Historians around the world have been warning us about the parallels that they see between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the first days of World War II, when Nazi Germany was openly carving Europe up for herself.
Not only are the Russian troops openly admitting that they were sent to Ukraine with Genocide on the agenda, but now it appears as though Putin is borrowing even more from Hitler’s playbook by attempting to steal or erase Ukraine’s culture as well.
The looting of art at times of war dates back millennia, with the Greeks and Romans among the worst perpetrators. Museums and private collections around the world are filled with looted art that changed hands during conflicts. During World War II, a secret Allied army known as the “Monuments Men” worked to protect European treasures from being pilfered by invading armies—with mixed success. Hitler’s stolen treasures are still being discovered across Germany. Millions of stolen pieces may never be found.
So far there are no specially trained armies in Ukraine to protect treasures from the precision Russian art thieves working under the cover of war to empty museums and destroy important pieces of Ukraine’s cultural heritage. There are just brave museum curators in regions where the Russians have seized control doing everything they can to hide and fortify their art and antiquities, using supplies smuggled in from the West to help them crate up paintings and sandbag statues.
And, in an even more woeful revelation:
Since Russia began its invasion in February, 250 cultural institutions have been targeted by Russian munitions. Thousands of important museums pieces have been destroyed during the bombing of Mariupol and elsewhere. In Melitopol, Scythian gold artifacts worth millions that date back to the fourth century B.C. were stolen from crates the museum had hidden them in.
This sort of cultural whitewashing has long been considered an evil pockmark on the history of war itself, and will certainly relegate Russia to the dimmer corners of the global community.