Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a controversial move toward placing an important archaeological site and nature preserve under the control of the Kremlin with a Russian Orthodox priest at the helm. Tauric Chersonesos, an ancient Greek colony founded approximately 2,500 years ago, is expected to be put on a list of Russian cultural heritage sites and placed under federal control on Sept. 1, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency.
The move has met with negative reactions from several museums. When Putin’s administration announced the appointment of the Orthodox priest to run the historical site, critics pointed out that it doesn't really make sense; the priest is not a specialist in the field. The site’s maintenance was also criticized recently after the mayor of Sevastopol, the city that houses the site, dismissed the former director of the nature preserve and installed an archpriest from the Russian Orthodox Church to the post.
"Putin called Chersonesos a sacred place for our country’s people,” said Sergey Menyailo, the mayor of Sevastopol, when announcing the archpriest's new position. “Chersonesos, which is where the Christianization of Rus, the writing system and the unification of Slavic tribes began, should be a place of worship and pilgrimage.”
Tauric Chersonesos is a popular tourist attraction and a Unesco world heritage site. It is the remains of an ancient city, founded by Dorian Greeks in southwest Crimea, that housed Romans at one point and was an important trade hub historically as well.
In terms of Russian importance, it is also the city where the leader of the medieval state Kievan Rus, Prince Vladimir, was baptized, ultimately bringing Christianity to the country, according to the Guardian.
Academics, according to the Guardian, claimed that putting a nonexpert priest in charge of the nature preserve is a threat to the historic archaeological work that has been taking place there since the 1800s.