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Ukrainian Museum Calls Out Russian Looting

April 9, 2024
The Kherson Art Museum (photo courtesy of Kristina Fedorovych)

The Kherson Art Museum (photo courtesy of Kristina Fedorovych)

A Ukrainian museum has shown that Russian forces looted thousands of items, including nearly one hundred paintings, successfully transferring them to other museums in Russian-controlled areas.

In a Facebook post on March 29th, the Kherson Museum announced that it had identified ninety-nine paintings previously in its collection that were looted by the Russian military during their eight-month occupation of the city. The museum confirmed this thanks to a video made at the Tavrida Central Museum in Simferopol in Russian-controlled Crimea that aired on Russian television in September 2023. In its statement, the museum explained, “Looters document their crimes themselves, and this allows us to determine the whereabouts of at least part of the stolen goods.”

These stolen works include A Gloomy Day, an oil on board painting by Efrem Zverkov, one of the most prominent twentieth-century Soviet landscape painters who was also associated with the “severe style” of Soviet realist painting in the 1950s and 1960s. There was also Fishermen on the Seashore by Ivan Shulga, a 1932 oil painting done on paper laid on board. Shulga was a native of the Kherson area but spent much of his career up north in Kharkiv. Fishermen on the Seashore is a classic example of Soviet socialist realism popular throughout the Stalinist era, which promoted the benefits of life under socialism and, more importantly, valorized working people. The stolen works identified in the video also included those by modern and contemporary Soviet and Ukrainian artists like Venera Takaieva, Ksenia Stetsenko, Ivan Starenkov, Anatoly Platonov, and Antonin Fomyntsev. Furthermore, the Kherson Museum has identified works by foreign artists, like the Czech cityscape painter Jaro Procházka, as having been stolen by the Russians. Besides Simferopol, the Kherson Museum has also identified paintings at a museum in Henichesk, a city in the Kherson region under Russian control. A different video shows a painting by Konstantin Korovin entitled Phaeton in Sevastopol, previously kept by the Kherson Museum, on display at an event in Henichesk celebrating the tenth anniversary of Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea.

According to the museum’s post, “In fact, the 100 identified works are a drop in the ocean, less than 1% of what was stolen, because under the guise of the so-called ‘evacuation’, the occupiers removed more than 10,000 works of art.”