Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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Since April 28, 2017, the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich went defunct with the illegal seizure of its building and territory.

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22.02.2016

Address of the International Centre of the Roerichs

15 February 2016

As it came to out knowledge, there will be a meeting of the Board of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation on February 16, 2016 on the subject of the establishment of a state museum of Roerich in the Moscow Lopoukhin Mansion, i.e. in the very premises wherein the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR) has been established and has been successfully carrying out its activities for 26 years now and in fact continues to do so until the present moment.

In the covering information letter elaborated by the State Museum of Oriental Art specifically for the purpose of the Board meeting, the real historical facts concerning the establishment of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR in the Lopoukhin Mansion as well as the activities of the ICR itself are distorted beyond recognition. The purpose of this falsification is to convince the members of the Board to approve the actions of the leaders of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation aimed at establishing a state museum of Roerich. Without even knowing it the members of the Board might become accomplices in the destruction of the non-governmental museum founded by Svetoslav Roerich himself.

The leaders of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation have been intensively declaring recently the building – jointly with the ICR – of “mechanisms of cooperation between the state and the public aimed at the preservation of the Roerichs heritage”. However the reality is quite different. The actions of the leaders of the Ministry in relation to the International Centre of the Roerichs and its non-governmental museum acquire more and more the character of a harsh raider attack. Unfortunately the Federal Government Agency for State Property Management (Rossimushchestvo) became a participant in this process.

The Moscow Territory Administration of Rossimushchestvo with its Order No. 1287 of November 11, 2015 formalized the transfer into federal property of the buildings of the Lopoukhin Mansion (buildings No. 4, 5 and 7) wherein the non-governmental Museum of the International Centre of the Roerichs is housed for more than 26 years now. Rossimushchestvo by way of the same Order handed the legal right of operative administration of these buildings to the State Museum of Oriental Art.

These actions of Rossimushchestvo caused the indignation not only of the ICR but also of the general public in Russia and in many other countries, since it is precisely the public that participated directly and funded the carried out by the ICR scientific restoration of the dilapidated buildings of the Lopoukhin Mansion and it also funded their proper maintenance for decades.

It is well known that the Lopoukhin Mansion was allocated by the leadership of the country for the purpose of housing in it the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and that was done in accordance with the wish of Svetoslav Roerich – the younger son of the great Russian artist Nicholas Roerich. Svetoslav Roerich considered the establishment of such a museum in Moscow as the only acceptable to him decision that could enable him to transfer gratuitously the Roerichs heritage into Russia to the founded by him there non-governmental organization – the Soviet Roerichs Foundation, the latter was reorganized in 1991 into the International Centre of the Roerichs.

The leadership of the country accepted these conditions of Svetoslav Roerich. The guarantees of the government were embodied in the Ordinance No. 950 from November 4, 1989 of the Council of Ministers of the USSR which explicitly states: “[hereby it adopts the decision] to accept the offer of Svetoslav Roerich and of the founding organizations of the Soviet Roerich Foundation on the establishment in Moscow of a Centre-Museum named after Nicholas Roerich as the main basis of the said Foundation for carrying out its scientific, educational and cultural activity”, and in the Decision of the Executive Committee of the Moscow City Council No. 2248 from 28.11.1989, according to which the architectural monument“ the Lopoukhin Mansion” was allocated for the purpose of housing in it the Centre-Museum named after Nicholas Roerich.

Svetoslav Roerich in his letter to the Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov in 1992 reminded again of these documents: “I would like to inform you that in 1990 I gave my parents' heritage to the International Centre of the Roerichs (the former Soviet Roerichs Foundation) and I am the honorary president of this organization. Mr. Michail Gorbachov, at present the former president of the USSR, promised to me support whereby the restored Lopoukhin Mansion would be ready to preserve and exhibit the heritage of my parents, and this is confirmed by the Ordinances of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and of the Executive Committee of the Moscow City Council”.

After the death of Svetoslav Roerich the authorities of the city of Moscow strictly observed the commitments of the government concerning the location of the non-governmental museum. The Ordinance of the governing body of the city of Moscow No. 812 of October 3, 1995 attests to this fact as it envisages the allocation of the Lopoukhin Mansion to the ICR on the basis of a long term rent of 49 years for the purpose of “housing in it the International Centre of the Roerichs and the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich”. The governing body of Moscow on the basis of this Ordinance entered into agreements with the ICR on the use of the buildings and of the land within the boundaries of the historic territory of the Mansion, and these agreements are still in force.

Thus, the transfer by the Federal Government Agency for State Property Management (Rossimushchestvo) of the Lopoukhin Mansion to the State Museum of Oriental Art is not only a violation of the will of the late Svetoslav Roerich, our great compatriot, but also a violation of all guarantees and promises given to him at the level of the Head of the State.

