossible to return valuables from the Crimean museums to the territory not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities.
However, the museums in Crimea, which are de facto controlled by the Russian authorities, insisted on doing just that. A lawsuit was launched in the Netherlands.
In December 2016, a court in Amsterdam ruled that the Crimean treasures should be transferred to the state of Ukraine in accordance with the Law on Heritage. The Amsterdam Court of Appeal also decided to uphold the claim for the transfer of Crimean artefacts to the state of Ukraine, but on the basis of the Law of Ukraine "On Museums" and the order of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine of March 2014. The Crimean museums filed a cassation appeal with the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, asking it to overturn the decision of the Court of Appeal. On 9 June 2023, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands rejected the appeal and upheld the appeal decision.
"Therefore, the artefacts were transferred to the state of Ukraine, not to the museums of Crimea, which are now under occupation. According to the decree of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, the collections of Crimean museums should be transferred to the National Museum of History of Ukraine for storage," it said.
According to the final judgement issued by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, Ukraine had to pay the Allard Pierson Museum 111,689 euros with interest for the entire period of storage of the Crimean museums' collections.
On 5 July 2023, at a joint meeting at the Allard Pierson Museum, Director General of the National Museum of History of Ukraine Fedir Androshchuk proposed a plan to transfer and transport the collections of the Crimean museums to Ukraine. Later, the Allard Pierson Museum dropped the debt claim.
In November, the items from the Crimean museums were independently inspected and carefully packed in accordance with museum regulations. The artefacts were then transported to Kyiv. Now experts are examining the condition of these items. There are about 565 items, including antique sculptures, Scythian and Sarmatian jewellery, and Chinese lacquer boxes that are 2,000 years old.
"During the legal disputes, our museum was designated as a place to store the collections of the Crimean museums. This means that, for its part, the museum will make every effort to preserve them and to ensure that citizens and guests of Ukraine can see them," said Fedir Androshchuk, director general of the National Museum of History of Ukraine.
At the same time, Androshchuk pointed out that the collection has gained international political publicity, and therefore its condition and further fate will now be under the world's scrutiny. "This, in turn, places responsibility on all those who stood behind the political decision to return the collection to war-torn Ukraine. They must provide it with unprecedented protection, as well as appropriate economic support for the National Museum of History of Ukraine," said the director.
Earlier, the Ministry of Culture reported that the artefacts are planned to be exhibited after the Scythian gold is returned to Ukraine.