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The World Heritage Site of Chersonesos Tavriya and its choirs are currently under threat of destruction, leading archaeologists from Ukraine, the United States and Poland said during a joint discussion. For the first time in eight years since the beginning of the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula with the participation of world scientists in the House of the Metropolitan of the National Reserve “Sophia of Kyiv” was a professional discussion of the future of Chersonese called “Crimea under the rule of herostratus”, during which archaeologists, representatives of public organizations and government officials of Ukraine analyzed the actions of the Russian Federation as a country – the occupier and its negative impact on world cultural heritage – Chersonesos Tavriya.
Since the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence, Chersonesos Tavriya is beginning to acquire a world-renowned historical status and name. For twenty years, scientists around the world have proven the uniqueness of this place – conducted a thorough study of it to establish and prove that Chersonesos Tavria is a world heritage site. More than a dozen years will be spent, more than tens of millions of dollars kindly invested by US citizens, before the 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee during its meeting in Cambodia decided to include the Chersonese Tavriya monument and its choir in the list. world heritage sites.
With the active participation of foreign partners from around the world, especially the United States and Poland, immediately after the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence began an active study of Chersonesos Tavriya. During the first visit of Joseph Carter, a professor at the Institute of Ancient Archeology at the University of Texas, to Ukraine in 1992, the American scientific community decided to join the study of the historical heritage of Chersonesos and its choir. As the Professor noted in 1994, they had the first expedition together with archaeologists from Ukraine, the Russian Federation, including representatives of other countries – Britain, Germany and Italy. “It became clear almost immediately that Chersonese and its choirs are a historical heritage that can be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List,” said Professor J. K. Carter.
Adam Rabinowitz, who worked with Joseph Carter on the study of Chersonesos Tavriya and who directly led the field research in the joint Ukrainian-American project, said that the American side worked on the site until the nomination of Chersonesos was completed. It was with the participation of American fellow archaeologists that preparatory work for the Chersonese nomination and inclusion in the world heritage began. American scholars have supported the nomination process on three major issues: conservation, preservation, and interpretation — a successful nomination is impossible without each of these sections. In addition, it was the American side that financially and technically supported the entire project throughout the study. The Institute of Ancient Archeology at the University of Texas sponsored a special conservation program that included transportation materials and laboratories to preserve artifacts, as well as other tools needed for this type of research. In total, the total cost of the American Packard family’s private contribution to the project alone was about $ 25,000,000 (twenty-five million), said Professor J. K. Carter.
Since 1998, Polish archaeologists from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań have also joined the project. Olena Klonina (formerly Scientific Secretary of the Chersonesos Tavriya National Reserve) together with her Polish counterpart Andrzej Bernatski developed a comprehensive program of archeological research of the Chersonesos settlement, as well as a comprehensive program of conservation and restoration works on the site for successful nomination.
Evelina Kravchenko, a well-known researcher of Chersonesos, a representative of the Ukrainian archeological community that moderated the event, noted that thanks to Joseph Carter and his work on the study of Chersonesos and his choir, a whole galaxy of Ukrainian historians and archaeologists grew up. himself.
Thanks to the long-term cooperation of a large number of researchers from different countries, in 2013 the ancient city of Chersonesos Tavriya and its choir was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The following year, 2014, the Russian Federation occupied the Crimean peninsula, and illegally annexed the peninsula, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as subjects of the Russian Federation. Exploration of the monument The ancient city of Chersonesos Tavriya and its choirs became impossible and stopped at the same time as the beginning of the Russian occupation of Crimea.
Calling the fact of occupation “accession” and trying to legitimize their illegal actions in Crimea, the Russian Federation involved leading Russian educational, scientific and cultural institutions for the so-called “excavations” of cultural heritage of Ukraine in Crimea, which really turned into a common looting of Ukrainian cultural heritage. people. The State Hermitage, the Institute of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Geographical Society, the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the Chersonese Tavriya State Historical and Archaeological Museum-Reserve and other institutions and their collaborators executors – illegal destruction of monuments of Ukraine in the Crimea. Hundreds of monuments have been inevitably lost, hundreds of thousands (and according to some estimates more than a million) of artifacts have been stolen and taken out of the occupied peninsula.
A similar fate befell Chersonesos Tavriya – so-called scientists from the State Hermitage and institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences are trying to plunder the cultural heritage of Ukraine in the Crimea to give the appearance of archaeological research – publish some results of their criminal activities.
