On April 17, 1996, the sensational and legendary Heinrich Schliemann’s "Treasures of Troy" were exhibited at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow for public display.
A stunning collection of gold and silver diadems, bracelets, earrings, pendants, rings, plates, goblets, buttons, cups and perfume jars – totaling 259 items – wowed the audience with their meticulous craftwork and sophisticated skill from an ancient world.
Heinrich Schliemann, a successful entrepreneur and a devoted amateur archeologist, vowed to find material proof of Homer’s Iliad. In reality, the treasures he had found had nothing to do with King Priam's Troy. They are much older, dating from around 2500 to 2400 BCE, while the Homeric period was 1400 to 1200 BCE. Schliemann had dug through the Homeric layer without noticing, and, though knowing his mistake at the end of his life, Schliemann never openly admitted it. This fact, however, by no means diminishes the value of Schliemann’s discovery. Some critics still blame him for not being careful enough: had he been gentler, he would have found the real Troy without damaging it.
When Schliemann found the first cache of treasure in the Hissarlik hill in Turkey and secretly smuggled it to Athens, the country filed a law suit against him and obliged him to pay a fine. To settle the matter peacefully, Schliemann paid five times more, and acquired the unique collection. He attempted to sell the collection to the British Museum, to the Louvre, and even to the Hermitage, but it finally ended up in Germany, housed in the Museum of Early and Pre-History in Berlin. In 1945, the Red Army looted the collection from the concrete bunkers at the Berlin Zoo, where it was preserved, and transported it to the Soviet Union on the private order of Marshall Georgy Zhukov.
During the Cold War, the government of the Soviet Union denied any knowledge about the state of the treasure of Troy. However, in 1993, it did turn up at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The return of items taken from museums, though arranged in a treaty with Germany in June 2004, was blocked by the Pushkin Museum administration. Irina Antonova, the Pushkin Museum director since 1961, said, “In my opinion, we have every right to possess the removed objects. Russia has suffered losses more significant during the war. Besides, not only did we acquire the trophy exhibits, but we also rescued, preserved, and restored them.”
Ever since the treasure had been discovered it never ceased to be the bone of contention between many countries. The German party expressed discontent about the opening of the exhibition in Russia, as it violated the prior German-Russian agreements on the collaboration of their efforts in this event and refused to add the German part of the collection, which was significantly richer. Turkey also makes a claim, since Schliemann originally took the treasure from their land without legal export permits. To make the matter even more complex, Greece too lays claim, for it was, after all, Ancient Greek treasure.