By their actions Rossimushchestvo and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation–to which the State Museum of Oriental Art is subordinated–violate not only the previously adopted Ordinances but also the instruction of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin No. ПР-857 from May 4, 2008. In accordance with this instruction of President Putin there was a working group established which consisted of representatives of the following institutions: the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Government of the Russian Federation, the governing body of the city of Moscow, the Rossimushchestvo, the Audit Office of the Russian Federation, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, the State Duma of the Russian Federation, as well as of independent experts. The members of the group were entrusted with the elaboration of proposals for the solving of the problematic issues that have arisen in part due to the aspiration of the State Museum of Oriental Art and Rossimushchestvo to achieve the expulsion of the ICR from the Lopoukhin Mansion. Taking into consideration the commitments of the government given to Svetoslav Roerich and the ICR’s services in the restoration of the Lopoukhin Mansion the working group adopted a decision “to transfer the Lopoukhin Mansion – the monument of history and culture of the XVII – XIX centuries – to the ownership of the city of Moscow, a subject of the Russian Federation, for the purpose of its subsequent transfer to the International Centre of the Roerichs for free use”. In 2010 by way of a decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 1754-P of October 12, 2010 the main building of the Lopoukhin Mansion was transferred to the ownership of the governing body of the city of Moscow. And in 2014 by way of a decree of the governing body of the city of Moscow No. 451-РП from August 21, 2014 the buildings of the Mansion were given to the ICR for free use. So, what are the grounds for the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and Rossimushchestvo to violate today the instruction of the President and all the previously adopted decisions by way of reshaping them to their liking?

Since its establishment in the Lopoukhin Mansion the International Centre of the Roerichs proved to be a conscientious custodian and user of the cultural monument. Without a penny of budget funds, only due to people's donations, the ICR was able to carry out the unique restoration of the buildings of the Mansion, and it received for this achievement high governmental and international awards, including the National Award of the Russian Federation “Cultural Heritage” and the Award of the European Union. In accordance with the will of Svetoslav Roerich the ICR established in the Lopoukhin Mansion the beautiful non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich. Today the Museum has an international renown for its largest collection of Roerichs paintings as well as for its versatile cultural and educational activity aimed at the preservation and the protection of the cultural heritage. For her great services for the preservation of the Roerichs’ heritage and the development of museology Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, the Director General of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, was awarded the State Order of Friendship and the State Order “Services to the Fatherland” of the IVth degree of the Russian Federation.

All these years the International Centre of the Roerichs conducted the repair and the restoration works of the buildings of the Mansion and carried the burden of their maintenance exclusively due to its own and raised funds.

As regards the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the State Museum of Oriental Art – what is their merit in fulfilling the will of Svetoslav Roerich? What assistance have they rendered to the established by him at the Lopoukhin Mansion non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich? All in all their contribution comes solely to their longstanding and persistent attempts aimed at the expulsion of the ICR from the Mansion and at the annihilation of the unique and the largest non-governmental Museum in Russia.

As early as in 1993 the director of the State Museum of Oriental Art V.A. Nabatchikov addressed the Government of the Russian Federation by way of a letter containing the request “to help transfer the Roerichs heritage and the Lopoukhin Mansion to the State Museum of Oriental Art for permanent and free use which would become truly a priceless gift by the Government of Russia”. This letter served as the staring point of the campaign aimed at the adoption of the Ordinance of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 1121 of November 4, 1993 entitled “On the establishment of a state museum of Nicholas Roerich”. In accordance with the latter there had to be established in the Lopoukhin Mansion a state museum as a branch of the State Museum of Oriental Art instead of the already existing there non-governmental one. The non-governmental museum was simply supposed to cease to exist. This Ordinance of the Government of the Russian Federation was never implemented as it was based on documents that were legally void. More specifically it was based on the forged document allegedly sent on behalf of the widow of Svetoslav Roerich. In 2010 a Decision of the Government of the Russian Federation signed by the prime minister Vladimir Putin repealed Ordinance No. 1121 as inconsistent with the norms of the current legislation.

And there is another important fact. Rossimushchestvo together with the State Museum of Oriental Art initiated as a claimant the court case No. A40-36843/07 in the Arbitration Court of Moscow aiming the expulsion of the ICR and its Museum from the premises of the Lopoukhin Mansion, their position in the court was supported by the Ministry of Culture in 2015 and the court case lasted altogether for eight years. The expulsion was hindered by the position of the authorities of Moscow which did not want to be involved in the devastation of the well known museum centre. In September 2015 the Minister of culture V. R. Medinsky sent a letter to the Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin with a request for the transfer of the Lopoukhin Mansion into the ownership of the federal government. A month later the corresponding order was signed by the Governing body of Moscow and following yet another month, in November 2015, Rossimushchestvo handed the legal right of operative administration of the premises of the Lopoukhin Mansion to the State Museum of Oriental Art and withdrew its claim against the ICR. As a result of this combination the issue of the expulsion of the ICR from the Lopoukhin Mansion will now be decided out of court, simply on the basis of the contract for the free use of the Mansion signed with the ICR. According to the terms of this contract the owner has the right to terminate the contract for free use at any time without any explanation of the reasons for that. The whole operation was accomplished within two months! Just for comparison: the decisions elaborated on the basis of the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin No. ПР-857 from May 4, 2008 concerning the ICR were in the process of implementation for six years.

