When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a large collection of showpieces from Crimean museums were displayed in Amsterdam. Subsequently, a legal battle over their ownership ensued between Ukraine and the museums. Courtroom drama of the highest order, igniting both cultural and nationalist passions.
The Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam had just extended the travelling exhibition ‘The Crimea – Gold and secrets of the Black Sea’, when Russia took control of Crimea in February 2014. It put the museum’s director Wim Hupperetz in a ‘crazy situation’. Should he return the Crimean showpieces to the museums where they came from? Or would he, by doing that, in fact steal the pieces from Ukraine and award them to the occupying force Russia?
Local Crimean museums lent some of their most important pieces to the exhibition. And Valentina Mordvintzeva, archaeologist and curator of the exhibition, has dug up many of the artefacts herself. But Ukraine is determined to bring the pieces to Kyiv. It results in a years-long, nail biting legal battle in Dutch court rooms, which tests the nerves of everyone involved.