News / Europe

    Battles Loom Over Crimea's Cultural Heritage

    Women push strollers in the park of Livadia Palace where U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin held the Yalta Conference in Yalta, Crimea, March 11, 2014.
    Women push strollers in the park of Livadia Palace where U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin held the Yalta Conference in Yalta, Crimea, March 11, 2014.
    Reuters
    From the 16th-century Tatar Khans' palace in Bakhchisaray to the former tsarist residence that hosted the World War II Yalta conference, Crimea's heritage sites have become a source of bitter contention since Russia seized the region from Ukraine.
     
    For Kyiv, which does not recognize Moscow's annexation of Crimea, losing the cultural and historic legacy of the Black Sea peninsula would be another major blow and Ukraine is readying for long legal battles with Russia.
     
    “We will never give up the valuable heritage in Crimea because that is the property of Ukraine,” the country's prosecutor general, Oleh Makhnitsky, told Reuters on Wednesday.
     
    Ukraine's Culture Minister, Yevgen Nishchuk, said Kyiv was amending its laws to seek justice internationally should Russia start removing cultural goods from Crimea or take over formal supervision of the region's heritage sites.
     
    One exhibition, put together by five museums - including four in Crimea - and currently on display in Amsterdam, has already fallen hostage to the conflict over the region, the worst stand-off between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
     
    Both Crimea's pro-Russian authorities as well as Kyiv claim ownership of the exhibition, titled “Crimea - Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea”, which features golden artifacts and precious gems dating back to the fourth century BC.
     
    The show is operated by the University of Amsterdam and spokesman Yasha Lange said a legal investigation was going on to determine to whom the collection should be returned after it closes at the end of August.
     
    “The exhibition should return to Crimea,” said Valentina Mordvintseva, who works for Ukraine's National Academy of Sciences in Crimea's provincial capital of Simferopol and who helped Amsterdam's Allard Pierson Museum set up the exhibit.
     
    “So it has become a political issue,” she told Reuters. “If the things end up held in Kyiv, I think it would be bad for Ukraine itself because it would look like vengeance.”
     
    She was referring to a March 16 referendum in Crimea, an impoverished region of two million with a narrow ethnic Russian majority, which yielded an overwhelming victory for those advocating a split from Ukraine to join Russia.
     
    Kyiv and the West dismissed the hastily arranged vote as a sham but Moscow used it to justify formally incorporating Crimea on March 21.
     
    Crimea has since then introduced the Russian ruble as its currency and switched to Moscow time, while Russian troops have taken over Ukrainian military bases, forcing Kyiv to pull out its soldiers with their families.
     
    Tatars, Tsars and Stalin
     
    Prosecutor Makhnitsky said the Justice Ministry in Kyiv was preparing to register lawsuits with international organizations to assert its rights to the historic and cultural sites in Crimea.
     
    The ministry refused immediate comment on what exactly it plans to do, but any such endeavor is likely to be an uphill battle as Russia controls the region.
     
    Underscoring how any efforts from Kyiv could face further obstacles, some directors of Crimea museums have welcomed unification with Russia in the hope it will lead to increased budget support from Moscow.
     
    Valery Naumenko, director of a museum housed in the historic residence of the Crimean Khans in Bakhchisaray, complained that Kyiv had not allocated any funds for the upkeep of the palace, which is dominated by two slender minarets.

    “Ukraine has no resources and no moral right after these two decades to put up a bigfight over Crimea's heritage,” he told Reuters.

    “Everybody understands that the
    A general view shows the Swallow's Nest castle overlooking the Black Sea outside the Crimean town of Yalta, March 28, 2014.A general view shows the Swallow's Nest castle overlooking the Black Sea outside the Crimean town of Yalta, March 28, 2014.
    x
    A general view shows the Swallow's Nest castle overlooking the Black Sea outside the Crimean town of Yalta, March 28, 2014.
    A general view shows the Swallow's Nest castle overlooking the Black Sea outside the Crimean town of Yalta, March 28, 2014.
    decision is taken and we must all get used to living under the new conditions.”
     
    “The sooner politicians and culture workers in Kyiv understand that, the sooner life in Crimea and Ukraine will improve,” he said.
     
    In the elegant Livadia Palace in Yalta, director Larisa Dekusheva said she hoped to see more Russian tourists, now that Moscow has said it is determined to make Crimea a more popular holiday destination.
     
    The white stone palace, sitting on a slope with spectacular views over the Black Sea, was the last residence built for the tsars before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and served as a tuberculosis sanatorium afterwards.
     
    In February 1945 the site hosted the seven-day Yalta Conference, when Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt made key decisions on the post-war order.
     
    “It was originally the property of the Romanov family, that is of the tsars of Russia,” Dekusheva added, saying Moscow had historic rights to the palace and Kyiv should not seek any compensation.
     
    Crimea's new government has angrily dismissed any talk of potential compensation claims for the property it nationalized in separating from Ukraine.
     
    “We will not pay a thing, we will make our case in proper legal proceedings. If such claims are presented, we will come up with counterclaims,” Rustam Temirgaliyev, Crimea's First Deputy Prime Minister, told Reuters in late March.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora