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Feodosia. Consequences of the occupation for cultural heritage

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The modern town of Feodosia has many cultural heritage sites, due to its long and quite diverse history. Feodosia or Theodosius used to be an ancient polis, founded by the Ionian Greeks, natives of Miletus, in the 6th century BC. From the very beginning, Feodosia was founded as an independent polis. Around it for several centuries, there was its agricultural district, the chora, which also included the rural settlements of the local population of Crimea, the Taurus. In 355 BC, the polis lost its independence and became part of the Bosporus Kingdom after the conquests of Leucon I. However, its continued existence as part of the kingdom was ambiguous. In the 4th century, the city was destroyed by the Huns, after which the life in it did not recover. In 1266, Genoese merchants bought the ruins of ancient Feodosia from the Tatar khan Oran-Timur and built their fortress on them, giving it the name Kafa. In 1475, Kafa was captured by the Ottoman Turks and became known throughout the Black Sea region as the largest slave market. In 1616 Kafa was captured by the Zaporozhian Cossacks led by Hetman Peter Sagaidachny. On July 20, 1771, the town was captured for the second time by the Cossacks, led by Colonel Opanas Kovpak, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, after which it became a protectorate of the Russian Empire. In 1787, Empress Catherine II renamed Kafa to Feodosia, her son Emperor Paul I returned Kafa its name, and his son Emperor Alexander I renewed the name given to the town by his grandmother Catherine. The name of the town has not changed since then.

Such a colorful history has left in the town many monuments belonging to different eras and peoples, including the ancient Greeks, Genoese, Turks, Armenians and Ukrainians.

In the period of 2017–2019, 2021, specialists of the State Hermitage headed by the researcher of the Classical Antiquity Department  of the State Hermitage M. Akhmadeeva under the guise of “archaeological research” unlawfully conducted excavations at cultural heritage sites of Ukraine in Crimea, i.e. in the ancient settlement and necropolis on the top and northern slope of the Tepe-Oba ridge, located in the southern part of Feodosia (AR of Crimea).[1]  Ancient samples of the cultures of the peoples living on the territory of the Crimean peninsula were damaged.

2017

Selective unlawful excavations were carried out on an area of over 100 hectares, during which fragments of several masonries, surface with archaeological layer, including the Classical and Hellenistic eras, as well as a site densely saturated with materials of the 14th-15th centuries were excavated.[2] 

2018

On the plateau along the western slope of the Genoese Gorge, remains of the 4th – 3rd centuries BC were excavated, including a medieval burial, in which a skull and a crossbow bolt, as well as a fragment of the foundation masonry of the 4th – 3rd centuries BC were found.[3]

2019

On the plateau along the western slope of the Genoese Gorge, unlawful excavations were carried out on an area of 100 square meters, during which the northern part of a large building of the early 4th century BC (at the turn of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC) was excavated (the total length of the masonry being more than 18 m). [4]

2021

Information on invitations for volunteers to participate in unlawful excavations for the period 05.06 –  10.06.2021 was published. Excavations of a large building of the 4th century BC and detailed “archaeological explorations” on the territory of the mound necropolis on the top and northern slope of the Tepe-Oba ridge were announced.[5]

Yuri Kokin, “Deputy Director of the Feodosia Museum of Antiquity”, “Deputy of the Feodosia City Council (United Russia Faction)”, took part in the unlawful excavations, which was separately covered on the website of the Feodosia local branch of the United Russia party.[6]

The federal budgetary institution of culture “The State Hermitage” is involved in unlawful activities in the ancient settlement and necropolis on the top and northern slope of the Tepe-Oba ridge, located in the southern part of Feodosia (AR of Crimea). The State Hermitage is included in the list of entities to which sanctions are applied according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine of May 14, 2020, №184 “On the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine of May 14, 2020 “On the application, abolition and amendment of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)”.

The actions of the occupation authorities, which resulted in unlawful appropriation, unlawful archeological excavations, during which archeological artifacts were seized are a violation of international humanitarian law.

These actions of the Russian Federation, together with other actions of the Occupying Power in their entirety may constitute a war crime in the form of extensive destruction and appropriation of cultural property, not justified by military necessity, and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

The group of monitoring experts of the Regional Center for Human Rights,

the working group of the expert network “Crimean Platform – Humanitarian Policy”

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[1] Feodosia Archaeological Expedition of the State Hermitage. The State Hermitage. Access mode: https://archive.is/IwwF0

[2] The State Hermitage report. 2017 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2018 .– 216 p. : ill. – P. 151. – Access mode: https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/7b60549f-4fe9-4878-bb3f-4f45626e7591/%D0%9E%D1%82%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%82+%D0%93%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE+%D0%AD%D1%80%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B6%D0%B0+2017.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-7b60549f-4fe9-4878-bb3f-4f45626e7591-muIYRB2

[3]The State Hermitage report. 2018 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2019 .– 228 p. : ill. – P. 150-151. – Access mode:       https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/c9220123-12be-47bf-924f-beae36983491/otchet_2018.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-c9220123-12be-47bf-924f-beae36983491-mWT9VLJ

[4] The State Hermitage report. 2019 / The State Hermitage. – SPb.: Publishing house of the State Hermitage Museum, 2021 .– 224 p. : ill. – P. 175. – Access mode:  https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/4d36cdb4-263a-47fe-b419-cfd9d4b00347/otchet19.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-4d36cdb4-263a-47fe-b419-cfd9d4b00347-nz6QdmO

[5] The Feodosia Archaeological Expedition of the State Hermitage announces limited recruitment of volunteers to participate in the research of the 2021 field season. “Otkrytaya Arkheologiya”. Access mode: https://archive.is/0ofFq

[6] Archaeological work at Tepe-Oba continues. United Russia Party, Crimea. Feodosia local branch. June 11, 2021 12:38 PM. Access mode: https://archive.is/Z5wA4

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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.

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