Ukraine's Stolen Masterpieces: The Tragic Looting of Aivazovsky's 'Moonlit Night'

BNN 14 February 2024
By Justice Nwafor

The looting of priceless artworks, such as Ivan Aivazovsky's Moonlit Night, continues amid war and conflict in Ukraine. Over 664 cultural heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed since Russia's invasion in 2022.

In the shadow of war and conflict, the looting of priceless artworks from Ukraine's cultural institutions continues to make headlines. Among the stolen masterpieces is Ivan Aivazovsky's 'Moonlit Night,' a painting valued at approximately 100 million rubles, which is now set to be auctioned in Moscow after being illegally transferred from Crimea.

A Series of Art Thefts and Destruction

The illegal transfer of Aivazovsky's 'Moonlit Night' to the Simferopol Art Museum in 2014 marked the beginning of a series of art thefts and destruction during Russia's occupation of Crimea and subsequent invasion of Ukraine. As one of the most renowned marine artists of his time, Aivazovsky produced around 6,000 paintings during his career, many of which now hang in museums and galleries around the world.

Cultural Casualties of War

In 2022, some of Aivazovsky's works were destroyed in an airstrike on the Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol, while others were looted by Russian forces from Mariupol and Kherson museums. The following year, the ancient reserve museum of Chersonesos Taurica, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, was looted by Russian forces in temporarily occupied Crimea. According to recent reports, more than 664 cultural heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Ukrainian Law Expert Speaks Out

"The looting of these priceless artworks is not only a crime against Ukraine's cultural heritage but also a violation of international law," says Ukrainian law expert Gyunduz Mamedov. "These artworks belong to the Ukrainian people, and their theft and sale are a blatant attempt to profit from the suffering and destruction caused by this war."

The Kherson Art Museum has issued a statement condemning the theft of Aivazovsky's works, calling for their immediate return and the prosecution of those involved in their illegal transfer and sale. Among the 52 paintings put on an Interpol wanted list, 'Moonlit Night' is the most valuable and highly sought after.

As the world watches the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the fate of its cultural heritage hangs in the balance. The looting and destruction of priceless artworks serve as a stark reminder of the human cost of war and the importance of preserving our shared cultural history for future generations.

Note: This article is based on facts and information available as of February 14, 2024. The situation in Ukraine is rapidly evolving, and the details of this story may change as new information becomes available.
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