ICE Returns Historic Documents Stolen Amidst Soviet Breakup to Russia

Posted on February 28, 2011


Czar Nicholas II

On Friday, the US handed over a trove of historic archive documents that were stolen after the Soviet breakup and had appeared in auction houses across the US.  From AP:

The 21 documents include decrees issued by Czar Nicholas II and Marshal Georgy Zhukov, a top-secret paper on the reconstruction of Russian military airfields in the 1930s, and Catherine the Great’s decree to divide command of forces in Poland during the 18th-century partitions of the country. Russian officials alerted Washington about the documents when they appeared on Web sites of American auction houses. United States officials seized them between April and November, but no one has been charged with the theft, a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] official said.

Both Russia and the US are parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  By virtue of this treaty, the US will confiscate and return cultural property (in this case, historic documents) illegally exported from Russia but appearing in the US.

In a Moscow ceremony attended by senior Russian culture officials, the US Ambassador said, “The return is really just one part of our effort to broaden and deepen relationships between our two countries.”

ICE is the US agency tasked with guarding against the illegal import of stolen cultural objects.  To read their earlier press release on the Russian archives, click here.