Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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22.12.2019

Himalayan Roerich Estate and Russian country estate culture

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In October and November 2019 Shatko V.G., Ph.D, Biology and Potapova S.A., Scientific Secretary of The Botanic Gardens Council of Russia and CIS – officers of The Main Botanical Garden named after N.V.Tsitsin of Russian Academy of Sciences gave talks on Himalayan Roerich Estate at conferences in Leo Tolstoy Museum-Estate "Yasnaya Polyana" (October 8–10th) and in Moscow Schusev State Museum of Architecture (November 18–20th).

Shatko V.G. and Potapova S.A. have been cooperated with the International Centre of the Roerichs for 10 years in a field of study scientific heritage of the Roerichs kept in “Urusvati” Himalayan Research Institute in Kullu Valley.

They have taken on the task of identification and classification of the Institute herbarium collection. It is found that it counts 3217 sheets (1041 species 491 genuses, 141 families). The estate park assortment has also been studied. It includes 70 species of woody plants (37 families and 54 genuses) and more than 50 species of ornamental plants. Also preliminary content of so called “medical” collection of the Institute has been defined. The collection requires sustained and complex efforts. All results have been published.

Shatko V.G. and Potapova S.A. had a talk “Himalayan Roerich Estate and Russian Estate Culture” at V International Research-to-Practice Conference: “Historical natural landscapes. Preservation issues and sustainable development of historical landscapes”. The talk was illustrated by authors photos and also archive materials from International Centre of the Roerichs collection.

The speakers specified that Russian estate and park ensemble is characterized by specific space structure including the main house, household and other buildings, a church, a park, agricultural and forest (grass) lands, necropolis. Most commonly an estate and park ensemble moved to natural landscape and it consentaneously consolidated the space into a cohesive whole. All these elements have been in evidence of the Himalayan estate of the Roerichs in Kullu Valley (Himachal Pradesh, India).

As any Russian estate, the Roerichs Estate starts from gates: two stone columns with stone-cut images of Hindu deities that can be considered as protectors of the residence.

The main house was built at the end of XIX century by an English colonel, but the rooms adornments bear the impress of the Roerichs taste. Art and craft items, Tibetan thangkas, vases, paintings neighbour upon Russian icons and books. A scenic beauty park is spread out over three artificial terraces. There is an alley of crape myrtle or lagerstroemia indica from the gates to the house, there are linden trees round the Estate house, behind the Samadhi place there is an especial natural wing madу by linden, cedar and Himalayan pine – a symbol of India and Russia solidarity.

The Samadhi place, a plot where Nicholas Roerich’s body was committed to fire, has been most treasured either by local people or tourists. Necropolis is also a part of Russian estate tradition whether a mausoleum or a chapel or a simple burying as of Leo Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana or Maximilian Voloshin in Koktebel.

Often a church was placed on an estate territory in Russia. In the Roerichs estate there is not a church but there is a collection of stone statues of Kullu valley local deities that can be called as an open air temple.

Svetoslav Roerich’s Summer Studio is aligned with art studios in Russian estates (Polenovo, Abramtsevo, Talashkino) and Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children (founded in our time) is a kind of thread from estates like Yasnaya Polyana and Talashkino – Princess Maria Tenisheva’s estate who was a longtime friend with N.Roerich.

Russian estates belonged to scientists were often places of storage for research collections, libraries and archives created during the trips and expeditions. They were a source for setting up museums. For example, even before the Revolution Count Alexey Uvarov’s Museum in Porechye estate of Moscow province was well known. Ancient manuscripts and early printed books were demonstrated there. Another example is Count Sheremetev’s Museum in Mikhailovskoye estate of Podolsk uyezd where artifacts of the whole Moscow flora and fauna were concentrated. And if museums, art and books collections were not rare in Russian estates existence of scientific research institute in the estate territory is unique. “Urusvati” Himalayan Research Institute was founded by the Roerichs to study materials collected during the Central Asian Expedition and further research of Himalayas. It was placed in two buildings on a slope over the main house and all members of the family actively participated in its performance.

It was difficult to find out in Russia any analogue of “Urusvati” Himalayan Research Institute, founded by the Roerichs on the estate territory. Nevertheless, it was found in Crimea – it is Kara Dag scientific station. It was bethought and created by Terentiy Ivanovich Vyazemsky – privat-docent of the Moscow University to study unique Kara Dag massif in Eastern Crimea.

“Urusvati” Himalayan Research Institute became the focus of interest among the speakers and audience at the Russian national conference with international participation: “Russian Estate and scientific knowledge: past and present” organized by the Russian Estate Research Society in Moscow Schusev State Museum of Architecture. Shatko V.G. and Potapova S.A. placed special emphasis on scientific work of all members of Roerich family and also on scientific and art collections gathered in “Urusvati” Institute during a great number of the Roerichs expeditions in Himalayas and Tibet. There are herbarium, ornithological, archeological, paleontological collections; large research library including more than 16 000 issues in different languages; cards with linguistic and historical notes by George Roerich in the museum collection of International Roerich Memorial Trust. There was a museum attached to the Institute. In the meantime, there are items of ancient weapons, bronze images, ritual masks, Tibetan teapots, stone carvings collected by the Roerichs in the displays of “Urusvati” Institute.

The most famous scientists from Europe, America and India and Tibetan lamas were engaged to “Urusvati” Institute activities. Famous western scientists are in the list of scientific counsellors, corresponding members, regular employees of the Institute such as the Nobel laureates Albert Einstein, Robert Millikan, L. de Broglie, the president of the Archeological Institute of America Prof. R. Magoffin, a famous explorer Dr. Sven Hedin, a professor of Harvard University Charles Lanman, a professor of The Pasteur Institute in Paris S.I.Metalnikov, the director of the Institute of Plant Industry of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union academic Nikolai Vavilov, the director of the New York Botanical Garden Elmer Drew Merrill, a professor of University of Michigan Walter Kelz, Prof. Keng (China) and many more.

Following the results of the research the Institute brought out the annual Journal of “Urusvati” Himalayan Research Institute, which published also monographs of the employees. Thanks to diversified scientific-organizational and research activities of the Roerichs “Urusvati” Institute in the space of some years grew into famous international scientific centre where complex scientific researches of Central Asia were established.

Therefore, the Roerichs estate in India, despite its far location savours of the Russian estate. It describes the specific and at the same time constitutes a rare example of culture synthetics between two countries – Russia and India.



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