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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17.02.2018

Yuri Samodurov:“Discrimination of the Staff of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich Is Unfair and Illegal!”

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I wish to draw attention of cultural figures, journalists, human rights activists and other readers to the fate of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich and talk about what has not even be talked or written.

Destructing the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Center of the Roerichs (hereinafter referred to as the ICR) by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation is a gross violation of the constitutional principle of equality of citizens before the law, as well as a gross violation of the equal rights of all citizens of the Russian Federation, declared and guaranteed by Articles 44, 28 and 34 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation “to participate in cultural life, to use cultural institutions and to have access to cultural treasures,” the equal rights of all citizens “freely to choose, hold and disseminate religious and other beliefs and to act in conformity with them”, the equal rights of all citizens “freely to make use of his or her abilities and belongings in entrepreneurial and other economic activity not prohibited by law.” In the context of this article, I mean entrepreneurial activity in a broad sense, but not only that of economic).

I mean, having said this, that by confiscating and seizing the artistic, documentary, literary heritage of the Roerich family (which was owned and received by the ICR, according to the will of Svetoslav Roerich, and which was kept in the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich), by destroying the exhibition of the ICR, the Ministry of Culture violated the constitutional right of the workers and founders of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich to preserve, explore, promote, represent, popularize the artistic, scientific, philosophical heritage of the Roerich family in Russia. It illegally deprived them of the opportunity to engage in the kind of museum and cultural activities that they freely chose.

This has not been discussed or written, but the Ministry of Culture has acted and acts in relation to the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich, just as the Bolsheviks did in 1917-1918 in the years of revolution. They confiscated and handed over to State museums huge, valuable collections of all private art and industrial art museums, including such famous ones as the museums of Western Art of Shchukin and Morozov in Moscow. They confiscated art and book collections belonged to the owners of manors and private collectors. Up to the new revolution of 1989-1991, it was generally prohibited to create private and non-state museums in our country.

I wish to draw your attention to the fact that the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich and the transfer of its collection and building to the State Museum of Oriental Art, the organization on its basis the State Museum of the Roerichs as a branch of the State Museum of Oriental Art, has created in Russia a precedent of unacceptable, socially inequitable inequality, illegal and discriminatory lawful inequality towards the realization of equal rights guaranteed by the Constitution, with respect to the citizens, those of the workers of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich to engage in museum and cultural activities.

The source of this discriminating and socially inequitable inequalities towards the staff of the ICR is in economic, political and ideological attitudes of the Ministry of Culture, supported, unfortunately, by Russian courts, as it is often the case in litigation between representatives of government agencies and non-governmental organizations, which the State wants to eliminate, or which, in the view of the State, are possible to be eliminated. And this applies, as you know, not only to the museum sphere.

To my mind, it is evident to all those who was observing these events, and, I think, they will agree that the Ministry of Culture destroyed the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich not because of its poor work or a small number of visitors, financial irregularities or careless storage of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs’ paintings, owned by the ICR and registered with the State Museum Fund, etc. None of this ever happened and the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich is not accused of it.

As to the economic interest of the Ministry of Culture in the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich. I wish to draw your attention in this respect to the fact that the Ministry of Culture confiscated and appropriated the collection of enormous monetary value. This collection was bequeathed and handed over by Svetoslav Roerich to the ICR, but not to the State represented by the Ministry of Culture of the USSR or the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. The Ministry of Culture confiscated and appropriated a beautiful building in the center of Moscow. This building where the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich was located for 25 years was restored by the ICR without a penny of state money to be suitable for the museum. All the works were funded by donations of the public, the contributions of benefactors, and those of the main sponsor Boris Bulochnik.

Many readers know that the ICR chose the “Banner of Peace” sign proposed by Nicholas Roerich as its symbolism that of three red circles placed inside a red circle on a white background. It is the official distinctive symbol of the Roerich Pact for the protection of the world cultural heritage.

According to Roerich, any person, any public and State organization sharing, propagating and realizing the ideas of the Roerich Pact may use the “Banner of Peace”. So, the “Banner of Peace”, which was flying on the flagpole in the courtyard of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich was removed from the flagpole by the leadership of the State Museum of the Roerichs at once. It means that the focus of the activity of the State Museum of the Roerichs will be ideologically and politically different from that of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich.

