Even after Moscow admitted holding other treasures seized after the war, it lied about the presence here of the gold, regarded as the centrepiece of Stalin's hoard of 'trophy art'. Yevgeny Sidorov, the Russian Culture Minister, announced the exhibition in this week's Literaturnaya Gazeta.
Mr Sidorov told the newspaper he had held the gold. 'It does not look very brilliant,' he said, 'but it gives out a warmth and energy which just grabs your soul.' The archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann believed he had found King Priam's treasure, including a diadem possibly worn by Helen of Troy, but Mr Sidorov said the gold pre-dated Priam by 1,200 years.
The gold was taken from Berlin by confiscation squads sent by Stalin to punish the Nazis. But instead of being shown to the Soviet people, it was hidden away. Irina Antonova, director of the Pushkin Museum, continued to deny that her institution held the gold, although it was an open secret among museum staff. Eventually she crumbled, telling the Gazeta: 'Since fate has disposed that the gold should turn up in Russia, I would very much like to give an opportunity to our specialists to study it.' The exhibition would take two years to organise.
Mr Sidorov said: 'We should return this unique collection to the cultural fount of humanity. In fairness it should at first be exhibited in Russia and then be sent to Greece, Turkey and other countries.'
Dora Bakoyanni, the Greek Culture Minister, said President Boris Yeltsin had offered to send the treasure to Athens for the first foreign exhibition. Greece does not claim the gold but has a strong historical interest in the Troy described by Homer. These arrangements may offend Germany and Turkey. Germany wants the gold because Schliemann bequeathed it to the German people, while Ankara claims it, as the site of Troy is in Turkey.Reuse content