Forum Archaeologiae - Zeitschrift für klassische Archäologie 55 / VI / 2010


The history of archaeological excavations on the territory of Crimea (Ukraine) numbers few centuries. In addition to the traditional and the most prestigious sectors such as Stone Age, Ancient, Scythian, Byzantines eras and the time of the Great Migration of Peoples etc. The Crimea occupies 4% of the territory of modern Ukraine, but 25% of cultural and historical monuments of the state are located on its territory and many of them are the world famous. The history of many Crimean cities (Kerch, Sevastopol, Evpatoria, Feodosia) keeps the memory of nations for more than 2500 years.
Since 1993, the Crimean archaeological expeditions have acquired an international character. They have been attended by scientists, not only from Russia, but also by specialists from Germany, Belgium, France, UK, USA, Canada, Turkey, etc. However, at the moment only 12 expeditions left (once there were 32). Taking only the Russian expeditions' example; I will talk about the difficulties, as the leading role in the archaeological studies has traditionally belonged to Russian specialists.
Major scientific discoveries, numerous publications and world-famous collection of Russian and Ukrainian museums - these are the results of their works. A successfully established system of organizing and conducting of the Ancient monuments archaeological research, located on the territory of Crimea operated for many decades (from 1930s of XX), up to the year 2009. However, in 2009, before the field season, Russian archaeologists at first time faced with a very controversial and complicated situation connecting with the issuing of the permit documents giving the right to conduct the archaeological researches in the Crimea. Under the false pretext of imperfection of the Ukrainian legislation the Ukrainian authorities denied in the receiving of the Excavation licenses to all 12 Russian expeditions remaining in the Crimea. It took urgent talks and consultations at the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Ukraine to develop a temporary, interim solution of the problem. In order not to disrupt the field season of 12 Russian expeditions in the Crimea, a temporary option of obtaining permits for the organization and conducting of the works was quickly implemented.
Field season of the year 2009 showed in practice, the heads of the Russian expeditions have been deprived of legal rights to organize and carry out the archaeological work, to process and register the received materials. This artificially constructed but failed scheme seriously hampered the organization and conducting of expeditions, creating certain difficulties even for our Ukrainian archaeologists.
We should not forget that Russian archaeologists' study is conducted in the conditions of increasing destruction and looting of the Crimean archaeological sites. In this regard the need of further systematic work of Russian expeditions, including the primary conservation, restoration and preservation of sites during the field season, is objectively one of the important measures for their conservation.
Funding for these studies in the Crimea has traditionally been the Russian. Thus, in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation, the materials obtained during the excavation, including the unique exhibits, each year enrich the collections of the Crimean museums.
Governmental decisions of archaeological activities in the territory of Ukraine in 2009 are: the centralization transformed into the monopolization and commercialization of the national cultural heritage preserving and researching.
Over the past 10 years the number of archaeological expeditions and detachments working in the Crimea decreased in 2 times, and the number of Professional Archaeologists in 2,5 times.
A true calamity for the Crimea in recent years is unprecedented looting "digs" with the only purpose - to meet the demand for antiquities in the near and far abroad. Archeologists count that annually about 1,000 burial mounds, tombs, gravestone and underground tombs in the Crimea are looted.
So, the facts contained in my report show that the destruction and the irretrievable loss of archaeological sites of world significance can happen not only in the open hostilities, but also because of irresponsible, incompetent government policies, as well as the contemplative attitude of the international community. In my opinion, it is necessary to adopt or improve some international instruments concerning the protection and restoration of historical and architectural monuments that could give the international organizations the right to influence the processes taking place both in the problematical country and beyond its borders, preventing looting and destruction of historical sites and artifacts.
And here the problem of the world community is to work together to create the conditions that preclude the sale of items obtained during the illegal excavations in the Crimea as well as in the other states. This can be achieved by tightening the conditions of international auctions, close cooperation between law enforcement agencies of different countries. Equally important is the humanitarian aspect of the problem: the attitude of society at large to the facts of the acquisition of things, obtained illegally, by private collectors.
The international community lacks of full information even about the most important archaeological monuments located on the territory of Crimea. Joint researches, exhibitions, restoration projects with an international character can help to fill these information gaps. Exchange programs for specialists, especially the young are of a great importance, too. The Crimean museums, performing the storing function of archaeological artifacts, are already working in this direction. We are open to interesting suggestions and further cooperation.

© Tatyana Umrikhina
Contact Leylya M. Strobl:;

This article should be cited like this: T. Umrikhina, Legal Limitations of the Rights of International Archaeological Expeditions in the Ukraine, Forum Archaeologiae 55/VI/2010 (