According to experts, during the discussion as a result of the above-mentioned barbaric activity of the occupying power on the monument, the question arose about the possibility of the actual destruction of the monument to Chersonesos Tavriya. Prominent Ukrainian archaeologist, co-author of the nomination dossier of Chersonesos Tavriya Timur Bobrovsky has revealed the actual circumstances of the destruction of the historical monument under “Russian rule”. During his speech, the speaker noted that the international expedition developed a plan for the development of territory, buildings, protected areas, and this plan was approved by the city authorities of Sevastopol and the world organization, but after the establishment of the occupying power none of these rules is met. According to the developed norms – the maximum height, the height in this historical part of the city of Sevastopol – is twenty-seven meters from the modern surface, while to date the occupying power has set a limit of forty-two meters. In another example, the speaker noted the circumstances of the Lighthouse Peninsula, Cape Chersonese, which has been approved as a protected landscape area and is currently being actively built up by Russian occupation forces and old military infrastructure is being restored. “And in this protected landscape, what was called ‘Strabo Chersonese’ will probably be lost once and for all,” Bobrovsky said. The negative impact of the occupation has had a special effect on the choir of the monument – uncontrolled demolition of the cultural layer due to the active development of the city – residential complexes are being built on previously unbuilt ancient choir, which is located on an area of ten thousand hectares. The cultural layer is simply demolished without the slightest archaeological supervision. Illegal excavations are also carried out without archaeological supervision. And the failure to carry out conservation work on the unveiled monument led to the destruction of part of the wall, which crumbled after the winter. It is worth noting that the Kerch-Feodosia-Belogorsk-Simferopol-Bakhchisaray-Sevastopol highway, the so-called Tavrida highway, is also destroying Chersonesos Tavriya: more than one hundred and fifty (150) hectares of protected area have been given over to highway construction.
The archaeologist also stressed the negative impact of the occupation authorities on the settlement of Chersonesos, which is a port part of the ancient city, and is currently one of the least explored areas – heavy machinery works in this place. In response to allegations that the facility was destroyed by Russia, there were allegations that “machinery was removing dumps” (empty land). However, after the removal of such land outside the reserve, locals found among these dumps many artifacts, including a marble column of Byzantine times. Timur Bobrovsky emphasizes that such facts show that the excavations were carried out without prior proper archaeological research of this area, and that the monument is really not removed garbage, and cultural layer of soil.
Among the negative factors, the co-author of the nomination dossier of the monument also included the construction of illegal structures on the monument, which closes the monument: under these constructions “.
Separately, Timur Bobrovsky drew attention to the illegal activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in Chersonesos Tavriya: the church was given twenty-three hectares of land in Chersonesos for the construction of the temple complex, workshops, parking, and more. The occupation administration plans to move the museum outside the reserve and transfer the entire territory of the monastery, fence off this central part and make a monastery complex there, which is definitely a negative impact on the monument.
In conclusion, the speaker outlined the glaring problem of the extraordinary militarization of Sevastopol: the location on the monument and in the immediate vicinity of military bases and their saturation with various artillery shells and other ammunition, which is a direct threat to the World Heritage Site.
Serhiy Turchyn, a representative of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, said that the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol provides procedural guidance in twenty-three criminal proceedings in the field of cultural and historical heritage destruction alone. including the Chernivtsi Tavriya. To date, law enforcement agencies qualify such crimes under the national legislation of Ukraine. However, in the future, the adaptation of Ukrainian legislation in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute and international law will provide Ukraine with tools in the future to prosecute the Russian Federation for crimes in the field of looting of cultural heritage classified as crimes in international humanitarian law.
At the same time, the Office of the Prosecutor General together with the NGO “Regional Center for Human Rights”, NGO “Euromaidan-Crimea” and NGO “Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union” prepared and submitted in August 2020 an information report to the International Criminal Court on the responsibility of Russian officials for large-scale appropriation and destruction of cultural heritage sites of Ukraine in the Crimea.
Participants in the discussion – representatives of relevant ministries, including Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine Kateryna Chuyeva and Adviser to the Political Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Kateryna Smagliy – noted the readiness of the state in cooperation with civil society to defend Ukraine’s historical and cultural values. actions of the Russian Federation.
Chersonesos Tavriya is still a unique place in Ukraine, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List due to the efforts of the entire international community. For decades, thanks to the efforts of many scientists at the expense of individuals and taxpayers from around the world, we have without exaggeration gained an exceptional and unique place in Ukraine. The occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation posed a real threat to the destruction of Chersonese and its choir: “We have every reason to до apply to the World Heritage Committee… to put Chersonesos Tavriya on the World Heritage List under threat,” said Timur Borowski. “I think we are supported by all experts who should have been involved in Chersonese.” What is happening there now is destroying Chersonese, and we must prevent it… “, – said the Ukrainian archaeologist.
According to all participants of the round table who were present in Sofia Tavriya during the professional discussion “Crimea under the rule of herostrate”, the inclusion of Chersonesos in the world heritage sites under threat can really strengthen Ukraine’s voice on the world stage and open others, new paths for the World Heritage Committee itself, for ICOMOS, for monitoring and for political pressure on the Russian Federation.
 Joseph Carter is one of the world’s leading archaeologists of antiquity and art history, and Professor of Classical Archeology at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas
Implemented within the project “Information Platform” Voice of Crimea. Culture “- about Crimea honestly, qualitatively, actually” with the support of the Media Development Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US government.