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Russia Labels Parthenon Sculptures in British Museum as “Colonial Theft”

Parthenon Marbles, London
Maria Zakharova from Russia’s Foreign Ministry has condemned the display of Greek Parthenon Sculptures in Britain as an act of colonial theft. Credit: Solipsist / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.0

The representative of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, called the presence of Greek Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum a manifestation of the colonial tradition of theft.

During a recent briefing for media representatives, Zakharova described the situation, saying, “This is all theft, and we absolutely share this point of view. This is a colonial tradition.”

“For many centuries they have been stealing national treasures in different parts of the world, and their museums are by and large an account of the collection of stolen goods in the colonies,” Russia‘s representative also stated.

“Everything that is the wealth of the British Museum, the Louvre, sections of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and antiquity in general, everything that got there by exporting them from Greece and Egypt is illegal,” she added. “Everything that was exported by the French and British military or even diplomats under completely fabricated pretexts, allegedly that they did not export cultural values or exported them temporarily, is robbery. We fully share this point of view.”

At the same time, Russia’s diplomat called the situation with the Parthenon sculptures “a matter of bilateral relations between states.”

“They are sovereign, they will resolve their issues on their own,” Zakharova added.

Parthenon Sculptures Controversy at the British Museum

Previously, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed disappointment as his scheduled meeting with British counterpart Rishi Sunak was canceled abruptly, seemingly due to Mitsotakis’ comments on the Parthenon Sculptures.

Mitsotakis voiced his annoyance, emphasizing the broad framework of bilateral relations between Greece and Britain. He had hoped to discuss the Parthenon Sculptures issue alongside international challenges such as Gaza, Ukraine, the climate crisis, and migration. “Greece’s positions on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures are well known,” Mitsotakis added.

Sunak’s spokesperson, however, stated that the British Prime Minister is unwilling to consider returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, citing their legal acquisition under the laws of the time. Sunak views the marbles as a significant asset that the UK has safeguarded. Mitsotakis advocated for the “reunification” of the Parthenon sculptures. However, Sunak said the marbles belonged to the trustees of the British Museum.

Recently, the chairman of the British Museum trustees, George Osborne, expressed optimism about potentially reaching an agreement with Greece. In his speech at the annual trustees’ dinner in the Duveen Gallery, Osborne conveyed the hope of a deal that would involve the temporary return of the Parthenon Marbles in exchange for ancient artifacts never before exhibited in the UK. Osborne acknowledged the uncertainty of success but said it was worth trying.

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