Regarding the sanctions list of Russian scientific and museum institutions that participate in archaeological research on the territory of the Crimean Peninsula and operate directly in the Crimea

Regarding the sanctions list of Russian scientific and museum institutions that participate in archaeological research on the territory of the Crimean Peninsula and operate directly in the Crimea

The well-known Spanish newspaper El País published an article by journalist Pilar Bonet, who specializes in Eastern European issues, on the sanctions list, which includes a number of Russian scientific and museum institutions recently signed by the President of Ukraine. In general, the composition of this list does not raise questions. It includes institutions that participate in archaeological research on the Crimean Peninsula, along with those that operate directly in the Crimea. Unexpectedly, the list included the Russian Geographical Society, headed by Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation Sergey Shoygu. As it turned out, the representatives of this institution – staff members of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences Stefania Zini and Nikita Khokhlov were the initiators of the project “Genoese fortresses of Crimea and the Azov-Black Sea basin”, which was presented in the spring of 2019. Italian public organization Italia Nostra in the person of academician of architecture Giovanni Spala, Maria Paola Morittu, etc., archeological company LLC “Terra” (Voronezh, Russia) in the person of director Ruslan Tyurin, etc., as well as several other people from the Italian and Russian sides joined the cooperation within the project.

The goal set by this group seems “noble” – to study the cultural heritage of the Genoese. The end result was the inclusion of the Genoese monuments of Crimea in the UNESCO World Heritage List and the creation of “sights” for the promotion of Genoese monuments.

During the summer and autumn of 2019, this group visited the fortresses in Sudak, Feodosia, Chembalo, castles in Alushta, Choban-Kule and Chorhun Tower. Among the significant “achievements” of the expedition only a 3-D scan draft of some small objects can be noted. The rest of its time was devoted to a powerful PR company. There was a loud press conference at the MFA of Russia, and numerous appearances on television, and publications on Internet resources. The expedition was greeted with fanfare by the heads of museums and reserves of the Crimea and the so-called Republic of Crimea.

We will not provide a legal assessment of the actions of these persons who crossed the administrative border of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea through closed checkpoints and are conducting research activities on the peninsula. This is the task of the state apparatus and law enforcement agencies of Ukraine. But we will still evaluate the activities of the “expedition” in some areas. Surprisingly, the members of the Italian-Russian initiative group never mentioned that at least one of the Genoese monuments of Crimea (Sudak Fortress) has been included in the previous UNESCO World Heritage List in two categories long ago: as a cultural landscape (2007) and as part of the transnational nomination “Trade settlements and fortifications on the trade routes of the Genoese. From the Mediterranean to the Black Sea” (2010). The mechanism for including other Genoese monuments, at least Crimea, in the UNESCO World Heritage List from Russia was also not presented, which indicates complete incompetence in these matters.

The incompetence of the group in all other stated areas is plain enough, because we do not see any specialized specialist who would understand the issues of medieval studies among the members of the group. It is headed by two ethnologists: an archaeologist, a specialist in Bronze Age monuments, and an architect who is specialized in the restoration of early modern monuments. Therefore, in the publications of the “expedition” there are a lot of funny “discoveries”. Thus, we came across the statement that the participants of the project will try to find out through archival documents the fate of the Genoese bank of St. George, traces of which are allegedly lost in the XVI century. But even from the Wikipedia site you can learn that the bank was liquidated only in 1856. Speaking of Choban-Kule Castle, it is claimed that it was the center of a large settlement of potters and had a port. But any Crimean local historian knows that the pottery kilns at the foot of the castle date back to IX-X centuries and have nothing to do with the unfinished Genoese fortification of the Guasco family of 1459-1475 at the top of the mountain. And there are hundreds, if not more, of such nonsense in the texts.

We will not emphasize once again that the activities of Italian-Russian “researchers” openly violate Ukrainian and international law. This is not even the main and not the worst thing they could do. With their amateurish approach, they discredit historical science as such. Therefore, it seems that any serious scientists will not cooperate with this pseudo-scientific group, although it is actively trying to involve them in cooperation. Even historians and archaeologists who remained on the peninsula after 2014 are in no hurry to join this dubious project. The purpose of these adventurers, who deftly took advantage of the situation in the wake of political instability in the region, is only to obtain public funds from the Russian Federation to continue their pseudo-research.

Links to the nomination documents of the Sudak Fortress on the UNESCO website: