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17-06-2024 19:08

Address by the Deputy Minister of Culture, Dr Vasiliki Kassianidou, at the event for the re-opening the Cyprus Gallery at the Neues Museum, in Berlin

Sehr geehrte Frau Staatsministerin Roth;


Sehr geehrte Gäste;

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren;

Liebe Freunde;

Ich danke Ihnen allen, dass Sie uns heute Abend mit Ihrer Anwesenheit beehren. Ich freue mich sehr, anlässlich der Wiedereröffnung des Zypernsaals in Berlin zu sein, ein Ereignis, das die immer enger werdenden bilateralen Beziehungen zwischen Zypern und Deutschland unterstreicht. Wir sind dem Neuen Museum sehr dankbar, dass es uns willkommen heißt und gemeinsam mit unserer Botschaft in Berlin eine so wunderbare Veranstaltung organisiert. Ich bitte Sie um Nachsicht, dass ich nun meine Rede auf Englisch fortsetze, da mein Deutsch etwas eingerostet ist.

I am profoundly honoured to be here with you this evening, for the re-opening of the Cyprus Gallery of the Neues Museum, and I am most thankful to Matthias Wemhoff, Director of the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte and Andreas Scholl, the Director of the Antikensammlung, for the invitation. The Cyprus Gallery provides the opportunity to the thousands of visitors of the Museuminsel in the heart of Berlin to get a glimpse of Cypriot archaeology and ancient culture and to learn more about our island and its millennia-old history.

Tonight's event is part of the celebrations organised by the Embassy of Cyprus in Germany to commemorate a milestone in our modern history, namely the 20th anniversary of Cyprus' accession to the European Union (EU). There is no better way or more suitable place to celebrate 20 years of EU membership, as well as the deep-rooted and long-standing cultural relations between Cyprus and Germany. As Deputy Minister of Culture of the Republic of Cyprus, I assure you that our aim and ambition is to develop and expand even further, our cultural bonds. I am therefore thankful that Minister Roth is here with us.

This summer also marks fifty years from the illegal Turkish military invasion, in July 1974, and the forcible division of Cyprus in two parts. Standing here, in Berlin, I cannot but express my belief that Berliners can understand and visualise better than anyone else what it means to live in a divided city, like Nicosia, which now stands as the last divided capital of Europe.

Germany has always supported the efforts for a just solution of the Cyprus Problem in accordance with international laws, the relevant United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions and the EU’s values and principles.

Furthermore, it is important to underscore the excellent bilateral cooperation between our countries for tackling the illicit trafficking of looted antiquities from Cyprus. The competent German authorities have always supported and stood by the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus and facilitated our efforts to repatriate antiquities and works of art, which were illegally exported from the occupied part of the island. For this, we are sincerely and eternally grateful.

As a matter of fact, in the coming days, the Republic of Cyprus will receive from the German authorities in Munich, 60 ecclesiastical and archaeological objects, which had been confiscated in 1997 from the premises of the Turkish art dealer, Aydin Dikmen, in Munich. This will conclude a very complex and years-long case of repatriation of a total of 300 ecclesiastical objects and antiquities from the occupied part of Cyprus.

International collaboration for combatting the looting and illicit trafficking of cultural objects is a necessity, now more than ever, as we continue to witness conflicts and war-torn countries and regions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Cooperation is vital between states, but also between cultural institutions, stakeholders such as universities and museums, and cultural professionals.

Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen,

It was in the 19th century that European scholars became interested in the archaeology and ancient history of Cyprus, and the first books dedicated to these subjects began to circulate. One of the first scholars to write about Cyprus was the renowned Wilhelm Heinrich Engel, who published the Book “Kypros Eine Monographie”, here in Berlin, in 1841. Another German scholar who wrote about Cyprus was the classical archaeologist Ludwig Ross, who unlike Engel, actually visited the island in 1845 and described its monuments. It is also in the 19th century that the most important collections of Cypriot antiquities in European and American museums were established.

In Berlin, the Cyprus collection was created by the efforts of the German Archaeologist Max Ohnefalsh Richter who worked in Cyprus for about ten years, from 1878 to 1889. He is often compared to his contemporary Luigi Palma di Cesnola, who opened hundreds of tombs and dug out objects from equally numerous archaeological sites, and whose Cypriot collection provided the seed to establish the Metropolitan Museum in New York. However, Ohnefalsch Richter did make an effort to publish his excavations along the objects he recovered.

Indeed, his work is now the topic of two important research projects directed by German colleagues, namely Prof. Stephan Schmidt of the Humbolt Universität zu Berlin and Prof. Matthias Recke of the Goethe Universität Frankfurt. Together with their team of researchers, in the last years, they have worked extensively on Ohnefalsch Richter’s excavation archives and finds, some of which are stored or are on display here in this museum. More importantly they have returned to do fieldwork in Cyprus at two of the ancient cities that Ohnefalsch Richter excavated, namely ancient Idalion and Tamassos, helping us understand them better. They have thus picked up the torch from older well-respected German archaeologists such as Hans Gunther Buccholz, Franz Georg Maier and Hartmut Matthaus, who for decades worked on the island and contributed greatly to the archaeology of Cyprus.

Αs Deputy Minister of Culture but also as a professional archaeologist, I would like to praise the work of all German colleagues, and the excellent collaboration among the German archaeological missions in Cyprus, German Universities, and the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, the University of Cyprus and the broader archaeological community. I hope that these collaborations will flourish even more in the years to come and that there will be more research synergies.

Although I have mostly focused on the field of archaeology, Cyprus and Germany have had strong cultural relations since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, in all fields of arts and humanities. In this context, particular reference should be made to the Institute for Interdisciplinary Cypriot Studies of the University of Münster, which was established in 1996 as a unique institute of its kind in Europe. The Goethe Institute is where I took German language lessons more than 40 years ago and where my son also learned German. This year the German language was introduced in the public high schools of Cyprus; the Federal President of Germany, H.E. Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited one of the public schools offering German language courses, during his most recent visit to the island. Many Cypriot artists, whether musicians or painters, actors or authors, have studied in Germany. There is also a new interest in collaborative Cypriot-German film productions, while for the last five years the Department of Modern Culture of the Deputy Ministry of Culture has been taking part in the European Film Market, organised here in Berlin. Finally, this last October, after an absence of 15 years, Cyprus participated to the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair. It is our aim to become a guest of honour country in this Book Fair in the very near future.

Dear Minister Roth, dear distinguished guests,

In closing, I would like to thank all those who worked for the re-opening of the gallery and the members of the Cyprus Embassy here in Berlin for working with the museum for this wonderful event. I am sure that the exhibition of Cypriot antiquities will enchant all those who will visit the Neues Museum and that it will attract more interest to the history and culture of Cyprus.

I look forward to having more collaborations of this caliber, and to exploring new avenues for developing and expanding our countries’ strong cultural bonds and connections.

Thank you very much for your attention.