What was the social focus of the activities of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich? Why does not it suit the State represented by the Ministry of Culture and the State Museum of Oriental Art, in which a considerable number of Roerichs’ paintings was kept before appropriating the collection of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich?

To put it briefly, the leadership and workers of the International Center of the Roerichs and its Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich considered as their mission preserving and presenting the artistic heritage of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs to the Russian society; publishing and promoting their literary and publicist heritage, in particular, the works of Nicholas Roerich; publishing and presenting to the Russian society the materials and diaries of the famous travels of the Roerich family in Asia (the last enterprises of this kind in the XX century); complete issuing the works of the Orientalist George Roerich and the letters of the Roerich family; propagating the Roerich Pact in our country and in the world. But that is not all. The ICR, its workers and the staff of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich consider as an integral and vital part of their mission disseminating the philosophical system of the “Living Ethics” (Agni - Yoga) in Russian society. Nicholas Roerich, and, above all, his wife Helena Roerich, were creators of its books.

The Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich was developing all aspects of the Roerich family heritage for all these years tirelessly, persistently and with great energy. In 1992, on the basis of the archives of the Roerichs, handed over by Svetoslav Roerich and brought to Russia from India by Lyudmila Shaposhnikova in 1990, the ICR began publishing the “Minor Roerich Library”.

In 1993, the ICR opened an exhibition of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich, the first one after the revolution of 1917. Until recently, it was the largest non-state museum in scope of the exposition and art collection in Russia. The list of books published by the ICR and its Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich is also very impressive, as well as the number of its visitors. According to the certificate which I received from the ICR, it issued in 1992-2017 “about 200 titles with a total circulation of more than 500,000 publications of the Roerichs’ works, as well as the books on their life and creative activity. Among them, for the first time, there were published Nicholas Roerich’s “Diary Pages” in 3 volumes, the letters of Helena Roerich in 9 volumes, the “History of Central Asia” by George Roerich in 3 volumes, the letters of George and Svetoslav Roerich, commented editions of the “Living Ethics” and many others. In 2002, the ICR became the winner of the contest “the Best Books of the Year” and was awarded the Diploma of the Board of the Association of Book Publishers of Russia for high artistic finish and graphic art quality of Lyudmila Shaposhnikova’s book “The Thorny Path of Beauty” and George Roerich’s book “Tibetan Painting”. The ICR publishes a periodical journal “Kultura i Vremya” (“Culture and Time”), which, according to the results of the International Professional Exhibition “Press 2008”, was awarded the Distinction of the “Golden Press Foundation 2008”. The ICR produces films dedicated to the creative work of the Roerichs. In 2005, the film “A Time to Gather Stones”, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments, known as Roerich Pact, was awarded a status of a national film of Russia. The international presentation of this film was held in Bruges (Belgium) in November 2005, where the first conferences in support of the Roerich Pact were held in the early 30-es of the XX century. The presentation of the film “The Call of Cosmic Evolution” was held in many countries of the world, at the UN headquarters and its offices. Every month the Museum organized exhibitions of artists-cosmists and musical concerts at its halls. The number of visitors of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich over the course of its work was about one million.”

No one seems to argue and everyone understands that in order to educate the public and citizens of our country about all aspects of the Roerich family heritage, the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR did considerable for it in 1992-2017, much more than all Russian State museum, cultural and scientific institutions combined for the same period.

Why then, instead of recognizing the enormous contribution of the ICR and the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich to the preservation, exploring, publication, multiplying and popularization of the Roerich family heritage, instead of thanking the collective of the Museum and its leadership for the enormous work, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation denied support to the Non-Governmental Museum of the ICR morally and with grants? Why did the Ministry of Culture at first, under the Minister of Culture Shvydkoy, just tolerate the ICR “through clenched teeth”, but under the Minister Medinsky decide to destroy it? And this was instead of being proud of the enormous social contribution to the cultural life of the country, popularizing its activities abroad as a precedent, as an example of the important role and great potential of non-state museums in our country.

The reason for the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, in addition to the banal economic self-interest, which I mentioned above, is in political sphere, in the ideology of the State, better to say, in the fact that this ideology has been changing since 1993, and over the last two terms of Putin’s rule.

