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The artefacts had been stored by the Allard Pierson since 2014, awaiting a ruling on their rightful owner. That ruling came on 9 June this year, when the Netherlands’ Supreme Court ruled that the Allard Pierson must return the art treasures to Ukraine and not to the four museums in Crimea from which they originally came.

Last month, the objects were independently checked and carefully packed in accordance with museum rules. They were then transported to Kiev, where they arrived on 26 November. All of the disputed objects have now been returned, nine years after the original exhibition was shown in Amsterdam.

Els van der Plas, director of the Allard Pierson: ‘This was a special case, in which cultural heritage became a victim of geopolitical developments. After it became clear in 2014 that the judge would consider the case, we focused on safely storing the artefacts until the time came to return them to their rightful owner. We are pleased that clarity has emerged and that they have now been returned.’

Background

The transfer of the objects brings an end to a long-running legal case. In 2014, the exhibition Crimea – Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea, with objects from museums in Crimea, opened at the Allard Pierson in Amsterdam. During the exhibition, the Crimea was annexed by Russia and subsequently the Allard Pierson was confronted with conflicting claims to the artefacts, with both the state of Ukraine and the museums in Crimea declaring ownership. In August 2014, the Allard Pierson stated that it was not in a position to make a choice given the complex legal situation.

In December 2016, a court in Amsterdam ruled that the Allard Pierson must hand over the objects to the state of Ukraine. The Crimean museums appealed that ruling.

In an interim judgment in July 2019, the Court of Appeal determined that the Allard Pierson had acted lawfully by having the objects in question stored in 2014 pending a final judgment in the legal proceedings. The Amsterdam Court of Appeal subsequently ruled in October 2021 that the objects must be handed over to Ukraine. The Crimean museums subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court. The final judgment was passed on 9 June 2023.