The case of Scythian Gold

In February 2014 Allard Pierson Museum in the Netherlands for the first time opened the exhibition “Crimea: Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea”. The loan of a priceless collection of gold artefacts was ensured by five Ukrainian museums—four of which are in Crimea. Later that year Crimea was annexed by Russia, and at the end of exhibition time – scheduled for May 2014 – both Russian and Ukraine claimed ownership over the loaned art objects.

The Allard Pierson Museum found itself in a difficult political and legal situation, unsure of where to return the art objects in dispute. The museum decided to hold onto the art until a legal solution could be found. On November 19, 2014, the four Crimean museums filed a lawsuit in Amsterdam against the Allard Pierson Museum, claiming that the art objects should be returned to the institutions with the strongest cultural heritage ties[1].

On 14 December 2016 Amsterdam District Court ruled that Crimean gold artifacts are to be returned to Ukraine and not Crimea. The main argument of the court is that only sovereign countries could claim objects as cultural heritage. Therefore, since Ukraine, and not Crimea, is sovereign, the treasures must be returned to Ukraine.

Short overview of the case is given by the cultural heritage law expert, former legal head of the State Inspection for Protection of Cultural Monuments of the Republic of Latvia, Ms.Līga Ābele:

 

Full text of the court decision is available at: https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/inziendocument?id=ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2016:8264 (in Dutch)

 

Late January 2017 the decision was appealed and the final solution still to follow.

Interesting analysis on the topic you can find in the article of Maria Nudelman: “Who owns the Scythian Gold? The Legal and Moral Implications of Ukraine and Crimea’s Cultural Dispute”, published at Fordham International Law Journal, available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2401&context=ilj, or here: crimean-gold-russia-vukraine.pdf

 

 


[1] Maria Nudelman, Who owns the Scythian Gold? The Legal and Moral Implications of Ukraine and Crimea’s Cultural Dispute, available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2401&context=ilj, p.5, last visited 10 February 2017