Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.02.2019
The Russian Federation is at war with Ukraine. This unprovoked war is an invasion by barbarian Muscovy against civilized Europe. In occupation, the Russians are vandalizing the cultural heritage of Ukraine and of Europe. The damage Putin’s War is doing to the heart and soul of Europe may be irreparable.
In Kerch, Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied) lie the ruins of the ancient Greek colony of Panticapaeum. A visible part of the ruins are the Prytaneion, a seat of government where city officials met for banquets and ceremonies. The columns in this structure have collapsed. The fallen parts of the collapsed columns were removed by occupation regime officials. Those officials blamed fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions, but their carelessness and neglect brought on the damage to Ukraine’s cultural heritage.
The Khan’s Palace in Bakhchisaray, Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied) has deteriorated beyond recovery. This is the opinion of Rustem Skibin, a Crimean Tatar ceramic artist. Mr. Skibin said of the Bakhchisaray Palace: “Its material artifacts were dismantled, rebuilt, re-filed, the roof was replaced with other materials. I have no idea where the materials for restoring the 300-year-old beam can be found today.” Sadly, “a point of no return has already been passed with regard to the Bakhchisary Palace,” said Mr. Skibin.
The Palace in Bakhchisaray had not yet made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List by the time the Russian Federation infaded and occupied Crimea, Ukraine in 2014. Now the Muscovites are carrying out archaeological excavation for the sake of extraction only. “We do not know the fate of what they find,” said Mr. Skibin. “It is unknown what they take away, leave, document. The international organizations are not present there.”
One piece of good news is that the artifacts from an exhibition of Scythian gold will not be going to the aggressor Russian Federation. The exhibition was ongoing in the Netherlands at the time the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in February-March 2014. The loan of exhibits was from legally-constituted museums of Ukraine located in Crimea. Now that this museums are illegally constituted under the temporary occupation regime from Muscovy, courts in the Netherland have determined that the artifacts will not be given over to the Russian Federation.
UNESCO should be taking the lead to save the patrimony of Ukraine and the rest of Europe from the harm being done by Russian vandalism. Ukraine has roots in ancient Greece, with the Scythians, and with the autochthonous people of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars. Putting the Khan’s Palace in Bakhchisaray on the UNESCO World Heritage List would be a great start, especially as it would go under the category “Ukraine.”
Truly saving Europe’s common heritage in Crimea will regime that the Russian occupation ends. Treasures like Panticapaeum and the Khan’s Palace will only be safe when Crimea is liberated.