The State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Museum of Oriental Art, the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Russian Academy of Sciences, the “Mysl” (“Thought”) Publishing House and some other State institutions in the Soviet Union and in post-Soviet Russia (of course, with varying degrees of attention) took an interest and were engaged in exploring the artistic, documentary, natural-scientific, historical heritage of the Roerichs (I mean the materials on life in Russia and the famous Roerichs’ travels in Asia) and the scientific heritage of all members of the Roerich family, the history of their life and biographies. But such aspect as exploring, publishing and disseminating in the Soviet society and then in Russian one the philosophical doctrine of the “Living Ethics”, to which Nicholas and Helena Roerichs attached without exaggeration truly world-wide significance, was a taboo to all State cultural institutions of the USSR, and today is still a taboo to those of the Russian Federation.

The dissemination of the philosophical system with the eastern roots that of the “Living Ethics” in the USSR did not fit into the State concept of preserving and propagating the historical cultural heritage of the peoples of the USSR because of its incompatibility with the ideology of atheism and socialism (in short, Soviet society) [1].

The popularization of the Living Ethics by the ICR in modern Russia does not fit into the State policy and the concept of preserving certain aspects of the cultural heritage of the peoples of Russia because of the impossibility of talking about this philosophical and ethical teaching as a Soviet heritage or the heritage of any people of Russia, for the impossibility of combining and correlating the dissemination of the “Living Ethics” in the modern Russian society with the State support of Orthodoxy (a sharply negative attitude toward the spread of the “Living Ethics” ideas in our society on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church leadership is well known) and because of the absolute impossibility to present this philosophy in the context of the efforts of the Ministry of Culture in military-patriotic education of youth.

The irrelevance and “harmfulness” of the activities of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR from the point of view of the Ministry of Culture is exacerbated by the growing number of supporters of the ICR and its Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich. There is a community of those who is reading, researching , interpreting the “Living Ethics”, who are committed to a new social outlook, which continues and expresses the tradition of Russian Cosmism about the cosmic destiny of a human life and the humanity as a whole, not only in art, but in science. The ICR on its part is strongly encouraging this movement.

For myself, I think that such ideas go beyond the strict limits of a science in its conventional “Western” understanding and its methods, but that does not make them “insane.”

But, judging by the statements of the archpriest Chaplin and deacon Kurayev, who sometimes articulate the position of the Russian Orthodox Church (which it would like to express but feels it not appropriate); judging even by the statements of the current Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, we see that the Russian Orthodox Church directly, and the Ministry of Culture semi-officially (although its leadership does not speak publicly about this) consider the ICR’s staff and the workers of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich literally a sect, but not museum workers and “normal” cultural figures. But we know them preserving, studying, presenting to the society all parts of the Roerich family heritage, who made for this much more than all the other Russian State institutions of culture together (as you have already seen). For the Russian Orthodox Church the ICR is a sect of preachers of an unknown, incomprehensible and unpleasant philosophical – religious – ethical teaching that does not correspond in any way to religions admitted by the State and the Russian Orthodox Church, those of Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and even Buddhism. That is why, the wide public distribution of the “Living Ethics” philosophical ideas from the point of view of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ministry of Culture, is desirable to stop. For the Ministry of Culture, the staff of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich, among other things, “obscures” by the “Living Ethics” ideas the artistic heritage of the Roerichs and therefore misrepresents it.

The leadership of Ministry of Culture turns out to believe that the directorate and staff of the newly formed State Museum of the Roerich family that of a branch of the State Museum of Oriental Art, will select and present socially acceptable and State-harmless parts of the Roerich family heritage and archive materials, more appropriate and relevant to the interests of the State, than those presented by the International Center of the Roerichs and its workers. Such is the opinion of not only the officials of the Ministry of Culture, but also the head of the Union of Museums of Russia Mikhail Piotrovsky, as well as the directors of the largest State art museums of our country, who agreed with the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich and who did not say a word to defend it. One has to think that they all want to see Nicholas Roerich exclusively as a painter, traveler, publicist, adherent and researcher of the cultures of the Orient, a public figure, but not as an original philosopher who put a profound philosophical content in his unusual pictures. This content is disclosed, as the ICR workers say, by the “Living Ethics”.

