Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

International Non-Governmental Organization | Special consultative status with UN ECOSOC
Associate member with UN DPI | Institutional member of International Council of Museums (ICOM)
Member of pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage EUROPA NOSTRA | Associate member with INTO

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ATTENTION!
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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25.02.2020

STATEMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER OF THE ROERICHS

STATEMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER OF THE ROERICHS
ON THE APPEAL CONSIDERING PRESERVATION OF THE ROERICHS’ HERITAGE
ADDRESSED BY DIRECTORS OF 13 STATE MUSEUMS
TO THE PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN

On 20 February 2020 news agency RBK announced that directors of 13 State museums addressed a letter to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and his Assistant Vladimir Medinskiy asking to “undertake a comprehensive assessment of the situation” considering the Roerichs’ heritage and “provide assistance in its resolution”. Since the text of the letter has not been published, the International Center of the Roerichs has to base its statement on the information, published by RBK agency.

According to the publication, a reasonable concern of the general public about the undue conditions of display of the Roerichs’ paintings in the branch of the State Museum of Oriental Art (SMOA) at VDNH was the reason for the appeal. Information provided by independent experts has convincingly proved that SMOA grossly violated temperature and humidity regime of storage of the paintings, masterpieces of Russian and world art. This evidence, which is true as it was based on the instrument readings, was presented on Rossiya-1 TV-channel during the broadcast Vesti. Ru on 24 December 2019.

In the broadcast, specialists, for example, Doctor of Fine Arts Maria Maystrovskaya, have also indicated that there was a total ignorance in arrangement of the display, due to which it reminded of a storeroom but not of an exhibition hall displaying masterpieces of world significance. We, museum workers of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich (ICR), fully support conclusions of our colleagues.

According to RBK, citing director of the State Museum of Oriental Art Alexander Sedov, the authors of the letter addressed to the President of the Russian Federation believe that the International Center of the Roerichs, National Roerich Committee and other non-governmental organizations are “dictating their own, often amateurish and unprofessional terms, considering storage and display of the paintings by the Roerichs”.

We have to give a commentary on this issue, since the information presented by Mr. Sedov does not correspond to reality.

As it is known, the International Center of the Roerichs (ICR) and its non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich were founded by the younger son of the Roerichs Svetoslav Roerich. He defined the non-governmental status of the museum and its location at the Lopukhins’ estate in Moscow as indispensable conditions for the transfer of his parents’ heritage to Russia. The Russian Government legally guaranteed fulfillment of the terms set by Svetoslav Roerich.

In subsequent years the International Center of the Roerichs leaded by an outstanding expert in the Roerichs’ heritage, Indologist, academic Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, agent and executor of Svetoslav Roerich, restored a half-ruined Lopukhins’ estate without any financial support from the government. The International Center of the Roerichs located there its non-governmental museum, which became the largest scientific, cultural and educational center for study, preservation and promotion of the Roerichs’ heritage.

Specialists and professionals of the highest level have always worked in the ICR. Some of them were former workers of State museums. During 25 years of its activity, the staff of the ICR accumulated unique experience of work with philosophical and artistic legacy of the Roerich family. No State museum has equal experience. Professionalism of the staff of the ICR is proved by the fact that Director-General of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich Lyudmila Shaposhnikova was awarded the Order of Friendship and Order of Merit for the Fatherland of the IV Degree for the development of museology and preservation of cultural heritage. The merits of the ICR considering the restoration of the Lopukhins’ estate were also honored by significant Russian and international awards.

Our colleagues from the museum community, including the Ministry of Culture, have frequently pointed out perfect conditions of storage of the Roerichs’ heritage at our Museum and uniqueness of its permanent display. In order to preserve museum items, a special system of climate, temperature and humidity control as well as innovative fire extinguishing and security systems were installed in the Museum. During the time of its existence no item was ever stolen, which sometimes happens even in the largest State museums.

It is strange to see the name of the director of the State Museum of Oriental Art Mr. Sedov, who is in charge of the paintings at VDNH, among the signers of the letter to the President of the Russian Federation, who were concerned about the proper preservation of the heritage. During the last four years, actions of the SMOA administration considering the Roerichs’ heritage have been contradicting not only the status of a museum worker but also the Code of Ethics of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). Let us remind you of this so-called worry for the Roerichs’ heritage, reflected in the actions of SMOA under the pretext of serving governmental interests.

1. In April 2017 a group of persons without any official insignia undertook a forcible takeover of the Lopukhins’ estate, the non-governmental Museum of the ICR, while there was no corresponding court order in force. At that moment the Lopukhins’ estate housed the largest in the world part of the heritage of our outstanding compatriots, namely, 700 paintings by the Roerichs, an archive of world significance and also other cultural objects, including Buddhist thangkas dated XVII–XVIII century and the manuscript of Shahnameh by Ferdowsi dated XVI century.

The illegal takeover was leaded by director of SMOA Mr. Sedov, with the participation of the Advisor to the Minister of Culture Mr. Rybak (the former attorney of SMOA). As a result of this illegal action, almost 18 000 museum items from the Roerichs’ heritage, which had been kept in the vaults of our non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, were transferred to safe custody of Mr. Sedov, without any inventory lists, which is a gross violation of law. Thus, there is a threat that cultural objects of world significance mentioned above can be looted. Legal assessment of these actions has not been undertaken yet.

2. Members of the State Museum of Oriental Art barbarously destroyed a unique display of our museum and expensive museum equipment, which cannot be repaired (see photo report on the destruction of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich).

3. A bright evidence of current attitude towards the Roerichs’ memory is the demands of director of SMOA Mr. Sedov to remove the memorial containing the ashes of Nicholas and Helena Roerich, installed by the ICR in accordance with the will of Svetoslav Roerich, from the territory of the Lopukhins’ estate. The same demand of Mr. Sedov considered busts of Svetoslav and George Roerich, sons of Nicholas and Helena Roerich.

Unfortunately, the Unity of Russian Museums does not notice this outrageous situation and remains silent. We hope that the above-mentioned evidence considering the destruction of our non-governmental Museum would attract the attention of law enforcement authorities.

It appears from the message of RBK that the letter by the directors of Federal museums, who signed the appeal to the President, implies that a special commission aimed at “elaboration of recommendations on where and how to work with the Roerich collection and display it in the best way” should be established. However, in our opinion, the main aim should consist in checking the integrity of the heritage seized from the ICR in April 2017, whether it corresponds with the records of entry and accounting documents of the ICR, as well as defining location of the museum items and conditions of storage. We should remind you that it is about almost 18 000 museum items, which were seized from the Lopukhins’ estate and taken to an unknown destination.

An examination conducted by a special joint governmental and social commission would allow to decide a number of urgent questions. We believe, that the establishment of such a commission is an important governmental issue. Thus, from our point of view, the attempts of the directors of State museums to avoid non-governmental control and to discredit the specialists from the ICR in governmental eyes are counterproductive and harmful and have nothing in common with a real concern for Russian cultural heritage.

On behalf of the staff of the International Non-Governmental Organization the International Center of the Roerichs

Vice-President of the International Center of the Roerichs       A.V. Stetsenko

Vice-President of the International Center of the Roerichs       S.V. Skorodumov

Director of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich       N.N. Cherkashina

Deputy Director of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich       P.M. Zhuravikhin


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