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Melitopol Museum of Local Lore, Ukrainian museum targeted by the Russians for its Scythian gold artifacts. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

SCIENCE & TECH: Russian Soldiers Empty Ukraine Museum Of Scythian Artifacts

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Russian soldiers have entered a Ukrainian museum where they stole a priceless collection of ancient artifacts. Their haul included a 2,300-year-old Scythian gold crown.

The ancient crown was used by a Scythian ruler some 2,300 years ago. The Scythians were a 7th to 2nd century BC group of nomadic tribes who inhabited Ukraine, central Asia and the Middle East.  Scythian horse-people were master’s with the bow and arrow and they invaded Europe centuries before  Genghis Khan  or Charlemagne. Now, the priceless headpiece is heading to Crimea to be used as a political tool.

Looking Down The Barrel Of A Russian Rifle

Armed Russian troops accompanied an artifacts specialist into the Museum of Local Lore in occupied Melitopol on Friday. Reports say they illegally removed ‘198 treasures.’ Staff member Leila Ibrahimova said the staff tried to hide the most important relics and artifacts, ‘but somehow’ the [Russian Soldiers] found them.

‘Somehow.’ In this instance the ‘somehow’ turned out to be ‘someone’ – the recently Russian military-appointed director, Yevhen Horlachev.

Melitopol Museum of Local Lore, Ukrainian museum targeted by the Russians for its Scythian gold artifacts. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

They Come In The Night

Mr Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, was imprisoned and ‘psychologically tortured’ for six days before he was swapped in a ‘prisoner exchange,’ according to the Daily Mail. Fedorov told the press that the Russian soldiers ‘came to me at night.’ Five or seven soldiers arrested the mayor and put a plastic bag over his head and took him out of a building.

‘They wanted to make an example of me,’ said Fedorov, to show people what would happen if they failed to do exactly what the Russians wanted. He said half the city was destroyed and that there is no more food or medicine. Furthermore, in excess of ‘200 people have been kidnapped’ so it’s not safe to walk the streets,’ he added.

Mayor Fedorov concluded that ‘Orcs have taken hold of our  Scythian gold’ . Orcs were of course the ugly, violent and malevolent race of monsters created by  Tolkien. The mayor said that while nobody knows where the Russian soldiers took the treasures, ‘we hope we can get it back.’ It is thought Putin will now order his army to move the stolen Ukrainian treasures to annexed  Crimea.

Targeting the Coveted Scythian Gold Art

Historians regard the Scythians as ‘relentless punishers’ who tied the skin of their slayed enemies to their horses as trophies of war. In 430 BC  Herodotus wrote Histories, in which he said of the Scythian rider, he ‘hangs the handkerchiefs on the bridle of his horse, and is very proud of them. The best man is the man who has the greatest number.’

Furthermore, the Greek historian wrote that Scythian warriors were renowned for rubbing their enemies’ scalps in their hands ‘to soften it enough to be used as handkerchiefs.’

Knowing they were under attack, staff at a museum in Melitopol had hidden a collection of the priceless artifacts in a dark cellar. However, Russian troops threatened them at gunpoint to reveal the whereabouts of the treasures.  New York Times  reported that when soldiers pointed guns at the caretaker, and insisted he take them to the cellar, ‘the man still refused.’ However,  Daily Mail  reports that the Russian military-appointed museum director simply ‘handed over the gold.’

Russian soldier leaving a Mariupol museum with a bag of objects. (Petro Andriushchenko)

Russian soldier leaving a Mariupol museum with a bag of objects. ( Petro Andriushchenko )

Other Ukrainian Museums Targeted

And it seems it is not just the gold that the Russians are after, but depriving Ukraine of other cultural treasures. In Mariupol, the City Council posting on  Telegram, has accused Russia of stealing over 2000 artworks from the city museums, including ‘A handwritten Torah scroll and paintings by Arkhip Kuindzhi and Ivan Aivazovsky’ from the Landscape Art Museum.

Further items include an 1811 Bible, and 200 medals from the Museum of Medallion Art, reports  Hyperallergic. As of May 2, UNESCO has  confirmed damage  to 120 cultural sites in Ukraine, including 10 museums and 7 libraries, amongst others.

Some of the works of art allegedly removed from the Mariupol Landscape Art Museum (Mariupol City Council)

Some of the works of art allegedly removed from the Mariupol Landscape Art Museum ( Mariupol City Council )

Antiques Are Top Level Targets For War Mongers

It was only in 2014 that Volodomyr Aryev, a Ukrainian parliamentarian, called for the United Nations to intervene and stop the ‘looting of museums in Crimea by the Russian occupation authorities.’  Reports at the time said Moscow was accused of trying to ‘change the cultural and ethnic face’ of the entire peninsula. Such actions, he noted, were in ‘violation of international law, including the UN Convention on Genocide, which prohibits such actions’.

Mr Rada said Russian occupation authorities ‘carried away pictures from the museums of Crimea to the museums of Russia, and to the Hermitage of St. Petersburg in the first instance.’ The politician said this move marked ‘the beginning of the mass export of cultural and historical values and artistic subjects.’ It’s not that Aryev was close, but he hit the bullseye, as the recent raid on the museum in Melitopol illustrates.

Top image: Representative Scythian gold warrior helmet kept in the National History Museum Kyiv.  Source: Yurii Zushchyk /Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie

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