Anchor Staff Writer
The ongoing war between European nations Ukraine and Russia will reach one year this February. In the wake of the feud, Russian troops have reportedly marched on Ukrainian museums, thus pillaging Ukraine’s valued history.
Metipol, Ukraine has been under Russian control since March 2022. Soon after, Russia besieged The Metipol Museum of Local History. Located in the former Chernikov Mansion built in 1913, the museum is renowned by locals for housing many incredible artifacts once owned by the ancient Scythian empire: A nomadic kingdom that occupied much of eastern Europe. Among the stolen goods was a golden helmet assumed to be worn by a soldier in the 4th century BC.
“The orcs have taken hold of our Scythian gold,” Mayor Ivan Fedorov of Metipol told Ukrinform after Russian troops disappeared with the collection. “This is one of the largest and most expensive collections in Ukraine, and today we don’t know where they [Russia] took it.”
Museums across Ukraine have suffered similar attacks. The Kherson Regional Art Museum is assumed to be missing upwards of 10,000 pieces in its collection. The museum itself is treasured for its former title as Kherson’s city hall building but is loved for its vast collection of artifacts. Kherson prided itself on its incredible collection of 13,500 pieces, which has now unfortunately dwindled by approximately 75% due to theft by Russian troops.
One of the Kherson museum’s most valued possessions were the bones of Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin, a lover of former Russian empress, Catherine the Great. Along with thousands of other historical treasures, the Prince’s remains are missing. Many have declared this an unforgivable crime and an act of war on Ukraine’s history.
Other museums have been completely eradicated. The art museum in Mariupol was robbed of 2,000 artifacts before undergoing an airstrike. Kuindzhi Art Museum was formerly dedicated to treasured artist Arkhip Kuindzhi, a famous Ukrainian realist painter and the museum’s namesake. The museum was dedicated to honoring Kuindzhi and local Ukrainian artists who wish to share their work. Now it is in ruins.
The preservation of a nation’s history lies in its art. To steal art is to steal history and the ongoing war is no longer only an attack on territory, but a siege on culture. It is of utmost importance that the remaining museums and their collections are protected and that the memories of the lost are preserved. The history each artifact presents is vital to the longevity of Ukraine and its vast community.