After nearly a decade of legal battle, hundreds of Crimea’s ancient artifacts, collectively known as Scythian gold, have been returned to Ukraine from the Netherlands. These valuable objects were caught in legal limbo in Amsterdam in 2014 after being displayed at the Allard Pierson Museum in an exhibition titled “Crimea: Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea.” The prolonged court battle ensued after Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, resulting in a ruling by the supreme court of the Netherlands in June 2023 that the items should be returned to Kyiv, rather than to the four Crimean museums under Russian control.
Els van der Plas, the director of the Allard Pierson Museum, described the case as a situation in which cultural heritage became a victim of geopolitical developments. She expressed relief that the artefacts have been safely returned to their rightful owner. The Crimean museums, backed by the Russian government, had appealed previous court rulings, claiming ownership of the ancient artifacts. However, the supreme court of the Netherlands ultimately ruled in favor of returning them to Ukraine.
The National History Museum of Ukraine, which received the artefacts, stated that it would store them until the deoccupation of Crimea, marking the ultimate goal of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion. The museum also mentioned that the pieces included antique sculptures, Scythian and Sarmatian jewelry, and Chinese lacquer caskets, some of which are 2,000 years old. Additionally, the Kyiv museum acknowledged the Allard Pierson’s cooperation in ensuring the safe transport of the pieces and the waiver of the storage payment set by the court.
The Dutch museum, Allard Pierson, has assisted in covering the costs of the artifact’s return to Ukraine, including security-related expenses. However, the museum will no longer be involved in their preservation now that the items have been returned to their legitimate owner. This marks the end of a long and complicated legal battle over the fate of the valuable cultural heritage, with the artifacts returning to Ukraine after a prolonged stay in the Netherlands.