As for me, I am not familiar with the Roerich “Living Ethics” teaching. I’m not interested in it, as, probably, the majority of those present here and the readers of this article. It is enough for me, as for many other people, just to contemplate and enjoy the paintings of Roerich, to read the diaries of his travels, the articles on culture. But I, and all present, know that the books of the “Living Ethics” were not put by the Federal Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media Regulatory Authority and the courts on the list of “extremist materials” banned for distribution in Russia. The books of the “Living Ethics” will never be blacklisted by the Federal Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media Regulatory Authority, since they are aimed at developing and strengthening the moral and cosmic consciousness of a person, whatever these words mean, but not at creating parallel structures of power, illegal, extremist social formations, etc. Therefore, I can honestly say that to take or not to take an interest, agree or not agree with the ideas of the “Living Ethics” and the interpretation of Roerich’s artistic creativity in line with the ideas of the “Living Ethics” is a private matter for the citizens of the Russian Federation. And it is not for the Ministry of Culture and the State Museum of Oriental Art Directorate to decide what to choose.

Nevertheless the activities of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich to explore, publish and popularize the ideas of the “Living Ethics” in society and its unique opportunities to realize it, are estimated by the current leadership of the Ministry of Culture and the Russian Orthodox Church as politically and ideologically harmful to society and the State and therefore unpatriotic. Therefore, the Ministry of Culture, having used the Russian judicial system directly seized the building of the Museum, defeated and destroyed the Museum itself. It was realized only after the death of Svetoslav Roerich’s confidant Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, the founder and the first director of the Museum, and the most influential member of the Board of Trustees of the Museum Ye.Primakov. It was impossible to do while they were alive.

The only question is whether the journalists and the museum community of Russia agree or disagree and approve or disapprove of the economic, political and religious motives of the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich by the Ministry of Culture.

As a human rights defender, I raise the issue that owing to the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich, its staff was deprived of the Russian and world largest artistic collection of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich’s works, the museum exposition, the archives of the Roerich family, other documents, museum buildings, in other words, of almost all resources to realize museum, publishing, public activities in order to preserve, explore and popularize all aspects of the Roerich family heritage. The transfer of all these resources, functions and powers to the staff of the State Museum of Oriental Art is an illegal discrimination of the workers of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich by the Ministry of Culture for economic, ideological and political reasons.

Discrimination of the collective and workers of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich for ideological and political reasons has no legal validity, it is a precedent for establishing and supporting socially unjust and sensitive public inequalities between employees of State and non-state museums. This alone is enough for the cultural community and journalists to protest!

The fact that discrimination of workers and non-governmental institutions of culture, including the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich, is directly prohibited by Articles 44, 28 and 34 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, is apparently unknown to the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and judges, who supported the claims aimed at the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich.

But do the journalists present at this conference know about illegal discrimination of the collective and workers of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Center of the Roerichs by the State for ideological and political reasons? If so, why do not the journalists talk or write about this?

Do the members of the Union of Russian Museums know about this discrimination? Do the leaders of other State and non-state museums of Russia know this? One has to think that it is unknown, because neither the Union of Russian Museums nor the directors of other museums speak out in defense of the right of the ICR staff to go on working at the museum created by them. All this was committed under the pretext that the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich is supposedly a “crook business”, that its exposition was terrible, that the Roerich followers are a sect of “lunatics”, that the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich was carried out by the Ministry of Culture by judicial procedure and “by law”. That is what I thought important and wanted to say.

In conclusion, I repeat that the discrimination of the rights to work with the Roerich family heritage at this museum for the staff of the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich, is socially unfair, and from the legal and constitutional standpoint is completely illegal! The Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR should continue its activity. It should be restored by its workers in the form in which it existed for 24 years and which they consider correct!

January 29, 2018


1. For example, in an Art Album “N. Roerich” published by the Tretyakov Gallery in 1989 (“N. Roerich” From the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery”/Moscow: “Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo”, 1989, -48 P. The Circulation is not specified/, its author A.M.Lukashov in a rather detailed biographical sketch says practically of all aspects of Nicholas Roerich’s activity except one and only. In this album, the author has not expressed a single word of the philosophical and ethical system that of the “Living Ethics” (Agni Yoga) as an integral and essential part of Nicholas Roerich’s spiritual heritage and worldview.

Source: Radio “Ekho Moskvy” (Echo of Moscow). 30.01.2018


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