Who raided the mound?

Юрківка-табличка-300By Feofaniy Biletsky

The head of the village council of Yurkivka, Zvenyhorod County, Cherkassy Oblast, is being accused of abuse of power and the destruction of a historical monument, a Scythian burial mound.

A journalist investigation suggests that all the charges are unfounded and not supported by any evidence. Rather, it reminds political persecution as the official in question has a distinct stance and often acts not in line with the instructions "from above."

Zvenyhorod County in Cherkasy Oblast boasts quite a lot of Scythian burial mounds, some of them pretty famous in historical circles. An inconspicuous mound in the village of Yurkivka only recently drawn a lot of attention by the local community. Not by archaeologists. And not just out of a surge of curiosity to cultural heritage.

Head of Cultural Heritage, Museum and Religious Affairs Department in the Oblast State Administration Mykola Suhoviy stated in a recent address to the Zvenyhorod county deputies that "on the orders of the head of the Yurkivka village council, a [historical] mound was destroyed by way of removal of soil from the mound, which inflicted UAH 9,011,412.00 in damages to the state. Meanwhile, police do not seem to take any legal action," and urged Zvenyhorod County Council "to take action against this situation and prevent such incidents in the future."

Right on the eve of the appeal, the local newspaper "Shevchenko's Land" run an article titled "Scythian treasure hunt" by Yevhen Shramenko. The article reads: "An archeological monument, a mound, probably of Scythian period, aged not less than four thousand years, was destroyed outside Yurkivka. Zvenyhorod inter-county prosecutor's office initiated a criminal investigation, now led by the local police. The probe concentrated on the Yurkivka councilwoman and one of the locals, who allegedly destroyed the ancient burial mound. According to the official version by the local police, the latter has addressed the village council for help in the restoration and preservation of his private land plot that was being eroded by elements, which lead to formation of a ravine. To restore his land plot, the farmer needed some soil, so he got the permission to raze the hill outside the village. Later on, he told the investigation he had no idea of ​​the archaeological value of "the hill" and believed it was an 'ordinary hillock'..."

However, according to a representative of the archaeological expedition of the Culture Department of Cherkasy Oblast State Administration, Dmytro Kushtan, PhD in History, the damaged object was a historical burial mound and a part of a comprehensive archeological landmark– a group of three mounds, listed in the state [historical national heritage] register and was taken on record back in 1990.

Now, the question is who exactly gave the green light to raze "the hill behind the village." The OSA claims it was the head of the Yurkivka council.

An equation with several unknown

The appeal was accompanied by the act about a violation of the civil law. In absence of other evidence, the conclusions set out in the document, signed by Roman Pavlenko, a senior researcher with the archaeological inspection of the Cherkasy Oblast State Administration, its acting head Oleksandr Nazarov, and the director of the Zvenyhorod Natural History Museum Olena Narizhna, do seem fairly convincing. Indeed, the document suggests that "the excavated soil taken from the southern and south-eastern sides reaching the central part of the mound accounted for 2/3 of the burial mound."

In the course of the preliminary investigation, law enforcers quickly traced down the villager, who really took the soil from the hillock, which the document describes as the burial mound. However, the investigation found no malice in the actions of the defendant so the criminal case was shut down in a short while. So it looks like the findings made ​​by the police can hardly be called an official version, especially considering that the prosecutor's office found the probe superficial and reopened the investigation?

The journalist insight revealed that it took more than one local villager to destroy the landmark. I have visited the crime scene, i.e. the hill, in the company of several Yurkivka locals. It sounds like no one in the village has ever called it a mound. Not Scythian, by any stretch. Both locals and the village head claim the hillock was essentially a man-made land fill created in the course of preparations for the construction of a greenhouse complex outside the village. The construction was eventually frozen due to the insolvency of the customer and was left out in the field, so it is hard to tell now the man-made land fill from landmark burial mounds, which, according to archaeologists, should be at least three.

Where all the mounds gone?

It should be mentioned that in addition to the greenhouse complex project, the department of urban planning and architecture has also compiled in the early 1990s a plan of development of Yurkivka. The plan allocated, right next to the site where the greenhouse complex was planned to be built, several dozen hectares of land plots for private housing and farming lands. By now, quite a few new houses have been built here. The mound (if to believe the archaeological expedition), which according to an attribution document that I miraculously managed to find, was "0.1 to 0.5 km north of the village." It could have become a part of the zone allocated for the construction of the greenhouse complex or the construction area of ​​the village. The villagers find it hard to say anything specific. Some of them believe that the bulldozers have razed it to the ground a very long time ago. Hence, only scientists now the truth

Yurkivka village head Valentyna Tsehelna refutes the accusations. She denies issuing any orders or approvals on the destruction of the mound based on the simple fact that she had no idea of its existanse. According to the clerks of the local council, the village halls had no documents to confirm that the chairman or her employees were aware of the location of burial mounds and hence were responsible for its safety.

It sounds like the village leader is being credited with actions that she has nothing to do with?

So who's to face the drum?

The above mentioned Act refers to Article 19 of the Law of Ukraine "On Protection of Cultural Heritage." Let's take look.

The law states that "legal and natural persons in whose use or ownership archaeological objects or landmarks are should... follow all legal requirements regarding their protection and use."

OK, hard to disagree. But when we take into account that no one authorized the village head to use or be in possession of archaeological heritage (as the mound number 2666, or, for that matter, any others landmarks in vicinity of the village), or even pointed out where and what landmarks are on the village's territory. It certainly begs the question: whose fault was the breach of law?

Valenyna Tsehelna may show only one mound, which has the relevant protection sign. Under the current law, the obligation for the protection of monuments rests with the executive branch, i.e, county administrations.

Practice shows that it is county administrations, in particular in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast who is in charge of concluding relevant protection agreements with city, village and township councils.

Have anyone addressed this issue in Zvenyhorod county? Quite unlikely.

Translated by Y. Tsyganok

The Ukrainian version see here