We believe that the decision of Rossimushchestvo violates the interests and the legitimate rights of the ICR which carried out the restoration of this monument of culture without any funds from the government. We are of the opinion that while formally observing the law, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and Rossimushchestvo actually abuse their rights as they aim at causing harm to the ICR, and such abuse of rights is inadmissible in accordance with Art. 10 of the Civil Code.

It is obvious that the simultaneous housing of two museums at one and the same place is not possible. Such situation inevitably leads to a conflict provoked by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation which plans to establish in the Lopoukhin Mansion a state museum that will have the status of a branch of the State Museum of Oriental Art. In order to achieve this, the Ministry aims at stripping the non-governmental museum from its premises and from its museum collections which will inevitably lead to its annihilation.

The representatives of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and of the State Museum of Oriental Art openly and directly state their intentions in the press. Thus, the deputy director of the State Museum of Oriental Art Tigran Mkrtychev said plainly in his interview for Rossyiskaya Gazeta from 27 January 2016 that “there will be a state museum at these premises”. Several months earlier in the Izvestiya newspaper from August 25, 2015 there were published the following comments of the Ministry: “The Ministry of Culture offers to the ICR to take measures for transferring to the government the Roerichs heritage preserved by it and bequeathed by Svetoslav Roerich. <…> Subsequently these pieces of art will be included in the governmental part of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation and shall be given to the State Museum of Oriental Art with the right of their operative administration. <…> Only after that we can have any talks on the mechanisms of public-governmental partnership for the preservation and study of the Roerichs heritage”.

This is the way the leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation sees its “fruitful cooperation” with the non-governmental organization in the field of cultural property protection. We are of the opinion that in this way the functionaries contribute for the discrediting of the efforts of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin aimed at the preservation and the development of the culture of Russia. In the adopted by the President “Principles of the government cultural policy” one of the most important governmental tasks is the “creation of conditions conducive to the establishment and activity of the non-governmental cultural institutions, the support of charity and of the patronage of art and culture”. The actions of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and of Rossimuschestvo run entirely contrary to this task. One can read the following statement at the internet site of the Ministry: “The Ministry has always supported non-governmental and private initiatives aimed at cultural property preservation. The ICR team established the non-governmental museum, gathered a large collection of Roerichs paintings and preserved the monument of architecture of the XVIII century the Lopoukhin Mansion. Such activity deserves all the possible support”. However in reality everything is just the opposite. The conditions created for the work of our organization are unbearable. As a result of the addresses of the first deputy minister of culture V.V. Aristarhov to the Ministry of Interior of the Russian Federation and to the General Public Prosecutor’s Office there have been carried out endless examinations by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (only in 2015 there were 5 of them!), there has been initiated a criminal investigation on the subject of the illegal restoration of the Lopoukhin Mansion by unknown group of persons (?!), and distorted and false information on the activity of the ICR and of its non-governmental Museum is being given to the leadership of the country and to the general public.

The International Centre of the Roerichs defends its legitimate rights and it considers illegal the decision of Rossimushchestvo to transfer the buildings of the Lopukhin Mansion to the State Museum of Oriental Art – an organization subordinate to the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Thus, Rossimushchestvo and the Ministry violate blatantly both: the commitments given by the government to Svetoslav Roerich on the housing in the Lopoukhin Mansion exactly the non-governmental museum, and the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation and the decision of the Government of the Russian Federation on the transfer of the Lopoukhin Mansion into the property of the Governing body of Moscow with its subsequent transfer to the International Centre of the Roerichs for its free use. The government decisions have to be fulfilled! The functionaries must not violate the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation and the decisions of the Government of the Russian Federation for the sake of their departmental interests!

For more than 20 years now the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR has been successfully preserving and multiplying the heritage of the Roerichs, it has conducted extensive research, cultural, educational and peacemaking activity in Russia and throughout the world. This work has been highly praised in letters of gratitude sent to the ICR on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova. Despite of this the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation aims at crushing the Museum and its cultural activity. This kind of actions of the functionaries bring about an irreparable damage to the culture of our country and to the prestige of Russia as a country of great culture. They also run contrary to the UNESCO Recommendation of 20 November 2015 concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society. In accordance with this Recommendation “Member States should adopt policies and take appropriate measures to ensure the protection and promotion of museums located in the territories under their jurisdiction or control. The diversity of museums and the heritage of which they are custodians constitutes their greatest value. Member States are requested to protect and promote this diversity”. However in relation to our non-governmental museum the leaders of the Ministry of Culture do exactly the opposite.

The International Centre of the Roerichs appeals to the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, to the Government of the Russian Federation, to the Council of Federation of the Russian Federation and the State Duma with a request to stop the actions of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation aimed at the destruction of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs. We call for the fulfillment of the commitments given by the Government to Svetoslav Roerich and for the implementation of the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation No. ПР-857 from May 4, 2008 as well as for the repeal of the order of Rossimuschestvo No. 1287 from November 11, 2015. We ask for the adoption by the Government of the Russian Federation of an ordinance whereby the Lopoukhin Mansion with all its buildings within its historic boundaries would be transferred to the ICR for free and permanent use. This will enable the final resolving of the issue of the further use of the Lopoukhin Mansion in accordance with the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation No. ПР-857 from May 4, 2008.


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